The Twelfth Assembly convened on Tuesday, 23 October, pursuant to notice by Her Honour the Administrator.
OPENING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE TWELFTH ASSEMBLY
The Serjeant-at-Arms conducted the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Hon Sally Thomas AM and Mr Duncan McNeill into the Chamber.Her Honour the ADMINISTRATOR: Members of the Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.
Members of the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 22(1) of the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 of the Commonwealth, I appointed 10 am on Tuesday, 23 October 2012, as the time for holding the first session of the Twelfth Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory of Australia to assemble for the despatch of business, and require all members of the Legislative Assembly to give their attendance in the Legislative Assembly Chamber.
I declare open the First Session of the Twelfth Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory.
The Darwin Chorale sang the National Anthem.
ADMINISTRATION OF OATHS AND AFFIRMATIONS
Her Honour the ADMINISTRATOR: Members of the Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 13 of the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 of the Commonwealth, it is, amongst other things, enacted that every member of the Legislative Assembly shall, before taking his or her seat, make and subscribe before the Administrator, or a person authorised by the Administrator, an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form in Schedule 2 of the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978, or an oath or affirmation of office in the form of Schedule 3 of that act.
RETURN OF WRIT
The Clerk laid on the Table the Writ for the election of members of the Legislative Assembly elected on 25 August 2012.
The following members named in the returns made and subscribed the oaths or affirmations required by law.
Arafura Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu
Araluen Robyn Jane Lambley
Arnhem Larisa Antonia Lillian Lee
Barkly Gerald Francis McCarthy
Blain Terence Kennedy Mills
Braitling Adam Graham Giles
Brennan Peter Glen Chandler
Casuarina Konstantine Vatskalis
Daly Gary John Higgins
Drysdale Lia Emele Finocchiaro
Fannie Bay Michael Patrick Francis Gunner
Fong Lim David William Tollner
Goyder Kezia Dorcas Tibisay Purick
Greatorex Matthew Escott Conlan
Johnston Kenneth Edward Vowles
Karama Delia Phoebe Lawrie
Katherine Willem Rudolf Westra van Holthe
Namatjira Alison Anderson
Nelson Gerard Vincent Wood
Nhulunbuy Lynne Michele Walker
Nightcliff Natasha Kate Fyles
Port Darwin Johan Wessel Elferink
Sanderson Peter Donald Styles
Stuart Bess Nungarrayi Price
Wanguri Paul Raymond Henderson
ELECTION OF SPEAKER
Her Honour the ADMINISTRATOR: Members of the Legislative Assembly, it is now necessary that a Speaker be chosen. You, members of the Legislative Assembly, will now proceed to choose some proper person to be your Speaker. Following the presentation of your Speaker to me this day, I shall address the Assembly declaring the causes for calling the Assembly together. I will now withdraw from the Chamber.
Her Honour the Administrator, escorted by the Serjeant-at-Arms, withdrew from the Chamber.
The CLERK: Honourable members and guests, please be seated.
Mr MILLS (Chief Minister): Mr Clerk, the time has now come for this Assembly to choose one of its members for its Speaker. I propose to the Assembly for its Speaker the honourable member for Goyder, Ms Purick, and move that the honourable member for Goyder do take the Chair of the Assembly as Speaker.
Ms LAWRIE (Opposition Leader): Mr Clerk, on behalf of the opposition, I second the nomination of the member for Goyder as Speaker. We believe the member for Goyder will keep the dignity and decorum of this place at a high level. The position will give the member for Goyder the opportunity to keep issues important to her in the forefront of Territorians’ minds - things such as her passion for statehood that we share, economic development through mining and pastoral sectors, a commitment to women’s issues and, of course, keeping the rural area rural.
I also know of your great passion for the Phantom. Perhaps I can leave you with one of the old jungle sayings, ‘Only a fool crosses the Phantom’.
Ms PURICK (Goyder): I accept the nomination.
The CLERK: Is there any further proposal? There being no further proposal, the time for proposals has expired.
I declare the honourable member for Goyder elected as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in accordance with standing orders.
Members: Hear, hear!
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you for the nomination, Chief Minister and the government, to be Speaker of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It is, indeed, an honour and a privilege to take on the role and responsibilities of the Office of Speaker. I hope it is one I can undertake with dignity, honesty, fairness, and in keeping with the aspirations of the Territory community and its people.
I also thank the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Karama, Delia Lawrie, for her party’s support of the nomination for Speaker. I welcome your support and confidence in my ability to undertake the role and work of Speaker.
Today, more than at any other time, the spotlight is on the workings of parliament and the performance of politicians. There is no doubt in my mind there is scope for improvement in standards and behaviour such that the community can have the utmost confidence in their elected members and the parliament.
All of you today have committed to working on behalf of all Territorians. It is a job which will bring many challenges, along with the considerable level of new knowledge, skills and relationships. As you go about your work and responsibilities always be conscious of the fact that many people have placed their hope, aspirations, and confidence in you and see you as a role model for others. Try not to let them down. The job of a parliamentarian is unique and at times you may wonder what you have got yourself in for over the ensuing four years. However, you will enjoy yourselves and experience many memorable times and occasions such as today.
Again, I thank you for the nomination and support. I look forward to working with each and every member of the parliament.
Members: Hear, hear!
Mr WOOD (Nelson): Madam Speaker, on behalf of the Independents, I speak in support of the election of the member for Goyder as Speaker. The Speaker is one of my constituents, a friend, and an independent, country-living person. I support her nomination. I believe she will do an excellent job.
I have no doubt those attributes she could have brought to the role of a minister which, unfortunately, did not come her way, she will apply to her new role as Speaker. Those attributes of independence, fairness and common sense are some things she has acquired from parental influence, from living in the rural area where the blocks of land are no smaller than 1 ha, where the neighbours are far enough apart for privacy - especially important in the build-up - but close enough when required, where one can enjoy the bush and the wildlife, run a few chooks or ride a horse, keep a dog or two or grow fruit and vegies or breathe the fresh air, see the stars at night and enjoy the sweet water from your own bore.
She has also had, for many years, the task of keeping unruly mining company executives in order when she managed the NT Division of the Minerals Council of Australia. The member for Goyder has, therefore, a very well-rounded understanding of everything required for the job and in the unlikely event she does not know everything, I am sure the Clerk will, in his usual kindly manner, correct such minor deficiencies.
As the member for Karama said, it would also be neglectful of me if I did not mention the new Speaker is a passionate fan of the comic book hero The Phantom and is reputed to be the honorary president of the NT branch of The Phantom club. Word has it that the Speaker’s Office will be renamed the Skull Cave, it will be guarded by her dog Musket, alias Devil, and purple rather than black will be the standard colour of the new Speaker’s attire.
However, in all seriousness, the Speaker’s role is a very important one and one that should be respected by all members of parliament - something which I believe was forgotten in previous sittings. When that respect is lost, we, as members of parliament, lose the respect of the people.
I am sure the member for Goyder will bring to these new sittings of parliament dignity and right judgment, and will uphold the tradition that has been passed from one Speaker to another over the years in this House. I wish her well. I hope she gives me many questions at Question Time, Regardless, I know she will be an excellent Speaker.
Mrs LAMBLEY (Araluen): Madam Speaker, I genuinely congratulate you on your appointment as Speaker. We know you will bring the position great integrity, fine judgment, and finesse. Your generous, down-to-earth spirit will enhance parliament, and we look forward to working with you. Congratulations.
Mr GILES (Braitling): Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on your nomination, acceptance and new role as Speaker. You look radiant today. Congratulations on the job.
The member for Goyder has established a reputation as a fair parliamentarian with the conviction and capacity to uphold the high principles of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. She has established a creditable reputation as a hard-working local member, has earned deserved respect through leadership of the NT Division of the Minerals Council of Australia and is a person of absolute decency and integrity. She is a good friend of mine who I have known for many years inside and outside our political lives, and her family has given much to the Territory community by way of public office.
The member for Goyder’s - now the Speaker’s - commitment to working with both sides of politics and the Independent member for Nelson who, obviously, is a Phantom lover as well, will serve this parliament well. I encourage you, Madam Speaker, to give the member for Nelson as few questions as possible.
The member for Goyder is a woman of principal and is the right person to keep this House in order and restore public confidence in this Chamber. I know you will competently control the affairs within the Chamber with great distinction. I am very proud and honoured to support you, member for Goyder, as Speaker of the Northern Territory Assembly. Once again, I congratulate you and look forward to your counsel and considered judgment in this parliament.
PRESENTATION OF SPEAKER TO ADMINISTRATOR
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, I am informed it is the intention of Her Honour the Administrator to attend at the Office of the Speaker. It is my intention to present myself to her as the choice of the Assembly as Speaker. I invite honourable members to accompany me to present myself to Her Honour the Administrator.
The sitting of the Assembly is suspended until the ringing of the bells.
__________________Madam Speaker Purick resumed the Chair.
The sitting suspended.
The sitting suspended.
COMMISSION TO ADMINISTER OATHS
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, I have to report that, accompanied by honourable members, I presented myself to Her Honour the Administrator, Hon Sally Thomas AM, Administrator of the Northern Territory, as the choice of the Assembly for its Speaker, and Her Honour was pleased to congratulate me.
I inform honourable members that I have received from Her Honour the Administrator a commission to administer to honourable members the oaths or affirmations of allegiance and of office. I table the commission. The Clerk will now read the commission.
The Clerk read the commission.
ATTENDANCE OF ADMINISTRATOR
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, I am pleased to inform the Assembly that Her Honour the Administrator will attend the Assembly immediately to declare the causes of her calling the Assembly together.
Her Honour the Administrator took the Chair.
Her Honour the ADMINISTRATOR: Madam Speaker, I preface my speech with an acknowledgement of the Larrakia people, the traditional owners of the country upon which this Chamber stands. We celebrate Indigenous peoples as the first leaders and lawgivers of the land.
On 25 August 2012, the Northern Territory elected the Country Liberal Party into office. My government recognises that the people of the Northern Territory have voted for change, and have voted decisively. This call for change was heard from the tropical Top End in Darwin to the central heartland of our nation in Alice Springs. Most notably, the same call for change was heard in regional and remote communities, and it is this voice which will be at the forefront of my government’s policies and priorities to ensure the government serves all people in the Territory, irrespective of their geographical location.
My government will be working with remote communities to give them a voice and a greater ability to influence their own future - closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage is, and will remain, my government’s priority. The scale and complexity of Indigenous issues in the Northern Territory cannot be ignored; we need a responsible, decisive and caring approach which includes and understands the input and decisions of local people.
It is recognised that initiatives which work, rather than those which have been implemented elsewhere, will be what is required to drive Indigenous reform. Indigenous people will be able to have a say in determining what works for them and, therefore, steer their own futures.
My government will deliver the change it has promised. It does not underestimate the challenges to achieving this change and the complexities of the task at hand. These challenges are particularly prevalent in relation to service delivery in the Northern Territory’s remote and regional centres, and my government will work to empower communities to determine their own potential.
My government is ready for the challenge and will discharge its accountabilities transparently, accountably, and consultatively. In my government’s deliberations the views and long-term interests of Indigenous Territorians will be a key consideration.
Progress is being made in the key areas of law and order, the economy, business, education, and health, but this is only the beginning.
Cost of living: my government understands the pressure families and businesses are under from the high cost of living, particularly the high cost of housing. Average weekly rents are by far the most expensive in the country at $700 a week for a house and $530 a week for a unit. On top of that, the prohibitive cost of buying a home is sending people south. Many young families face the sad realisation that they may never be able to own their own homes in which to raise a family.
My government will introduce an innovative approach to secure 2000 affordable homes for key industry groups which will support young families and many others currently being squeezed out of the housing market. It will also release land to hasten the pace of development and streamline planning processes. Cutting government waste and duplication and removing the red tape that often restricts a business will help ease financial pressures.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Northern Territory’s finances are being stretched by high levels of debt; there is no doubt hard decisions need to be made. My government has pledged to return the budget to surplus and aims to do this by the end of its first term. Once this is achieved, debt can be repaid. This will equip the Northern Territory to withstand national and international economic uncertainty.
My government has established an independent team to audit the Territory’s finances. The Under Treasurer has also been tasked with conducting a review of government expenditure to identify areas in the public sector that can be streamlined to cut waste and reduce debt.
My government has committed to maintaining a public sector at an appropriate level sufficient to ensure the best possible affordable services are provided to Territorians.
Law and order: Territorians have a right to live in an environment which is secure, where parents know their child will be safe walking home from school, where families can once again use suburban playgrounds and parks without fear, where victims of violent break-ins are supported to again feel safe in their own homes, and where drunkenness and antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated.
My government will be tough on crime and will act decisively to improve the safety of our community; be that community in Darwin, Alice Springs, or in any regional or remote centre. Within days of being elected, my government began recruitment of an additional 120 police officers. These officers will be on the front line walking the beat, patrolling hot spots, and keeping the community safe.
The release of quarterly crime statistics fulfils an election promise and delivers on the government’s commitment to be accountable and transparent. The people of the Northern Territory will once again be able to judge for themselves how the government is delivering on its promise to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. Territorians will be able to see and assess the impact of initiatives to curb offences, including those associated with alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
My government will bring forward, for early consideration by this parliament, legislation to amend the Criminal Code Act in respect of violent acts causing death; namely, the One Punch Homicide Bill. Bills to support drug testing of suspects arrested for assault and mandatory rehabilitation of habitual drunks will also be brought before this parliament for consideration.
The economy: the economic prosperity of the Northern Territory is one of its greatest assets, built not only on its natural resources but also on the belief that an individual can prosper through personal determination and perseverance.
Regional and remote area economic development is a focus area for my government. Employment opportunities are vital to individuals and are the cornerstone of economic growth, productivity, and prosperity, irrespective of location.
It is for this reason that my government will strive to improve the economic outlook in remote and regional communities, and commit to develop and foster an increase in training places, skills and jobs.
Indigenous participation and engagement in the economy will be at the forefront of our policies across the full breadth of sectors including primary industry, mining, and energy. My government will work with communities in remote and regional Northern Territory to build capacity and capability, thereby providing greater ability for Indigenous Territorians, particularly those in remote communities, to influence their own futures.
Territorians are hard-working and ambitious. They strive for a better future for themselves and their families. My government supports the private enterprise system as integral to continued economic growth and acknowledges and applauds the vision of those who have, since self-government, worked to build the Northern Territory into one of Australia’s most successful economies.
My government commits to working to develop and grow the Northern Territory now and for generations to come.
To keep the Territory economy strong, even in worldwide times of austerity, we need to ensure that we are not focusing on only a limited range of sectors. My government’s vision is for a three-hub economy with attention directed at mining and energy, tourism and education, and food exports.
The mining industry is fundamentally important to the future growth and prospect of the Northern Territory. The resources sector will continue to be a focus for my government, creating jobs and stimulating the economy. It will continue to push for the development of both off and onshore gas fields and downstream manufacturing opportunities. Again, key to this will be a commitment to foster Indigenous engagement, investment, and employment. My government will continue to work hard to ensure local small business operators are able to capitalise on opportunities resulting from growth in the Territory’s resources sector, including the Ichthys LNG project.
Tourism is our second biggest economic sector and the biggest employer in the Northern Territory. As such, it deserves to be, and will be, a major priority. Tourism will again take pride of place at the centre of our economy with people from all over Australia and beyond enjoying our natural wonders and experiencing true Northern Territory hospitality. The headquarters of Tourism NT are moving from Darwin to Alice Springs to revitalise tourism across all regions of the Territory, including the Red Centre. A new Northern Territory Tourism Commission is being established to provide strategic direction and policy guidance. Legislation to establish the commission will be brought before the House for consideration.
My government will work with industry leaders to boost the pastoral and horticultural sectors and expand the industrial base. This will introduce the necessary industry and export diversification to support continued economic growth.
We will focus on increasing agricultural production and, particularly, strengthening food export market opportunities. Members of my government have already begun to travel regularly to regional centres to discuss ways in which the government can assist agricultural producers to access markets nationally and internationally. Ministers from my government have also travelled to our neighbours in Southeast Asia to promote cattle export pathways.
Business: key to a strong economy is a strong business sector, and my government is committed to creating the right commercial environment for Northern Territory businesses. It is keen to engage with the business sector through a partnership arrangement which will enable local business leaders to be directly involved in setting the policy direction for the Department of Business. This partnership will be transparent, with sharing of relevant information thereby ensuring a common understanding of issues and providing maximum capacity for matters to be aired and addressed.
Government red tape increases business costs and hampers productivity growth. My government is committed to reducing red tape, and a temporary task force will be established to review legislation, regulations, and administrative arrangements which negatively impact on business growth. It will ensure the cost to business of operating in the Northern Territory, not just from a taxation perspective, is minimised to the greatest extent possible without compromising the integrity of necessary regulatory regimes.
Education: the Northern Territory is the youngest jurisdiction in the country with a median age of just 31 years. Our youth are our future and my government is committed to fostering an educated and skilled community. Government initiatives will encourage young people to be proud of what they have achieved, and to find fulfilment in full and meaningful participation in the workforce. An important part of this vision is for each and every student in the Territory to have a sound education built on the core competencies of reading, writing and mathematics.
Poor student behaviour will be addressed. My government is committed to giving our children the best possible start to life and, as such, will provide a high level of support to early learning centres throughout the Territory, including those in regional areas.
Recognising the key role teachers play in shaping the future generation, my government will boost education standards by attracting the best teachers to the Territory and giving them the tools to create a safe and effective learning environment. It will support Northern Territory teachers to excel and provide them with relevant professional development opportunities.
My government will switch focus from the department to the classroom and make improving education outcomes in the bush a priority. The longer-term vision for remote and regional Northern Territory is for community-managed remote Indigenous schools which will become not only an education hub, but a hub for the community itself. This community-based approach to education and learning is expected to reap dividends resulting from greater community engagement and ownership of the education process.
Health: Territorians have a right to expect health facilities on par with the rest of Australia. Closing the gap on Indigenous health outcomes needs to be a priority. The standard of Northern Territory public hospitals and the quality of its medical and allied medical health professionals is well regarded and recognised. However, more can and will be done.
Over the next four years, my government will focus on the health of Territorians and ensure those who require medical attention are able to access it quickly and efficiently. My government has made a commitment that a cardiac service will be established within its first term. This will enhance the level of service already provided at major Northern Territory hospitals, enable patients to be treated in the Northern Territory close to family networks, and address the level of currently unmet demand.
In a multipronged approach to delivering improved health services to all areas of the Northern Territory, my government has also reviewed the Patient Assistance Travel Scheme which provides financial assistance with travel and accommodation costs to residents who need to travel for specialist medical treatment. The updated scheme will provide additional support to cover the financial burden experienced in such situations and improve the integration of patients and their own support networks.
My government acknowledges that the measures outlined today in the areas of law and order, the economy, business, education and health, and the focus on providing greater opportunities for Indigenous Territorians to participate and engage in the economy are not the totality of what can be accomplished by this parliament. These measures are only a small part of the vision my government holds for the Territory now and into the future.
In conclusion, honourable members, you have been tasked over the next four years to deliver on the core for change by representing the best interests of all Territorians. I charge you to take on this challenge and discharge your accountabilities transparently, honestly, and with integrity.
Madam Speaker and honourable members, I wish you well over the next four years and will now leave you to your important deliberations.
Members: Hear, hear!
Her Honour the Administrator was led from the Chamber by the Serjeant-at-Arms.
Madam Speaker read Prayers.
GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS
Mr MILLS (Chief Minister)(by leave): Madam Speaker, I table a copy of the Administrative Arrangements order published in the Northern Territory Gazette No S54 dated 2 October 2012.
Madam Speaker, I advise the Assembly that on 19 October 2012, Her Honour the Administrator made the following appointments of ministers of the Northern Territory:
Terence Kennedy Mills - Chief Minister; Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services; Minister for Public Employment; Minister for Lands, Planning and the Environment; Minister for Land Resource Management; Minister for Asian Engagement; Minister for Defence Liaison; Minister for Statehood; Minister for Multicultural Affairs; Minister for Young Territorians; and Minister for Senior Territorians.
- Robyn Jane Lambley – Treasurer; Minister for Education; Minister for Children and Families; Minister for Corporate and Information Services; Minister for Central Australia; and Minister for Women’s Policy.
Johan Wessel Elferink – Attorney-General and Minister for Justice; and Minister for Correctional Services.
David William Tollner - Minister for Health; Minister for Alcohol Policy; and Minister for Essential Services.
Adam Graham Giles - Minister for Transport; Minister for Infrastructure; and Minister for Local Government.
Willem Rudolf Westra van Holthe - Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries; and Minister for Mines and Energy.
Matthew Escott Conlan - Minister for Tourism and Major Events; Minister for Arts and Museums; Minister for Sport and Recreation; Minister for Racing; and Minister for Parks and Wildlife.
Peter Glen Chandler - Minister for Business; Minister for Trade; Minister for Economic Development; Minister for Employment and Training; and Minister for Housing.
Alison Anderson - Minister for Regional Development; and Minister for Indigenous Advancement.
OPPOSITION OFFICE HOLDERS
Ms LAWRIE (Opposition Leader)(by leave): Madam Speaker, the portfolio responsibility for opposition members are as follows:
- Delia Phoebe Lawrie, member for Karama - Leader of the Opposition; Treasurer; and Major Projects and Economic Development.
Gerald Francis McCarthy, member for Barkly - Deputy Leader of the Opposition; Regional Development; Infrastructure and Construction; Lands and Planning; Transport; Essential Services; and Arts and Museums.
- Konstantine Vatskalis, member for Casuarina - Health; Police, Fire and Emergency Services; Primary Industry, Fisheries, Resources; and Asian Relations and Trade.
Lynne Michele Walker, member for Nhulunbuy – Attorney-General and Justice; Corrections; Indigenous Policy; Public and Affordable Housing; Local Government; and Public Employment.
Michael Patrick Francis Gunner, member for Fannie Bay - Government Accountability; Statehood; Education and Training; Business and Employment; Racing, Gaming and Licensing; Alcohol Policy; Defence Support; and Information Communications and Technology.
Natasha Kate Fyles, member for Nightcliff - Natural Resources; Environment and Heritage; Climate Change; Parks and Wildlife; Child Protection; Children and Families; and Women’s Policy.
Kenneth Edward Vowles, member for Johnston - Tourism; Sport and Recreation; Senior Territorians; Multicultural Affairs; and Young Territorians.
ELECTION OF DEPUTY SPEAKER AND CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, it is now necessary for the Assembly to appoint a member to be its Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees.
Mr MILLS (Chief Minister): Madam Speaker, I propose to the Assembly for its Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Daly, Mr Higgins, and move that the honourable member for Daly be appointed Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees of this Assembly.
Mrs LAMBLEY (Deputy Chief Minister): Madam Speaker, I second the motion.
Madam SPEAKER: Are there any further proposals for Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees?
Ms LAWRIE (Opposition Leader): Madam Speaker, I propose to the Assembly for its Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker the honourable member for Arafura, Mr Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu, and move that the honourable member for Arafura be appointed Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker of this Assembly as he is the senior cultural Aboriginal person of this parliament.
Mostly, I want to speak against the nomination for the member for Daly. I cannot, as the Leader of the Opposition, as a member of this parliament, and as a woman and good citizen, accept the nomination of this man to any official office bearer position in the parliament. In fact, I believe he should not be in this parliament.
On Friday, 24 August, at the mobile polling booth in Palumpa, a female Labor campaign volunteer was verbally abused by the then CLP candidate for Daly, Mr Higgins, in a vile and disgusting way ...
Mr Elferink: I cannot believe you.
Ms LAWRIE: Hear me out.
Ms LAWRIE: It was grossly offensive and so disgusting that I cannot repeat the words in this Chamber; they are not only unparliamentary but uncivilised ...
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! It is highly unseemly for the Leader of the Opposition to be launching into a personal tirade and using this coward’s castle as a vehicle for her to slander and libel. If she has any allegations to make she can take them out of this place and damn well put these accusations to the people of the Northern Territory in front of cameras and deal with the civil suit that comes from it. If she insists upon this approach during what is still, effectively, a ceremonial process, then I am happy to shut her down, but I will not sit here and listen to slander under the guise of a motion.
Madam SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Continue, Leader of the Opposition, but please keep your comments to the point.
Ms LAWRIE: Absolutely, Madam Speaker, and I thank you. I cannot repeat the words in the Chamber; they are not only unparliamentary, they are vile. However, I will table the quote so the members can see with their own eyes what this man has said. I table the quote and I urge the Table Office to circulate the quote ...
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! I move that the member no longer be heard.
Madam SPEAKER: There is a motion that the member no longer be heard.
Motion agreed to.
Madam SPEAKER: Does the member for Arafura accept the nomination to be Deputy Speaker?
Mr KURRUPUWU (Arafura): No, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Leader of the Opposition, could you seek leave to table that document, please?
Ms LAWRIE: I was advised that as the Leader of the Opposition I can table without seeking leave.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I do not believe that is correct.
Ms LAWRIE: Okay. I seek leave to table the quote from the Palumpa volunteer. Before members consider whether or not they are going to gag me again - this will go public, your names will be put to this - we will take this to a vote and there will be a division. The women of this Chamber might want to read the words before you put your names to this.
Leave not granted.
Mr GUNNER (Fannie Bay): Madam Speaker, I nominate the member for Drysdale for Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees.
Madam SPEAKER: Is there a seconder?
Mr McCARTHY (Barkly): Madam Speaker, I second the motion.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. Does the member for Drysdale accept the nomination?
Ms FINOCCHIARO (Drysdale): No, Madam Speaker.
Mr GUNNER (Fannie Bay): Madam Speaker, I nominate the member for Casuarina for Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees.
Madam SPEAKER: Is there a seconder?
Mr McCARTHY (Barkly): Madam Speaker, I second the motion.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Casuarina, do you accept the nomination?
Mr VATSKALIS (Casuarina): Madam Speaker, I do.
Madam SPEAKER: Are there any further nominations? Does any honourable member wish to speak to the nomination of the member for Casuarina?
Ms LAWRIE (Opposition Leader): Yes, Madam Speaker. When we take an oath to this parliament we do so with a very great deal of solemnity, and we did that this morning. In the Chamber, you would expect members would want to hear what is alleged and would want to read information about what is alleged, rather than simply follow like lemmings the Leader of Government Business, the member for Port Darwin, in the gag motion. This is a genuine test for each of you for the oaths you took this morning ...
Mr Elferink: Slander is not an acceptable political tool.
Madam SPEAKER: Order!
Ms LAWRIE: You have not even wanted to read the words of a female volunteer - and she has two witnesses. She has tabled this matter before the Anti-Discrimination Commission. She is an Aboriginal woman who has taken this very seriously. She is traumatised; she is seeing a counsellor.
In the cut and thrust of life in the Territory, every now and again you hear something vile and you find it highly offensive. I can genuinely and sincerely say I have never heard anything as vile as what Mr Higgins said on 24 August at Palumpa ...
Ms LAWRIE: If it is just an allegation, why is there a victim and two witnesses? Why has the matter gone to the Anti-Discrimination Commission?
Mr Elferink: As the former Attorney-General, I thought you would know the answer to that.
Ms LAWRIE: Why is Mr Higgins not jumping to his own defence? Does Mr Higgins recall what he said to the Labor volunteer at Palumpa? Does he stand by what he said? Does the Chief Minister support vile and grossly offensive comments to women?
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! We are talking about electing a Deputy Chairman of Committees. What the Leader of the Opposition is doing, with her first opportunity to speak in this House, is engaging in slander and using this House for that purpose. I ask that you draw the Leader of the Opposition back to the debate at hand without having to go on this fanciful departure from what we are debating in this House.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, member for Port Darwin. Member for Karama, if you could get to the point please, in support of the motion.
Ms LAWRIE: Absolutely, Madam Speaker. I point out this is the second occasion on which I have spoken in this House; the first occasion being in support of your nomination as Speaker. I spoke words of tribute to Madam Speaker. This is not simply a political tactic.
Your names will go to supporting a man who has said grossly offensive and vile things to an Aboriginal woman. This will not stay in the Chamber; this will be in the media and each of you will have supported it. Is your defence going to truly be that you did not know - because you gagged the debate and did not accept the tabling of the quote? Is that how you start - for some of you - your parliamentary careers? Is that how you genuinely want to start your parliamentary career? Is this what you call, Chief Minister, accountable? Is this what you call transparent? You are putting your name, as Chief Minister, to Mr Higgins, the member for Daly, and the vile and offensive things he said to a woman.
Mr TOLLNER: A point of order, Madam Speaker! The Leader of the Opposition may well have found the member for Daly guilty in her kangaroo court, but I put to you that it is not relevant to this debate. She should get on with talking about the member for Casuarina and why he is such a wonderful candidate for the position, rather than smearing the good name of a person who has not had any opportunity to defend himself.
