For a Territorian to have served as the Chief Minister of Australia's Northern Territory is a great honour. No one owns the position, it is held on trust for the next incumbent and hopefully when you leave apart from a portrait in the Legislative Assembly a legacy of sorts survives. Whether for a short or long time the fact is you made it. Since Self Government there have been 10 Chief Ministers and Goff Letts, our last Chief Secretary. Paul Everingham likened the role to 'king of the kids'. In my case it was a wild ride and I was challenged by every minute of it. I remain forever grateful to Territorians for their trust and confidence best evidenced by the General Election landslide election in 1997.
My son Jack recently conceded to me that growing up in Darwin was at times confusing. The repeated use of ‘boss’ had him believing as a toddler that was my first name. I blame Gary Shipway for the confusion since he consistently called me ‘boss’ in front of the family. When I think about, it a few of us called Marshall ‘Chief’. After all, it did match his number plate.
Prime Minister Hawke once asked me why the NT wanted to be a State. With that trademark smile, Hawke observed:
“Chief Minister sounds more important than Prime Minister”.
If only it was so. On the Island of Kos in the Greek Dodecanese on our way to Kalymnos leading a large delegation of Territorians, the locals decided to host a magnificent Greek feast. The signage was very memorable.
In this chapter I touch on a range of issues and topics, My departure from the office of Chief Minister is discussed in the following, Chapter 13 ‘Leaving Office’. I have confined the commentary to a number of topics which I consider were important, defining and challenging. It is not an exclusive list but covers those headline topics associated with my time as Chief Minister of Australia’s Northern Territory. I inherited a substantial legacy from each of the CLP Chief Ministers’ that preceded me and that was an important platform on which to build. Everyone of them - Everingham, Tuxworth, Hatton and Perron - contributed significantly to the Northern Territory on their ‘watch’. The Territory was well served by the longevity of CLP Governments dating from before Self - Government.
My time as Chief Minister was defined by my enthusiastic engagement with the Asia Pacific region: the 1997 General Election landslide victory against NT Labor; securing a commitment from the Howard Government for the North-South rail 1 and, the underpinning of the gas industry.2 High among my achievements were the major education reforms3 including: the Northern Territory University now Charles Darwin University; championing the Territory’s ethnic diversity, and a solid economic performance that has withstood the test of time. On ‘my watch’, Territory debt was contained and public sector numbers managed within modest parameters. I talk about this in the section on Territory finances.
One of my earliest challenges came in the aftermath of the Port Arthur shootings as we embraced near uniform firearms legislation. I will also be remembered for the disappointing failure of the Statehood Referendum.4 I am pleased to have been among those who brought the V8 Supercars to the NT.
I was never one to pursue populist policies as I long maintained that the role of Chief Minister turned on competency and not popularity. My mandatory sentencing policies in relation to property crimes and ‘life means life’ were subsequently ‘watered down’ by my successor notwithstanding the overwhelming mandate of the 1997 General Election.5 I also include my relations with Prime Ministers Keating and Howard, the Stone Ministries, Women’s and Youth policy and the NT Indigenous community.
The official story remains that I was elected unopposed. That is correct. I had been marked out by Chief Minister Marshall Perron as his preferred successor and he told me so on more than one occasion. Later, Perron had a change of heart and thought a better course would be to install his long-term Deputy Barry Coulter. I had arranged to attend the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law Cambridge University as a Visiting Fellow for a brief period in 1995. Perron and I were both in Canberra attending different Ministerial Council meetings when he called me to the Lakeside Hotel. Perron put the proposition that I defer to Coulter on the understanding my day would come later; I refused and continued onto Cambridge. Shortly after my arrival, news reached me that Perron was canvassing his retirement ahead of what I expected. I debated whether to return to Darwin. Colleagues Mick Palmer and Denis Burke, guided by Peter Murphy, caucused and went to work. I was advised by Murphy to stay where I was. Meanwhile Perron and Minister Fred Finch did the soundings for Coulter. By the time I arrived back, the numbers were aligned and I was elected unopposed the Northern Territory’s 5th Chief Minister on 26 May 19956. I served until 7 February 1999.
