: New NT government

New NT government

NT Committee
Northern Territory

On 25 August 2012, Territorians hit the polls for the 2012 general election. A 5.1 per cent swing to the Country Liberal Party (‘CLP’) resulted in the CLP taking power for the first time in 11 years. The result was surprising, with most pundits anticipating a close finish. This could be because there is no polling in the Northern Territory, meaning no one really knows what the electorate is thinking until the counting starts. Nevertheless, bookies had locked in the CLP as firm favourite three weeks prior to race day.

There is a long standing argument in the NT about things being different depending on what side of ‘the Berrimah line’ one resides. Berrimah was traditionally the last suburb on the road out of Darwin, although with the more recent expansion of Palmerston, Coolalinga, and the development of the new town of Weddell, ‘the Berrimah line’ is creeping south. The CLP won all but one of its seats south of the Berrimah line. Which means — they won everywhere but in Darwin.

The newly-elected CLP government immediately begun work on its 100 day post-election action plan, http://www.countryliberals.org.au/uploads/CL_Post_Election_100DayActionPlan.pdf. Highlights of week 1 included the abolition of Labor’s Banned Drinker Register, a controversial innovation which required every single person purchasing take away alcohol to produce photo identification. More significantly, and similar to procedures in other newly conservative governments, there commenced a review of temporary contract positions within the public service and a review of ‘government spin doctors’.

The new Chief Minister Terry Mills directed a freeze on public sector recruitment be implemented from 30 August 2012, including recruitment which had already commenced. All current positions advertised (including those positions where shortlisting and interviews had already been conducted) were cancelled. ‘Frontline services to the public’ are generally exempt from the freeze, but all other recruitment requires approval from the department’s Chief Executive and the Office of the Commissioner of Public Employment (‘OCPE’), including temporary contract renewals. Unions in the NT initiated a hearing with Fair Work Australia, resulting in the new government being instructed to improve its consultation with public servants.

Week 1 also involved massive public sector reorganisation, with 23 government departments being split into 33. One particular highlight was the renaming of the Department of Children and Families to the Department of Families and Children; however this clearly did not have the intended effect, with the agency subsequently being subsumed by the Department of Education and renamed the Office of Children and Families.

A number of CLP candidates in remote areas were local Aboriginal people, and all of these won their seats. Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu, a man from the Tiwi Islands won the seat of Arafura, which also include western Arnhem Land; Larissa Lee in Arnhem, which comprises eastern Arnhem Land and Groote Eylandt; former Labor-turned-independent-turned CLP Alison Anderson in Namatjira, which surrounds Alice Springs. Perhaps most famously, the new member for Stuart in the Tanami Desert is Walpiri woman Bess Price, lauded locally for her comments on SBS’s insight program ‘Aboriginal or not’ (screened on 7 August 2012) for saying to another participant ‘… you totally look like a white fella to me’. She won her seat against her nephew, Labor candidate Karl Hampton by 196 votes.

As the dust settles from the inevitable shake up, it will be interesting to see the new government’s position on contentious issues such as the sea bed mining moratorium and how election promises are implemented.

THE NT COMMITTEE

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 287
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