Madam SPEAKER: Sit down. There is no point of order. Member for Karama, if you could get to the point in support of the motion please.
Ms LAWRIE: Absolutely! I seek leave again in support of the vote for the member for Casuarina. Bearing in mind we were happy to nominate members of the government, we recognise the Deputy Speaker could have been a government position. We just cannot support the member for Daly. I seek leave again to table the quote. Read it before you decide.
Leave not granted.
Ms LAWRIE: I am surprised at the level of the lemming behaviour from the members opposite.
Mrs LAMBLEY: A point of order, Madam Speaker! I do not think calling us lemmings is fit language for parliament.
Madam SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Please finish Opposition Leader.
Ms LAWRIE: Madam Speaker, the member for Casuarina ...
Madam SPEAKER: Opposition Leader, your time has expired.
Mr ELFERINK (Attorney-General and Justice): Madam Speaker, I heard the strident words of protection of the woman from the Leader of the Opposition. It is curious she has chosen to remain silent for two months about this and then, in some dramatic appearance before this House, cloaks herself in righteous indignation on the part of this Aboriginal woman so she can use this Chamber to grandstand herself. If she was so offended why was the complaint not made on the day? Why was the complaint not made a day after, or two days after, or three days after? No, she steadfastly ...
Ms LAWRIE: A point of order, Madam Speaker! I clearly said the woman lodged the complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Commission.
Madam SPEAKER: There is no point of order, please be seated.
Mr ELFERINK: ... knowing full well she would use this as a vehicle to, if you like, entrap the member for Daly. However, let us have a look at the righteous indignation of the Leader of the Opposition.
During the election campaign, allegations were made against another member of this House. Those allegations were of, I understand, a sexual nature. Did I hear any strident complaints of righteous indignation from the then Deputy Chief Minister about this person’s entitlement to be elected? No, I did not. Did anyone stand up and talk about the victim in that case? Yes, the member for Port Darwin did. All he said at that time was you have to remember there is a victim involved here. I said it at the time the issue came up.
One cannot reasonably come into this place, having held on to this piece of information, and use this Chamber as a stage to perform a political stunt - nothing more.
If she has an allegation to make against the member for Daly, then make the allegation outside where the Leader of the Opposition can expose herself to the law of the Northern Territory dealing with things such as defamation.
I ask the public here not to be fooled for one second by what is going on. If I am indignant and offended by something, I respond, and I respond in a timely fashion. I do not come trawling into this place, having secreted the information away, with a view to springing it on the Chamber in a tawdry attempt to embarrass the government of the day. It does not cover the Leader of the Opposition in glory at all to do it in such a fashion.
I ask members and the public listening to think about what they are witnessing here: something that was known for weeks and weeks and, all of a sudden when the bleachers are full of people listening, here is the chance to spring the trap - that is what is happening here. I ask the people in the public galleries to judge two things today. One is the methodology of the allegation - this business of waiting with pent up frustration - that the Leader of the Opposition in some way is going to take this cloak of righteous indignation to heart and hold onto it until she comes into this House. This is just about politics. If she was really that offended she would have been screaming from the rafters during the election campaign and beyond it. What the Leader of the Opposition is doing is not supportable and demonstrates what governance for the true welfare of the people of the Northern Territory is about. When you govern ...
Mr McCARTHY: A point of order, Madam Speaker! The Leader of the Opposition has already told the House this matter has been raised in the Anti-Discrimination Commission. That has been mentioned twice, and the member opposite is continuing to try to mislead this House.
Madam SPEAKER: There is no point of order.
Mr ELFERINK: If politicians want to raise themselves above this tawdry type of thing, now is the time to do it. I am not going to scream and yell from the rafters. I am going to remain calm despite the fact I know a good and honourable man is being slandered by the Leader of the Opposition. As far as I am concerned, we will rise above this; we will be better than this on this side of the House. Let them do as they will, but let us have the ballot and sort this matter out because this is nothing more than a pre-planned political stunt, and the people of the Northern Territory will see it for what it is.
Mr WOOD (Nelson): Madam Speaker, I have several things to say in relation to this matter. It is difficult when someone makes an accusation in this House without the other side of the story being heard. It is also a basic tenet of our democracy that you are not guilty unless proven otherwise. This is a case where I am being asked to make a decision based on allegations, and I have no idea whether those allegations are true or not. It has not been decided by anyone yet as to whether the allegations are true. Without lessening the seriousness of what is purported to have been said, as someone who has just heard this, I have no idea whether it is true or not.
The person accused of saying those things is a person I have known for many years. At this present time, it would be very difficult for me to make a judgment by not voting for this person and to say, ‘The reason I have not voted for this person is I accept those allegations are true’.
There are two sides to this debate. One could be accused, by supporting the member for Daly, to be supporting the accusation. On the other hand, by voting for this person, I am saying this person should have a fair go. I have no evidence this person has done anything wrong. It is a Solomon process at the moment. It is purely an accusation that has come up at this stage. I am being asked to make a decision about someone whom I have known for a long time and, unless I am convinced otherwise and shown proof that this accusation has a foundation, I see no reason why I should not support the member for Daly being Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees.
I do not believe what has been put forward allows me to make any other judgment because this is an accusation which has not been tested. It has been raised in the parliament and, serious as it might sound, it has not been tested as to whether it is the truth or not. That makes it unwise for me to make a decision based on what is supposed to have been said.
Madam Speaker, I support the nomination and, unless shown otherwise, I will continue that support.
Mr McCARTHY (Barkly): Madam Speaker, in speaking against the nomination of the member for Daly and the seriousness of the allegations, and what the member for Nelson is saying about more clarity, the Chief Minister has received the words that were spoken. In the interests of leadership and good management, he should call for a five-minute suspension of parliament so the government can discuss this issue. There will be further clarity brought to bear.
Mr Elferink: On the strength of something you shove into his hands?
Mr MILLS (Chief Minister): Madam Speaker, it is not hard to see what the Opposition Leader’s strategy is here. If this was a matter of genuine concern and, having made it fairly clear who the nomination of the government was, you would have been motivated to move directly to deal with this at a more appropriate time than now. When I widen out my considerations to judge the character that gives rise to this strategy or tactic - this accusation that is made and the tactic of suggesting I receive the words on my table so they can be read by me and I would be suitably shocked by the words allegedly said by somebody ...
Ms Lawrie: Are you sure?
Mr MILLS: No, allegedly said; an assertion that is made in the Chamber. Then ...
Mr Elferink: Why did he say that he had no problem with it a week ago when I spoke to him about it?
Mr MILLS: ... then I reflect ...
Ms Lawrie: Are they vile?
Mr MILLS: Well, it has been cleverly crafted. It is a very clever tactic but it does not reinforce an intent to deal with a real issue, but to score a political point. You have intended to start the way in which you finish. This is a parliament and, if you are genuinely concerned, you would have dealt with this properly.
I have seen form from the Opposition Leader. I have seen former members of this Chamber, on your own side, who you were totally mute to when the whole world knew what was going on - and you said nothing. This is mere politics. If you were genuine you would have dealt with this properly. I reject your assertion.
Members: Hear! Hear!
Ms Lawrie: Vile?
Mr Mills: The words indeed are, but who crafted them?
Mr TOLLNER (Fong Lim): Madam Speaker, I add to words of the Chief Minister. What shame it is on the opposition to start this term of government in this manner. How appalling! The muckraking and grubbiness of this first appointment is absolutely appalling. You run a kangaroo court within your own Caucus. You decide straight up, for whatever reason, this man is guilty.
As the Chief Minister said, you have form. The number of times we came in here last term and you cast aspersions that people were drunk, they did this, they did that - all with no merit whatsoever. It is just a grubby tactic ...
Ms Lawrie: Two witnesses.
Mr TOLLNER: Madam Speaker ...
Mr Mills: There are lots of witnesses here.
Ms Lawrie: Show them the words!
Madam SPEAKER: Order! The member for Fong Lim has the call.
Mr TOLLNER: Madam Speaker, what an appalling way this is to start off a term with this type of debate, without one iota of evidence or proof, to cast aspersions on a man I have known for a long time. The member for Daly is a magnificent character. I have only found him to be the most decent of human beings. He is a man of high integrity and, until it is proven otherwise, I will stand beside him. I am proud to call him a friend.
To the motion, the member for Casuarina is also a person I believe who has good integrity and is a decent and honest man. I have to say he is somewhat misguided with his political views, but he is a decent human being. I thank the member for Fannie Bay for nominating him. It is a great honour, member for Casuarina, and congratulations.
However, in this debate my support is firmly behind the member for Daly; he is a champion bloke. He is a bloke who I know has an enormous amount of integrity and honesty, and I cannot think of a better person to perform this role. I call on my colleagues, members of the opposition and the Independent member, to support the member for Daly and put this grubby, filthy political tactic behind us and get on with the business of the parliament.
Mr GUNNER (Fannie Bay): Madam Speaker, I want to speak on behalf of the member for Casuarina who I nominated as a man of much experience. He would be very capable of holding the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees position. He would work very well alongside you, Madam Speaker, to deliver a parliament that is well run, well organised and maintains a very civil level of debate. That is the point we have come to. The Opposition Leader is, obviously, very concerned ...
Mr Elferink: Why did you tell me last week that you supported Mr Higgins in this job?
Mr GUNNER: I never said that.
Mr Elferink: Yes, you did. I rang you; you said you had no problem with supporting Mr Higgins.
Madam SPEAKER: Order, order!
Mr GUNNER: I said we were happy to support the member for Goyder as …
Mr Elferink: No, you talked about Mr Higgins. You are a grub!
Ms WALKER: A point of order, Madam Speaker! I request the member for Port Darwin withdraws that phrase.
Mr ELFERINK: I withdraw, Madam Speaker.
Mr GUNNER: I apologise to the member for Port Darwin if we have a different recollection of a conversation because I do not recall saying we support the nomination of the member for Daly ...
Mr Elferink: I do recall, sunshine. I have a very good recollection.
Mr GUNNER: As do I. We obviously have a complete disagreement there. I am very disappointed to hear that because that is not my recollection of events. I am disappointed the member for Port Darwin has said that because that is not how I recall it ...
Mr Elferink: It is my definite recollection because that is what you said.
Madam SPEAKER: Order, member for Port Darwin!
Mr GUNNER: We will, obviously, have a conversation later around that because that is not my recollection ...
Mr Elferink interjecting.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Port Darwin, stop interrupting!
Mr GUNNER: Which comes back to my point that the member for Casuarina would be very good in helping you, member for Goyder, in run a civil parliament, including incidents such as this where there were clearly interruptions from the other side regarding the comments I was trying to make. I agree with the member for Barkly that a five-minute recess could be useful to allow the government to confer and to allow the member for Daly a chance to be across the accusations. Perhaps the member for Daly, after a five-minute recess, might like to reply to the Leader of the Opposition’s comments.
Mr CONLAN (Greatorex): Madam Speaker, I certainly could not let an opportunity like this slip by. I thought it was good to perhaps, as I once said, to blow some of the cobwebs out. I speak in support of the member for Daly, who I is a fine person, and who will do a wonderful job as the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. However, I ask, why are we so surprised by this? Why is everyone so surprised? I have been waiting for an opportunity to walk into this space and tell the parliament and the gallery that some people in life take a while to find that niche. Some of us know what we want to do as soon as we leave school; for some it takes a little while.
Here we have an Opposition Leader, the member for Karama, in her mid-40s who has found her niche. She will probably go down as the greatest Opposition Leader in the history of the Northern Territory parliament. She is fantastic: whingeing, moaning and carping already and we are only 15 minutes into the first parliament of the Twelfth Assembly - absolutely fantastic. I congratulate you, member for Karama, on finding your niche in life. I am sure you will do a wonderful job as Opposition Leader and I wish you a long and distinguish career as Opposition Leader.
Madam SPEAKER: There being two nominations, in accordance with standing orders a ballot will be taken. Before proceeding to the ballot, the bells will be rung for three minutes.
The Assembly will now proceed to ballot. Ballot papers will be distributed to honourable members who are requested to write upon the paper the name of the candidate for whom they wish to vote. The Clerks will distribute ballot papers to honourable members. The candidates are the member for Daly, Mr Gary Higgins, and the member for Casuarina, Mr Kon Vatskalis. I invite the honourable members for Sanderson and Fannie Bay to act as scrutineers.
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, the result of the ballot is the member for Daly, Gary Higgins, 17 votes, the member for Casuarina, Kon Vatskalis, eight votes.
I declare the honourable member for Daly appointed Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees in accordance with standing orders. I offer my congratulations to you, member for Daly.
Members: Hear, hear!
Mr HIGGINS (Daly): Thank you.
MESSAGE FROM ADMINISTRATOR
Message No 1
Message No 1
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, I lay on the table Message No 1 from Her Honour the Administrator notifying assent to bills passed in the 2011 sittings of the Assembly.
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, even though the students have left the gallery, it is important to have their visit to Parliament House recorded. We had Year 1 Manyallaluk School students who were accompanied by Mrs Sue Alcorn, Mr Ian Alcorn, Miss Megan Taylor, Miss Maddi Cartledge, Miss Priscilla James and Mr David Shields. There were also Year 1 to Year 6 Pigeon Hole students accompanied by Mr John Kotlash, Mrs Vicky Smith, Mr Darren Smith, and Ms Fiota Algy. I know you would have welcomed them if you had the opportunity.
Members: Hear! Hear!
Standing Committees – Appointment of Membership
Standing Committees – Appointment of Membership
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business)(by leave): Madam Speaker, I move the following standing committees of the Assembly be appointed with the membership and additional conditions below:
Public Accounts Committee: Mr Styles, Ms Lee, Ms Finocchiaro, Mr Gunner, Ms Fyles, and Mr Wood, and that the committee shall elect a government member as chair.
Privileges Committee: Mr Elferink, Mr Styles, Ms Finocchiaro, Ms Lawrie, and Mr Vatskalis.
Standing Orders Committee: Mr Elferink, Ms Purick, Mr Higgins, Mr Gunner, Mr Vowles, and Mr Wood, and that the committee shall elect a government member as chair.
Madam Speaker, I commend all of these members to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Legal and Constitutional Affairs and Subordination Legislation and Publication Committees – Amalgamation of
Legal and Constitutional Affairs and Subordination Legislation and Publication Committees – Amalgamation of
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business)(by leave): Madam Speaker, I move that during the present session of the Assembly, and notwithstanding anything contained in standing orders:
(a) the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee be assigned the powers and functions of the Subordinate Legislation and Publications Committee as laid out in standing orders
(b) the following members be appointed to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee:
- Ms Finocchiaro, Mrs Price, Ms Purick, Mr Gunner and Mr McCarthy.
Routine of Business
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business)(by leave): Madam Speaker, I move that, notwithstanding anything contained in standing orders and unless otherwise ordered, during the present session the Assembly shall proceed each day with its ordinary business in the following routine:
(a) Tuesday and Thursday:
Government Business - Notices and Orders of the Day
At 2 pm Notices
Government Business - Notices and Orders of the Day
Consideration of Committee Reports, Government Responses and Auditor-General’s Reports
Discussions pursuant to Standing Order 94 (Matter of Public Importance).
Government Business - Notices and Orders of the Day
At 2 pm Notices
Government Business - Notices and Orders of the Day
Consideration of Committee Reports, Government Responses and Auditor-General’s Reports
Discussions pursuant to Standing Order 94 (Matter of Public Importance)
General Business - Notices and Orders of the Day at 5.30 pm to 9 pm.
- And for 24 October 2012, General Business be deferred until debate is adjourned on the Address-in-Reply ...
Mr Gunner: What was that last bit, member for Port Darwin, that GBDs will be deferred tomorrow?
Mr ELFERINK: No, listen carefully. For 24 October 2012, as I discussed with you, General Business will be deferred until debate is adjourned on the Address-in-Reply. So, we do the Address-in-Reply first, then we go into General Business.
Mr GUNNER (Fannie Bay): Madam Speaker, as I indicated to the Leader of Government Business the other day, we will support the changes the government wants to make to the running of parliament, with some reservations. We believe, as a Caucus, that the government is the primary driver of business in this Chamber so it has a certain responsibility for ordering the routine of business. We understand that so we provide support, with some reservations.
We have concerns around the shifting of Question Time from the spotlight of 2 pm to 10 am. We believe that provides less scrutiny, fewer people will be watching and, therefore, there will be less transparency with a 10 am start for Question Time. We believe the spotlight of 2 pm provided more attention for Question Time, so we have that concern.
It also means that Question Time will be finishing at 11 am and the majority of business for the majority of CLP members and ministers will be concluding at 11 am. We have some concerns about the possibility of the early lunch and long weekend coming back, and we will be keeping a watchful eye on the CLP and how it manages its business in this Chamber.
We have heard a number of times from the member for Greatorex how much he loves to get out of Darwin and parliament back to Alice Springs. I have to say, as an Alice Springs boy, I have some sympathy for that at times - catching the early flight back to Alice on a Thursday possibly ...
Mr Conlan: It is at 2.45 pm.
Mr GUNNER: 2.45 pm? Sounds perfect. We will be keeping a watchful eye on that.
As discussed the other day with the Leader of Government Business, he mentioned the possibility of the Address-in-Reply tomorrow affecting the timing of the GBD. We see that as a management of business between the two of us. That can be managed and the GBD should be able to commence at around 5.30 pm. That is something we can deal with tomorrow. I did not realise it was going to be a formal part of the motion; I thought it might be dealt with tomorrow. We think that can be managed and we will have to do that tonight and tomorrow morning and see how we go getting there.
Madam Speaker, we support this motion with those reservations around the shifting of Question Time from 2 pm to 10 am. I ask the Leader of Government Business, when he speaks in reply, to have a commitment that all future GBDs will be at that 5.30 pm to 9 pm slot. As a government, we recognised the importance of General Business Day for opposition and Independents and we believe it is important there is certainty about when it is occurring. We ask that all future GBDs occur where they are scheduled.
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business): Madam Speaker, as the member is fully aware regarding the GBDs, when I say ‘General Business Notices and Order of the Day 5.30 pm to 9 pm’, on all days with the exception of tomorrow because of the ceremonial nature of the Address-in-Reply and maiden speeches and those types of things - I hope he listened to that component because that is actually what I said to him. He has asked for something which is captured within the motion before the House.
Again, I draw honourable members’ attention to how the opposition has played out its first day tactically. I listened to the leader of opposition business, the member for Fannie Bay, say that, by some magical waving of the Country Liberals’ wand, we have deprived Territorians of the oxygen of transparency because we asked for Question Time at 10 am rather than 2 pm. Really? Do the microphones not work at 10 am in the morning? Are people not conscious at 10 am in the morning?
When in power, the Labor Party moved Question Time from 10 am to 2 pm as a media management strategy. It was designed specifically so Question Time finished at 3 pm. For things like the Channel 9 News, which would have been about 5 pm, there was not sufficient time for media to investigate the issues which were raised by both opposition and government in the afternoon from 3 pm to their, approximately, 5 pm deadline. The deadline for ABC would have been a bit further and the deadline for the NT News a little later. The truth is that way you can craft your spin, get it into the can and onto the 9 pm news without so much investigation by the journalists. Therefore, what was often spewed out by government at 2 pm or 3 pm just appeared on the television.
Our thinking, in the interests of transparency, is by enabling Question Time to go from 10 am to 11 am, ministers can then answer questions the opposition may put to us further outside this House during the luncheon break, and journalists will have sufficient time to more comprehensively study the issues which are going on in parliament. That is the rationale.
The banal comment that it is just against transparency to move Question Time, without any explanation as to why it is a challenge to transparency, demonstrates they are not interested at all in governance for the people of the Northern Territory - it is just a line.
That is one component. Another component which I find concerning - and I have heard the member for Fannie Bay now say it in the media as well as this House - is this allegation that the Country Liberals are going to have Question Time over and done with by 11 am so they can have long lunches. This is the second attempt, in the space of a couple of hours, of the former government trying to infer - well, in the case of the member for Daly, outright accuse - we are interested in early and long lunches. This is the insipid type of behaviour Territorians have learnt to despise in their politicians.
It is not about early or long lunches. These are the words of an opposition which is still smarting from an election loss in what it claimed and believed to be its heartland. More fool you for taking people for granted.
This is just bad politics. We will rise above this; we are going to be a dedicated government for the purposes of working for the true welfare of the people of the Northern Territory. We will not descend into a tawdry political debate about the nasty little allegations these members opposite like to make.
Those are the rationales for these changes in procedure. As the member accepted over the telephone when we discussed it the other day, General Business for the first General Business Day will be pushed out until later so we can deal with the Address-in-Reply issues. It was communicated back and forth.
It behoves the leader of opposition business well to maintain the lines of communication because when you do not you, all of a sudden, have oppositions coming in waving bits of paper around saying, ‘We accuse, we accuse’ without any notice and trying to turn this House into a kangaroo court for banal or sometimes malignant allegations.
Of course, this House was never going to accept what the Leader of the Opposition just attempted. If she was genuine she would have come to us a week ago saying, ‘Look, this is what is going on. This is what we want to deal with’. The leader of opposition business certainly would not have indicated to me he was fine not only with the Speaker but also the Deputy Speaker. I reject his denials in relation to that.
Madam Speaker, we have made a promise of transparency. Changing Question Time from 2 pm to 10 am is part of that transparency process. I have been fulsome in my communication with the leader of opposition business as well as other members of the Labor Party in an effort to ensure this type of spectacle we keep seeing in this House so far is not repeated and not conducted.
Motion agreed to.
Automatic Adjournment of Assembly
Automatic Adjournment of Assembly
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business)(by leave): Madam Speaker, I move that, notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders and unless otherwise ordered, during the present session of the Assembly the automatic adjournment provided by Standing Orders 96B, 41A and 41B for each sitting day be suspended.
The reason we seek to change the standing orders - and so people understand, particularly in the galleries watching on, standing orders is the bible by which this parliament works and every parliament has one. A standing order exists to prevent this House, essentially, sitting beyond 9 pm most nights. That was introduced because there were occasions in the past where debates went to 2 am or 3 am.
It is not the intention of the government to have debates until 2 am or 3 am unless there is a call for it. Sometimes there are issues which are of a particular nature that people are passionate about - things such as abortion and euthanasia - which will occasionally take you, as part of the business of the House, into long debates into the early hours of the morning. That is the nature of this House. This House is a place of debate, and we do not seek to shut it down because of some arbitrary ‘We are going home at 9 pm’ rule.
I say publically on the record it is not our intention to drive debates into the wee small hours. However, by removing these arbitrary cut-off times we are seeking to enable this House to be more responsive to the debates which may be on foot at the time. It is generally anticipated this House will rise at a reasonable hour. However, these artificial time limits are not necessary; there are times when we may have to finish earlier than that or when we may have to work later than that.
Madam Speaker, all this motion seeks to do is ensure we have the flexibility required to be a parliament which works on behalf of the people of the Northern Territory.
Mr GUNNER (Fannie Bay): As I indicated to the Leader of Government Business, we will be supporting this motion. The intention of the change to the standing orders when we first introduced it was to provide some certainty around sitting hours, particularly when trying to recruit quality parliamentarians in the future. There was an effort to make this a modern workplace with work conditions most Australians take for granted, with certainty around the hours. I agree with the Leader of Government Business that business should drive parliament.
While this standing order was in effect, no legislation was delayed, no bills delayed - the business of the House was managed. We had, on I think one occasion, a negatived motion to allow budget to be passed. There might have been one other instance. We were able to, through the standing orders, provide some certainty around the finish time for parliament, which I thought was a family-friendly, modern, refreshing of the parliamentary standing orders.
The new government wants to remove that. I take the Leader of Government Business on faith around how they want to manage the business of this House and the hours we will go to. There were some parliamentary tactics early in the last term from the opposition that saw this House sit very late. With this motion, I do not anticipate us going down that path. However, I believe it was important, as a parliament, that we had family-friendly hours. This was a motion that sought to attempt that and in some ways it is disappointing to see it go. However, we do all the business that comes before this House, and the government is going to have business which we will deal with. Sometimes, we will deal with it past 9 pm, and that is perfectly fine. That is what we are going to do now. We support this motion.
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business): Madam Speaker, before we wrap up this debate, I point out to the leader of opposition business one thing: the very first bill I just gave notice of was actually a former government bill. It is, I presume, fairly uncontentious. The fact is, if we had not had these arbitrary time lines, that bill would have been passed prior to the election, and would not have fallen off the Notice Paper.
This is what I am talking about when I say let us make this House work so that it deals with the business before it, and does not adhere to arbitrary time lines so things such as the legislation I am reintroducing does not have to occur in the fashion occurring here today.
Motion agreed to.
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, I have to report that I have received from Her Honour the Administrator a copy of her speech.
Mr MILLS (Chief Minister): Madam Speaker, I move that the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to:
- May it please Your Honour, we, the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory in parliament assembled, express our loyalty to the Sovereign and thank your Honour for the speech you have been pleased to address to the Assembly.
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business): Madam Speaker, I second the motion.
Mr MILLS (Chief Minister): Madam Speaker and honourable members, I am conscious of our history, of those who have served before us as members of this Chamber in previous Assemblies; of former members of government and parliament; of former Chief Ministers; of those who have successfully fought for self-government; of those in our community and the representatives of their families who have endured natural disaster and rebuilt our city; of those who have fought and died here from 1942 to 1945, World War II; of pioneers since the 19th century from many countries who have settled here and left their mark; and of Macassan traders before that. All of this was on land that was the home of Aboriginal people for millennia even before that. I acknowledge those whose stories precede all these and their descendants, and those who are with us here today. In this place where we meet today we acknowledge that great history and, in particular, the Larrakia people, the original inhabitants.
On 25 August 2012, the people of the Northern Territory voted decisively for the Country Liberal Party to govern in this House for the next four years. I am honoured by the great levels of trust and the responsibility the people of the Northern Territory have placed in me and my parliamentary colleagues. This honour has been given to me by Territorians far and wide - from the Barkly to Wadeye, from Fong Lim in Darwin, Blain in Palmerston, and Araluen in Alice Springs, and from the Arnhem to the Daly, and Namatjira to Arafura.
The bush seats were pivotal in our success on election day and this will be at the forefront of our minds as we strive to improve the livelihoods of all Territorians, particularly those in our remote and regional communities.
As the newly-elected Chief Minister, my first priority was to visit remote communities in the Top End and Central Australia to speak with those residents and the elders, and listen to their concerns. These visits were a demonstration of my government’s commitment to improving conditions in regional centres.
I was accompanied by our five bush members, the members for Namatjira, Arnhem, Daly, Arafura, and Stuart. These members will play a crucial role in engaging with and in communicating the concerns of rural and remote residents to the government as well as reporting on the measures we put in place on behalf of the bush.
We have committed to work with local people, to support Aboriginal outstations, to implement new initiatives in Indigenous education, and reengage communities in shire reform - but we will work with them.
Her Honour the Administrator has outlined the government’s comprehensive plan for the term of the Twelfth Assembly - a plan that will secure a better future for all people of the Northern Territory, irrespective of where they live.
We will bring to this House detailed policies we have already begun to deliver on. My government understands the importance of the quality and the timeliness of decision-making. We have begun the process of delivering on our commitments.
We promised clearly during the election to scrap the Banned Drinker Register and we have done that. We promised to begin recruitment of 120 additional police into the Northern Territory Police Force in our first week in office, and we have. We promised to open the Motor Vehicle Registry on Saturdays, and we have. We promised to lower the cost of living for families by doubling the Back to School voucher, and we have.
My government has a five-point plan for delivering a better future for all Territorians. We outlined our plan prior to the election. It is this plan we will deliver on. We plan to cut spending and reduce debt, tackle crime at its roots, build and create a three-hub economy, plan properly for the future, and be accountable to Territorians. Let me address these in turn.
I believe the Territory’s best days are ahead. I am also more aware that many people are struggling right here and now with the high cost of living, especially when it comes to housing. The Territory has the most expensive rents in the country and the cost of renting a house in Darwin is $700 a week and $530 a week for a unit. The cost of buying a house is so high that many people have decided to pack up and move south. I talked to many young people who cannot even imagine beginning to afford a home here to be a part of a great Territory story. My government will not let these people down. We will stand with these Territorians and make sure they can afford to stay here and that their hard work counts for something. We will turn that around.
The Real Housing for Growth plan will secure 2000 affordable homes for key workers, young families, and others being squeezed out by high rents. We will manage a balanced and timely release of land to avoid artificial supply and demand pressures, and we will slash pointless red tape to free up business and put further downward pressure on spiralling housing costs.
We will establish a planning commission to develop firm guidelines for all zoning categories including maximum building heights, maximum size footprints and car parking. We will free up more brownfield sites for development and accelerate the release of surplus public sector land, and we will work with developers to unlock land to further progress development.