Some journalists have persisted with the story that I defeated Barry Coulter for the leadership. That is not true. There was no contest - Barry did not stand.
Barry Coulter had made it clear he would not serve as my Deputy – I understood and respected his decision. Coulter’s unilateral decision freed me to select a Deputy of my choosing. My first choice was Daryl Manzie, who refused. Nothing personal he told me, he simply didn’t want the job. I next turned to Hatton who I felt at least had a breadth of experience as a former Chief Minister and would be better aligned on constitutional matters if he was in the leadership team. Hatton was keen but the parliamentary wing was overwhelmingly opposed.7 I was surprised at the antipathy towards Hatton. Mike Reed offered himself.
He reasoned that I was a prolific spender whilst he was a fiscal conservative – a good fit. I never considered myself a prolific spender but he had it in his mind that I would run amuck with the cheque book. Also, Reed offered a break with the past as, like me, he was relatively new to the Assembly. He was hungry for the role so I agreed. In time, Reeds position would be questioned; first following the 1997 election result when some over-eager backbenchers thought it was in their interests to promote Burke and second following the bizarre so called ‘Red Hot Fireman’ episode. Neither came to a party room stoush and neither had any substantial backing. I steadfastly stood by Reed on both occasions and didn’t blink.
Apart from selecting a Deputy and settling the Ministry, one of the first real jobs as Chief Minister was the opening of the McArthur River mine. This was an important fillip to the NT economy and has remained so. Prime Minister Paul Keating and I opened the mine jointly on 6 September 1995. He was not too happy sharing the podium since he was of the view that his infrastructure initiative ‘One Nation’8 had delivered the mine.
However, the NT CLP Government had played a critical role in facilitating the project through the passage of the McArthur River Project Agreement Ratification Act 1993 and, a good deal of leg work in the preceding years. Barry Coulter9 had done much of the heavy lifting with Federal Minister Laurie Brereton10 and, before him, Bob Collins. It was one of those ironies that Marshall Perron had a greater claim to the opening than me however he had retired and the baton had passed. It was one of those classic situations where there has been many ‘well diggers’. This is detailed below with the North South railway. My greatest claim was that I was part of the CLP Perron Government that played a defining role in launching the project. There was quite a history that successive CLP Governments had participated in to make the mine a reality. It had been a difficult birth. Formerly known as HYC (‘Here’s Your Chance’), it would translate into one of the world’s largest lead, zinc and silver mines. In 1989 the project had been re-evaluated as a source of a single high-grade bulk zinc-lead-silver concentrate suitable for feeding Imperial Smelting Process smelters and mineral leases were issued to MIM Holdings.
This project dovetailed with the Keating Government announcing the ‘One Nation’ economic program in February 1992. In time, MIM Holdings formed a joint venture with a Japanese consortium ANT Minerals comprising Nippon, Mitsui and Marubeni to develop the resource. A full feasibility study was completed in the period 1992-1993 and the decision made to proceed with the McArthur River project. McArthur River Mining Pty Ltd was formed to operate the mine on behalf of the joint venture partners. The mine commenced commercial operations with an underground mine and processing plant which began in 1995 and has since been expanded to open cut in 2006.
As a footnote, getting a new mine up and going is a major feat. It takes time and a collaborative partnership between the private and public sectors. The Territory is rich in resources and opportunities abound however, there are many challenges largely centred on infrastructure and environmental safeguards. Because mining projects are not immediately visible to the wider public they tend to under-estimate the contribution they make to the local economy that reaches all the way into the urban centres where logistical support is based. Also thinking ahead of the game the Territory Government paid to oversize the gas pipeline beyond what the mine required to provide additional gas capacity for other possible users of gas in that part of the Territory. In any event our investment in the future meant the NT had gas running North South and East. Future generations may well thank us for having the foresight. I trust the NT Government understands the value of this infrastructure and it’s importance to the ongoing future economic development of the Territory.
