Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Northern Territory: January to June 2008

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Northern Territory: January to June 2008

Article excerpt


The first half of 2008 in the Territory was something of a case of plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. The new chief minister pursued projects initiated by the former chief minister; the new opposition leader, like the previous opposition leader, continued to be bravely out of step with popular sentiment, and the federal intervention continued.

Political Climate

The first six months began with the Country Liberal Party (CLP) picking up a new, or recycled, leader. In January Terry Mills, then deputy, asked Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney if she wanted to "swap jobs". Carney, who had held the position since 2005 after she replaced Mills, believed she did not have the support of the Management Committee or Party President, and opted to "fall on her sword" (Jodeen Carney Media Release, 28 January).

Strident complaining by residents resulted in a cabinet decision to exclude Litchfield Shire from the Local Government Reform Package, reducing the proposed nine "super shires" to eight. Minister Elliot McAdam, considered by many to be a "man of enormous integrity", promptly resigned in protest (ABC News Radio, 12 February). In the reshuffle following, Rob Knight, Member for Daly, joined the ministry taking responsibility for Local Government and Central Australia and Kon Vatskalis added Housing to his portfolio responsibilities of Business, Economic and Regional Development. Chief Minister Paul Henderson took responsibility for the new portfolio of Information, Communications and Technology Policy.

Treasurer Delia Lawrie's first budget "Delivery for Territory Families Investing in the Future" in May offered less tax and boosted spending for hospitals, schools and roads. The business community received the budget favourably. Opposition Leader Terry Mills, in a reply speech ever so faintly green said, "I don't want to see our harbour become the centre of heavy industry in the Territory", and focussed on families and law and order, with $8m to pay for forty new police officers funded by reductions to a "fat" public sector (Northern Territory News, 8 May).

By the time Local Government elections were held on 29 March in Palmerston, Katherine, Alice Springs and Darwin, the so-called "Darth Vader" former Darwin Lord Mayor, Peter Adamson, had already begun a two-month jail sentence for misappropriation of funds spent on a number of purchases, including the eponymous toy voice changer (Northern Territory News, 23 February). His replacement, Garry Lambert, opted not to stand. The new Darwin Lord Mayor was the bookies' favourite, Lambert-endorsed Graham Sawyer, by a "landslide". Sawyer, both popular and mediasavvy was well-known for his association with FrogWatch and "Toad Busting" campaigns (Northern Territory News, 30 March).

A review of electoral boundaries by the Northern Territory Electoral Office in April, with proposed boundary changes to twenty-three of the twenty-five electorates, spelled potential problems for Labor who, unsurprisingly, had argued for no change (; instead the proposed redistribution released for comment had much in common with the CLP submissions. The Augmented Redistribution Committee released its final decision on 16 June along anticipated lines. The seat of Millner was abolished. Drysdale moved east to become entirely Palmerston-based. The new seat of Fong Lira picked up areas of the old seats of Millner and Fannie Bay, and the non-Palmerston parts of the old seat of Drysdale.

Both the former Chief Minister, Clare Martin, and Deputy Chief Minister, Syd Stifling announced their decision to step down at the next election. The Australian Labor party preselected Michael Gunner, previously a Labor staffer, to stand in Martin's seat of Fannie Bay against the CLP-preselected former Lord Mayor Garry Lambert. Lynne Walker, a former employee of Rio Tinto Alcan, Gove, was preselected by the ALP to stand in Stirling's old seat of Nhulunbuy. …

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