Housing is a major factor in our high cost of living but it is not, unfortunately, the only one. We will give families a $75 voucher to help with sporting costs for children and we will increase funding to 60 peak sporting bodies.
We will give families a $150 Back to School voucher at the start of the school year and we will continue to support payments to seniors. We will work with the federal Coalition to scrap Labor’s carbon tax.
My government is committed to supporting the public service and the delivery of high-quality services for Territory families and, in order to do that, we need a strong a vibrant public sector. We are determined to improve the lives of Territorians by making sure service delivery hits the ground quickly and efficiently in the areas that matter most. However, the Territory’s very high debt and high interest repayments means we will have to be smart and focus our resources on the areas that matter most for Territory families.
We will do absolutely everything possible to ensure Territory families can walk the streets safely at night: properly resourced frontline services such as police, teachers, nurses and healthcare workers; maintain the strongest commitment to fix the Territory’s finances as soon as we can; manage the situation carefully and responsibly to protect and secure the Territory’s longer-term future; protect the superannuation entitlements of public servants; focus strongly on economic growth, development and jobs; work within a firm policy of fiscal discipline and an accountable government; and work within a firm policy framework to drive change.
Her Honour pointed to some of the challenges ahead for the Territory as we confront a financial agenda of substantial weight. Early indications from the Renewal Management Board are that the budget is headed for a deficit in excess of $900m this year. My government has pledged to return the budget to surplus by the end of our first term. Once this is achieved, we can start to repay the substantial debt we owe.
Prior to the election, we announced saving measures to build capacity for a change in focus in Territory spending. We scrapped the My New Home initiative, which was a risky initiative and financially unsound. We also scrapped the Banned Drinker Register with an estimated saving of $2m per year. We pledged to reduce departmental public relations staff through natural attrition, and redirect savings of up to $5m per year to frontline services. We have also shown our commitment to fiscal restraint with the sensible management of public service recruitment, travel, and hospitality. We are, and we will be, a fiscally responsible government.
These are just some of the cost savings we have initiated. I acknowledge some of these decisions may not be popular, but they are necessary. My government has established an independent team to audit the Territory’s finances to identify further fiscally responsible measures that can be taken. The Treasurer will deliver a mini-budget in this House on 4 December 2012 detailing my government’s spending and savings priorities to bring the Territory’s budget back on track, as we pledged to do.
Reducing crime and strengthening the front line is a key priority so our neighbourhoods and parks will be safe once again. We aim to reduce crime rates by 10% each year. Yes, I know it is bold, but we set a target and we believe we can achieve that. We will work hard to do so. We have started the process to deliver 120 new police on the beat, 20 of which will help fill the shortfall in Alice Springs. We will introduce this sittings, for consideration by the House, one punch homicide legislation amendments to the Criminal Code to cover assaults in the workplace, including public servants.
Our other initiatives include taking drunks off the street and sending them to mandatory rehabilitation; introducing mandatory gaol terms for repeat adult violent offenders; sending young offenders to boot camp to learn real skills so they can contribute to society; a new Police Citizens and Youth Club in Alice Springs to keep kids safe and off the streets; and trialling a family support centre in Tennant Creek.
We have reintroduced the public release of Northern Territory quarterly crime statistics which will help us respond better to crime and demonstrate the effectiveness of crime reduction strategies. All Territorians have a right to know how crime is tracking in their local community, and we will not cover up the facts. We have recruited one of the Territory’s most experienced law enforcement and corrections officials to oversee the implementation of my government’s commitment to take drunks off the street and send them to mandatory rehabilitation.
My Attorney-General aims to reintroduce the Dangerous Prisoner (Sexual Offenders) Restraint Bill into the House for consideration. The intent of the bill is to allow the Supreme Court to place an order on high-risk inmates convicted of a sexual offence to indefinite detention in order to protect the community. My government considers that once an offender has inflicted serious harm on an individual the safety of the community must take priority over the rights of the offender.
The second element of our five-point plan is the creation of a thriving three-hub economy. Economic diversity is the key to the Northern Territory’s future prosperity. Expanding the focus beyond mining and resources to broaden the economic base will ensure we are in the best situation possible to leverage future development opportunities. My government will build a three-hub economy based on mining and energy, tourism and international education, and food exports and export into Asia.
The mining industry is a cornerstone of the Northern Territory’s growth and future prospects. My government will work in partnership with industry to achieve better outcomes for business, Indigenous communities, and for all Territorians. My colleague, the Minister for Mines and Energy, has already met with the chief executive officers of leading mineral and energy companies to establish the improvements which can be made and what the Northern Territory can do to facilitate growth and leverage project development. We are committed to ensuring the Territory remains an attractive place to invest in exploration and mining and to provide certainty for investors through clear regulatory frameworks. We are also committed to growing and supporting the resources sector and believe there is the potential to expand and diversify into new commodities and new regions.
A Northern Territory delegation consisting of representatives from the Department of Business, Chamber of Commerce, NT Manufacturers Council and the Industry Capability Network recently travelled to Yokohama, Japan to lobby for more local involvement in the Ichthys LNG project. The delegation pushed successfully for contract work associated with construction of the onshore plant to be broken into smaller packages more suited to Territory businesses.
My government is already working on expanding the use of gas for industry within the Territory’s borders. We have committed to work with Pacific Aluminium on the opportunities to pipe gas to Gove. This would not only serve the needs of the Gove community but the small communities scattered east of Darwin, and would further drive expansion, investment, and development onshore. This type of effort will ensure the mining and energy sector remains at the forefront of Territory business and benefits our support industries.
We are blessed in the Territory with some of the most stunning natural wonders on earth. Visitors to the Territory are an integral part of our economic makeup and the tourism sector is our largest employer. To assist my government in this important job of revitalising tourism across the Territory, a new Northern Territory Tourism Commission will be established to provide strategic direction and policy guidance. Legislation to establish the commission will be brought before this House for consideration.
My government will focus on tourism not only in the Top End, but also in the Red Centre. As such, we are relocating Tourism NT headquarters to Alice Springs to revitalise regional and remote tourism and create a vibrant tourism hub in Central Australia.
A highly-skilled and educated community is fundamental to future economic prosperity in all sectors. My government is aware of the challenges in education, particularly in remote and regional communities, and will focus its energy on improving standards, particularly in the fundamentals of reading, writing and maths.
We have budgeted for a remote teacher retention initiative to keep teachers on the ground in communities giving our youngest, best, and brightest the benefit of a proper education. It will provide greater consistency and continuity which is greatly needed in our remote and regional school systems. Teachers are the backbone of our education system and, as such, deserve to have employment security. We are providing this certainty through secure permanent contracts for Territory teachers. Under the new arrangements, the department of Education will offer permanent contracts to all teachers recruited to remote schools and vacancies in urban, middle and senior secondary schools from the 2013 school year onwards.
My government is establishing an expert panel on numeracy and literacy. The expert panel will advise on how government can achieve a renewed focus on the core competencies of reading, writing, and maths within its current curriculum.
The third area of our plan for a thriving three-hub economy is food exports. The Northern Territory primary industry sector includes the production and farming of cattle, other livestock, horticulture and mixed farming. We will support the pastoral industry and ensure it is profitable. I have already sent my Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries to Indonesia on a mission regarding the Territory’s live cattle export. The minister’s goal is to double live cattle exports into Asia. That visit allowed him the opportunity to begin the process of rebuilding the Northern Territory’s relationship with Indonesia through partnerships and open discussion.
My government has also continued the focus on the livestock export market of Vietnam. My Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries met with the deputy head of the mission for the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to reconfirm the government’s commitment to this important trade relationship.
We will also invest in quality research for new crops and products in the existing mango and banana industries. We will streamline and speed up development and approval processes without compromising the environment. We will boost biosecurity investment to protect our future.
We have separated the Department of Minerals and Energy from Primary Industry and Fisheries to enhance focus on each of these sectors. We will investigate potential uses and the development of Berrimah Farm, and conduct an immediate audit of all industry legislation to ensure it is contemporary, meets best practice and is workable.
My government is also committed to working with the Commonwealth and the Western Australian governments to include the Northern Territory land in the Ord River Irrigation Scheme. My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries, again ...
Mr Westra van Holthe: He has been a busy boy.
Mr MILLS: He has been very busy ... and the Minister for Regional Development and Indigenous Advancement have already visited the Ord Irrigation Scheme in Kununurra to inspect areas of potential development, and have held discussions with local traditional owners about the potential to develop Northern Territory land.
My government will work hard to elevate the Northern Territory’s participation in the Ord River expansion so the Northern Territory can benefit from the significant economic opportunity expected to flow from the scheme from the Western Australian side.
Across all these sectors there will be a stronger focus on engaging not only with the domestic market in Australia, but also international markets, particularly in Asia. My government is committed to building and maintaining strong economic and social ties with Asia, and will ensure correct planning and resources are on hand to support this relationship work to the benefit of all parties. I will chair a Cabinet subcommittee dedicated to Asian engagement and trade, and this will be supported by an Office of Asian Engagement which has been established in the Department of Business. We will use a coordinated, whole-of-government Asian engagement strategy with a focus on Indonesia particularly, and establish an Aus/Indo forum which will establish Darwin as the meeting place between Australian and Indonesia.
We will create a signature arts, music and cultural event to be held in Darwin, and build stronger education links through teacher and student exchanges, with a stronger focus on teaching Asian languages in our schools.
Engagement with Asian markets is an essential part of doing business in the Territory. My government will work with business leaders to promote the capabilities of Territory organisations. I have already met with the Consul General to Japan in Sydney to continue the push for local businesses to secure work on the multibillion Ichthys project, and welcome an agreement which will see graduate students from a leading South Korean university based in Darwin for training and job placement.
We need to adequately plan for economic growth, particularly in relation to the housing market so young Territorians can stay here and not be squeezed out by high housing and living costs. We have committed to improving access to affordable housing by supporting 2000 new homes for key workers, young families, nurses, teachers, apprentices and others who have been shut out of that market. We will release land faster and reduce the burden of compliance costs for industry. We will streamline the planning process and provide transparent approvals.
The government’s Real Housing for Growth initiative will include subsidised rentals, private development with investment backed by government head leases and allocation of government land for housing. The program will boost the number of homes being built and leave room for private developers to remain very involved in the market.
The government is establishing an independent planning commission which will be tasked with drawing up town plans, identifying future transport corridors, developing comprehensive infrastructure plans, and identifying the location of essential facilities such as a regional waste facility. To properly carry out its function of coordinating the infrastructure, the commission will require a wide range of expertise, and will have the power and resources to co-opt professional advice on it on a project-by-project basis as required.
We have recruited the former federal member for Eden Monaro to be the future chair of the new commission. He lived in the Territory for 15 years during the 1980s and 1990s, and his strong land use planning skills and his experience, knowledge, and expertise in surveying and social sciences will be a valuable resource for the Northern Territory, and has been well received.
We will ensure that development does not come at the expense of the environment. We believe industry and the environment can coexist, and that is why we are setting up an independent Environment Protection Authority to strengthen, protect and grow the Northern Territory.
The role of the Development Consent Authority will remain unchanged although projects of a particularly large or sensitive nature will be first referred to the planning commission.
As part of my government’s legislative program for this term, it is our intention to bring forward the following bills:
a bill to enable the establishment of a strengthened Environment Protection Authority
a bill to establish a Tourism Commission
a planning amendment bill to establish a planning commission
a bill for an act to provide one punch homicide laws
a bill to amend the Sentencing Act to set out specific minimum sentences for violent offenders
a bill to amend the Police Administration Act to provide that police grievances are dealt with in a timely manner
a bill for national uniform evidence legislation.
My government was elected on a promise of being open and transparent, and that is what we will be. We are not afraid to be judged by our performance. This has already been demonstrated by the release of the first quarterly crime statistics which we committed to do, and will continue to do so.
My government will meet regularly with key sectors of the community and be consultative in our decision-making. This was demonstrated by our visits to remote and regional communities straight after our election victory to consult with them and listen to their concerns, and it has continued since then.
We recognise that nowhere is being accountable more important than in remote and regional Northern Territory. We need to overcome Indigenous disadvantage, and this cannot be ignored. We need to be accountable, decisive and considered, and we are committed to engaging respectfully and consulting with Aboriginal Territorians to give them a real say in decisions that affect them.
My government has undertaken to review the shires arrangement to ensure that people’s voices are heard in decisions about their own communities. My ministers have started the process of engaging with Northern Territory communities far and wide, with the Minister for Central Australia convening a meeting on alcohol policy in Alice Springs and the Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries participating in the Australian Mango Growers Association Annual General Meeting in Darwin.
Young Territorians have a real voice in government with the Round Table for Young Territorians now reporting directly to me as the Chief Minister. Nominations for the 2013 Round Table have opened and I have encouraged our young people to apply. I attended the Territory’s first ever Youth Conference at the Darwin Convention Centre and listened to many aspiring and inspiring people. I look forward to working with young Territorians to turn their ideas into reality. We will listen and take their views seriously.
In conclusion, I am honoured to stand before this House and outline my government’s plan for the Territory and for all Territorians - Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal - for the next four years. I note the activities I have detailed are only some of the activities that will be undertaken to secure a better future for all. I look forward to working hard with my colleagues in the best interests of all Territorians and take very seriously Her Honour’s charge that we do so transparently, honestly, and with integrity.
Madam Speaker, I commend to the Assembly the address by Her Honour the Administrator.
Ms FYLES (Nightcliff): Madam Speaker and members of the Twelfth Legislative Assembly, first, I acknowledge that we gather here today on Larrakia land and I pay respect to the Larrakia people and thank them for allowing me to make my home here in Darwin on their beautiful land.
My journey to this Chamber began just down the road at the old Darwin Hospital at Myilly Point and, fast forward 34 years to the 2012 NT general election, which has seen me elected to represent the people of Rapid Creek, Coconut Grove and Nightcliff as their member in the Northern Territory parliament.
I am deeply honoured by the opportunity to represent my community and for the trust they have placed in me. I will do my utmost to ensure their views are represented in this parliament and will dedicate considerable energy to helping the electorate of Nightcliff in any way I can.
The electorate of Nightcliff is rich in Territory history, in stories from the Larrakia people about the foreshore and Old Man Rock and its significance, and as a day trip destination for early Darwin residents who travelled to Nightcliff to enjoy the area and the cool surrounds of Rapid Creek, just as many residents still do today.
It was one of the first suburbs established in Darwin’s north in the 1950s and 1960s, and some of the original residents still reside in our neighbourhood.
The electorate of Nightcliff today comprises a diverse blend of homes and residents. The renowned beautiful tropical homes of Coconut Grove, the large suburban blocks of Rapid Creek, and the modern dwellings of the Nightcliff foreshore are the physical elements of my electorate which I believe reflect the blend of people who call Nightcliff home.
A Sunday morning at the popular Nightcliff Markets gives you a fair representation of the people, professionals, families with young children, and some of Darwin’s oldest residents. It is a neighbourhood I have loved for many years and am proud to call my home.
Many people have asked why I have chosen to enter politics. I did not consciously chase this path but, when the opportunity came to stand for parliament, I found I could not say no. The fact that I was 38 weeks pregnant with my second child made me question, for a brief moment, whether I could do it but, ultimately, it did not stop me from pursuing an opportunity so many in the world could only dream of.
The Territory, as part of South Australia, was one of the first places in the world where women were granted the right to vote in 1894. The fact that our community has selected and endorsed a mother with young children to stand for the parliament shows how truly unique and progressive the Territory really is. So many women in the world struggle for basic rights and freedom, and I feel blessed to live in a society that affords a mother of two the opportunity to participate in this Territory parliament.
We live in a diverse society and our parliament should reflect this diversity in its representation. I was told by someone I respect, ‘You will find every reason to say no to this opportunity, but in life you will find a reason to say no to everything. Sometimes it is the easy way out’. So, I said yes, and there begins the unique story we all in this parliament have. Those unique stories and journeys I hope guide us to being a truly representative parliament for our people.
I am proud to be a member of the Australian Labor Party, a party I joined nearly 20 years ago as a 15-year-old school student. Now, I am a member of the parliamentary wing of this great party. Some of my first memories are letterboxing with my father. Anyone who knows my family can relate to this. One particular time was in Jingili, in the 1983 federal election. I was happily letterboxing away when a dog lunged at me through the fence. Not harmed, but scared, I rode over to tell my father what happened. But, alas, he could already see I was okay and greeted me with a question, ‘But did you get the pamphlet in the letterbox?’
This story shows how politics has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. Politics and policy were discussed regularly at the dinner table. We chatted endlessly about what was happening around the world, in our country, our community, and we discussed new ideas and how they might affect people’s lives.
I remember the busyness of campaigns, the letterboxing, the setting up of polling booths. As I grew older, I studied politics at both high school and university. I had my ideals challenged but this only helped me and my political opinions grow and develop. I believe strongly in a fair go for all, no matter where we come from in our society.
I attended childcare and preschool in Rapid Creek, but my first strong memories of Nightcliff were as a teenager riding along the foreshore or spending the afternoon at Nightcliff pool or the jetty. Over the years I have exercised endlessly along the foreshore, although this is now extended to pushing a pram. It is projects like the installation of exercise equipment that I would like to be involved with as the local member for my area.
The electorate of Nightcliff holds so much history and represents everything about our truly unique Territory lifestyle. Only 15 minutes from the city, yet it holds a relaxed village feel, a unique blend of tropical Asia. The community every Sunday morning gathers at the markets of Nightcliff or Rapid Creek. As the local member, I look forward to developing a plan for the future of the electorate. Ensuring local residents and visitors alike have access to the beautiful foreshore and parks, balanced with preserving and protecting the environment for future generations to enjoy, the safety of our children in our community, the educational opportunities, and ensuring sufficient facilities and support for senior Territorians are all things that are important to me and have been raised further by the electorate.
During my time in this parliament I will work hard to ensure these opportunities and facilities are developed. Whether an issue is local government, Territory government or a federal matter, as the elected representative of the people of Nightcliff, Rapid Creek and Coconut Grove, I will undertake to look into such issues and assist as much as I can.
Our community has so many great assets that enhance our way of life and need to be developed and maintained: shade on our playgrounds; watering of the parks in the Dry Season; and developing sporting facilities and recreational infrastructure, not just for younger people, but for older Territorians who now, in greater numbers than ever, are staying on to retire in this beautiful place they call home.
I have responsibility for a number of shadow portfolios in which I also hold a strong personal interest. Some of my earliest memories are of visiting our beautiful parks which, at the time, were accessed in an ad hoc way, but are now beautiful national parks. I fondly remember swimming and four-wheel driving with my family in what is now Litchfield National Park. I want my boys to experience this, and pledge to help preserve our natural history and environment whilst, at the same time, develop facilities which allow all Territorians to enjoy these beautiful natural wonders.
I believe the Northern Territory should become a state. Territorians should be afforded the same legislative rights as other Australians. We should decide the legislation that guides us as a society and no other parliament should have the authority to impact upon us without consultation. As a woman and a member of EMILY’s List Australia, I feel I have a responsibility to support the women of the Territory, especially younger generations. I have had remarkable support in my life and, as a parliament, we must ensure our policies and our goals support all Territorians, especially those who are so often disadvantaged.
Now I am raising my two young sons, Oliver and Henry, I want to ensure they are afforded every opportunity here in the Territory - the best education, healthcare and lifestyle. I pledge to work within government to achieve this outcome. I love the community I live in, knowing my neighbours, working together for the common good. My sons attend community-based childcare. This opportunity not only allowed me to access fantastic childcare for my children, but to be involved in a unique way in the day-to-day care as a committee member. This centre, and facilities like it, are a special part of our community. As a member of parliament, I would like to encourage more community-based pathways and assets.
The last six months have been an extremely busy time for me, like any political candidate. As I mentioned earlier, I was 38 weeks pregnant when I announced myself as a candidate, which made it a more challenging experience. There were times when it was difficult juggling a newborn and a two-year-old with the trials and tribulations of an election campaign; however, it has made me a better, stronger person. The support I have received at times has overwhelmed me and I would not be here today as the member for Nightcliff without the support of so many wonderful people. I take this opportunity to acknowledge them.
The former member for Nightcliff, Jane Aagaard, was an excellent local member and I hope to emulate her representation for our community. I also thank her for her personal support of me during the campaign.
I place on the record my sincere thanks to my campaign team. I cannot name each of you individually, but this does not reduce the significance of your help. I was truly amazed at the number of people who supported me, and it was this assistance that was part of my success.
To my campaign team members, including Brett Murphy, Fred McCue, Kent Rowe, the ALP branch in Nightcliff, Barbara Crane, Mrs Geri, Ally Fitzgerald and Peter Mahoney, I thank you. Peter, although it was quite strange to see a picture of me whizzing down the street on the back of your wheelchair, it really lifted me, and I thank you for your unique sign of support.
To my new electorate officer, Carly, thank you for all your support, already. I look forward to working with you to help represent the people of Nightcliff.
To my good friend, Sally Seden and her family, thank you for your support. To my dear friends, Pompea Sweet, Deidre Logie and Katrina Kawaljenko, thank you for caring for my boys so I could pursue my dream. Campaigning with a newborn who was breastfeeding at times was a challenge, but your endless assistance made it possible. I am forever grateful your assistance allowed me to realise my dream. Thank you. I did not miss out on my newborn, it only enriched my time with him and assisted me. Thanks to you for your help with Oliver, Pomp. Olli still asks for you wishing for a Kinder Surprise.
To Margot and John Bailey, how the tide turned from me babysitting Jack while you campaigned and were a member of parliament, to you supporting me and my family in a campaign. Thank you for all that you did and continue to do.
Dawn Lawrie, what an amazing Territorian you are. For your support and guidance I am truly grateful.
As a proud and long-term union member, I thank union members for their support during the campaign, especially to the SDA. To EMILY’s List and Labor Women’s Network, your messages and e-mails of support lifted me during the campaign. For that, thank you.
To the members of the parliamentary wing of the Labor Party, past and present, I have watched and learnt from you over the years. You have given me inspiration, and I look forward to playing my part in this unique role as a member of the parliamentary wing of the Labor Party.
Paul Henderson, the community of Nightcliff has fond memories of you as a candidate in the area. I am grateful for your personal support during the campaign.
To the member for Karama, Delia Lawrie, thank you for your support visiting me at the markets each week and allowing me to believe I can do this, particularly with a young family.
To Sandra and Berkeley Archibold, thank you for your support to our family. It means a lot to Paul and the boys that you are here today, having travelled from Sydney to share this special time with us.
To my parents, Andrew and Cheryl Fyles, thank you for everything, not only in the last few months but over the years. It is times like this we reflect on our lives. I have always been proud of you and know the community respects you, especially for your dedication to education. However, the campaign period allowed me to gain a new level of understanding for this.
I have always enjoyed hearing the stories of your early years in the Territory, rebuilding after Cyclone Tracy, your involvement in reopening Nightcliff High School, then moving on to open Dripstone High School. The number of people who knew you or recognised the family name gave me a great sense of pride. The campaign was a family effort and, for that, I say thank you.
Madam Speaker, finally to Paul, thank you for allowing us, as a family, to bend the rules of convention and supporting me to stand for parliament at 38 weeks pregnant. Being the partner of a member of parliament is not always easy but your support makes it possible.
Members: Hear, hear!
Mr Tim Baldwin
Mr Tim Baldwin
Madam SPEAKER: Honourable members, before I call on the next speaker, I to acknowledge a previous member, a minister of this parliament, Hon Tim Baldwin, who is in the gallery up there. Welcome, Mr Baldwin.
Members: Hear, hear!
Ms FINOCCHIARO (Drysdale): Madam Speaker, I thank you and the parliament for this opportunity to introduce myself, for the first time, in the Chamber as the member for Drysdale during this the Twelfth Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
On 25 August, the voting public of Drysdale placed their faith in me to be their elected representative in this parliament for the next four years. I am humbled to stand here today having gained the confidence of the people of Drysdale. I must, in this first instance, thank the people of Drysdale for their patience and support during the 2012 general election campaign. I cannot emphasise enough my sense of service and duty to the electorate. By way of background, the electorate of Drysdale is made up of three residential suburbs - Gray, Durack and Driver - the industrial and commercial district of Yarrawonga, and the CBD of Palmerston. Gray and Driver are the two oldest suburbs in Palmerston, and Durack, which is newer, has a comparatively high Defence population.
I am proud to be a member of the Terry Mills Country Liberals government the composition of which is rich and diverse in age, race, religion and gender. I am proud of my Italian heritage. I am proud of being a born and bred Territorian. I am proud of being a young woman in the Northern Territory. I believe I am one of the youngest, if not the youngest, member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in history.
Madam Speaker, as a great advocate of gender equality, I know you would truly appreciate this moment as one that has been fought for by Australian women throughout the generations. I am also proud to stand here in this Chamber as the first female member for Drysdale.
I take this opportunity to thank my family, especially those who have travelled from the other side of the country to be here today. I am forever indebted to my parents for giving me every opportunity to achieve my goals. It is with their love and support, guidance, discipline, expectations and moral compass that I am the woman I am today. I am thrilled to have my nonna Rita, my nonno Paulo, my nonna Anna, my auntie Sandra, and extended family and friends here today. I make special mention of my late grandfather, Joe, who would have loved to have been here with us. My sister, Jessica, is watching live stream over the Internet from Brisbane where she is frantically finishing her Masters in Organisational Psychology. If you can see us, Jessica, we say hello and wish you all the very best for the next couple of weeks. We miss you and are very proud of you.
To my partner, Sam, you have changed my life and empowered me to achieve my dreams. With your strength and support I have been able to undertake this challenging and exciting journey, which would be empty without you. You are my best friend, my sounding board and my staunchest supporter. I can never thank you enough for walking this road with me.
Of course, I would not be standing here today if it were not for the outstanding efforts of my campaign team. From the moment I was preselected we exploded onto the scene and did not look back. My motto was to work hard every minute of every day, then on 26 August, no matter what the result, when I woke up I would be comfortable knowing I did everything I could to earn the trust and respect of the people of Drysdale.
I must specifically thank my best friend, Samantha Giannini who came up from Adelaide to support me on election day. It was priceless having you here to share in this momentous occasion and you have shown, once again, what our friendship really means. Also, an enormous thank you to Syd, Ann, Lara and Rachael Deam, long-term family friends of ours who have lived in Melbourne for 20 years, but came to Darwin for the weekend just to hand out how-to-vote cards.
Out of respect for the wishes of my Darwin team, I will not individually name them, but for those of you who letterbox dropped, barbecued, barbecued, barbecued, waved, doorknocked, folded, stapled, paper-clipped - some of us better than others - handed out, put corflutes up and pulled them down, advised, stood at the markets, counselled, consoled, attended, donated, laughed and cried, volunteered and prayed, ate, drank and were merry, I am eternally grateful.
The Finocchiaro family has a long and proud history in the Territory. In fact, this will not be the first time their contribution to the Northern Territory will be recorded in the Parliamentary Record. I refer to the adjournment debate of Hon Shane Stone on 13 October 1994 in the Seventh Assembly. My nonno Joe, nonna Rita and great-grandmother migrated to Australia in 1957 following my nonno’s brothers who had immigrated here in the early 1950s.
At that time, Darwin was a harsh and dusty place, a far cry from the seaside town of Falcone where my nonno and his brothers came from, or the large port city of Genoa where my nonna came from. They came to Australia without speaking a word of English and, yet, it was here they established themselves as pioneers of our great Territory. My nonno’s brothers had also migrated to Darwin, and they all lived together with their wives in a house in Seale Street in Fannie Bay. Three of the brothers and their wives still live there today.
My nonno and nonna were married in Darwin and had their honeymoon at Nightcliff foreshore at the Seabreeze Hotel. At that time, Nightcliff foreshore was a good drive from Fannie Bay and had not much in the way of housing, but was as picturesque as ever. My nonno bought a small timber house next to the rail line in Stuart Park where they raised my father and uncle with very modest amenities. In time, my nonno moved the family to Parap where my nonna still lives today. The Finocchiaros, like so many immigrants of that era, left behind the old country to start a new life in a new country and I, for one, am grateful they chose Darwin and the Northern Territory to call their home. They have worked hard to not only improve the lives of their families, but have also contributed to the rich fabric of our Territory.
When I was first preselected as the Country Liberals candidate for Drysdale I faced the immediate challenge of overcoming any of the prejudices associated with being a young female political hopeful. Once I started doorknocking the electorate, I was overwhelmed with the support I received at the door, at schools, at sporting events, seniors clubs, and in the community. It became very clear to me that my work ethic, passion, and commitment for Drysdale did not go unnoticed.
I am sure members of this House are all too aware of the eye-opening experiences candidates and politicians alike face on a doorstep. As I navigated my way through the streets, I was met with varying reception. Most people were very surprised to see me and would tell me they had never been doorknocked before and were grateful for my efforts.