The other challenge for the Territory Government was to moderate fly in fly out operations and workers camps. This is an ongoing challenge and must be addressed if we are to build sustainable population growth. Perron and I fought this emerging work practice on Groote and at Gove through Royalties. Perron taught me a great lesson in a meeting with senior mining Executives where the threat of increased Royalties delivered the outcome we wanted - buy and employ ‘local’. When you are in Government you are in power - used responsibly, a very powerful tool. In recent times, successive Territory Governments have failed to come to grips with the real power they wield in dealing with big mining companies who invariably have no loyalty to the jurisdictions they inhabit.
The one and only duty of big corporations is to their shareholders and their rapacious behaviour needs to be seen in that context. The Territory needed to grow its population - ‘fly in fly out’ operations didn’t, and still don’t, help. We needed people to put down roots, relocate their families and make the Territory home. Workers camps should always be, at best, temporary until workers can make a transition into the wider community. The same issues remain relevant today. To achieve the outcomes we were fighting for means that, even today, Government must engage the Federal Government. If the solution turns on special incentives crafted between the Federal and Territory Government then make it happen. The continuing urban sprawl around Melbourne and Sydney is not in the national interest, never was, and will come at a far greater cost long term than any tax concessions by way of foregone revenue, or the cost of land grants. A final word on Gove - you can’t blame either Terry Mills or Adam Giles for the closure of the bauxite refinery. That decision was made in London regardless.
There were two decisions that the CLP Chief Minister, as head of government, controlled exclusively – select the Cabinet and set the election date. The NT now has fixed terms parliaments, a decision that should be reversed. In the ALP, the Caucus votes for the Ministry - a guaranteed way to enshrine mediocrity and demonstrated time and again in Labor ranks.
On a personal level, the election and winning was an important political milestone. Having succeeded Marshall Perron I did not have a mandate. A party room vote is no mandate, at best it is an opportunity to get one by facing the people. My authority had not been questioned but I could see the day coming when someone would put their head up.11 Fortunately for me I did not depose my predecessor - the passing of the baton had been seamless and generous. I had worked at a furious pace with the support of my colleagues to get my agenda moving. The pilgrimage to Kalymnos had been a great success and the economy was ‘firing’ as my colleagues and I drove an aggressive economic agenda.
I had a rough idea of when I wanted to call the election. I had worked out at least three prospective dates having regard to all the usual considerations, foremost, that it fell in the ‘dry season’. That meant avoiding all the usual complications of school breaks, football grand finals and major events. Calling an election on a date that pisses people off is always a bad start. All the usual activities of Government had been tidied up - we had ‘cleared the decks’. Policy papers were all squared away, costings done and an election platform settled. Our pre-selections had been completed, funds were at hand and volunteers on stand-by. Party President Suzanne Cavanagh had completed all her tasks, polling was positive so the stars were aligned. I wanted the campaign to be about my performance over the previous two years when I succeeded Marshall Perron on his retirement. Also, law and order reforms including mandatory sentencing for property offences. Further, securing the North South rail connection, building on trade into the region and jobs, jobs and jobs – the economic future of the Territory.
Running interference with my plans was the Native Title Act passed by the Keating Government following the High Court’s decision in Mabo.12 The Act commenced operation on 1 January 1994. Keating had advocated a single, national, uniform approach - except for the Northern Territory where the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which applied only in the NT, would sit alongside Native Title.13 Keating described the Native Title Bill as a chance for equality - equality for all Australians that is, except Territorians. Not unreasonably, both the Perron and Stone Governments rejected such a proposition. I was firmly on the record in 1993 expressing our concerns about the Bill and, as Minister for Mines and Energy, I had delivered a Ministerial Statement setting out in detail the NTs position.14 On becoming Chief Minister this remained an ongoing concern for the NT. The debate about whether Native Title extinguished pastoral leases was a top line issue in the NT. In conjunction with the Premier of Western Australia, Richard Court, I had started working on a series of proposed amendments to the legislation which in time came to be known as the ’10 Point Plan’. At no time was the NT advocating federal legislation to overcome the High Court decision, per se. As history records, the Act has been amended by the Howard Government in 1998 and again in 2007, and by the Rudd Government in 2009. It was always going to be a work in progress.
