Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Northern Territory

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Northern Territory

Article excerpt

January to June 1999


The period under review was one of unusually varied political activity in the Northern Territory. Both major parties acquired new leaders. The new Chief Minister showed some sympathy for environmental issues. There were important matters concerning Aboriginal people. The management of electricity distribution became controversial. Progress was made with the proposed Darwin to Alice Springs railway. Economic decisions and policies provoked a range of responses. Mandatory sentencing legislation remained a focus for dissent. Two senior politicians retired.

The Labor Leadership

On 2 February 1999 the Leader of the Opposition, Labor's Maggie Hickey, announced that she would resign from her position to spend more time with her husband, who was suffering a brain tumour. Refusing to speculate on who would succeed her, she conceded Labor under her leadership could have done better on the issues of statehood and mandatory sentencing. She would, she stated, remain as Member of the Legislative Assembly for Barkly. Hickey's unexpected and sudden departure, an editorial in the Northern Territory News argued, "affords the ALP [Australian Labor Party] an opportunity to rebuild the party's crumbling electoral and financial stocks".

On 3 February Clare Martin was elected to succeed Hickey. Member of the Legislative Assembly for the highly marginal Fannie Bay electorate in Darwin since 1995, she was a former Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist and presenter. She established herself after her election to parliament as an articulate and hard working politician with excellent media skills. Born in Sydney in 1952, she had an Arts degree from the University of Sydney and undertook postgraduate studies in History at the Northern Territory University. She promised Labor a "back to basics" style that focused on education, employment and health. The outspoken Member for Nhulunbuy, Syd Stirling, defeated John Bailey, the incumbent, for the deputy leadership.

The new Labor leader was quick to announce that her party needed some new directions. On 4 February she revealed a major review of Labor policies in a bid to improve the party's standing at grassroots level. She said, "We'll be concentrating on the basics like employment, especially for young people; health and education.... Territorians will see a clear alternative to the tired agenda of the Country Liberal Party". The policy review would follow a review of Territory Labor's operations and structures by the Federal Labor Secretary, Gary Gray. Martin's election resulted in a new shadow ministry.

Clare Martin   Leader; Treasury; Health, Family and Children's
               Services; Ethnic Affairs; Lands, Planning and
               Environment; Housing; Arts and Museums

Syd Stirling   Deputy Leader; Police, Fire and Emergency Services;
               Essential Services; Correctional Services; Public
               Employment and Industrial Relations; AustralAsian
               Railway; Defence Support; Corporate and Information
               Services; Racing and Gaming

Peter Toyne    Education and Training; Aboriginal Development;
               Primary Industry; Communications and Advanced
               Technology; Chair of Caucus

Maggie Hickey  Whip; Senior Territorians, Women's Policy

John Bailey    Attorney General; Tourism; Parks and Wildlife;
               Statehood; Work Health

Maurice Rioli  Community Health; Local Government; Young
               Territorians; Service Coordination for Remote
               Areas; Commercial and Recreational Fishing; Sport
               and Recreation

John Ah Kit    Asian Relations and Trade; Industries and Small
               Business; Regional Development; Transport and
               Infrastructure Development; Territory Ports;
               Resource Development

A New Chief Minister

Clare Martin's assumption of the Labor leadership provoked the Country Liberal Party (CLP) to remove the increasingly unpopular Shane Stone from its leadership. …

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