Perhaps the most memorable occasion was when I doorknocked a small unit in Gray. A lovely old lady came to the door so I introduced myself to her and handed her my flyer. She walked away from the door, back into the house and called out to someone saying, ‘There is a young lady at the door, is that your girlfriend?’ A gentleman’s voice replied, ‘What are you talking about? I do not have a girlfriend’. The woman continued to berate the man and make inquiries as to why else I would be standing there. At that point it occurred to me that I may have outstayed my welcome, so I began to back away. The man then came out of the house to see who this alleged scarlet was. I copped some heat from the gentleman for causing him so many problems with his wife, excused myself, and was on my way.
Some of you sitting in this House might wonder why a young, female, commercial litigation lawyer would decide to make this monumental change in her career to serve the people of Drysdale and Palmerston. Perhaps it can, in part, be attributed to both of my grandfathers who rather fancied themselves as political commentators. From a very early age I would listen curiously to their half-English but mostly Italian debates about the state of the economy, the direction of the education system, and foreign engagement. I was like a sponge absorbing information everywhere I could. I was so eager to contribute to these conversations I was walking and talking at nine months old and, at two years, I was having what I thought were full-blown conversations at the adult dinner table when, perhaps, I should have been outside playing with other kids. With the wisdom of hindsight, I look back on those moments and am glad I was sitting at the table with my grandfathers, who taught me at a very early age to be interested in the world around you and to have an opinion.
I always knew when I grew up I was going to be a lawyer. Within my heart of hearts, I dared to hope one day I would be standing here in this honourable Chamber as a representative of the people of Palmerston.
I completed an International Baccalaureate Diploma at Kormilda College in 2002 and was successful in obtaining a position at the University of Adelaide for 2003 to study Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of International Studies. In 2003, I moved to Adelaide to undertake my studies and live with my grandparents, who are here today. On completion of my studies I returned to the Territory and undertook my graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. I was admitted to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in October 2008 and was also admitted to the High Court of Australia. I spent three years working at Clayton Utz on major commercial litigation before moving to Ward Keller Lawyers for experience in a Territory firm. I spent two years at Ward Keller until my resignation on 25 August 2012 to take up this most honourable position as member for Drysdale. I must extend my thanks to the partnership at Ward Keller for their support in allowing me to focus on my campaign.
I can assure Territorians I will be fighting to protect our unique Territory lifestyle. As a born and bred Territorian, I grew up enjoying our unique landscape and recreational opportunities children in our neighbouring states can only dream of. Our outdoor lifestyle ought to be protected and harnessed for future generations to enjoy. Our relative freedom should be celebrated and guarded by our parliament as we are, in many ways, the gatekeepers of our Territory culture and identity.
I remember the first time I went hunting for magpie geese with my father; I was just four years old. My sister, Jessica, was crying and crying because, at the age of two, she was not allowed to come with us. Mum was probably crying in disbelief that she was letting me go out with Dad as she put my pink jeans on and sent me off to Howard Swamp with salty plums and Barbie doll in hand, and Dad at the wheel of our clapped-out Daihatsu ute.
I remember a time when swimming at Wangi Falls was not a worry, skiing at Manton Dam was a favourite weekend activity, and the constraints on other Territory ways of life were minimal. Whilst times must always change, there are some things which do not have to.
Times in Darwin have changed, as many members in this House would know and have contributed to. We are no longer the sleepy backwater town of the 1950s and 1960s when my family arrived, but have rebuilt our town following Cyclone Tracy to become a dynamic light in the north of Australia. We have built a railway, a major port facility, a university, and we have brought gas onshore.
In the coming years, we will all be challenged to safeguard our Territory. I can promise Territorians I will be ever watchful that development and growth does not come at an irreversible cost to our lifestyle. I see this balance as being one of the greatest challenges successive Territory governments will face.
I am an avid supporter of our business community, and have been involved with many business organisations for some time, including Palmerston Regional Business Association, and Business and Professional Women.
In the Territory, business faces complex challenges different to our southern competitors. Territory businesses deal day in and day out with the tyranny of distance, our harsh and changing climate, and our remote and rural needs. However, one thing that has always been said is the Territory is a place of opportunity and a can-do place. It is the obligation of government to ensure this mantra forever remains and we have the foresight and wisdom to lead Territorians into the future.
Our government understands the needs of business and that business does best without our interference. We understand the Territory’s physical position in the world and the opportunity that brings with it. With that is also a responsibility to nurture our relationships with our neighbours and to maintain our place and influence in our immediate region.
We in this House must do everything in our power to ensure young Territorians, for future generations to come, do not have to leave because of lack of opportunity. We have to strive to continue to make the Northern Territory a place where young people can gain a good education, an exciting job, have a family, and afford a good home and, when they are in their senior years, they will be looked after with decent healthcare and excellent retirement facilities.
Gender equity and the advancement of women is an area I am passionate about. To me, it is truly astonishing that in 2012 the average gender pay gap in Australia is 17.5%. That translates to a gap of $250 per week. It translates to a woman’s male equivalent counterpart working 64 days less per year than her to accrue the same income.
In 1984, the year I was born, women were earning 22.3% less than men. It is far from a remarkable achievement to have closed the gap by only 4.8% in 28 years, and it is downright shameful the gap has increased in the healthcare and social assistance sectors to 32.6%.
It is not just equal pay for work of equal value woman continue to fight for. The battle for flexible working arrangements such as job sharing, quality part-time, and working from home, continue to be little more than pipe dreams in most workplaces.
Certainly, incentive for employers to offer maternity leave is far from on the horizon. Government should be an industry leader and adopt best practice policies which allow women who choose to have children to return to the workforce. Too many of our highly talented women exit the workforce, denying all of us the diversity and quality leadership we so urgently need. Too often, women’s’ need for flexibility sees them in lower paid and more casual work which has severe long-term consequences for their economic wellbeing. We know this is increasingly threatening their housing security, and it most certainly threatens their superannuation and retirement opportunities. By 2019, it is estimated woman will have accumulated only half the superannuation of men.
Woman still provide the majority of care, both paid and unpaid. In the Territory, we have 30 000 people working selflessly as carers - 70% of those unpaid carers are women. We as a government cannot ignore the fact that carers are twice as likely to suffer depression and have the lowest levels of wellbeing in our community. I hope to make some difference to these statistics during my time in office.
As you may have guessed, I am fiercely passionate about Palmerston. It is a place of great significance to me and my family, and it always has been and will be where I call home.
When doorknocking in my electorate, the No 1 concern of Territorians, next to the ever-increasing cost of living and housing crisis, was law and order. Our government is determined to bring crime rates down and return a community standard of behaviour to our streets.
In 2011-12, there were 4428 female victims of assault in the Northern Territory, which is almost twice the assault rate for males. In the same year, Indigenous women made up over half of all assault victims. Territory women can be sure I will be a strong voice in this parliament and in our community.
Palmerston residents and Territorians deserve to feel safe in their homes, on their streets, and in our community. They should be able to live an outdoor lifestyle free from the constraints of antisocial behaviour, vandalism and nuisance.
Looking to the June 2012 crime statistics, domestic violence assaults in Palmerston are up 62% compared with five years ago. Alcohol-fuelled assaults in Palmerston are up 76% compared to five years ago. House break-ins, commercial break-ins, motor vehicle thefts, property damage, and other theft are up 16%, 4%, 15%, 31% and 33% respectively. These trends have to be turned around and I am looking forward to engaging with our local community, the City of Palmerston, and government agencies to make our community a safer place.
Palmerston residents deserve a properly planned city and infrastructure that will stand the test of time and sustain our great city for the growth we will see in the future. I will be fighting to deliver dual lanes on Tiger Brennan Drive all the way into the city and dual lanes on Wishart Road. I want to see the delivery of low-cost housing to Palmerston and ease the cost of living to Territorians.
I would like to be critically involved in the development of Palmerston health services, and will work hard to maintain the emotional and moral health of our city by fostering our community organisations and empowering the individual.
Madam Speaker, I will serve Territorians diligently and with the utmost integrity. I will do my best to make a positive difference in the lives of my constituents and restore the community’s faith in its elected members and our political system. I will fight for our Territory, our way of life, and our future with unwavering vigour. I will speak up and be heard in this parliament. I will do this by treating constituents with respect and humility. My door will always be open and my phone always on. I will be honest and frank with constituents. I will be visible, accessible, and genuinely available. I will be accountable. Above all, I will not be afraid to stand here and fight for the right decisions for our Territory.
Members: Hear, hear!
Mr VOWLES (Johnston): Madam Speaker, I first want to acknowledge the Larrakia people, the traditional owners of this land we stand on. I acknowledge the Larrakia elders, past and present, the Stolen Generations and the blessings the Larrakia people gave me and everyone here for a safe journey on their land.
I congratulate all my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the House for their election and re-election. We hold an incredible responsibility to ensure the Northern Territory, our community, remains strong, dynamic and continues to grow and move forward to ensure the interests and needs of Territorians - all Territorians - are fairly represented and advocated for.
It truly is an honour to stand here as the new member for Johnston to represent the people of Coconut Grove, Jingili, Millner, and Moil for the next four years. I am truly humbled and pledge to restore the faith you have shown in me by being a strong representative for you in the Northern Territory parliament.
Johnston is a diverse, dynamic and multicultural electorate which I know well. It represents all we love about being a Territorian, and what we know is unique about our urban lifestyle: the Rapid Creek Markets on a Sunday, bustling with a cultural melting pot that is Darwin; the amazing Darwin families living in Moil, Jingili, Millner and Coconut Grove, full of stories about the Territory and all its history; our successful and dynamic business hubs; our social fabric supported by the many important NGOs working in our local community; not forgetting all the new families which have moved into the electorate and have experienced a sense of community that exists within the Johnston electorate.
I acknowledge the former member for Johnston, Dr Chris Burns. I first met Chris when he doorknocked my home. We were all aware of Chris’ doorknocking feats, which was the cornerstone of his success as the local member for over 11 years. Chris has given me enormous support and guidance throughout my campaign and I have nothing but the utmost respect for a man I admire. I wish him well for the future.
Like many Territorians, I grew up in a diverse family. My mother, Esther-Rose Nungarrayi Seaton, is a Warumungu woman who grew up in Darwin. My maternal grandmother, Lilly or Lulu Nungala Alroy, from Alroy Downs Stations, was taken from Tennant Creek to the Berrimah compound then, later, into the Bagot Reserve. Her sister, Aunty Cathy, was also taken at birth to the Tiwi Islands and later married into the Vigona family. Nana Lulu said numerous times she had other siblings, but could not remember them and never saw them again. My great-grandmother, Rosie Alexandria, from Alexandria Station, had both Warumungu and Warlpiri heritage and she and Aunty Lulu were traditional midwives, delivering babies from Camooweal to Tennant Creek. It is no surprise my mum went into Aboriginal healthcare as a career. My nana, Rosie, took one last journey to Borroloola where she now rests forever. I am very proud of my Indigenous heritage and proud to be one of only 27 Indigenous members elected into parliaments across Australia.
My maternal grandfather, Nugget Manson, came to Darwin with the Army and was based at Mindil Beach in the 1930s, and was the only carpenter at that time. He was about to leave to another place when the war came to Darwin in February 1942. We are proud of his commitment to rebuilding Darwin, where he also met my nana, Lulu.
When Nana Lulu lived on Bagot Reserve and worked for Paspaleys on the evening shifts starting at 6 pm, which meant she first had to get permission to leave Bagot and, then, had to wear a tag to be allowed out at that time. She was not allowed to mix with any non-Indigenous people, especially men, but my grandfather did not care. He used to be fined by the police for consorting with a native whenever he was caught spending time with nana. Thank God times have changed.
My late father, Robert, or Bob Vowles to everyone, came over to Australia from York with my grandparents, Max and Marjorie Vowles, when he was two years old. Originally settling in Brisbane, they had their ups and downs, but Pop was delighted when they saw an ad in the Brisbane paper for a job as a mechanic. Pop won the job and packed the family up for the long journey to Darwin. That was many years ago, and they are still here and the Territory still is a great place of opportunity and prosperity to this day.
My father was a hard-working electrician who also had a love for music, first playing in the Darwin City Band and, then later, in a popular local band called The Mystics with my uncles. They played at footy dos, weddings, and regularly at the public bar in the old Dolphin Hotel on Bagot Road. He was the only white face amongst the band and people still stop me to this day and say, ‘Your dad was a deadly drummer, bros’.
I was born in the old Darwin Hospital and lived in public housing at Kurringal Flats until moving into Jingili. I went to Jingili Preschool and Primary School, playing Rugby League across the road, and hockey at Alawa Oval every weekend. We did not have much money, but we were wealthy with love and care from my parents and extended families. I loved growing up in Darwin with the sense of community around the neighbourhood, and everyone pitching in to help out when you needed it. This was very apparent when Cyclone Tracy hit and people banded together to rebuild Darwin. We were one of the many young families who were flown out while my dad stayed behind to assist in the rebuilding of Darwin.
I was fortunate enough to possess some skills in the sporting field, in cricket in particular, which provided me many opportunities and experiences I am very grateful for. I was lucky enough to have had the privilege of representing Australia at junior level, and to play and coach cricket around the world. I have met so many different people from some of the greatest ever cricket players, including Sir Donald Bradman, to the King and Princes of Malaysia. However, the best moments have always been representing the Northern Territory. I am very proud of being a Territorian and was honoured to be inducted into the Steve Abala Role Model Hall of Fame and receive the Australian Sports Medal for my services to cricket.
One of the greatest lessons I have learnt in life is never to give up. If you work hard enough, you are persistent, dedicated to achieving and learning from your mistakes along the way, you will succeed. This is the core of who I am now, and how I have approached every problem and success in my life.
In a maiden speech, it is traditional to acknowledge and thank a number of people who have made a significant contribution to the newly elected member. I will continue this tradition today. Foremost, I acknowledge my family. I am truly blessed to have a family that loves, cares for and supports me by their belief in me and what I want to achieve.
My mother is a truly inspiring woman, coming from a large, happy, loving family at Berrimah, and being a full-time mother who went back to re-educate herself after leaving school at primary level to, ultimately, obtain a Masters degree from Flinders University. She has inspired, and continues to inspire me, through her passion and commitment to achieving what she believes in, a trait that has been passed on to me.
I thank my eldest sister, Lynda, who has been a continual support and guidance through some tough times, along with her husband, Guy. They have always been there for me when I needed them. I thank my sisters, Rosemary and Rebecca and my brother, Robbie and partner Tarah for all the unconditional love and support you gave me through supporting my aspirations and being there for me when I needed you most. One of the good memories I have of election day is of my mother, sisters, brothers, aunties and uncles standing out in the Millner sun all day handing out how-to-vote cards with big smiles on their face and a lot of laughs.
To my son, Ayden, I am proud of you and hope you grow up to realise your aspirations and dreams. You can achieve anything you want. As your father, I will always be there for you.
I wish my dad could be here today in the gallery to listen to this speech. My father was a quiet and unassuming man. He went to school at Darwin Primary, did his apprenticeship here and worked all his life in Darwin. My father, with his strong working class roots, taught me that through hard work and knowledge you can achieve anything.
As all members in this room will acknowledge, you do not take the decision to run for politics lightly. The impact on your family life is severe as you immerse yourself into a campaign. I give my sincerest and heartfelt thanks to Danyelle for her guidance and sacrifice to support me through two elections and to be there when I needed her. Thank you to her boys, Zander and Noah, and to PJ, Jan, and Cindy Jarvis. Hannah Walas, thank you for your support and faith in me.
I acknowledge the massive contribution of my amazing campaign team and volunteer base. I will not name everyone individually here today who assisted me, but I will do so in a future adjournment. I thank everyone who assisted in letterboxing and phone canvassing and even joining me doorknocking - all giving up their valuable time to help me be elected. I will always be in debt to you for your belief in me.
I acknowledge my campaign manager who I think is up there. Well done. She coordinated a very large volunteer base and deserves much thanks for putting up with me for hours on end, doorknocking, functions, fundraising, planning meetings and forcing me to phone canvass. We have become experts of every street, park, shortcut, and shop across the Johnston electorate and her dedication to doorknocking the electorate almost two times with me during the campaign is greatly appreciated. We always enjoyed meeting every voter in the community and listening to their concerns and ideas on what people want for our community, regardless of which side they voted for.
Fiona Cummins met me one Wet Season day at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Territory Education many years ago while I was doing a course there. Fiona’s continuous encouragement, patience, and vision allowed me to set a path to take over from her as the academic lecturer for Sport and Recreation at Batchelor Institute and broadened my horizons and aspirations.
Julie Brimson was a continual sounding board and a mentor in my early career in the Northern Territory government. Jock Bremner was a huge influence in my early life. His support for me and my family through my early sporting career continues to this day.
To Pippa, Brenna and Aly B, thank you for always having faith in me. To Brett Murphy for all the early morning starts and good advice throughout the campaign, and to Kent, Rebecca and Laura Rowe, your loyalty and support always inspired me to keep going. To Ari, your knowledge and strategy throughout the campaign and beyond have been instrumental in my election.
I acknowledge a dear friend and inspiration in Charlie King. He inspired me to stand up to make a difference as he has done for many years, and who is effective in walking both roads as a proud Gurindji man, a great father, a proud Territorian, and an inspiration for all men.
To my dear friend Andrew Modra who came to Darwin from Adelaide to assist me through the campaign, although his political views are different in some areas, we both believe in people’s fundamental rights to have access to healthcare, education, a fair go, and equality. Mods believed in me knowing that if I did get in, I will make a difference. Thanks, Mods.
I thank the NT Labor Party for their belief in me, in my preselection and the support provided by all the members and supporters.
My vision for the electorate of Johnston is an honest one. I know the community well. Family, many friends I went to school with, and many people I have met during the campaign are living there. I am committed to ensuring the fantastic schools in the electorate continue to have the support of the local member, and I am a strong advocate for them in their issues in parliament. I pledge to the people in Johnston that I will be a hard-working and accessible member, and will passionately and unrelentingly advocate for the issues and concerns of the people of Johnston. I will work for the people of Johnston with the government of the day to ensure we are both on a path to continually improving the lives of every Territorian; that we build on the considerable investment in education over the last 11 years by the former Labor government such as the $5m to Casuarina Secondary College for upgrades and a new science lab which will, no doubt, achieve significant academic improvements by providing students with a world-class local facility to excel in.
I look forward to working with my Labor colleagues over the next four years to ensure we are a very good alternative government and voice for the people of the Northern Territory. Being a born and raised Territorian, I am often asked by new arrivals, ‘When do you become a Territorian?’ - that age old question – ‘Is there a time frame? Is there a certain thing I have to do? Do I have to go through so many Wet Seasons?’ For me, it is simple. If you move here, you live here, you work here, and you love the place, you are a Territorian. We are a unique makeup of people from all over the place who want to raise our families here, send our children to great local schools, and we know we are given every opportunity to fulfil our dreams and aspirations for the future. This place is the best place in the whole world; I do not want to be anywhere else.
I want to reflect on the powerful words of Martin Luther King Jr, words I have always admired and loved:
- The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbour will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.
Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make this address today. The next four years will be an exciting and challenging time for me. I have big shoes to fill with the retirement of Dr Chris Burns and I am very grateful for the opportunity and privilege of serving the people of Johnston to the best of my ability.
Members: Hear, hear!
Ms LEE (Arnhem): Madam Speaker, I thank the traditional owners past and present, the Larrakia people, for the land we stand on today, my colleagues, and the opposition - it is going to be a great four years to be playing around in here. I am looking forward to it.
It is with a great sense of pride I stand here today as the member for Arnhem, not so much for myself, but for my people of the Arnhem electorate who have showed so much faith, trust and confidence in me. It took much courage for some people to change the way they have voted traditionally, and to support me and the Country Liberals at the end.
For the first time in 35 years, the CLP has won the seat of Arnhem - since the first government. I acknowledge the work of the former member, Malarndirri Barbara McCarthy, and thank her for her commitment on behalf of my electorate. However, the bush said very loudly and clearly, ‘We will not be taken for granted ever again’.
I give my pledge today I will work tirelessly to represent my people and bring their views to the table.
I would like to introduce myself. My mother is of the Mayali people - eastern north Arnhem Land - my father is of the Dalabon Jawoyn Rembarrnga tribe from central east to east Arnhem. You can say I am an Arnhem Land girl born and bred - lived there all my life, would not change it.
My home has always been Barunga, 80 km southeast of Katherine in central Arnhem Land. I was born and raised in the region where my parents and grandparents all lived.
My mother, Ruth Kelly, has always been my rock. She has not only looked after us, she has always had a job to go to every day. That was an inspiration for me growing up. She was my best friend, my mentor, she was always there, a shoulder to lean on, someone to talk to, someone to rely on. She always had a great sense of determination, and she has always been such an inspiring person. Mum, you can look, it is okay.
I was given a strong foundation in life; it helped shape me to the young lady I am today. It got me through the rough patches we all face. One of those you probably all know was the death of my father, a Jawoyn leader, Robert Lee. It hit me like a brick wall. I miss his presence, especially the little talks we had. When my Dad was called upon by the elders, mainly his father, a highly-respected Jawoyn leader, he took over the position from his brother. Not for one minute did he question that decision from the elders. He committed himself for the rest of his life - until two weeks before he died - to take on the position of a CEO of Jawoyn. Even then, he sat there.
Politics was part of my life growing up. My dad one day would be talking to the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, to a number of politicians or senior public figures, and the next he could be sitting under a tree talking to us, his people, or any countrymen. He was always part of us and we were always part of them.
I recall as a young girl former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, came out to our Barunga Festival and tried to throw a spear to hit a target. Dad said he was not very good but he tried anyway, but he missed. They were good days, and the importance of politics and representing your people was instilled in me at a very young age.
It was in 1988 my father, along with all the other Arnhem Land leaders, including Mr Yunupingu – Gatjil - had spent years writing the Barunga Statement and, on that day presented it to Mr Hawke. The statement, on bark, called for Aboriginal self-management, land rights, compensation, respect, the end of discrimination, and the granting of full civil, economic, social and cultural rights. The Australian government never fulfilled the request for a treaty called for by our leaders.
We must not forget what they fought for. My father’s vision was to build a sustainable relationship with all government bodies while working towards self-management for the Jawoyn people - not only the Jawoyn people but all Indigenous people in the Northern Territory. His strong desire was to flow through the rest of Arnhem Land and the Northern Territory. They are still very important issues in the electorate of Arnhem right across the bush. They will, ultimately, affect urban areas as it is today.
The shires are one of the problems. I have had opportunities to travel to many other communities outside my electorate, from Lajamanu to Wadeye, to Nguiu to Utopia, to Ramingining. The story is always the same: basic services have deteriorated and people are showing despair. Before the shires were established, people were happy. Workers would go out every day to clean the streets and maintain open areas. You could get a plumber to fix the leaking taps. Waiting weeks and months is the problem now - some houses have sewage build up for at least six months, which is a big problem. You could get an electrician.
We lost jobs when the shires were created; we want them back. We have the manpower, we have been upskilled. The shires took away any say we had and communities feel they lost control. A lady from Lajamanu came up and said to us: ‘What were they thinking?’
I will be working very hard with all my colleagues to help get over the chronic housing issues. SIHIP delivered some of the housing but the huge amount of money spent should have delivered more. I want to ensure that the money does not disappear to all levels of administration before it reaches the community and its people. We will look closely at future programs; they must work for the people. We must give value for money.
My people are thinking people; they have dreams like all Australians. They look across our vast lands and they see potential for economic development while maintaining our traditional practices. We have many resources, from tourism to fishing, cattle to minerals, but we need to work together to get our people more involved in what is, essentially, their future. It takes engagement, talking and, very importantly, listening. They think about education; they know their kids can achieve anything and good education will have a major impact on many social issues. My people think about health. For 10 years I was an Aboriginal health worker. I grew tired of sickness and funerals - everyone feels that. My people know education will play a big part in improving our health. Learning about why we get sick is half the battle.
My people think about jobs. Having a job is about pride: having a busy day; having a reason to get up in the morning; and being respected for contributing to the wellbeing of families and their communities. The little ones watch all this; they take it all in. If we want to influence the next generation, we need the role models: the youngsters walking to schools; teens doing their jobs; and dads and mums going to work. Most importantly, we have our grandparents who are our leaders and are always there to guide us. Policies so far have not produced good role models. Many fine people have turned to alcohol; it has destroyed people and families.
I thank all the people who worked on my campaign. There were long hours, long days, long months of hard work that so many people put in to secure this victory. I especially thank my mother, Ruth Kelly, again; my loving and devoted husband, Benjamin Ulamari, my best friend, who inspires me with his dedication and loyalty towards me and the kids; my three beautiful girls, Moniquah, Luriese and Quintayha - you do not want to know their middle names - for their endless love and support and who always bring me down to earth when I need it the most; and my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and all the immediate family who have stood by me, encouraged me, and inspired me throughout. Today, thank you all.
I sincerely acknowledge Tina and Lindsay McFarlane for their commitment and dedication to the campaign from the start; my sister, Helen Lee, for really doing the long yards and putting up with sleepless nights and headaches. But, Tina, you were magnificent, mate. If it were not for the key players, I would not be here today, and for that I am grateful. I thank the Robertson family, especially Glenda Robertson, for accommodating us during our visits at Ngukurr and supporting me throughout the campaign.
I thank and acknowledge the Daniels, Collins, Thompson and Turner families; my brother-in-law, Howard Turner; grandfather, Nelson Hall; Ian Gumbula; my nephew, Mike Alangale; Roger Roy; Uncle Wayne Johnson; Jim Sullivan; and Greg Saunders, who all supported me and helped me out at Ngukurr.
I also acknowledge Veronica at Roper Bay store who assisted in Ngukurr and Urapunga. At Urapunga, my brother-in-law, Clifford Duncan and Roger Roy - thank you. I acknowledge my sister, Molly Bryan, for supporting me and being one of the main people during the campaign in Milingimbi and Ramingining; Aunty Shirley, my Mum’s friend; my Uncle Neville; and the Bonson, Gaykamanggu, and Dharmarrandji families, who supported me during my campaign.
Trent Constantine, thank you for accommodating us during our visit to Ramingining. Nesman Bara, Constantine Mamarika, the Amagula family, Michelle McCann, Rebecca Yantarrnga, Lily Yantarrnga, Peter Manning, Kay Griffith, Tina who coordinated the whole mobile polling and the statistics and gave tremendous support on Groote Eylandt.
On Numbulwar, I thank my nieces, Alma and Amanda Ngalm, Russell Numamurdirdi, my cousin Grant Nundhirribala along with his family for taking us into their homes and helping us in the lead-up to the mobile polling day.
At Milingimbi, I sincerely thank my sister Rebecca Bryan, Samantha Dhamarrandji, the Milingu family, the Gaykamangu family, the Dhamarrandji family and the Baker family for their campaign assistance and during the mobile polling.
At Gapuwiyak I thank Margaret Lewis, Vivien and Melissa Ronson, Mickey and Bobbie Wurrungmurra for their endless support, and Jacko for being a good listener. I also thank the Rittarangu tribe for their support.
I thank all those who helped me out: Jason Newman; Rebecca Healy; Daniel Davis; the member for Fong Lim, David Tollner; the member for Braitling, Adam Giles; Leo Abbott; the member for Namatjira, Alison Anderson; and the candidate and now member for Stuart, Bess Price. Special thanks to the Arnhem Land Progress Association, which is known as ALPA, for their support and help during the campaign.
There was so much support and work put in I thank everyone who helped me. I sincerely apologise if I have not mentioned your name. For me, the campaign was a labour of love that took me away from my home and my young family for nights on end. At times I felt I might not be able to continue. The pace was frantic but I pushed myself harder and harder. My campaign managers and supporters tirelessly stood by me and put up with me when sometimes rudeness gave me a sharp edge.
The people ticked my name because I am a local, they know they can talk to me, they know I will be a strong voice, and they know I am honest. Let us stop the reporting about what is wrong and the decision-making from a long way away. Let us make new decisions that are better and more sustainable, fit for remote communities coming from the grassroots people. We will build strong, efficient, productive communities.
We are losing generation after generation, they are not staying in school, they may never work. It is time to stop this.
I look towards the day when the little kids or wudjew are queuing up at the school gate, when families are no longer burdened by sickness, when there are jobs to go to in the morning, and when our local decisions are driving the change.
Madam Speaker, we are here now, on the way. I want to work as the elected member to bring change, and I hope I will be a role model to encourage many more young Aboriginal people to take on the leadership roles.
Members: Hear, hear!