Keating had been comprehensively defeated in 1996 leaving behind an economic mess and all the uncertainty arising from his great gesture to indigenous Australians – the Native Title Act. Our attempts to deal with the legislation led to allegations of racism regularly articulated in the Assembly by Territory Labor15 and gleefully picked up by southern media. The ALP was unrelenting in their attacks; they seemed determined to set up a race based election that they could turn back onto the CLP. They refused to concede that the Act needed amendment - history would prove them comprehensibly wrong. According to Labor our persistence over certainty of pastoral leases and access to Crown land made us racists and bigots. It was not until mid -1998 that outstanding issues had been resolved by the Howard Government.
Against this background I was attempting to frame a general election strategy. Fairfax media, through the Sydney Morning Herald, would later claim that the 1997 election was race based; an allegation repeated to me by Premier Bob Carr16 at a Premiers Conference. If only I could have looked into a crystal ball and foreseen the recent findings of the NSW ICAC17 centred on the corruption of a number of individuals who were part of his administration I would have had the prefect comeback.
We filed into the Assembly on Tuesday 12 August 1997. There was a heightened sense of anticipation I would call the election that week. I had the form of words in the event I got to my feet. I had hoped to get through the week. The continuing ‘mind games’ with the ALP had them rattled and we still had a few loose ends. I also wanted out of town candidates back in their electorates ready to go.
I underestimated the ferocity of what was awaiting me on that Tuesday. Proceedings commenced with a question from Government member Rick Setter to me as Chief Minister. The tactic was to go through a range of Territory Labor policies to get them firmly on the public record - Native Title and Land Rights was only the beginning.18
Mr Setter: My question is to the Chief Minister. Mr Speaker, can he inform members what jobs might be put at risk if the Labor Party’s policies on native title and land rights were put into effect? Mr Stone: Mr Speaker, I welcome the question from the member from Jingili and …
What followed was thirty seven interjections; rabid, personal and uncoordinated. Typical was one such interjection from the Member for Wanguri, John Bailey.
Mr Bailey: How are you going with your 20 km on your bike each day, you little fat boy?
The Chamber was in up-roar. Bailey was, in time, suspended but the others kept it up. They dared me to call the election as though that represented a win of sorts. I looked across at Mike Reed, asked myself are we ready? I had had enough of the antics and so when I received the call from the Speaker to continue my answer I rose to my feet to do what has occurred on no more than seven previous occasions since 1974 – I called an election.
Mr Speaker: Order! Mr Stone: Mr Speaker, when you vacate the Chair, I intend to wait on His Honour the Administrator and request that he prorogue the Assembly and invite him to issue writs for a general election on 30 August.
I looked across the Chamber – despite what they might say now, they were not expecting that. I looked at Syd Stirling many kilometres from home and wondered what was going through his mind. The ‘die was cast’ and the groundwork laid for one of the worst results ever for Territory Labor. Sometimes you have to be careful about what you wish for.
The 1994 election campaign was run very much as a team comparison – ALP or CLP. Direct comparisons were made between selected individuals. The 1997 election campaign was presidential in style – a clear choice between Shane Stone or Maggie Hickey.19 In both campaigns the theme and approach was determined by our market research. Had Brian Ede20 still been around I suspect we would have stuck with the team comparison approach. Relative to Maggie Hickey the advantages I held heading into the election was five fold – I had succeeded to the leadership by consensus, as an incumbent I had inherited from Marshall Perron a Government largely in good shape. Further, I had been involved in election campaigns since my early twenties so I knew the drill, Suzanne Cavanagh and her team were very experienced and Mark Textor, who I gave his first job, was on my team.
