Delays in building Darwin's Palmerston Hospital are "ridiculous" and are caused by the incompetence of the Northern Territory government, says federal deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek.

Construction on the hospital was due this month but the government announced only last week it had awarded the tender for the water mains, with the first works on the hospital expected in October.

“I think the Palmerston Hospital rollout has been an absolute debacle,” Ms Plibersek told reporters in Darwin.

“The NT government should hang its head in shame.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised during the 2013 election campaign to contribute $110 million to the cost of the hospital, and the NT has chipped in $40 million.  But Ms Plibersek said there was little to show for that support almost two years later, saying it was “ridiculous” that planning well under way in 2013 would have dragged on for so long.

“It’s been excuse after excuse from the NT government, a list of incompetence from them,” she said.

Chief Minister Adam Giles accepted Palmerston residents had been let down by years of delays, but blamed the previous government.

“Labor were in for 11-and-a-half years and all they built was a fence,” he said.

He denied the government had wasted time replanning.

“We had to go and identify another site. We identified a site 15 times larger than the small, little poky site Labor (chose),” he said.

Mr Giles said the government had walked away from a previous model to design, build, operate and maintain the hospital, instead deciding on a design and construct model.  He denied that abandoning that plan had cost time, saying the two models were developed in parallel.

“There was a $50 million carrot hung out by Canberra if we were to go down this model … the $50 million didn’t eventuate,” Mr Giles said.

But when asked why the federal government had denied it was asked to put up an extra $50 million, he admitted he and other ministers had presented it as an option.


By Neda Vanovac