Mr KURRUPUWU (Arafura): Madam Speaker and honourable members, it is an honour for me to stand before you as a new elected member for Arafura. I very much thank the people of Arafura for their support. I want to represent their interests and concerns to the best of my ability. I follow some former great Aboriginal members. This includes the first traditional man to be a member of an Australian parliament, Hyacinth Tungutalum. It also includes Stanley Tipiloura, Wesley Lanhupuy, Maurice Rioli and Marion Scrymgour.
I was born in Wurrumiyanga, at what was called Bathurst Island Catholic Mission in 1961. The year I was born was the 50th anniversary of arrival to the Tiwi Island of the famous Missionary of Sacred Heart, Father Francis Xavier Gsell. He later became the first Bishop in the Northern Territory. I was fortunate to be named after this wonderful man by the much loved Sister Anne, who remains amongst the Tiwi people today. Many will know of Bishop Gsell as the Bishop with 150 wives. This occurred as Bishop Gsell became the protector of young promised wives who did not want to marry an old man under Tiwi law. This was a major change for Tiwi culture. It is a measure of strength of the Tiwi that they were able to cope with the change.
My great-grandmother, Martina, was the first of these wives. She was a very special woman. It was a tradition in our culture for a young girl who disobeyed the marriage rule to be speared in the foot. However, she was strong and determined and did not let this stop her from going to live with Bishop Gsell. Her faith in the church had a major influence on my mother and me. I have been involved in the church on Tiwi Island for over 30 years, where I have served as a minister and parish councillor.
When I was five years old, I came with my family to live at the Bagot Community and I went to Ludmilla Primary School. Both the teachers and the other students treated me very well in the good ways of Darwin. I learnt a lot. When I returned to Bathurst at the age of 10, it took me a year to relearn how to speak Tiwi. I then attended school at Wurrumiyanga, at Xavier College. Here I had some very good teachers such as Brother McGrath. After school I decided to become a teacher and I attended Batchelor College. Then I taught at Catholic Wurrumiyanga Girls School for four years.
In 1980, I was elected to the Nguiu Community Council as the President, where I served for three years. During this time, I was also elected to the then ATSIC Regional Council.
In 1986, I married my lovely wife, Ancilla. We have been very close, and Ancilla has worked in Catholic Education on the Tiwi Island for 30 years.
In 2003, I was elected as the Chair of the Tiwi Island Local Government Council. I have also been elected to the position of Deputy Chair of the Tiwi Land Council and as a Manager of Red Cross on the Tiwi Islands.
My dream for Aboriginal people of Arafura and elsewhere in Australia is to listen closely to their needs and to see Aboriginal people grow strong through education and training, to work in proper jobs and businesses, and to have strong, happy, healthy lives.
Our young people have to believe in this rather than fall into drugs and alcohol, leading to depression and suicide. To do this, we must be free to plan our own lives as equal partners with mainstream society.
Traditional Aboriginal law and culture must become a partner with white man’s law and culture so our people can maintain their respect and dignity. Far too much dependency on government has taken away our freedom to make decisions which benefit our people. It is not possible for public servants who live in Canberra or Darwin to manage our lives. We have to do this ourselves, in partnership with non-Aboriginal people. We do not want to be looked after by government from a long way away.
Past policies have failed Aboriginal people and the Australian community. We need to target blockages that stop our human development. In the case of Aboriginal people who rely on welfare benefit, this is holding back our growth and development. It has stopped us wanting to work and receive an education. We do not use time in proper ways. Our growth and development must proceed in a shared way. Aboriginal people cannot remain separate. This does not mean Aboriginal people need to give up their culture. What we need is shared responsibility.
Government agencies and businesses need to build proper respectful relationships with Aboriginal people and their communities. These organisations will need to change the way they deal with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities. They will need to learn much more about our culture. Ways need to be found quickly to put in place decision-making at the local level in Arafura which allows for our input into decision-making.
The current shire arrangements do the opposite. Much money is spent on jobs outside our community. Often, local Aboriginal people in Arafura do not benefit from the large amount of money being spent. This money cannot work to the benefit of local Aboriginal people when non-Aboriginal people are paid large salaries and are based in city offices.
We think things like good all-weather roads, safe sewerage, good housing and furniture, good food, and access to health facilities are important. We often wonder why we do not have these basic things. At present, there are a number of levels of government Aboriginal people in Arafura need to try to deal with. This type of government leads to confusion, conflict, and more problems. It is important to have more decision-making at the local level so resources can be put to the best use for the people of the community of Arafura.
The funding we receive for communities now would be enough to do far more for our people if spent on the right things. I often hear people say our young people are our future. How are we to make a proper future for ourselves in Arafura and the Northern Territory without a proper education for our young people? It is not possible for young people to manage their lives without education. We still see high numbers of young people not attending school. Most young Aboriginal people do not hold any qualification. Many young Aboriginal people cannot read and write. Why is this allowed? Why, I ask, has it not been possible for government to work with Aboriginal communities to improve the education of young Aboriginal people in Arafura and the Territory?
As a new government, we need to work to make sure (1) students go to school regularly; (2) students are healthy and able to learn; and (3) Aboriginal people and families are involved in the education of our young people.
Again, in education, more focus needs to be given to the local living situation of Aboriginal people in communities in Arafura. Through a lack of education, a lack of real employment is one of the cancers causing serious problems in communities in Arafura. This has caused a number of social problems such as not attending school and substance abuse. Young Aboriginal people see no point in going to school when there are no jobs. It is time for us to work directly with the local communities that want change, and for governments to remove the road blocks to a better future for the great people of Arafura.
I commend the substantial efforts and dedication of the Tiwi Land Council and the belief of landowners in our ability to build businesses and employment for our Tiwi people. The Tiwi Land Council leadership shows us the way forward. This must be the future for the Tiwi and the people of Arafura.
Madam Speaker, it is through education, business and employment that we can make a major contribution to the Northern Territory, to Australia, and to ourselves.
Members: Hear, hear!
Mrs PRICE (Stuart): Mr Deputy Speaker, to show my respect to my parents, my sister and my family and my people, I will first speak in Warlpiri. Then, to show respect to the members of this Assembly and to all other Territorians who do not understand my language, I will translate my words into English.
Yuwayi. Jalanguju wardinyi-nyayirnirna kujakarna karrimi nyampurla mapirri yapa manu kardiya government-rla. Ngaliparlu mapirrirli government-rla yungurlipa ngurrjumani Northern Territory panukujuku.
I am very proud to be here today standing together, blackfellas and whitefellas, in government. All of us as one can make the Northern Territory a better place for everybody.
I stand before you in this Chamber today, as part of this law-making Assembly because of the strength and wisdom of my parents. They were born in the desert in Warlpiri country west of Alice Springs. Neither of them laid eyes on a whitefella until the end of their childhood. They began life with the status of primitive savages who could be shot with impunity. They survived the killing times of the Coniston massacre. They ended their lives as revered elders, owners of all the traditional lands through the Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act with all the rights and responsibilities of modern Australian citizens. All of this in one lifetime.
I was born in the bush, my parents’ ninth child. My mother had only one of my aunts to help her when I was born. She had lost four infant sons, and a newborn daughter taken from her after being told that she had died. This all happened in the 10 years before I was born.
I spent my childhood living in what we call yujuku and what whitefellas call humpies. My parents were experts at building these shelters. I never felt cold, wet, or uncomfortable in these basic desert homes during my childhood.
My parents worked all their lives. My dad worked as a police tracker. He carried the mail by camel between Alice Springs and Mt Doreen Station, a round trip of about 800 km. He dug wolfram ore for tucker, worked as a stockman, kept a market garden and a piggery going with his brother-in-law, my uncle, and then worked as a groundsman at the Yuendumu School.
My mother also did stock work. It was not only our men who did that work. She carried a lifelong injury after being thrown from a horse while working with cattle. She cooked and cleaned for whitefellas and tried to raise the survivors of her 11 children.
Every weekend my parents took us all down to my dad’s country at Kirrirdi about 15 km south of Yuendumu. We walked; we slept rough and ate bush tucker as well as the fresh fruit and vegetables from the market garden my father worked in.
My parents always made sure my brothers and sisters and I attended school. They educated us the Warlpiri way but they also made sure we knew the whitefella way as well.
When my mother died she had outlived eight of her children, including my older sister who was a teacher all her working life. My parents knew pain and extraordinarily tough times. They knew all about hard work, yet they never complained. They were wise, stoic, conservative, and incredibly good humoured people.
They taught me to respect traditional law but they also taught me to respect whitefella law. They were both loyal members of old Tom Fleming’s Baptist Church. Tom Fleming was a conservative as well but he did not set out to destroy Warlpiri culture. Rather, he tried to add his kind of Christianity onto that culture to make it work better for my people. This worked really well for my parents.
My father and my old promised husband were philosophers. They were Warlpiri lawmen who knew the difference between the letter and the spirit of law. My promised husband was already married to my older sister. At the age of 13, I objected to becoming a second wife. My father and my promised husband supported me. They gave me permission to finish my education first.
When later I chose to marry a whitefella they supported me. Although they were both brought up in a law that gave little power to women, they gave me permission to be myself and to make my own choices. If they were alive today, they would have been immensely proud that I have now been elected to be a law woman the whitefella way.
I have learnt to speak five Aboriginal languages as well as English. I learnt to dance in ceremony, worked and trained as a teacher and communications officer with the Central Land Council and, with the support of David Ross the CEO at the time, gained a degree from Curtin University.
I worked for the public service and with my husband, I work for myself as a consultant, trainer, interpreter, translator, and researcher.
I have met with Aboriginal and white people from all over the Territory and from all over Australia on many boards, committees and recently with the Northern Territory Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council. I know there are so many people of good heart trying with all their might to make things better for my people and for the Northern Territory.
I have been lucky I have been able to do all this because I believed in myself and my parents were proud I did. They, and my brothers and sisters, always told me of their pride in my achievements. Now I have been elected to this parliament as a member of this government by the people of Stuart. I am delighted to humbly accept that honour. I have been supported in this by so many others.
First, my husband who has been there for me since Day 1. Without his support, I would not be here today. We have both been on an amazing journey. My daughter and my grandsons have stood by me, encouraged me, and worked for me but, above all, they have sustained me with their love. My husband’s family has always loved and supported me also, ever since they welcomed me into their family so many years ago. I want to thank everybody else but, of course, I know there are so many I will no doubt forget to mention. Some I should thank by name. Please forgive me if I do this. I hope you will know who you are and that I deeply appreciate what you have done for me.
There are those in the Country Liberals who have welcomed me into their ranks, supported, praised and mentored me. I acknowledge the wonderful support and advice I received all the way through from Nampijinpa, Alison Anderson, and Adam Giles, and so many of those who I am now proud and happy to say are my parliamentary colleagues.
As I campaigned for the election in an electorate bigger than Victoria and Tasmania combined, I was backed by a wonderful team led by Jenny Lillis as my campaign manager. They were all tireless, dedicated, incredibly hard-working and ready to learn all they could about my people and our ways of doing things.
Most of those related to me live in my electorate. I have close and distant relatives from one end of Stuart to the other. I have worked with the Central Land Council for many years and added to the network of friends and colleagues I had already built up as a student at Kormilda, Yirara, Batchelor College, and Curtin University.
What really surprised and delighted me was the incredible support and encouragement I received from whitefellas I had never met before. There are so many good people out there trying to make a living, trying to care for the country, trying to make life better for all of us. I particularly mention the Chisholms at Napperby, the MacFarlanes and Jim Sullivan at Mataranka and the Bretts at Waterloo, hard-working station people who love the land, want to make a living from it, and want my people to benefit from their hard work. I also mention Jason and Rebecca Newman in Tennant Creek and the Dicks at Aileron. All of those know we are all Territorians first, black and white - we are all in this struggle together.
I have also had so much support from interstate, and even overseas. Many of those who have supported me wanted to see more Aboriginal people, especially women from bush communities, in parliament even though they disagree with some of the political positions my party and I take. Thank you for what I know has been a hard thing for you to do for a cause higher than party politics.
I acknowledge the courage and wisdom of Noel Pearson from North Queensland. This weekend in The Australian he reminded us of the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of those who invented the idea of universal human rights, when he said there is nothing that government can do for you that you are unwilling to do for yourself.
If we cannot do that for ourselves then governments cannot do it for us. Our rights to land, culture, and language mean nothing unless our children have the right, first to life, to safety and security and, then, to a good education. That is all our responsibility first. My parents taught me that and Noel keeps reminding us of this truth.
I also thank Professor Marcia Langton. Marcia has been a great source of advice and support for me. She stood up for me and for the women and kids in the remote communities when others who should have known better were attacking me and what I was trying to say on their behalf. It is a strange thing when those who say they are fighting for human rights try to stop you from speaking up for the weakest and most vulnerable in your own community. There are many people in this country who are called leaders by the media but who lead no one. Marcia and Noel have the qualities of true leaders.
There are other special people I also want to mention - Jim and Irene Franklin from Sydney. They never seek publicity, but their generous support for me and my family has been indispensible, and their friendship has been inspiring. I thank them from within my heart for what they have done for my family.
There is a strong tradition of conservatism in Aboriginal politics. You would all know Neville Bonner of the Jagera people was the first Aboriginal member of the Commonwealth parliament. With almost no formal education, he joined the Liberal Party in 1967. That party chose him to fill the vacancy in the Senate left by the resignation of Dame Annabelle Rankin in 1971. He was then re-elected by the people of Queensland in his own right. Because he was an Aboriginal and a member of the conservative political party, he was often savagely and personally attacked by radical left wing activists. I know how that feels.
In the Northern Territory it is often forgotten that the first Aboriginal member of the Legislative Assembly was Hyacinth Tungatalum from the Tiwi country, who sat in our parliament with the CLP from 1974 to 1977. In 2010, Ken Wyatt, from Noongar country in Western Australia, became the first Aboriginal Australian to take a seat in the House of Representatives, again sitting with the conservative Coalition.
Along with Ken in Canberra, I feel my conservative Aboriginal colleagues in this government and I are now returning to the old, proud tradition. I agreed to stand with the Country Liberals for election because that party was interested in what I had to say. I have found conservatives everywhere much more interested in listening to a range of views and the problems my people face than those on the left, who think they already know the answers.
I am tired of being shouted at through megaphones and insulted on the Internet. I am tired of young white middle-class radicals imported from southern cities chanting slogans in the streets of my town and insulting both Aboriginal and white Territorians with the arrogance of their assumption that they know us better than we do. I am tired of the racist notion that we Aboriginal people from the remote communities cannot speak for ourselves and that, when we do, we should all think the same - like a bunch of brainless robots.
We have our politics like all other humans everywhere. We have our disagreements and our debates. We do not need others to decide what is good for us and then to label all who disagree with them as racist. I have been called a racist myself, and been told by a southern human rights lawyer that I could be prosecuted under section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act. We have to get past this idiocy if we want to solve our own problems.
The problems facing my people and, therefore, the Territory as a whole, are complex and difficult. Everybody has an opinion but there has always been a reluctance to actually ask us - those of us who speak an Aboriginal language as a first language, whose families live in remote communities and town camps - what we think. Too many want to speak for us. Now we have the chance in this parliament, more than ever, to speak for ourselves.
The last election which brought the Country Liberals to power was historically significant for our whole nation. For the very first time, electorates were contested by Aboriginal candidates only standing for three separate parties. We have surely shown, at last, there is no Aboriginal view that we all should follow and no single way of looking at the world we all should be loyal to or be regarded as traitors to some sort of predetermined Aboriginal party line.
Like all humans everywhere, we are a mob of individuals with our own views. It is about time that was recognised. Now we can debate freely with each other, as well as whitefellas, about the issues affecting us. Democracy is by far the best form of government we humans have managed to invent. For democracy to work, differing opinions should be freely expressed and debated.
We Aboriginal Australians can also use the institutions of this wonderful free society we are members of to improve our own positioning. We have been encouraged by government after government to do that. We have suffered immensely. We have been treated very badly in the past, but now we have a chance to do something about the future. Only we can do that properly for ourselves. As Noel Pearson keeps telling the world, the most precious right we have is the right to take responsibility. However, we will also need the support of governments and the wider community. Now we are entering government like never before. It is in the interests of all of us to find solutions together. The problems my people face are not just our problems; every Territorian is directly affected by the consequences. They are Territory problems, not just blackfella problems.
We own 45% of the Northern Territory and 80% of the coastline, and this is as it should be. Some of that land belongs to my family and me. I am a traditional owner. We can use that land to show our loyalty to our ancient culture, to nourish our spirits, but we also must find a way to make a good living from that land in the modern economy. We have huge assets and we must find a way to use them in cooperation with the pastoral, mining, and tourism industries that leaves us in control of our land but also gives us pride and an income to get our people off the welfare trap.
We should keep our languages and those parts of our cultures that still work for us, but that should not stop us from making sure our children get the best possible education. They must learn English, as I have; they must learn to use mathematics and all the other knowledge the rest of the world uses to understand the world and to prosper. We need freedom but we also need to control alcohol and stop the destruction it is bringing to our people. Whatever we decide to do, women and children, the most vulnerable, must be protected. Children must be safe and well educated. We must keep our young men out of gaol and get them into the workforce. We must teach them how to respect their women. These must always be our priorities.
Lastly, I say now to the people of Stuart: no matter what colour your skin, what language you speak, what culture you call your own, what party you voted for, as a member of this government I will help develop a Northern Territory for all Territorians. I will represent you in this parliament in the best way I possibly. That is my promise.
Madam Speaker, Ngulajuku, I am finished.
Members: Hear, hear!
Mr HIGGINS (Daly): Madam Speaker, I am thrilled to be here giving my first address to this House as the elected representative for the people of Daly. It is an honour to be their representative and I am committed to working hard on their behalf and to live up to their expectations.
Daly is a very large, diverse electorate covering large areas of Indigenous land, national parks, prime fishing locations, horticultural developments, rural townships, Indigenous communities and some plain rural blocks. There is a variety of businesses, service levels vary across the electorate, and the people of this diverse location have different needs and expectations from government.
When I first came to Darwin with my wife Rhonda and our family in 1986, what we found then is a whole lot different to what we see now. I am not just talking about numbers and size but the feel. One thing I found when I first started to work for the Northern Territory public sector was a workforce proud of what it had achieved and where it was headed. There was a government that had a real purpose for all Territorians, with politicians that were there for all the people.
In more recent times the public sector has lost many of its good people and, with them, much long-term knowledge. The private sector is being stifled by overregulation telling all what they cannot do rather than concentrating on the ‘can-do’ approach. Darwin has more recently enjoyed much government spending at the expense of the bush. Indigenous Territorians are less empowered today than they were 10 years ago; their self-determination has been taken from them.
Why did I put my hand up? The time to start to rebuild is now and we need to demonstrate that we can govern for Territorians by representing them and not ourselves. I represent the people and the values of the Country Liberals and I plan to put more of the country back into government and highlight that this government represents all Territorians. I see my election as a service to give something back to the Territory, from both me and what we, as a government, implement. I have extensive life experience with years in the private sector and over a decade in the Northern Territory public sector. I have an affinity with the electorate having lived in its remoteness for 14 years.
Who helped me get here? Many people have played a part in my election but the most important person is my wife, Rhonda. It is her who kept me focused and continually pointed out that someone needs to listen to the people - someone who can help. I also know it will be she who will be my hardest critic, if and when things go wrong.
In the final lead-up to the election, however, there were many people involved and many I need to thank. First, my sons: Joshua for his day-to-day coordination and persistence in getting me out and about; Preston for his unquestioned support during mobile polling; Sam for his effort in coming to Darwin for the final week to back up his brothers; and Ben for his accommodation when I was in Darwin on the campaign trail. Linda, my sister, also came across from Queensland to help on election day. Family are those who truly make a difference and, without them, this result would not have eventuated. Knowing they represented me at each of the polling booths gave me great confidence my message was delivered.
It would be remiss of me not to mention my extended family and friends in Ken Sellars, Ken James, and Ben Porter-Hardy, the backpacker from the UK who found an interest in politics while in the Northern Territory - all who did outstanding work at remote bush polling booths. Others I cannot fail to thank are those key members of my campaign team: Bart Johnson for his counsel and candid advice; his wife Roz for administrative support at all hours; Bev Shuker for her financial control; Hek Shuker for his piloting ability; Bob and Wendy Flannagan; John and Sue Fraser-Adams for their support; and all other members of the Litchfield branch of the Country Liberals.
Closer to home at Daly, special mention needs to be made of Miriam-Rose Baumann at Nauiyu for her very frank advice; Dick and Carol Perry for their scrutineering help out bush; and both Phil and Phyllis Mitchell for their support and hospitality at Wadeye.
I need to make special mention also of the Wilson and Parry families of Peppimenarti and Woodycupaldiya, especially Harold Wilson, his mother, Regina, and her cousin, Joe Parry. Without their help I would have floundered with Indigenous issues west of the Daly.
In the rural areas closer to Darwin, I owe special thanks to Tou and Ian Quinn. Their knowledge of their area, their drive to get something changed and their hospitality has been overwhelming. Rhonda and I have found some true friends. To those members of the dirt road gang I also offer my thanks. Hopefully, we can continue to work on delivering for the bush for many years to come.
Many other people whose names I have not mentioned need to be recognised, and I only hope that my personal thanks when we next meet will be a small recognition of my appreciation.
What do I promise? At the moment, only a lot of potential. Suffice to say everywhere I visited during the campaign, the big issues in the rural area are infrastructure - from roads and general access, shires, access to health, police stations, ambulance, senior services, transport, police, Indigenous employment through business opportunities, and ongoing outstation homeland support. Nobody has any small items. They do, but they feel they can wait; the big ones have to come first.
I will ensure whatever we promise we will deliver on time and implement correctly. I will consult with locals and represent them as strongly as possible and never give up. From my perspective, the biggest challenge over the next four years will be finding the resources to meet the needs and expectations of all Territorians. I will continue to spend much of my time trying to get access to as many constituents as possible and see what specific things we, as a government, can deliver and help to make their lives a little easier. I will battle with my colleagues to ensure the bush, in this electorate especially, is given its fair share.
Madam Speaker, I only hope that within the next four years I am able to make my family proud, my electorate appreciative of what I hope to achieve, and my colleagues inspired by my dedication.
Members: Hear, hear!
Ms ANDERSON (Regional Development): Madam Speaker, I speak on this great occasion as we mark the opening of the new parliament with the majority shaped, for the first time in Australian history, by the votes of the electors in Aboriginal communities across the bush. This is a day we will always remember.
I give thanks to my constituents and the electorate of Namatjira and to the voters of Arafura, Arnhem, Daly, and Stuart who together chose to change the course of government in the Territory and to write a new chapter in the story of the north. I acknowledge them all in tender affection and with the deepest respect. I give my thanks to all Territorians and pledge to work for the good of the whole Territory.
I see people, not categories, divisions, or races. I see people and the potential for us all to work together to bring clarity and progress into the world we share. Our task as politicians is to represent the whole community, and that I pledge to do. This is a moment of hope, a hinge in time. It is a long-delayed day of promise for all Territorians and all Australians. The nation is watching us today and it will be watching in the months to come as we chart the course ahead. We will bring resolve and advancement to the bush and knit the different worlds of our Territory more closely together. We are in this together. We are one Territory and, at the outset of this parliament which will be much more stable than its fractured predecessor, I believe we should dedicate ourselves to debate, to policy making, to discussion, to the highest values we can summon.
With that, I turn to a brief account of the landscape I see and what must be rethought and done anew in the years ahead. There is a weight on the shoulders of all of us today; it is the weight of the failure of most of those who have sat in these seats before us. They failed to educate most of the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory; failed to make them healthy or create jobs for them. It is a failure shared by both parties here and in Canberra, and shared by people outside of politics. It is a failure of Australia. I include in that all Indigenous people who have not taken up the opportunities which were offered to them. It will be hard for some of my friends or some members of my family to hear that, but it has to be said. There are a few heroes in this story.
I mention these things not out of despair but to remind all of us there is no point in being in this place unless we have something new to contribute. Much of what has been done before has failed and it is our job, the one for which we were elected, to do things differently. The first step is to think differently. Behind most failed actions are failed ideas. Often it started life as a noble idea and became corrupted along the way. This is what happened in the way Australians have treated Aboriginal people.
In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a great moral awakening when white Australia realised what it had done to us and began to make amends. That move to acknowledge our sufferings and our disposition was a noble one. The laws to return land to us and encourage independent development were fine achievements that grew out of the best intentions. Yet, all this produced the twin corruptions of welfarism and the belief Aboriginal people ought to live forever in a cultural Stone Age. It did not happen quickly; those corruptions crept up on us over time and became entrenched. They have proved almost impossible to change.
Now we have the sicknesses and abuse, the ganja and the crowded gaols, the empty schools and suicides. How did all this happen? For the usual reason: because we continued to judge our ideas by their noble intentions instead of by their results. We did this for many years after those results proved the ideas had failed. They also became entrenched because government passed laws and set up agencies and funded them to create jobs. Those jobs were filled by people who build careers based on ideas that separate development was the way forward for Indigenous people.
As the American writer Upton Sinclair wrote:
- It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.
That is true everywhere, and it is true in the Northern Territory. The idea that separate development was the answer provided hope for many and jobs for an increasingly powerful few. However, it has failed. I suggest the past 40 years of Aboriginal policy has been a type of experiment; an experiment with human lives costing billions of dollars. Walk through Alice Springs after dark or visit Papunya and speak with my relatives - the people are sick in their bodies and in their souls. They are uneducated, orphaned and widowed. They are in gaol and in cemeteries. It was a great experiment, perhaps even a necessary one, but it has failed.
I said earlier we have not been elected to this House to despair. We have been put here to face the facts of the past failure and propose solutions and try to put those solutions into practice. We do this humbly, aware of how many good people have failed in the past. However, we do it with determination. We know there is no alternative. We know there is no time to be lost.
I am a desert woman from Central Australia who is a grandmother, an artist. I have the richness of traditional Aboriginal life in my bones and in my imagination. I am closely linked by blood to the joys and suffering of many people in Indigenous communities in this nation’s centre and its desert. I attend their baptisms and I go to their funerals. These are the people of my heart, the ones for whom I speak today.
I have been a leader for a long time and, in all that time, I have been learning - always learning. I have held positions at the local council level and I have been an ATSIC Commissioner. I have been in parliament for seven years and served as a minister before - always learning. I am proud of what I have learnt and what I have done. However, I am fully aware how much remains undone. This is why I stand here today and give you my honest view of our situation. It is complicated, of course. Everywhere you look there is something that is broken and needs to be fixed. I have learnt what we need to focus on.
There are two goals I will strive for - I will be doing everything I can to deliver these things - real education and real jobs. I am not the Education minister and I am not the Employment minister, I am the Minister for Indigenous Advancement. Those are the two areas, in particular, where I will be throwing my weight behind the efforts of my colleagues. Let me tell you why.
Too much of the public discussion about Indigenous people has assumed, whatever the problem, government is the answer. It has been assumed any problem can be solved with the right policies and the right amount of money. I would have no issue with that if it was correct, but the history of the past 40 years, including the intervention, shows it is wrong. I believe it failed because it came over time to treat Indigenous people as passive and, by treating us as passive, it helped make us passive. It also treated us as different and encouraged us to live in a parallel world that was supposed to be a dreaming but became a nightmare. The time has come to reject those beliefs and say that Indigenous people need to engage with other Australians. In particular, we need jobs and, for jobs, we need education. I mean real education and real jobs. Any policies that interfere with these two goals need to be thrown into the scrap heap.
Of course, we will need government to help achieve this, but it needs to be designed to liberate us, to make us independent human beings and this is possible. Governments can do bad things - we have seen enough of that in the Territory - but can also be a force for good. We Indigenous people need to be more like other Australians. I do not mean we should abandon our beliefs or our language but, like dozens of other cultures in Australia, we must learn to combine our own identities with participation in the broader society that will not weaken us; it will make us stronger in who we are. To preserve the old ways, we must embrace the new ones.
There are plenty of jobs in the Territory, in the communities, in government, in tourism, national parks, and mining. My dream is simple: to see Indigenous people filling more of those jobs in the future because of the quality of our education and because we make ourselves the best people for those jobs. Having a job is not mainly about money; it is about getting up in the morning and looking after yourself. It is about staying in the same place for five days a week. It is about wanting your children to be educated so they can get a job one day. It is about pride and respect. However, we cannot put the cart before the horse. Many people who have been to Indigenous schools in the past generation are so poorly educated they have never had a real job. In employment terms, they are the lost generation. Our schools stole their futures from them. All we can do now is fix the problem for the next generation. It is a huge challenge but I believe we can do it.