We ran a very tight, well-resourced campaign underpinned by extensive research. Candidates assembled very early at Woods Street, out of town, including Alice Springs joined by telephone. Despite the grumbles, daily instructions were delivered by Suzanne and I and those not cooperating and following the script were marked out for special mention. I enforced a prohibition on candidates dealing directly with media unless personally cleared by me to howls of protest. Candidates were subject to spot audits – door knocking, direct mail, street walks and community events. A schedule of activities was posted daily with rostered candidates. The campaign launch drawing from interstate experience executed at the Darwin Showgrounds by Lisa Pile and Jane de Gault was the best ever. There was a very large turn out, the venue was just right, the enthusiasm and confidence generated was infectious (see Archives Images).
The advertising campaign – TV, radio and print media – was targeted, on message and reinforced by direct personalised mail with Christian name salutations. None of this ‘dear constituent, or ‘dear Territorian’ or no salutation at all. The template for polling day was precise. The use of the wrap and posters featuring the candidate and myself as Chief Minister were centre stage.
‘Fighting for the Territory’
I would later discover that one of my senior colleagues had eliminated all reference to me on the day including on the Chief Minister poster. Some people just didn’t get it. The ultimate result spoke volumes.
There were plenty of irritations, however, it was short campaign and the grumbles gave way to self-congratulatory joy on election night. The CLP was so lucky to have so many electoral geniuses among their elected members - the problem was some of them actually believed they were so blessed.
If I might be allowed, a little triumphalism the 1997 General Election result represented high water mark for the CLP in NT politics. The CLP received 54.7 percent of the first preference vote, an increase of 2.8 percent on the 1994 election result. Territory Labor’s vote was down by 2.9 percent to 38.5 percent. In two party preferred terms support for the CLP increased 1.6 percent to 57.9 percent. The newly elected Legislative Assembly met for the first time on 25 November 1997.
The best result ever for a political party in the NT belongs to Clare Martin and the ALP in 2005.21 Territory Labor won 52.5 percent of the first preference vote an increase of 11.9 percent over the 2001 election. The opposition CLP polled 35.3 percent, a drop of 10.1 percent from 2001. The two party preferred result was Labor on 59.1 percent to the CLP on 40.9 percent, a swing to Labor of 11.1 percent from the previous election. In two party preferred terms the crown belongs to Clare.
The irony is that the two of the most successful Chief Ministers electorally in Territory history were in time both treated shabbily by their respective political parties.
An interesting and relevant footnote relates to the seat of Drysdale. First created in 1997, the former seat of Leanyer was held by Fred Finch, a very successful local member from 1987 to 1997. In the changeover – new member and electorate name – the CLP candidate Stephen Dunham recorded a swing of 3 percent against the CLP down to 54 percent in a three candidate race (ALP was on 28.1 percent). Still a solid result but a pointer to the future had the CLP been paying attention. Dunham had to be spoken to by President Suzanne Cavanagh and me during the campaign. His numbers were off; he was heading for defeat and we did not believe he was actively door knocking or campaigning. There was an acrimonious meeting with Dunham at the CLP secretariat during the campaign about his performance. His pre-election had come as a surprise to me; he was a former Ministerial officer and I had a serious question mark over his capacity. In the 2001 he did better in a two horse race achieving 65.5 percent to the ALPs 34.6 percent. In 2005, in a two candidate race where he was favoured by a redistribution Dunham was defeated with 48.7 percent to the ALP 51.3 percent. A massive 17.5 percent swing resulted in a CLP loss (the NT swing to Labor overall was 12 percent). The electorate having given Territory Labor a go in 2001 confirmed the result in 2005 – particularly to those in the CLP who were in denial over 2001. Dunham had interjected in the Assembly that the electorate had made a mistake and worse, words to the effect ‘the CLP was the natural Party of Government’. Dunham is now an adviser to the Giles CLP Government.
Never a truer saying than:
‘’Success has many parents and failure is an orphan’’.
Finally getting the North South railway over the line was a team effort. I secured the commitment to the North South railway, helped negotiate and delivered the Australasian Railway Corporation and Barry Coulter kept the dream alive when many around him abandoned all hope. In South Australia, first Dean Brown and next John Olsen, followed up by Mile Rann, never lost faith or momentum in the project.