The problem is this: we have been treating education politically, but a good school is not political. What is taught and how it is taught should not be determined by the local community. A good education is like good policing or good healthcare; it is something most people in Australia recognise when they see it. It is the same in Geelong or Townsville, and people are happy for the government to determine its shape, whether in public or private schools. Like good health, good education is the same everywhere and we do not need to debate it. The people of Perth and Brisbane do not want to run their local school or tell the teachers what the curriculum should be. They just want to send their kids out the door in the morning and know they are going to learn to read and write and count, to use computers, and find out about the world. That is real education, and many of the schools in the Territory are not providing it; in fact, our Indigenous schools are a continuing disappointment.
We tend to speak words of encouragement about the state of things and not confront the facts head on. In doing so, we patronise young Indigenous school students. We fail to tell their parents how poor the results really are. We fail to hold those parents responsible, in a rigorous fashion, for their part in schooling their children. We mask and soften the truth. At times, it seems as if we still operate a double standard of expectations; for remote communities, we are prepared to ask for, and accept, second best.
I want to draw, for a few moments, on the research done by Helen Hughes and her son, Mark, published by the Centre for Independent Studies. Professor Hughes’ family escaped the Nazis and came to Australia where she became an economist and worked for the World Bank and the United Nations for many years.
For the past five years, she has been researching Indigenous education and doing some work in East Arnhem Land. Recently she and Mark wrote a paper about what the latest NAPLAN results were for Year 3 pupils. They showed that the pass rates for Indigenous pupils in the Northern Territory are 47% for numeracy and 32% for reading. That means over half our eight-year-olds cannot do sums and two-thirds cannot read. No other state or territory comes close to that level of failure. If we do not change that, we will never improve the lives of Indigenous people in the Territory.
What is the problem? Is it that our kids are Indigenous? Obviously, it is not. Most Indigenous kids in Australia live in towns and cities and do just fine in education. Is it because our kids speak a second language at home? No, it is not. Australia is full of kids who speak another language at home, but do well at school. Is it because there is not enough money? Unlikely. Indigenous kids here have 40% more spent on their education than other children. So, what about remoteness? Are small remote schools the problem? Not really, according to Helen Hughes. She points out that while Indigenous pupils in remote areas have a reading pass rate of 25%, for non-Indigenous pupils, it is 93%.
So, what is the problem? Helen Hughes says - and I agree - that the problem is the quality of the schools, particularly the curriculum and the teaching methods. If we taught our kids the same way kids are taught in Newcastle and Fremantle, their results would skyrocket. The Hughes are not the only people to recognise this. Three years ago on Cape York, Noel Pearson and some colleagues did the report called The Most Important Reform: position paper that came to the same conclusion. We need to fix our schools. A real education is a basic human right and it has been denied to Indigenous people of the Northern Territory for too long. The beauty of focusing on education is it is one of the few things governments can actually do. At least if it has the will, there is a way. With the right curricula and policies and funding, we can get properly functioning schools with proper teachers. If you get the schools right other things will gradually fall into place.
Take truancy, which is the curse of good education in the Northern Territory. At the moment we try to fix it with carrots and sticks, by trying to force parents to send their kids to school or by bribing the kids to come. However, the Hughes research shows that once schools start to provide a real education, the pupils will come anyway - not all of them, but most of them. Most people are not idiots; they want the best for themselves and their children.
Let me describe how a remote community of the future might look. At its heart would be a proper school, just like a small version of school in Darwin or Sydney. There would be at least one full-time teacher with a university degree and five years experience. We would attract those teachers by paying them well and providing decent housing and community support. There would be a community committee to support the school - not by telling it what to do, but by helping it run like other schools in Australia. The committee would help the teacher settle in, help care for the school grounds, help feed the kids and take them to the clinic if they were sick, and help make sure they come to school in the mornings.
In other parts of Australia, the parents do those things. It is a sad fact many Indigenous parents are like children themselves. That is something we have to face up to. For a while we are going to rely a lot on the grannies of the community to make our schools work. We need to ask the grannies who have already done so much, to do some more; to help us make our schools normal.
I hope that one day parents will start feeling ashamed of the situation, start looking after their kids a lot better. But that day is a long way off, we have to be realistic.
I am hoping, if we start to turn our communities into places that welcome education, young teachers from other parts of Australia will want to come here for a few years. Look at the old missionaries and the American Peace Corps. Look at all Australians today who volunteer in third world countries. There have always been people prepared to lend a hand.
The Northern Territory is Australia’s own Third World. It is the nation’s internal colony. We have to ask other Australians to help us change that; we cannot do it alone.
One of the things we have to do to make schools normal is introduce normal curriculum just as they have in Melbourne, London, or New York. I am not suggesting we abandon our traditional culture or language, but teaching them should not be done in schools. It should be done after school and on weekends and during the holidays. That is when most of the other cultures in Australia teach their children traditional ways.
The job of the teachers in our schools will be to teach what is taught in normal schools around Australia. You can buy the curriculum off the shelf from any state you like. That is the only way our children will grow up to be able to compete for jobs and work alongside people educated in other places.
Another thing we have to do to make schools normal is to stop holding events that take kids away - no more sports events that go on for days. Some people say these events are traditional, but I have my doubts about that. Some have traditional roots, but they have grown because of the welfare world, because people have had so much empty time to fill. We need to educate parents to see that a new approach to education will involve some hard choices. There will no more excuses for children missing school. There is something government and local councils can help with. There should be no more support for any type of event that takes children away from home during school term.
Let us imagine we can improve education; we can make it real. That will take many years even if the changes I am describing come in. It will be many years before the first group of kids to receive a real education leaves school. However, let us imagine that happens. Where will they go? I see them going for interviews for jobs now automatically filled by non-Indigenous people who often come to the Territory from other places. I see Indigenous people starting to fill those jobs because they are well educated and, sometimes, because of their local knowledge. They understand this place and its people better than the other applicants for the position. That happens in many places; locals have an advantage. It should happen here. I am talking about real jobs, not blackfella ones.
My sister-in-law has been a teaching assistant for 25 years and, although she is a good worker, it is a dead end. She can never use that experience to move up or on. We need to phase out all the jobs we created for Aboriginal people: the teaching assistants and the special positions for Aboriginal police and healthcare workers, and all the rest. They imply that Aboriginal people cannot do normal jobs. We need to replace them with real jobs that require real education; jobs that are not dead ends but that could lead on to other jobs, including jobs in other places if that is what some people want.
In that way, education can set us free. It can make us independent for the first time of all the non-Indigenous advisors who have tried to control our lives. At the moment we are being advised into the grave by people better educated than us. This needs to change. We need education to set us free - free of dependence, unemployment, welfare, and victimhood. Education has set billions of human beings free; it can do the same for us.
Once we are independent we will have choices. Most 25-year-olds in Sydney can work anywhere in the world. They have the education and the work experience. I want our 25-year-olds to have the same choices. Of course, many young people will want to stay in their communities, but even to do that requires education if they are to take advantage of the job opportunities that exist. There are opportunities, both existing ones and jobs we can create, to grow food, make bread, and fix cars. For people who can read and write and use computers to keep learning there are plenty of job opportunities in the communities.
It always surprises me how hard it is to get fresh food in remote places. There has to be a potential to change that. We have the land and the sun, and we have the example of the old missions where food was grown successfully. I see hundreds of new jobs across the Territory in that one area. Again, we will need help. Again, I suggest we ask other Australians to assist us. Not bureaucrats or soldiers, but gardeners, bakers and mechanics to stay with us for six months and share their knowledge. However, that is a vision for the future. First we need to make our communities places outsiders would want to live in.
I know there is much to be done, but I believe the rest of Australia cares about what happens here and is just waiting for us to take the first step. It has more to offer us than a view of Indigenous people defined by their victimhood - more than welfarism or the intervention. We need to convince it that the Territory is not a museum and is not a nightmare. Above all, we need to show our fellow Australians we want to be normal. We want the right to be just like them and keep our identity, but to live fully in the 21st century.
Madam Speaker, today I have been describing a dream, but it is not a romantic dream. I hope it is not an impossible one. It is a dream based on looking at the past and being honest about what has gone wrong. It is a dream that does not aspire to the creation of some Utopia of a sort that has never been seen on the face of the earth before. My dream is we should get real and, for the first time since Europeans came to this land, Indigenous people should be thought of and treated just like everyone else. To someone in Melbourne, Shanghai, or New York, that might sound like a very modest dream; however, as all of us here today know, it is actually a big one to suggest that Indigenous people in the Northern Territory should live normal lives with real education and real jobs. That is the most radical dream of all.
Ms LAWRIE (Opposition Leader): Madam Speaker, I welcome the two new members on our side of parliament, the members for Johnston and Nightcliff. I have had the privilege to be re-elected four times now and know to go through an election day is always a nerve-racking experience. The feeling of being returned by your electorate, which has faith in you to do the job for another four years, is one of tremendous honour and great responsibility.
I also acknowledge those members who are not returning to this Assembly, be it by retirement or the electorate choosing another representative. I place on the record my thanks for their contributions to this parliament and the Territory.
The election result was clear. While the people of Darwin chose overwhelmingly to give the Labor Party another chance in government, the people of the bush, the regional centres, and Palmerston put their faith in the Country Liberals. This is something I and my team acknowledge and understand. In my eight weeks as Opposition Leader, I have been going out with my colleagues, the members for Nhulunbuy and Barkly, to as many communities as possible to understand why those people made those decisions.
While it is clear there are genuine concerns about the shires and the handling of the intervention - and we must understand and work with these people to see what they clearly want in those areas - there were other factors in play. Promises were made to the people of the bush - many promises that do not appear in any new brochure or policy document put out by the Country Liberals - promises we intend, as opposition, to ensure the government delivers on or ensure the people know the government did not fulfil its commitment. When we were in government we delivered commitments we made in the bush, and we will ensure this government is held to account to do the same.
There are also concerns about the campaigning practices in the bush - some other promises and commitments made that were not strictly the right thing to do. I am talking, of course, about the reintroduction of full-strength beer to communities. I find it abhorrent that the Country Liberals campaigned on appealing to the lowest common denominator of letting people back on the grog. It is irresponsible of the government to do this, and we will be working hard to ensure those most vulnerable women and children are not affected by this reckless decision.
We will also be hoping the Electoral Commission takes very seriously the allegations made by some communities of improper behaviour by interpreters on the ground during mobile polling, and a proper and full investigation is made to ensure the training and education of these people ensures the system cannot be abused in future elections.
That said, what has happened has happened. It is time to get on with the job of holding the government to account. The Chief Minister campaigned very strongly on two words during the election campaign: ‘transparent’ and ‘accountable’. He clearly has a different understanding of those two words than I do. In the two months since coming to government, we have seen an extraordinary number of backflips and unilateral decisions that go against the very meaning of ‘transparent’ and ‘accountable’.
The Chief Minister said no public servants would be sacked but we know that is not true. There are hundreds of people not having their contracts renewed and, no matter which way you spin it, that is a sacking. The morale in the public service has been shattered; the confidence in the place is waning. With recruitment freezes and wage freezes, it is a hamfisted approach that is having catastrophic results.
The Chief Minister confirmed that the member for Goyder would be his deputy two days before the election, then shafted her two days afterwards. Is this a man whose word we can have any trust in?
The appointment of Dad’s Army to senior public service positions with no transparent recruitment process clearly politicised the public service - the ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality is back for the Territory.
Moving Tourism and Parks and Wildlife to Alice Springs - nowhere mentioned in the election material and announced via a radio interview; another bungle and clearly not transparent. The member for Greatorex, who was so fond of calling the former member for Johnston ‘Bungles’, may just have inherited that nickname for himself the way he has so far managed to bungle every announcement he has made;
The dismantling of the Banned Drinker Register and the My New Home initiatives with no alternatives put in their place - just sheer arrogance and ignorance. Thousands of alcoholics back on the drink and thousands of hard-working Territory families left in limbo on the future of their home purchase.
The list goes on and on.
However, one thing we will come together on is the path to statehood. In an important step, both parties agreed during the last term that a constitutional convention would be an early priority of an incoming government. We might not agree about much but we can agree that the Northern Territory should become a state and Territorians should have the same rights as other Australians. The unity of all members of parliament on statehood will be a highlight and the opposition will provide the Country Liberal Party with bipartisan support in preparing for a constitutional convention.
Clearly, there is a requirement for the parliament of the Northern Territory to continue to work hard on closing the gap of Indigenous disadvantage. While both parties and the Independent may not agree on policy, we do not disagree on the very critical need to close the gap of disadvantage. I look forward to seeing the policies that come forward from the government and the resources it will apply to closing the gap on disadvantage.
I look forward to hearing about the alternative proposal in the deliverance of local government across the regional areas of the Northern Territory, a critical election commitment that was made by the CLP during the campaign.
There are many questions in the communities about the commitments that were provided and, to date, no answer has been delivered. When I travel across the Northern Territory, people want to know what process will occur in the break-up of the existing shires, who will have the shires, where they will be, and how they will be appropriately resourced by the Northern Territory government.
There were, obviously, many questions about the rivers of grog. I have heard consistently from people in remote communities that they made a strong decision years ago, through highly consultative processes, not to have grog in their communities. They are very worried; there is not the level of police required in these communities to ensure the safety of the woman and children. They are very worried about the impact.
It seems difficult to conceive that a government could set aside the expert reports of the Little Children are Sacred and the Growing them strong, together, yet we have seen through actions of the government already that they are ignoring expert advice in relation to child protection. They are burying their heads in the sand regarding expert advice; the impact the scourge of alcohol has and how it leads to child neglect and, fundamentally, to child abuse.
I know in the joy of becoming a new government you want to stamp your mark in the early days. Consider and pause, that you do not do so at the peril of the daily lives of the people of the Northern Territory, particularly the people who, for the first time in their lives, voted for the Country Liberal Party - the people of the bush. We as an opposition will continue to hold the government to account. There is a 100-day plan. It has not been stuck to so far. Perhaps there have been some distractions. Perhaps the divisions we have seen for a long time in the Country Liberals still exist. Perhaps the discontent that is there still exists; it is early days.
We are absolutely accepting of the result of the people of the Northern Territory voting in the Country Liberal Party as a government. However, we will not accept the bullying and abuse we have heard about throughout the campaign. Member for Daly, you have made your maiden speech. You can stand in the adjournment of the House tonight, deny the allegations, or admit you said those words at Palumpa on 24 August. It is there; the victim has spoken, there are two witnesses.
Mr GILES: A point of order, Madam Speaker! Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition would like to talk about 27 years of Labor campaigning in the bush, and what they did in the bush.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Please sit down, member for Braitling.
Ms LAWRIE: As I said, there is no place for abuse and bullying, and I hope the member for Daly avails himself in the adjournment debate in the Chamber tonight to explain to this House whether or not the allegations that, by now I am sure, the Chief Minister would have shown him - they have been sequestered away in meetings throughout the afternoon I am advised. So, for sure by now, member for Daly, you would have seen the written statement and allegations. Come into this House in the adjournment debate, put your side on the record ...
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! I, for one, have now seen the document the Leader of the Opposition tried to table. It is anonymous. There is no name attached to it whatsoever and, frankly, if the Leader of the Opposition wants to continue to pursue this slander she should do it outside. An anonymous document which makes an allegation being used to stir up trouble demeans this House and the Leader of the Opposition. If she has a substantive allegation to make other than waving around anonymous documents, she should do so. Other than that, move on.
Madam SPEAKER: This is not a point of order. Leader of the Opposition!
Ms LAWRIE: There is no point of order, but yet another speech from the member for Port Darwin. It is very clear there is an allegation the Chief Minister has seen and now, no doubt, the member for Daly has seen. Really, the member for Daly can set this record straight; he either said it or he did not. He either has a recollection of the incident or he does not. He can come into the Chamber in the adjournment and set the record straight. I remind the member for Daly that what we say, we say on oath, and if we deliberately mislead the Chamber we go to the Privileges Committee of this House.
Mr TOLLNER (Health): Madam Speaker, I can say from the outset how absolutely thrilled I am to see you in the current position. It is a magnificent honour ...
A member interjecting.
Mr TOLLNER: She looks ravishing!
Madam Speaker, truly, congratulations and well done on your appointment. I know you will make a fantastic Speaker. For the information of all members here, particularly the new members, while she might have a heart of gold, she has a spine of steel. So, do not muck up around Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker, having congratulated you, I also congratulate all members of this Chamber who have been re-elected, and particularly those members who have been newly elected. It is a great honour and privilege to represent the people, no matter what level of government you are in - whether it is local government, Territory government, or federal government. It is an enormous privilege and a great honour. It is so wonderful to see you here.
I am particularly thrilled with our bush candidates and the member for Daly who campaigned long and hard for more than two years. That is a tough grind and I do not know too many members of parliament who would have campaigned for that length of time in order to be elected. So, congratulations, member for Daly.
I feel for you on Day 1 of coming into the Chamber. We have probably the nastiest Opposition Leader in Territory history taking a chair, to the point where she will throw anonymous allegations around the place, besmirching your good name. It is true to form; she tends to play the person and not the issue. It is just the way she is made. Those on the other side seem to think that is a good way to play the game: to throw personal taunts and bring into question people’s personalities and some of their personal traits. Goodness me! We are all human, we all make mistakes, we all have chinks in our armour. To me, that is not what the parliament is about; it is about talking about issues and discussing what is out there for the greater good. Unfortunately, member for Daly, you are the first one to experience the wrath of the nasty member for Karama in her new-found role as Opposition Leader.
It was great to see the member for Arafura elected. I feel some personal connection with the member for Arafura. Both the member for Braitling and I met with some senior Tiwi men a long time before the election and asked them about possible candidates. After long deliberations those men came back to us and suggested the current member for Arafura as the one we should ask and talk to, to see whether he would like to stand because he was well supported and well respected within the community. I applaud the decision of those senior Tiwi men in suggesting you, Francis. It was a good decision.
I was so thrilled when you had Don Fuller as your campaign manager, and his wife, Anne. They are people who have a deep understanding and respect for Indigenous Territorians and they are also very knowledgeable people and good coordinators, which is all it took to get you over the line.
The member for Stuart, I know how hard you campaigned. Congratulations, it is a much-deserved result. I see some of your campaign team here today; most particularly, Jenny Lillis, who travelled with you the length and breadth of the Northern Territory and virtually dragged you over the line. I was quite thrilled to see you elected, member for Stuart.
Regarding the member for Arnhem, a number of senior traditional people came and spoke to, in this particular case, Senator Scullion and me, and suggested they might have a candidate who could possibly win the seat of Arnhem. At the time it seemed like the greatest pipe dream going. We could not imagine we could possibly win Arnhem! However, the recommendation was we preselect Larisa Lee and she would give it a better shake than anyone else. Having then met Larisa, I tended to agree with them, although I knew it would be a very difficult task - large electorate, very difficult to get around, and a very diverse group of people. What I did not know at the time was Tina and Lindsay McFarlane would jump on board that campaign, kick the member for Arnhem in the belly very early in the morning, get her out of bed, throw her in the car, and drag her to another community and insist she meet the people in those communities.
I was fortunate to go out with Tina McFarlane and the member for Arnhem on several trips and was absolutely impressed with the member for Arnhem - people seemed to be running out of their houses to meet her. In many ways she is Aboriginal royalty when it comes to Arnhem Land. Her father, Robert Lee, was a senior man who carried authority in that area, and Larisa Lee is a significant recipient of some of that authority. It is great to see her elected.
I cannot downplay the role her campaign team played in getting her over the line. It was an incredibly big effort to get to all those little communities across Arnhem Land, into Groote Eylandt, and win the seat - fantastic stuff.
They are four candidates from seats people could not see us winning. I was very fortunate and honoured to chair the bush seats campaign subcommittee. When that became publicly known the Labor government at the time - those people who are now opposition - could not contain their mirth; they thought it was the funniest thing ever that one of the Territory’s great rednecks would be involved in a bush seats campaign. They thought it was a marvellous joke. However, the Country Liberals have wonderful connections in the bush and an enormous amount of the credit for winning those bush seats needs to go to my very good friend the member for Braitling. The work he did preparing policy was what enlivened the party and enlivened the people on the ground to believe we did have something to offer. Without that hard work and acute knowledge of what goes on in the bush, we would not have been in the race at all. Congratulations to the member for Braitling.
Congratulating these people in no way diminishes the role the members themselves played. Politics in the Northern Territory is an incredibly personal game because we have such small electorates – population-wise, somewhere between 4000 and 5000 voters in each electorate - and you have to be known. It is almost impossible to be elected in the Northern Territory unless you are known, unless you get out on the doorstep and are meeting people in communities. The remarkable job the candidates - the now members - themselves did cannot go without praise.
Congratulations to the two new members in the Labor team, the members for Nightcliff and Johnston. It was a tough election. In Nightcliff there were eight candidates and it could have fallen any way. Clearly, the member for Nightcliff must have done something special in order to win that seat. Similarly, the member for Johnston getting out there. We were all scratching our heads – both sides of politics - in that campaign wondering who would come up with the goods at the end of the day. So, congratulations to the member for Johnston. We certainly put in a big fight in that electorate. We wanted to do as well as we could but just got pipped at the post at the end.
I see the member for Fannie Bay smiling, and I say congratulations to you, too, member for Fannie Bay, because you were one of our target seats and you managed to hang on quite well. So, congratulations.
It is a great thing to find oneself in government for the first time in a Territory parliament. It has been 10 years or more - well, more than a decade - since the Country Liberals were in government in the Territory. I have to say the last four years in opposition have been some of the hardest years of my life. It is an absolutely frustrating situation to see a government that you know is doing the wrong thing, you know is heading in the wrong direction, and there is very little you can do about it, apart from stand up and rant about some of the problems that are being caused. To find ourselves now on the other side of the Chamber and in a decision-making role is very exciting but also very daunting because now decisions do count and what we do now matters much more than just making a political point inside some Chamber of the parliament. Now, our decisions actually affect the lives and wellbeing of Territorians across the board.
In that regard, obviously, we will make mistakes but I feel very privileged to be part of Terry Mills’ team. The new Chief Minister has proven to date that he does have a vision for the Northern Territory, and he can see a better future for the Northern Territory. We have a range of policies in line to implement and create the better Territory.
Obviously, we have been left in a dreadful situation, financially. The previous government, like Labor governments all over the country since the dawn of time, are very good at taxing people, creating debt, and spending money. One of the great frustrations of the previous four years was coming into this place and constantly listening to more announcements about how much money they were spending. Every time you would raise a concern, they would say, ‘Hang on, but we are spending more money’. That became quite repetitive. We always complained, as far as they were concerned, that spending the money was the outcome rather than the means to getting an outcome to occur. Labor governments everywhere, of course, are good at building big bureaucracies, creating red tape and building nanny states; that is what Labor governments do.
As a government, there are some tough decisions that, obviously, need to be made. The first thing that has to be dealt with is to get the government’s finances under control, and that will not be an easy task at all. The fact is we are debt-ridden. Whilst the economy continues to power - and people tend to get the economy and Territory government finances mixed up. They say, ‘The economy is booming’. Well, the economy might well be booming, but the problem is the government is pretty well near bankrupt. The fact is we have debt coming out of our ears. Every day, the team of consultants we have working for us trying to get a grip on this, is coming up with more debt they keep finding that has been tucked away by the previous government. So, hard decisions do need to be made about how we slash that debt, how we bring the budget back into control, and start living within our means. We cannot do too much unless we are living within our means. So, reducing debt is a bit of a concern.
The other thing, as I said, is streamlining processes and cutting red tape. One thing Labor governments have been very good at - it does not matter whether it is here, in Queensland, New South Wales, or federally - is they all tend to create bureaucracies, create hurdles, create road blocks. They have a view they will not let anything happen unless they have checked it out from 1000 different angles which, at the end of the day, slows things down, makes life more difficult for business, for people who are entrepreneurial, and for people who want to use initiative. They tend to feel suffocated in those circumstances.
As government, we are very keen to streamline government processes, reduce red tape, make government services more accessible, and make sure that people closer to the ground are making decisions that affect them.
It is interesting to hear the Leader of the Opposition say, ‘Oh, that will not work and this will not work’. The fact is, it will work. I have sat here now and listened to all of our new members speak, and all of them said they want more local-based decision-making. I do not see a problem with that. To me, that is fundamentally why I am part of the Country Liberal Party and not part of Labor. The socialists tend to believe in centralising everything and creating single rules and the like, and that community should have the say over everything. Whereas, we on this side of the Chamber - or most of us anyhow - believe in the power of the individual; the rights of the individual to go out and do things to make the best they can of themselves. We believe, given the right circumstances, that individuals will make the right decisions. We trust individuals to look after themselves to do what is in their interest. The view of the other side is they do not trust individuals. They do not trust people, therefore, they create laws to ensure those people comply with the way they think they should be behaving, which is completely off the mark.
We are very focused on development, on getting the Territory moving again. When I say development, we are focused on regional development, on things such as agriculture, mining, and tourism, because it is those industries that have built the Territory and which will continue to grow the Northern Territory. Having gone around the Territory over the last few years or so and looking at what is going on, I feel incredibly sad for the farmers and the graziers of the Territory because it seems every day that goes by there is a new rule, a new regulation, something else that has been put in their way to stop things.
I remember the greatest announcement that Clare Martin made when she was first elected in 2001, was that she was putting a moratorium on farming in the Daly River. She stopped farming in the Daly River; she said no more tree clearing, no more pumping of water. It all just stopped. That moratorium lasted for eight years. There was not the slightest concern for the mums and dads who had bought land there, who went out there with great aspirations and a desire to build themselves a life, to create wealth for themselves and their communities. All that was washed away.
They did not care about that. They seemed to say, ‘Oh, no, but we do not want the Daly to end up like the Murray Darling. We do not need farms there. We are talking about 40 farmers. There are 64 000 farms on the Murray Darling. The Murray Darling supplies over half of Australia’s food crop. Clare Martin was so thrilled to make sure 40 farms in the Northern Territory practically went to the wall because we did not want another Murray Darling here in the Northern Territory on the Daly River. Goodness me! What a joke to think that people actually thought like that.
One of the great achievements of this last election was to actually put into words what the man on the land wants to hear, and the fact that we want to open this place up; that we want farming to occur. The way the Chief Minister described it in the election - that we want to be a food bowl - was a big sign of hope for all those people out on the land - people who want to clear land, who want to get water to their land, who want to grow things, and who want to do things. All of those people felt there was hope in the future.
Similarly, with mining and tourism - the previous government used to bang on about how much it liked mining, but have a look at the results of things. We have five world-class mines, if that, in the Northern Territory. There was very little support, if any, for mining companies trying to set up in the north.
Similarly, tourism businesses - the previous government’s answer to fixing the tourism business was to put in place an accreditation program because they knew best what was going on in tourism businesses. They decided if you did not comply with their laws, you were not going to go ahead in tourism. So, you had to do an accredited program in order to access tourism money. All of these things are just a hand brake on initiative and enterprise.
I am so thrilled to be part of a government that wants to see the back of that. We want to see the back of the nanny state because the fact is, government does not know what is best. The best thing government can do for business and most things is get out of the way - just let people use their initiative, trust people, let them have a go. Ultimately, at the end of the day, that is what the Territory was built on; being able to have a go. It was a place of opportunity. If you wanted to have a go, people would say, ‘Go on then, get out there and have a go. Do not talk about it, just do it’. With the previous Territory government that did not last much longer.
I have to pick up on a point the Opposition Leader made in her speech where she talked about the member for Arafura - heavy alcohol, heavy beer on the Tiwi Islands. Goodness me! What a crime to suggest that people might want to drink a heavy beer on the Tiwi Islands!
There is one thing that really does not sit comfortably with me, and that is this idea that if you are black you should not be allowed to drink. I do not know of any other part of the world where you could get away with saying something like that; that if you are black you are not allowed to drink. For some reason or other, it is all right to say, ‘No, those communities are filled with Aboriginal people, therefore, they are not allowed to drink’. What is the difference between white people and black people? Surely, we are all adults; we should be trusted to have a drink.
The fact is we do not talk in those terms. The way we talk is about community-driven initiatives. Where a community comes together and wants to set and create their laws, we will respect that. If there is a community that says, ‘We want to be dry, we do not want alcohol in our community’, providing that is supported by the entire community we will respect their decision. The people in Alice Springs all worried because Labor was running around there telling them, ‘Oh no, the CLP is going to open up all the pubs’, and we were going to do this and that, and the rivers of grog were going to flow back into Alice Springs.
What they do not seem to understand is that the Alice Springs community has an agreed position through the Alice Springs liquor accord. We do not intend to overturn that. In fact, I would like to see it strengthened. One thing I heard from the Deputy Chief Minister the other day when she held a stakeholder meeting in Alice Springs was they would like to see a few more sobering-up shelters because there are problems with drunks clogging up the hospital. By building a few more sobering-up shelters we might alleviate the pressures on the hospital and the like.
However, for some reason or other, the former government could not see the benefit in rehabilitation programs. It still cannot. It believes the way you stop drunks is to write their name on a list and, magically, they will stop drinking. It is a bizarre thing because the Leader of the Opposition talks about ‘we turn on the tap’. I do not think it comes as a surprise to too many people here, but I have had a few beers in my life and I know where you turn on the tap. You turn on the tap inside a pub. When you buy a schooner they turn on a tap. Not a single person on the Banned Drinker Register was not able to walk into a pub and have the tap turned on. Goodness me! What a joke to suggest we are turning the tap on when the tap was never turned off. Anybody on the Banned Drinker Register could get a drink any time they wanted to; all they had to do was walk into a pub. The only place they could not get a drink was a bottle-o. To suggest we are turning the tap on - the tap was always turned on - and somehow drunks would magically stop drinking because someone had put their name on a list is a great flight of fancy.
I admire the member for Arafura for standing up and saying the things he has said. Clearly, people in his communities have talked to him about bringing heavy beer back to those communities. Now …
Ms Walker: Many of those people are really worried about it. I talk to them too.
Mr TOLLNER: Were you elected out there, member for Nhulunbuy? What about your comrade who was out there – Deano - was he elected?
Mr Conlan: Yes, smashed.
Ms Walker: Yes, that is another story.
Mr TOLLNER: We want people to come into this House and say what is on their mind, and in the mind of the community, because that is what it is all about. I imagine, at some stage down the track, after we put our rehabilitation plans in place, once we have a few things bedded down, we might head out to the Tiwis and test the member for Arafura’s assertion that people want to have heavy beer there, and they have the capacity to have that managed in a reasonable way. I do not see a problem with talking openly to people. Clearly, the other side does. Goodness me, as a local member, you should be able to advocate for anything your local community may or may not want. That is the whole idea of the parliament.
No, Labor believes blacks should not drink. That is the line it takes: if you are black you should not be able to drink. I find that abhorrent, but that is enough of that.
In the time I have left, I thank the Country Liberal Party for its support through another election campaign. People in the party have been supportive of me for well over a decade now. It is eternal thanks I owe them, from the president of the party down to the newest member. I thank you all for your support.
I particularly thank my long-term electorate officer, Helen Bateman, who worked for me when I was the federal member as well. Helen stuck by me the whole time. She is not a political person; she is like many of our electorate officers - comes in, does the job with great aplomb and provides excellent support to me. Helen gave me great encouragement and support throughout the election campaign. Helen and her husband John manned barbecues all over the Fong Lim electorate. On occasions, they would turn up with their coffee van and make coffee for constituents as well. I would not be half the politician I am without Helen Bateman looking after my back ...
Mr STYLES: A point of order, Madam Speaker! Pursuant to Standing Order 77, I move an extension of time for the member to complete his remarks.
Motion agreed to.
Mr TOLLNER: It is great to see so much support from my party. Two big guys beside me, making sure there is no one I miss.
I also thank one of my almost lifelong friends, Steve Doherty. Steve helped out magnificently during the last election campaign doing everything that needed to be done. There was nothing he did not help out with. For the record, Steve and I are both from the same little country town and were born in the same hospital in the same year. We met up when we were 18 years old, 17 years old - something like that - became best friends and originally drove up here together to play basketball. We both had basketball contracts.
Steve worked for me when I was the federal member. He has come up and helped out in every single campaign I have been involved in, and he helped out at the last one. I am very fortunate as well to have him on my staff.
Thank you, everyone. Rather than going through names specifically - all those who helped out on my campaign, sending their sons to stand signs and the like, getting their families involved and the like - good on you all, great to have your support.
Of course I could not thank people without, in particular, my wife and two sons, William and Henry. In an election campaign, the battleground is the letterbox. As the campaign nears the end, the letterboxes become more and more smashed. I have to say my two boys and all their school friends from Darwin Middle and Darwin High were out there hammering letterboxes all over Fong Lim. We were doing a letterbox drop pretty well every day in the last week of the campaign; those fellows and their young legs getting around my electorate. I have to say well done, boys. Member for Brennan, wherever he is, they have their large screen LCD TV. It has taken a few years to get it for them, but finally they have one now.
In any case, congratulations to everybody on their re-elections and elections into this place. I am particularly proud of all of our new members; you fought hard and ran a good race.
Member for Drysdale, goodness me, I got on well with the last bloke but you are so much better looking and so much more articulate as well. It is really good to see you in this place and I am sure you will make a great member in the future. Congratulations on the appointments you have received to committees. Chairing the Legal and Constitutional Committee is a great honour, so congratulations on that. It is pretty rare that new members get jobs immediately, so you have, obviously, impressed someone. Well done.
Madam Speaker, again, to all my colleagues here, thank you for all your support. I am very much looking forward to working with everyone over the next four years and building a better future for the Northern Territory.
Mr CONLAN (Tourism and Major Events): Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Fong Lim for that great speech. He and I followed each other in speeches a lot over the last four years so it is good to keep up that trend.
What an inspiration it was to listen to the members behind me this afternoon; it really was absolutely incredible. In the five-and-a-half years I have been in this parliament, I have never heard anything quite like it, particularly from four senior Aboriginal people from varying parts of the Northern Territory. From the north, down to the south, out to the east, and to the west the message was largely the same - different stories, but the same message: jobs, education, individual responsibility, more jobs, children, and education. It was fabulous and I was quite moved by it all. I have never in my life heard anything quite like it before. I was humbled and inspired. Xavier, thank you. To Larisa, Alison and Bess, thank you for sharing that with us today. I am sure there would not be a person listening to that who would not be moved by what was said and inspired. It was brilliant stuff and it really set the tone of the Country Liberals and this new government as we move forward for the next four years.
To Lia, I was equally impressed. Congratulations on your election win and, indeed, your appointments as well. It was an inspirational and wonderful maiden speech, articulate, from the heart, and meaningful too. Yes, you probably are the youngest member of parliament ever elected in the Northern Territory. I wish I could string together such an articulate form of words when I was 28. I really had no idea, no real concept, of what it was I wanted to achieve in life. I was just going from day to day, a young radio announcer going from country town to country town with no real direction. However, to hear you today articulate your plan for the Territory and the plan for your community was something else. Congratulations, and I am sure your grandfather would have been very proud if he was here today.
I congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your election as the Speaker. You will do a great job. You look terrific and you look right at home there. I am sure you will keep us in tow, as I hope you keep the opposition in tow. I believe they will be the ones misbehaving the most over the course of the next four years, and I hope they are dealt with appropriately - and I am sure you will.
I acknowledge all honourable members in this Chamber and, indeed, the two members opposite who have been newly elected as well. It is no mean feat to be elected and be a member of parliament. Congratulations to the members for Johnston and Nightcliff.
I have to thank, of course – it is not really a maiden speech for me, so I am not going to indulge in the thank yous. This is really a response to the Administrator’s address, but I will use some of this time to thank a few people. That is, obviously, the electorate of Greatorex for showing its support in me once again. It is always humbling to be elected into the parliament. Elections can be very exciting; they can be very anxious times. I thrive on them; I really do quite like them. Mind you, by the time it gets to the last week, you just cannot wait for the thing to be over - win, lose, or draw, let us just get this thing over with. There were early mornings, late nights and the like, but I got there, thanks to the people of Greatorex, and I really thank them for putting their faith in me.
Obviously a few other thank yous for those who helped me get elected for the third time: my immediate team Karen, Kate and Norm and, of course, my family. You cannot do too much in this life without the support of your family - my wife, Elara, and our two kids, Harvey and Cleo. I am not sure if they really knew there was an election on ...
Mrs Lambley: A good thing.
Mr CONLAN: Yes, it probably was a good thing. They just saw me come home late and leave early. Nevertheless, to my wife, Elara thanks for her support. She knows how hard these things can be and bit the bullet and said, ‘We are in this together, let us just get on with it and win it’. Thank you to all those people.
I welcome the challenges as a new minister. This is quite a humbling time of my life. It is quite an achievement for all of us who have spent a great deal of time over there listening to the government make decisions which we vehemently disagreed with, and just relishing the opportunity to win an election so we can then become ministers in a government and make decisions for the betterment of the Northern Territory. We have achieved that, and it is no small achievement; it is a big thing.
I really had no idea what it was going to be like to be a minister. It is pretty full on and it does not stop. It moves very quickly, but I love it. It is like doing something that you have always wanted to do, but getting caned every day for it; that is, getting beaten around and driven very hard. I should say you are ridden and driven very hard, but you relish those challenges because you are doing something you have wanted to do for such a long time. It is a wonderful opportunity and I recognise it as an opportunity; something we should not miss. I have sat over there and said a number of times if there is a chance to win the hearts and minds of the Northern Territory, do something good, then this is the opportunity. I am determined not to lose or miss that opportunity. I know my colleagues feel exactly the same. We have worked very hard to get here. Sometimes, I wondered if we ever would get here. Now, we are here and we are going to ensure we seize every single moment of that opportunity. I welcome the opportunities that have come my way as a new minister in a new government.
I also thank the Country Liberal Party which has supported me. I have, perhaps, been a bugbear to the party at times; I do not go to all the branch meetings. Some of the members ring me and say, ‘Will you get to this branch meeting for goodness sake, Conlan’. I go and I probably need to do more. Nevertheless, I have a great passion for the Country Liberals. I have a great belief, at the very least, in the Country Liberals and what they stand for, and what they have stood for since their inception over 30 years ago. It is a great, proud Northern Territory party. Some wonderful members of that party have delivered and built the Northern Territory since before self-government. I thank the party for sticking with me over the last five years.
I also am very pleased to have a great list of portfolios. I feel I am the matre de of the Northern Territory. I am there, the one standing at the gates or the border of the Northern Territory shaking hands and welcoming people to the place, ‘Welcome to the Northern Territory’. I believe they say ‘the bums on seats’ minister. That includes Tourism and Major Events, Parks and Wildlife, Arts and Museums, Racing and, of course, Sport and Recreation. It has been structured to create a synergy. All those portfolios meld together, and can be looked at through a tourism lens; that is, attracting people to the Northern Territory through major events, sports, recreation, our parks, our art galleries and museums and our wonderful racing carnivals we have in the Northern Territory. It is a great group of portfolios. I am very pleased and I feel very lucky to be handed those by the Chief Minister. I will ensure we start to take these things very seriously.
Sadly, in the past, portfolios such as Sport and Tourism, have been given to a minister who may be seen to be lazy - someone who might be seen as one who does not have the get up and go, or perhaps the capacity to deliver in other portfolio areas. So, they give them things like Sport and minor ones and say, ‘Here we go. We need someone to do it; how about you?’
Well, I can tell you that is not the case here. We take these portfolios very seriously. In fact, Tourism was one of the major pillars of our three-hub economy going into the 2012 election. That is why they have been stripped out of these super portfolios. NRETAS - member for Macdonnell, you will remember this - super portfolio had everything but the kitchen sink in it. How could anything like Sport get the attention it deserves throughout the Northern Territory when it is buried in with Local Government and Environment and all these other portfolio areas? How could the minister possibly afford it any of the attention and respect it so deserved? We take it very seriously, and that is why we see the breakdown of these portfolios, as we have with all the other ministries as well. You will see each ministry has a particular type of synergy about it to allow the minister to concentrate and deliver the best outcomes for that particular ministry and portfolio. Rather than being sidetracked with something completely irrelevant, everything melds together. That is the specific reason it was done.
I mentioned the three-hub economy. The Country Liberals went into this election with a very clear message to get the Northern Territory back on track and put the Northern Territory back into the hands of Territorians. That has been lost for such a long time. In opposition we spoke about it endlessly, and now we have a chance to deliver and put the future of the Northern Territory back into the hands of Territorians. Part of that is with a three-hub economy. That, of course, includes mining, education, agriculture and tourism.
The Northern Territory is a wonderful holiday destination. It is a unique part of Australia. We intend to capitalise on this from the far north - from the member for Arafura’s country right down through to where the member for Namatjira is from, past the wonderful Red Centre, west to Lajamanu, east to Beswick, and all those wonderful communities where the member for Arnhem is from, right through Arnhem Land. It is a remarkable part of Australia and we need to ensure people come here and enjoy our unique experiences.
We have a clear vision for tourism. We feel tourism has lost its way, numbers have subsided, the focus has been a little too strategic and we have lost our marketing focus. We need to put a stronger emphasis on marketing the Northern Territory than this strategic development stuff which has been going on and has dominated Tourism NT for such an enormous amount of time.
We are taking ourselves a little too seriously in the Northern Territory. Under the previous government, we saw an enormous focus on the dreaming side of tourism. That is very important. People identify the Northern Territory with Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal heritage - there is no doubt about it - and it has to be part of any future marketing campaign. However, we have started to take ourselves a little too seriously.
Where are the larrikins and characters of the past? We do not have that anymore. Our marketing campaigns and our television advertisements are an obscure image of - it is very had to put your finger on what it is they are trying to sell. It is almost like a slogan which says ‘NT’ and there is some blurred, obscure, out-of-focus picture in the background; it really does not say anything. We have lost our way so I am determined to ensure the focus of tourism is squarely on our product, and that is what we are selling.
As I mentioned, our Indigenous side of tourism, the dreaming side of tourism, will play an important role. However, there are also our cities and towns which can become destinations. Alice Springs can be a destination and it should be. So should Tennant Creek and Katherine.
Destination marketing has not really worked and our numbers have dwindled. In an environment where we are competing with Fiji, Bali and Southeast Asia, and these days with the Australian dollar where it is, overseas trips to the US or Europe are much more accessible and affordable for Australians.
If we are going to bring Australians to the Territory as we once did in droves, to a place which was a world-class tourism destination, we need to ensure people understand and realise it still is a world-class destination. We need to give people a reason to come here, and the way we do that is by showing them what is going on in the Northern Territory - not some obscure, abstract image with an obscure abstract slogan. We need to show in clear, plain simple terms what it is we are marketing and what our product is in the Northern Territory; that is, our cities and towns which can become destinations. They should be, they have been, and they will be again with this new government and our focus on tourism.
There has been some talk - I know the Leader of the Opposition alluded to it before, and we will talk plenty on this; I have spoken on it before - the relocation of the HQ of Tourism NT to Alice Springs. We need to be very clear about what took place on 25 August - the regional and remote parts of the Northern Territory spoke loud and clear. They were sick and tired of having a Darwin-centric government dictate terms to them, show them very little respect, and give them very few resources. It took a while, but the bush and the regions spoke loud and clear at the ballot box. It is now time to re-regionalise the Northern Territory. It is now time to give regional parts of the Northern Territory the clout they so richly deserve. The Northern Territory would be nothing without parts of regional or remote areas. The Northern Territory is much more than just Darwin, Alice Springs, and Katherine; it is the whole lot. Our focus is going to be about one product. It is not about selling a camel ride in Alice Springs over a Darwin Harbour boat cruise. They are both wonderful and equal Territory experiences. So, we will have one product: the Northern Territory. That is why we are relocating the headquarters of Tourism to Alice Springs – plain and simple.
Where the bureaucracy is located is not going to make one iota of difference to those tourism operators in the Top End. It will make an enormous difference to the social and economic welfare of the Centre - Alice Springs. Having a serious government body based in Central Australia will give not only the town and the CBD an enormous lift. It will also give the residents of Alice Springs a psychological spring in their step. They will see their government actually cares about remote and regional parts of the Northern Territory, and it will make enormous inroads with regard to the economic and social welfare of Central Australia and regional parts of the Northern Territory. I cannot overstate that enough.
The time has come to bring the Northern Territory together. We have seen the bush neglected for over a decade. What happens when you neglect the bush for a decade is you are smacked. It was always going to happen. I cannot say how many times we stood there on the other side of this House saying, ‘You have to do something. You have to do something about this. If you do not do something about it something is going to give’. ‘No’, they would say, ‘always talking Alice Springs down; always talking Katherine down. You think Katherine is the worst place on earth. Alice Springs is the end of the earth as far as you are concerned, isn’t it?’
We would rebut that and say, ‘You have to be kidding. We love the town, just do something about it. You can stay in government forever, just do something about the town; do something about resourcing the town, about showing the place some respect. Do something about showing Katherine, Tennant Creek and all the communities outlying, on either side of the Stuart Highway, up and down the west coast and the east coast of the Northern Territory, some respect. Do something about it because you cannot go on like this; something has to give and eventually the people will reject you’.
Well, they did. They rejected you because we demonstrated, at least enough, that we had enough ticker, will, initiative, and care for regional and remote parts of the Northern Territory. You cannot have one without the other. The opposition, the then government, tried to have one without the other, and it got away with it for nearly 10 years. However, all it took was one election too many and it was given its just desserts, you might say; it got what it deserved. It was always going to happen, no matter what. You could keep going down this path for only so long.
We will talk about the Tourism Commission more at length. However, in my role as minister for Tourism, I will touch on some matters in response to the Administrator’s address. We are bringing a bill to the House to establish the new Tourism Commission for the Northern Territory. This will be an independent commission; it will be at arm’s length from government. It will bring back accountability, which is very important - something which the previous advisory board lacked. It will be driven by the industry, not driven by the bureaucracy, which is important. No one knows how to drive tourism forward better than those on the ground in the industry. So, we are going to have a commission which is a board of the best people, handpicked by me and the chairman of the commission - who has already been named - to set up what we hope to be the best tourism board, tourism outfit, tourism commission anywhere in the country. It is a big ask but we have a great product. We have one of the best products in the country to sell, there is no doubt about it.
The Northern Territory invented tourism. There was no tourism before the Northern Territory; it all began in the Centre. A quick history lesson will show you that. In the 1970s, way before Cairns or the Great Barrier Reef ever really kicked off, there was tourism at Ayers Rock – Uluru - and the surrounds. It was happening here a long time ago and well before anywhere else in Australia really got on with the job of tourism, certainly in the way, shape or form we know it today. That is not a platitude; that is a fact. It is pretty easy to trace those time lines back to where tourism really did kick off in Australia, and it was here in the Territory and in Central Australia.
The commission will provide evaluation and scrutiny, and provide the tourism industry with a strategic vision and, of course, a strong marketing plan. As I said, marketing is what is going to turn the Northern Territory around with regard to tourism. We need to bring people here, we need to showcase what we have, we have to show them in no uncertain terms, and we have to bombard the people of Australia with the best marketing campaign money can buy, and we intend to do that. This will be a world-class tourism destination once again, and tourism will, once again, be a powerhouse industry under this government.
Regarding Sport and Recreation, I am a bit uncertain whether I should go on or not. I know there is only five minutes, I could get another 10. Thumbs up – thanks, Stylesie. I will tick over and see how we go. There will be plenty of opportunities in these sittings to ... Sorry? All right, I will keep going.
Sport and Recreation is an area we take very seriously. My Sports advisor said to me the other day, ‘Sport is interesting because it is this much money in the government budget’. It takes very little money in the government budget but, yet, it is three or four pages on the back page of a newspaper and it gains the interest of so many. It has such huge community interests and buy-in. You have to fill three or four pages a day in the back of the daily newspaper with sport. Everyone is part of it some way or another, whether they belong to a sporting club, they play sport, their kids play sports, or whatever. Everyone is part of it somehow, even if they are just an armchair supporter of a club or just go to the club and support it by having a meal or a drink. Whatever it is, sport is enormous. So, it is this anomaly where it consumes such a small amount of a government budget, particularly compared to Health which is over $1bn. The Sports budget is $45m. It is very small but it is very important and, as a result, it needs to be taken extremely seriously, and we will. Again, we will ensure that sport is at the forefront of this government. It has to be because it is so important to the Northern Territory.
We have just finished the Alice Springs Masters Games, another sensational event. Every two years, these guys turn on one of the best community events. In fact, in my closing address at the Masters Games I said it is probably the best community sporting event in the world. I do not think there is too much doubt about that. I mean that, member for ...
Members: Hear, hear!
Mr CONLAN: Thank you for the ‘hear, hear’. I believe it probably is, certainly of that size. There are nearly 4000 people involved in it, it runs for eight days, it is a massive injection into the Alice Springs economy; the hotels and the hospitality that goes on for that seven or eight days is something quite extraordinary. For a town of 25 000 people it does not get much bigger and better than that. Then look at Vanessa Amorosi opening and Icehouse closing it - great Australian acts ...
Mr Giles: Ivor Davies.
Mr CONLAN: Ivor Davies it was. A wonderful event for Alice Springs. We have the V8 Supercars, the Arafura Games ...
Mr STYLES: A point of order, Madam Speaker! I move an extension of time for the member for Greatorex, pursuant to Standing Order 77.
Motion agreed to.
Mr CONLAN: Thank you, honourable members, I appreciate that. I would like to go into a little detail about some of those events I just read. I was looking through some of the notes. We can get to that at some point in time. I spent a bit of time on the Alice Springs Masters Games. Wrap it up, the Deputy Chief Minister says.
What was that one? Of course, sport in our remote communities - we want to inject much more sporting infrastructure, and spend in remote communities. I am not sure how that is going to look. The member for Arnhem just slipped me a note. She is a good local member and she says, ‘This is what we want’. We are a government that listens, particularly where some of these communities have been starved of this infrastructure for such a long time. That is why the previous members of the bush were so soundly rejected, and members such as the member for Arnhem so soundly endorsed, because they know what is going out there, they know what needs to be done. They can come up to the minister while he is making a speech and say, ‘Listen, I need something done in my electorate’. Of course, I will say during that speech, no problem, let us have a look at it.
I would like to announce something while I am here and I have 10 minutes to do that. As I say, we take sport seriously. Another fantastic event run by the Northern Territory Major Events is the Rugby Hottest 7s in the World. I am very pleased to announce tonight that this government has come to the table and will continue to support the Rugby Hottest 7s in the World. This is a great event. It is a world-class event recognised as a major sporting event.
Rugby Union is one of the biggest sporting codes in the world, second only to the FIFA World Cup. The Rugby World Cup is next on the list. Rugby Union is huge. As a capital city, if we want to stake our place in the world, in the region of Southeast Asia, and among other capital cities in Australia and show them we mean business and are part of the future of Australia, and we are a dominant part of Southeast Asia, we need to be backing supporting events such as this. The previous government walked away from it. We are prepared to endorse and support it; we recognise the importance of it. We will commit another $160 000 to fund the Rugby Hottest 7s in the World.
This is a great announcement. This government takes sport very seriously; we take these things very seriously. It is an enormous tourism opportunity at a time in Darwin when things are particularly flat - in January, right smack bang in the middle of the Wet Season. It is a wonderful opportunity for Darwin to showcase itself and it is great for locals to have a major event on their doorstep, certainly something as prestigious as the Rugby Hottest 7s in the World. We are very pleased to announce that to the tune of $160 000. It will be held on 26 and 27 January 2013.
I am pleased to be Minister for Parks and Wildlife. This is, once again, a wonderful tourism opportunity. Our parks are some of the best in the world, if not the best in the world. Am I over-using the word ‘world’? The Northern Territory is a world-class destination and environment. We have some of the best environment in the world; up there with it all. I do not know if it is better or worse than anything; it is certainly equal to just about everything. Again, I am very pleased to be the Parks and Wildlife minister.
We have 90 parks and reserves across the Territory and we want to ensure as many people as possible can visit those parks - appropriately, of course. We need to engage with our traditional owners and the land councils - we will do that. It is time to end this fight, smoke the peace pipe, get on with it, and ensure people can enjoy the parks in a respectful way because they are on our doorstep. They are some of the best in the world. We have some unbelievable rock art and opportunities to get out in the bush that people in other parts of the world do not have. It is all on our doorstep and we are determined to do everything possible to ensure we can showcase our parks to the rest of the world. We will do it properly, do not worry. This is not going to be a raping and pillaging of our parks by any stretch. We know how important it is, and by virtue of wanting to make our parks world-class destinations alone we will not be raping and pillaging our parks. We have to preserve the pristine nature of them so they are a desirable place to visit. That is another enormous tourism opportunity for this government and the Northern Territory.
I cannot forget Arts and Museums because they work tirelessly and do a wonderful job. Hats off to the CEO of Arts and Museums - a wonderful fellow, very enthusiastic, and he knows much more about arts and museums than I do. That is the sort of CEO you want, isn’t it? Someone to provide you with the right advice for the right reasons, not some blocker, some guy who has an agenda. You have a guy who is passionate about it for the right reasons. I feel very lucky to be in this ministry and have someone who is so capable with a wonderful team around him. They are a great group too, the arts community throughout the Northern Territory; I really like them. I wish I knew more about art. I do enjoy it though. I enjoy art and museums and I love heritage. I have a bit of a bent for it; I am just not an expert. I am very fortunate to have the right people in the right place in this department. Together we will continue to make the Northern Territory a world centre for arts, as it has been, can be, and will be.
In a nutshell, there will be much more said on these portfolios as we go through my term as minister. Over the coming weeks, during this parliament, we will be talking about that much more, particularly with the bills coming to the House which we will bring forward for the Tourist Commission and the like.
Again, what a wonderful inspiration it was listening to our members’ maiden speeches.
Madam Speaker, I have to say Bungles Conlan does not quite have the same ring to it as Bungles Burns. I do not think that is going to stick. What does have a great ring to it is Leader of the Opposition, Delia Lawrie. There is nothing that sounds quite as good as that. She is made for the job, she is already excelling in the job, she has found her niche in life. I say welcome to what is the best job you probably ever had and the best you are ever going to do, and I wish you a long, long, long career as Leader of the Opposition.
Mr WESTRA van HOLTHE (Primary Industry and Fisheries): Madam Speaker, in support of the member for Greatorex and his utterances about the role of the new Leader of the Opposition, I also hope - in the Prime Minister’s words when speaking about Tony Abbott, she wished him a long and fruitful career as the Leader of the Opposition as well. I also think she has found her niche. I want to touch a little more on that in a moment.
I am absolutely delighted to make a speech in reply to the Administrator’s opening address on the commencement of the Twelfth Assembly of the Northern Territory. It is great to be here. Just a few days ago I was at a luncheon at the NT Mining Club and I uttered those same words. I said, ‘It is great to be here’. However, I also said why it was so good to be there. I used some wise words I had heard many times in the past few years which had almost become a mantra. Those words went something like this, ‘Winning the election is not the end game; it is all about what you do with that election win’. Those words, as many on this side of the House would know, were uttered often by the then Leader of the Opposition but now, thank goodness, the new Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Terry Mills. They were very wise words.
It is with that in mind that I take on this most honourable role, for a second term, as the elected member for Katherine. Those words, ‘what you do with the win’ are at the forefront of my mind. In thinking about those words, I turn my mind to some debate that occurred in this parliament just today. Day 1 of the new Legislative Assembly and it became abundantly clear to me what the now Leader of the Opposition intends to do with what I think she said is her fourth term as the member for Karama. As the member for Greatorex said today, the member for Karama has, indeed, found her niche. She was the bridesmaid in the Henderson government - could not get up; she tried to backstab him many times but could not make it. Now, she is the bridesmaid and, hopefully, will remain so as the Leader of the Opposition. She is never going to get to the altar, is she?
A member: Never!
Mr WESTRA van HOLTHE: Never - she is never getting to the altar. The derogatory, demeaning, patronising way the member for Karama engages with other parliamentarians in this House is such a delightful fit for a person now installed into a job where her whining, carping and opposing will characterise the next four years in this place. Not that I am looking forward to that, I have to admit. That part of it I could well do without. However, it just seems to be the nature of the person we know as the member for Karama. I remember a story about the scorpion and the frog, and I will tell you about it one day.
The people I feel sorry for in this place are the newly elected Labor members. Just eight weeks ago they were elected. After today’s display, I can only image the new members for Johnston and Nightcliff must be feeling pretty darn uncomfortable about now with the disgraceful display put on by the member for Karama today. But, I guess they will make their own judgments, won’t they, Madam Speaker? They will draw their own conclusion about the way they are being led by the current Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps there will be some room down the track for them to find a better leader who might, perhaps, be the member for Casuarina - a far more reasoned, intelligent person, far more personable …
Mr Conlan: Nicer guy.
Mr WESTRA van HOLTHE: Nicer guy. He would be a far better leader than the member for Karama. We also know there is no love lost between those two people. So, Delia, mind your back. Anyway, that is enough.
Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on your election as the Speaker of the Northern Territory Assembly. It is most deserved and I am sure you will adjudicate this House with great distinction.
I am truly humbled to be elected to this Assembly for the second term. I cannot overstate the sense of honour I feel in being elected as the representative for the people of Katherine. I love the Katherine community and, at times, I have to admit I pity the other members in this House because they do not represent, in my view, an electorate as fine as mine. Of course, I would get an argument from most members in this House.
However, to those on both sides of parliament, congratulations on your election, or your re-election as the case may be, and congratulations on maiden speeches today, which I thought were outstanding. When you see people come into this place for the first time, stand up, bare their soul, put all their heart and passion into telling the broader electorate of the Northern Territory what they can expect from their newly elected members, it is an amazing thing to witness, and it takes an enormous amount of courage.
Let me say to all of the new members in the House today, I am looking forward to working with you for the next four years and beyond.
To the new Chief Minister, Terry Mills, congratulations. You are a deserving leader and I am confident you will guide the Northern Territory in the right direction, particularly after 10 years - more than a decade - of neglect.
The office I bear is a position I would not have been able to achieve on my own. To my wife, Jenny, you are my best friend and soul mate, my moral compass and more of a support to me than you could ever know. I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your love and ongoing support in the face of some very difficult, demanding and tiring times. You are my rock.
Jenny and I have three sons, all of whom are now young adults: Lucas, Nicholas and Scott. They have all managed to be here today for the opening of this parliament this morning. Boys, I thank you for your support.
To my Country Liberal colleagues who worked so hard during the campaign, congratulations on what has been achieved so far. Without your hard work we might not be sitting on the government benches and have the honour of governing this great place.
To those who helped me in my campaign, I thank you; I would not be here today without you. In particular, I thank Pat Witte, my electorate officer. I have stood in this place many times before and described her as the glue that holds me together in my electorate office. Pat, your dedication and devotion to me as the member for Katherine is beyond reproach. In fact, it is almost beyond comprehension and understanding; just how you commit yourself, your time, and your effort. Finally Pat, we have given you what you wanted. You have a minister - that was all she was ever after.
Faye Miller, former member for Katherine, thank you very much. Without Faye, I would not be standing here at all. It was she who came to me many years ago - in fact, it was 2007-ish - and suggested I might like to put my hand up for preselection for the seat of Katherine in the first instance, given that she was retiring. Faye, thank you very much. I am glad you came out to see me at Maude Creek that day.
Other people involved in the election campaign are almost too many to mention, but I should mention Ben Trattles, a young man, 23 years of age, who stepped up to be the chairman of my branch in difficult circumstances, John and Helen Armstrong, Kit Jolley and many others besides. Through all the challenges that were thrown our way, you remained steadfast and strong. Your decisions around the process of preselection have been vindicated. All I can offer to you in return is my thanks and the promise that I will do everything in my power to make Katherine and the Northern Territory a better place.
Katherine is, genuinely, a great place to live, work and raise a family, but it could be so much better. For too many years, just like remote parts of the Territory and other regional areas, Katherine has been ignored by government - for a decade or more. It is that which makes the election of 25 August such a defining moment in Northern Territory political history. Unlike previous elections, which have been focused around the northern suburbs of Darwin, the election was decided by the seats in the bush. Whilst much emphasis must be put on Darwin as our Territory’s capital, it goes to show that, despite all the Darwin-based media attention and hype around the northern suburbs electorates, the bush’s voice is just as loud and deserving of our attention, and attend to it, we will.
The Country Liberals’ government will do what we have been asked to do by the greater Northern Territory electorate: we will govern for all Territorians. It is no secret that many Territorians living in the bush face hardships and issues on a daily basis. As a government, we must re-engage and empower the bush. We must not only listen to what they have to say, but we must understand and then act to resolve the issue. There is one thing I have learnt, something I have come to know, and I want to impart it to all those in this House - on both sides. We cannot govern this great Territory by sitting atop some ivory tower and making decisions without proper and meaningful engagement with the people for whom we are elected, the people of the Territory - all of the people of the Territory, including those in the bush.
That is the bit Labor forgot. Or did they forget? Perhaps they never really knew it. Perhaps they sat comfortable with some ancient notion that Labor could always rely on the Indigenous vote. Well, that was certainly a turnaround. I applaud those in the bush who defied the conventions of the past and voted for a change to a conservative government in the NT; those who voted for a party which carries with it the same ideals they aspire to: real economic growth, real jobs, real outcomes for kids in schools, not outcomes measured by the amount of money that is pumped into a program. It has been said in this House many times, and I will say it again: money is an input, not an outcome. In fact, the member for Sanderson is probably the man who coined and worked that phrase harder than anyone in this House. He understands, he gets it. Given the result of the 25 August election, I know who did not get it - the Labor Party.
As a member of parliament, one can only hope the areas for which one has responsibility in the ministry carry a significant relevance to the geographical and industrial landscape of the region they represent. I am delighted to say that, for me, this is the case. My appointment as Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries and Minister for Mines and Energy carry significant relevance to Katherine and the area it supports. The appointments bestowed upon me are a great honour and I take the work and responsibility seriously.
I am lucky I have a genuine interest in the areas for which I have been given responsibility. For example, Katherine is the centre of the Territory’s pastoral sector and I like working with the down-to-earth folk who have chosen to make the primary sector industry their life, profession and way of life.
There is a huge amount of potential in the horticultural sector also. Katherine is the mango capital of the Territory. I am keen to pursue other crops as an overall strategy to grow the Territory’s capacity to produce export food.
I do not know whether being a keen fisherman qualifies me to be minister for Fisheries, but I certainly have an interest in ensuring fisheries remain sustainable across the whole of the Territory. I too, like many others, like to catch a fish on any given day.
I also have a genuine interest in the mining sector. Many moons ago, I started a Bachelor of Science in Geology. I loved the earth sciences. I thought the way the earth was formed, the way minerals are made, and the processes around that were fascinating. Unfortunately, the maths and physics defeated me.
In a demonstration of my love for this area, one of the first things I asked my department to do, about six weeks ago, was obtain for me a collection of minerals mined in the Territory so I could put them on display in my office upstairs. That is still in the making. When it is done I will let you all know and you can have a look.
The responsibility I now possess is a responsibility to my departments, to this government, and, most importantly, to Territorians. As part of the election campaign commitments, the Country Liberals promised to create a three-hub economy consisting of a mining and energy hub, a tourism and education hub and, finally, a food and export hub. With this in mind, much of our economic focus will be placed on the portfolios over which I have control. The government will be focusing on the growth and development of private enterprise which correspond with these ministries.
I feel the enormous weight of responsibility of these two parts of the three-hub economy. However, I am up for the challenges they will bring, and am looking forward to growing these areas to create a better economy for the Territory including jobs - real jobs for all Territorians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous ...
Mayor of Alice Springs
Mayor of Alice Springs
Mr Deputy SPEAKER: Could I interrupt, member for Katherine? I acknowledge the Mayor of Alice Springs, Damien Ryan, in the gallery at the moment.
Members: Hear, hear!
Mr WESTRA van HOLTHE: I will also briefly talk about my appointment as Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries and outline some plans for development. Since the change of government we have announced the closing of Chambers and Finke Bays to commercial fisherman, upholding our election commitment. However, it is important to note that recreational and commercial fisherman can co-exist. It is my aim to maintain the balance between the two groups and ensure the Territory’s fisheries are in no way disadvantaged. We have pristine waterways and some of the best fishing in the world. I will not let the standards slip.
In our brief time in government I have travelled to Indonesia and spoken with government and trade officials concerning the live cattle export trade. The live cattle export industry is still hurting from last year’s export ban. Families on the land relying on the industry were not adequately compensated and our relationship with Indonesia is still not what it once was. I intend to expand and develop this trade as much as possible. The Livingstone Valley abattoir will be complementary to the export industry, but it is important to note for all those who are listening to this broadcast or reading the Hansard, the Livingstone abattoir will not replace live export. There is room for the two. It is crucial we look to creating new Southeast Asian trading partners. The recent shipment of cattle to Vietnam is a promising start. Along with the cattle trade, it is important to the Northern Territory to look at supplying Asia with other food sources.
I have travelled to Kununurra and visited Western Australia’s Ord River Stage 2 project. That visit was with the Minister for Indigenous Advancement and Regional Development. On my visit, locals had already started referring to the expansion into the Northern Territory as Ord River Project Stage 3. Providing Asian nations with another food source will place the Territory well in what is the Asian century. We must capitalise on our location, size, and fertile ground to ensure growth and prosperity. As I was in Kununurra touring the Ord by road and air to gain a number of perspectives on the project, I was amazed to see how much work has been undertaken in Western Australia.
Let me say on record that I congratulate the Western Australian government and the Australian government for their participation in what is a nation building project. This is one of the biggest agricultural/horticultural projects ever likely to grace the Northern Territory. Yet, I find it incredulous that when I drove to the border and, then, when I flew over the border to put it in a different perspective, on the Northern Territory side there was nothing. There were great plains of arable black soil plain land - and what was on there? Nothing. It is ready to be developed, yet the previous Northern Territory government members, for the last 10 years, sat on their hands and did nothing.
In saying that, there were probably a couple of people in the previous government who were quite keen for the Ord to go ahead, yet there were others who completely killed the project - gave it no credence, no level of importance whatsoever. Hence, the comment I made a little earlier about there being no love lost between the former Treasurer, now Leader of the Opposition, and the former minister for Primary Industries.
The Northern Territory has many industries which can also be expanded - mangoes, seafood, peanuts, and table grapes to name just a few. As minister for Primary Industry, I aim to oversee the expansion, and primary industry will increase trade with Asian nations.
I will now talk specifically to my ministry of Mines and Energy. From our soils we extract some of the world’s best natural resources. From nature’s gift we will build infrastructure, create jobs, and grow the Territory. The Northern Territory government was elected on our commitment to secure a better future for the Territory. As the new Minister for Mines and Energy, it is my priority to ensure the Northern Territory capitalises on our mineral resources for Territorians. To do this, we must take an approach of responsible exploitation. As most of you will be well aware, the mining industry remains the Northern Territory’s largest industry and is critical to the economic growth of the Territory and the development of our regions.
It is my belief the best thing government can do for business is to get out of the way ...
Mr Tollner: Get out of the way!
Mr WESTRA van HOLTHE: That is it! Get out of the way and allow business to grow and develop. Red tape and unnecessary restrictions on business have held the Territory back - but no more. There is a line in the sand, we have drawn a line and now it is time to move forward. It is our belief that those who have finance invested in enterprise in the Northern Territory should have a say in the way business is governed. We want to engage with business and facilitate expansion. We will not impose ourselves on business where it is not necessary. Our mantra is simple: we will look outward for opportunity and inward for growth.
In 2011-12, the value of mining production in the Territory was $2.8bn and the combined total value of the production and manufacture of minerals and energy is estimated to have been over $7bn. Mining also directly employs nearly 4000 people, including many Indigenous Territorians, with many more people employed in related industries. These figures all attest to the strength and importance of the Territory’s mining industry.
However, I believe the combination of the NT’s rich resources and emerging projects provide tremendous potential for the industry to expand, which will increase the prosperity and development of the Territory and, in particular, in our regional areas. The new Northern Territory government is dedicated to working with industries to make this happen. We want to work with industry, not against them. Over the past month, I have had the pleasure of meeting with many of the significant players in exploration and mining in the Territory. It has been particularly encouraging to see the wide range of emerging projects across the NT, from early-stage exploration through to advanced projects approaching mining development. I am also encouraged by the level of optimism and enthusiasm within the industry, even given the tough financial times for junior miners and companies.
In submitting evidence of that feeling of optimism one only has to turn to the recent Mining the Territory Conference which was held at the Convention Centre in Darwin just a few weeks ago. The atmosphere of the 800 or so delegates - the most delegates who have ever graced that conference in its history - was palpable. You could feel that people were looking forward to doing mining work in the Territory. They were all there: the miners, the explorers, capital investment companies. They were all there because they are interested in the Northern Territory. I am going to be so bold as to suggest that, given the timing of that conference, which was a few weeks after the election, that change of government contributed significantly to the positive feeling that was on display at that mining conference. There was excitement in the room; people were saying to me, ‘Thank God we now have a government that is prepared to support mining, not make silly rash, political decisions but actually go down the path of working with industry, working through issues and making sure the Northern Territory prospers from a buoyant mining sector’ ...
Mr Elferink: Hear, hear! There is some rocket science for you.
Mr WESTRA van HOLTHE: It is not. Thank you member for Port Darwin, and I will pick up on that interjection. It is not rocket science; it is not that hard. Yet, the former government, the Labor government of 11 years, created how many new mines? One, from memory. I think Bootu Creek, the manganese mine, was the only new mine that opened in that period of time. Why is that? One has to ask why that is. The Territory is a highly prospective place.
The work of our Northern Territory Geological Survey, backed up then by the work of explorers, has shown the Northern Territory to be a place where great deposits are just sticking up out of the ground. There are many surface deposits of all sorts of things in the Territory, yet the last new mine to open in the Northern Territory was six or seven years ago. There has to be a reason for that. What I am picking up, as I read through some of the research that is done around doing business and mining in the Territory, is that mining companies were not all that comfortable about doing business here because there were elements of sovereign risk as well. There were silly knee-jerk political reactions and decisions that were made that affected the view of the world market - not just locals, the world market - on how easy it is or is not to do business in the Northern Territory.
I believe the fantastic feeling at the Mining the Territory Conference was partly brought about by the change of government, the change of thinking ...
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! I move an extension pursuant to Standing Order 77.
Motion agreed to.
Mr WESTRA van HOLTHE: Thank you, member for Port Darwin, Madam Speaker, and colleagues.
There are many encouraging signs out there. The clear message to the Territory’s exploration and mining industry is that the new government is one that is unambiguously supportive of the industry and of the responsible development of new mines. That is the message: under the Country Liberals’ government, the Territory is open for business. The NT government has a strong commitment to openness and transparency and is committed to providing a regulatory framework that provides an environment of certainty for the industry to operate in. That is what they like; they like to have certainty.
That also, thank you, member for Port Darwin, is not rocket science. For a number of decades the Territory economy has been supported by a number of long-term, world-class mines such as Ranger, Gove, Groote Eylandt and McArthur River. These mines underpin the regional economies in the areas in which they operate, and the government will continue to work with the operators to ensure they have every opportunity to thrive and remain important contributors to the NT for many years to come. However, we cannot rely on these mines forever.
As I said before, it is of some concern for me that it has been many years since a major new mine opened in the Territory. The Northern Territory needs new projects coming into production in order to establish the next generation of mines for the Territory. We need that happening; we need the next generation of mines to start coming into production. With this in mind, it is pleasing to note the many potential mining projects that are in advanced stages across the NT. One in particular, which could come to fruition as early as 2013, is Western Desert Resources iron ore prospect in the Roper region.
I also inform the House that I will be travelling to the China Mining Congress in Tianjin to meet with government and business representatives to pitch the Northern Territory and bring together exploration companies with extraction and production companies. This is a critical conference in China to showcase the Northern Territory and the prospectivity of the Northern Territory, and to let investors know the Territory is open for business. It is still difficult to get capital finance from traditional markets across the globe. Notwithstanding China’s growth is slowing, it still has an enormous demand for the mineral wealth that is contained within the soils of the Northern Territory. So, we will be looking to China - not exclusively but certainly looking there - to encourage further investment in the mineral sector in the Northern Territory.
In regard to industry regulation, while I have already indicated the new government is pro-development, we also take our regulatory responsibilities very seriously. The NT government supports the responsible exploitation of our mineral resources. That is something you will hear me say often: we support the responsible exploitation of our mineral resources and following due process with regard to regulatory approvals. Simply put, projects that meet regulatory guidelines and adequately address economic, environmental, cultural, and social outcomes will be approved.
The government also appreciates the importance to the industry of the timeliness of regulatory approvals to enable greater certainty in planning. I am already working with my department to investigate and identify greater efficiencies in the approvals process. While the current regime is robust, we should always strive for improvement where this is possible.
I have already mentioned that the new government’s approach is to be open, honest, accountable and proactive when it comes to community engagement, particularly where there are contentious issues to be addressed. Of course, industry also has an important role to play in being responsible corporate citizens and ensuring that environmental and social responsibilities are met. As minister, I strongly encourage industry to engage confidently - boldly even - and openly with the community and stakeholders. On the whole, the Northern Territory community is supportive of the mining industry, but there is always work to be done to increase community awareness of the economic and community benefits of mining, and to highlight the efforts of the industry to minimise environmental impacts.
The government aims to work together with industry to be open and transparent about how the industry is performing and to ensure the community is well informed with factual information about exploration and mining. I am committed to growing and supporting the Territory’s exploration and mining industry. I firmly believe in the potential of the industry to expand and diversify into new commodities and new regions, and I look forward to working with industry to make this happen.
The Territory’s best days are ahead; there is no doubt in my mind. To adapt a phrase of Winston Churchill’s, the Northern Territory is like a gigantic boiler; once the fire is lit, there is no limit to the power it will generate. With development in both primary industry and mining, I am confident the Northern Territory’s economy can truly boom.
I want to see the Northern Territory grow and develop. I want to build on the proud economic credentials of previous Country Liberal governments. I have a vision of where I want to take my ministries, and Chief Minister Mills has a great vision for the Northern Territory. We are looking forward to creating potential and opportunity. We cannot walk away from the issues we have inherited, but understand we have been given a mandate to create change and fix these issues. We are not here to play politics. We are here to govern the Northern Territory.
Retributive persecution is, of all platforms, the greatest waste of time and speech. To squander debate on personal politics, as we saw in the House today, is to directly ignore the purpose of this Assembly. I am not here to engage in political trivialities. I did not come here to get a job; I came here to do a job. The destiny of tomorrow’s Territorians rest upon the decisions this government makes today.
Madam Speaker, I have two ears, one voice and the authority to make decisions and hear me now, I intend to use them all.
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business): Madam Speaker, I move that the Assembly do now adjourn.
Mr HIGGINS (Daly): Madam Speaker, today in the Chamber, the Opposition Leader made a breathless, hysterical, unsubstantiated allegation of sexual harassment against me relating to an incident she claimed took place outside the Palumpa polling booth on 24 August. The first I heard of these claims was this afternoon in the Legislative Assembly. At the time the Opposition Leader made these claims, I was at a loss to understand what it was she was talking about, partly because she refused to outline any details of these allegations, and because there was no sexual harassment outside the Palumpa polling station on that day. I, therefore, deny the allegations the Opposition Leader has levelled against me.
Ms ANDERSON (Namatjira): Madam Speaker, I would like to adjourn tonight on a concert which was held at Mutitjulu a couple of weeks ago. I thank Mario, Harry, Sammy and Vince for organising the concert with Shane Howard and Solid Rock. It was fantastic to see the roll-up of Aboriginal people and non-Indigenous people at Mutitjulu both Saturday and Sunday nights. It was absolutely fantastic. I take this opportunity to say that my aunty, Alison Hunt, sang beautifully on Sunday night. The bands that got together at Mutitjulu with Shane Howard were also fantastic and really brought the community together. They are the things we need to see more of; that people are getting together at concerts, good voices, beautiful bands, and the community was fantastic for the whole weekend.
I also take the opportunity tonight to thank the people who worked on my campaign, Chris Simons and Ken McGregor. Thanks, Ken, for coming all the way from Melbourne to give us a hand. I also thank Kathy and Scotty McConnell, and my sister, Teresa Nipper, at Areyonga. It was fantastic. Kelvin McCann, who is now my chief of staff, thank you, brother. Leo, my grandson, thank you. He is in Queensland somewhere now. Lance, my grandson, and Amos, my young brother, who did the whole two weeks at the mobile booth in Alice Springs - fantastic, brother. Also, of course, my older brother, Syd. I take this opportunity to thank my kids, Dorelle and Jamie, who were fantastic. Thanks for coming over to the party in Alice Springs. I know it was a long trip, Narelle, to come to Alice Springs with the kids. It was fantastic to see you, Jamie, Tarny, and Jonah there.
Also, my son and daughter-in-law in Queensland, Clint and Melly, and the two boys, Cash and Bo. The phone calls every night from my kids were fantastic. Also, Tarney and Johnnie in Bunbury, and little Mark, a year-and-a-bit old now. I delivered him about a year ago and it is fantastic. Of course, my partner, Nicholas Rothwell. I take this opportunity to congratulate Pommie and Sabria who looked after my two grannies, Paton and Emerson. It is really good to see the stability these two boys have with their father; it is absolutely fantastic. Thanks, Pommie, for allowing the boys to come over to the party that night to celebrate with me my great win of 1901. It was fantastic. It has never been seen in political history.
Everyone on the Labor side was saying I was going to get my backside kicked. Well, who got their backside kicked in this one? It has never been seen since Winston Churchill. It was an absolutely fantastic result.
I take this opportunity again to thank my constituents in the new electorate of Namatjira. I thank everyone at Santa Teresa, the police aide, Clare Young, Amilda Palmer, the Wallace family, and everyone at Santa Teresa. It was absolutely fantastic. Titjikala, thank you; Lena, thank you. My daughter, Silvana, from Finke, thank you. Kintore was fantastic - Big Lance, Clare, the whole lot were unbelievable.
Thanks to my daughter at Docker River, Marlene. She was really good and got behind our campaign so we did not have to take too many people out there. They even lost with the former Chief Minister, now the mentor sitting in the back seat, arriving on a plane at Docker River. It was a fantastic result to see they could not even win Docker River with the Chief Minister flying to Docker River to help their candidate.
I also take this opportunity to thank Liam, my youngest, 21, for your support, baby, and the fact you look after me when I go home with the cups of tea. I love you. Thanks very much.
Mrs LAMBLEY (Araluen): Mr Deputy Speaker, today I acknowledge the life and contributions of a great Central Australian woman, Ms Molly Clark who passed away on 23 September this year. Molly Clark was born in Mount Barker in South Australia. She married her husband, Mac Clark, in 1946.
In 1955, Molly arrived at Andado Station about 330 km southeast of Alice Springs with her husband and three small sons. They lived in the original 1920s homestead for a few years before building a new one a few kilometres away. The old homestead was left to fall down but, in 1969, Molly decided to resurrect it and turn it into a home stay operation as an alternative income during drought years. This project took almost 20 years to complete.
During the 1970s, Mrs Clark experienced a number of personal crises. In 1975 her son Meggs had a life-threatening accident and, three years later, Molly lost her husband to a fatal heart attack. The next year her son, Graham, was also killed, but Molly was not a woman to dwell on the difficulties life handed her at various times.
Molly was able to retain 45 km2 of land. Old Andado, which became her home, was listed on the Heritage Register in 1993 and her achievement in tourism was recognised by the Northern Territory Tourist Commission, which presented her with a special Brolga Award in 1995.
In the late 1980s, Molly had a new dream prompted by the founding of the now famous Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Queensland. Molly was disappointed that in the hall of fame women were underrepresented. As a result, she founded and established the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame which was officially launched on 8 May 1993 at Old Andado.
Molly’s Bash, as it was known, became an annual event held on Mother’s Day weekend until its 10th anniversary in 2002, in the Year of the Outback. In 1998, she was granted one of the inaugural Northern Territory Chief Minister’s Women’s Achievement Awards. In 1999, the International year of Older Persons, she received a Commonwealth Recognition Award for Senior Australians in the Northern Territory Electorate. In 2007, Mrs Clark was awarded a Tribute to Northern Territory Women Award for her contribution to Territory heritage and tourism. A true Territory woman, Molly Clark led a remarkable life and she will be missed by many.
Mrs PRICE (Stuart): Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to add to my maiden speech other thanks I had forgotten. One was to Larisa Lee who helped me at Barunga, Beswick, Manyallaluk and Kybrook and Werenbun. It was an amazing day out there when we encountered Karl’s behaviour, but we won in the end. I really thank Larisa and her family who helped out with those communities during the mobile polling.
I thank other people I also had forgotten. There was young Ben who chairs the Katherine branch, Helen and John Armstrong, and Norbert Patrick and his wife Tracey. The other person I forgot to mention was Rebecca McLean who followed me with a camera wherever I went. In the end we convinced her she had to do something to help me out if she wanted to follow me around.
Madam Speaker, last, I thank my young brother who is here today. If he had not donated one of his kidneys to me, I would not be here today. I thank him. Charles France, thank you.
Ms LEE (Arnhem): Madam Speaker, I thank Senator Scullion for making time for me during the campaign, flying out to Ramingining when they held the big meeting with the elders, especially with the Yolngu elders, and Ron Kelly for contributing his time driving me out to Arnhem Land, putting the corflutes up. It was a tremendous help.
I thank the people on Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island who were my big supporters. Milingimbi, Ramingining, Gapuwiyak, as I said before, are related to me from both sides of the family - my mother and my father. Without them, I do not think I would be here today, so I just wanted to add my thanks to them.
Mr ELFERINK (Port Darwin): Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to pick up on the member for Daly’s denial about the rather dreadful allegation that was lodged against him by the Leader of the Opposition today. I can only express my dismay at the level of intrusion the member for Karama, the Leader of the Opposition, sought to engage in with evidence which could only be described as flimsy, and that is to put a kind word on it. Subsequent to the provision of that material to the Leader of the Opposition, I have now read the document briefly and I have to say I was very surprised to see there was no name attached to it, merely an allegation.
The Leader of the Opposition chose, at that point, to assert that a complaint had been made to the Anti-Discrimination Commission, supported by two witnesses. There is no evidence I have yet seen which demonstrates the existence of these witnesses. However, even if they do exist and the allegation has been made, surely when you are going to engage in such a serious attack on a person’s reputation and credibility, then you would make certain that at least there was some form of due process available to that person. That was not displayed in the House today.
What was displayed in the House today was a form of entrapment. In an effort to disguise entrapment as reasonableness, to suggest a five-minute adjournment to examine this allegation, demonstrated they have no idea what natural justice or due process is about. If we had taken that adjournment and gone to review the evidence, we would have discovered within one minute that the evidence was truly flimsy.
I watched the Channel 9 News tonight in anticipation of seeing the Leader of the Opposition level the same allegation at the member for Daly. Not to a great surprise, but to some disappointment, the Leader of the Opposition was clearly not prepared to utter outside of this place what she was prepared to utter inside this place about the member for Daly.
Using a mere allegation supported by an assertion - and nothing more - that there are two witnesses who are prepared to give evidence, but offering no capacity to examine the quality of the evidence and the quality of the witnesses against a member of this House, then to level such a serious allegation, to my mind represents a serious and profound departure from any form of sensible debate in this House. This tactic which was used today by the Leader of the Opposition was done quite deliberately and with one object in mind only; that was, simply to level an allegation, unfounded and unsupported, of the worst, most tawdry kind, against a member of this House for the sake of inciting some media response. Sadly, that media response was given, to a degree; the matter was acknowledged in the media. Well, that is the media’s choice. However, the fact is the only thing the Leader of the Opposition was really trying to achieve was to level an allegation.
If the Leader of the Opposition was serious about this, rather than slithering into this place and launching into this attack, she would have made certain that people were prepared to publicly stand up and support her position. No such public deposition has been given that I am yet aware of.
If she was going to launch these allegations she would have to have grounds to do so other than requiring the protection this House gives against defamation. If she did have the weight of evidence she says, surely this matter would have come up during the election campaign - if not during the election campaign then after it, and people would have been publicly standing up and putting their names to these allegations. Nothing of the sort occurred. The first available opportunity for the Leader of the Opposition to engage in this defamation, this slander, this libel, was to use the protection this House affords.
I am going to let Territorians judge the quality of the attack made on the member for Daly, but judge it in this light: natural justice should be afforded to all members when such serious allegations are going to be made. In the case of the former member for Sanderson, he was judged on the evidence provided to the community. In the case of the member for Nelson, we still do not know what occurred. However, if the Leader of the Opposition is going to be such a passionate advocate of the rights of victims, then her silence on the conduct of the member for Nelson - whatever that may have been - resonates and resounds in our ears as a clear demonstration of her hypocrisy.
In the estimate of this Leader of the Opposition, it appears that CLP members are the only people capable of doing anything, not Labor Party members or Independents. She has started her opposition leadership in such a fashion as to, I imagine, make even her better-minded colleagues on that side of the House wonder if she has shown good judgment on this occasion.
I listened carefully to the new members for Johnston and Nightcliff. I congratulate and welcome them both into this House. I listened carefully, and like all speeches and maiden speeches in this House, they were speeches of hope, and of a desire to do better things. I ask them, without having to respond in any way, to reflect on the conduct of that debate - with the evidence involved, the nature of the approach and the lack of response from the Leader of the Opposition prior to coming into this House on this day - and whether their aspirations as new Labor members are fulfilled by that form of leadership.
I felt particularly uncomfortable with what occurred here today, but I anticipated seeing something - a modicum of evidence other than a blank sheet with an allegation written on it. I am normally very loath to deny the tabling of any document in this House. However, in hindsight, I am glad the House denied that opportunity to the Leader of the Opposition because it would have been a worse outcome for the people of the Northern Territory to have admitted a document like that into the public domain.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I have heard the member for Daly’s denial. I accept his denial. I understand the stunt the Leader of the Opposition tried to pull in this House today and I hope people see it for what it is. It is no wonder our profession is held in such low esteem when this type of thing is the yardstick by which people measure our performance.
Motion agreed to; the Assembly adjourned.
Last updated: 04 Aug 2016