In the NT we did all of the above with the full support of our colleagues in the Perron and Stone Governments. Had Barry Coulter not done all the heavy lifting with the full support of equally dedicated officers in the years preceding 1997 I would never have been able to negotiate the commitment from Prime Minister Howard. The narrative is borne out by comments made by John Howard in Darwin 26 February 1998 when he said:22
‘’Let me also take the opportunity of telling you that the great dream that many Northern Territorians have had for so long and that is to see the realization and the building and the completion and the operation of the Darwin to Alice Springs railway would not have been achieved without the doggedness and persistence of Shane Stone as the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory’’ and the Prime Minister conceded he had become ‘‘a convert to the project in the face of the advocacy of Barry and Shane and of the South Australian Premier John Olsen I came to have a different view’’.
Prime Minister Howard would later repeat that view in his message read at the Testimonial dinner honouring Josie and I in Darwin 26 March 1999:23
'’You have stood up for the Territory and were instrumental in finally getting the Commonwealth Government to support the dream of an Alice Springs to Darwin railway’’.
I recall when I first travelled to see John Howard after his election to office walking into the Prime Ministerial suite hand outreached he quipped:
‘’Don’t mention the railway’’
Later when I accompanied Premier John Olsen he said again:
‘’Don’t mention the railway’’
Dean Brown, John Olsen and I ‘beavered away’ making the case – it was a testimony to how State partnerships can be an effective tool in dealing with the Commonwealth to make a case in support of a project. I would later use the same template with WA to advance the gas project.
The contribution of Dean Brown, John Olsen and Mike Rann were critical to the success of the rail project; if you think about it, the South Australian Premiers courageously supported the building of infrastructure in another jurisdiction using SA taxpayer’s money because they saw the long term upside to their economy. When it came time for John Howard to honour the commitment he gave in 1995 he used up some of his political capital with Cabinet colleagues when he overruled opposition to the rail project. It did not have majority support, notwithstanding, Federal Cabinet approved the project.
I left office and the project continued on. I started to notice that I was being written out of the history. I hadn’t been completely forgotten; when the negotiations reached an important milestone between the Commonwealth, SA and the NT South Australian Premier John Olsen wrote to me on 29 October 1999:
‘’…you were the unacknowledged presence in yesterday’s successful discussions with the Prime Minister over the Adelaide Darwin rail link. Without your earlier energy commitment and drive the project would not have been ready to receive the required Prime Ministerial blessing.’’ and ‘’It was as much your triumph yesterday as anyone’s and I am sure in the years to come when history casts its dispassionate eye over our actions your vital contribution to the development of the Northern Territory will be truly recognised’’.
I was still in the Legislative Assembly when I received the letter. Denis Burke was making the most of the occasion as he was entitled and again the script was selective to suit his purposes. I quietly filed the letter away as I wasn’t going to rain on his parade and so passed up an opportunity in the Adjournment debate to note my contribution - that would not have been in the CLP’s interests.
I was most appreciative of Olsen’s letter and his earlier phone call on the day of the agreement from the Prime Minister’s office. Premier Olsen wanted to convey the news first hand. I never heard from Burke. Olsen had been integral to the finer detail and was the co-signatory to the establishment of the Australasian Railway Corporation in Port Augusta on 26 August 1997. He had been deeply involved dating from his time as Industry Minister in the SA Brown Government before becoming Premier.
As the project neared completion media made inquiries of me for my reaction. Speaking on ABC Stateline 26 September 2003 (see Archives Documents for transcript) The program introduction included in part:
‘’…he wasn’t invited to this weeks’ ceremony marking the completion of the project…something he philosophically accepts’’.
There was little point complaining about such matters as the caravan had rolled on and the glory belonged to those who had inherited the dream - shades of McArthur River. I mulled over the history of the railway and its completion which was a very good development for the Northern Territory.
As the project completed and the train rolled in I still didn’t rate an invitation and I was again struck by the inconsistencies around the event. Prime Minister Howard in Darwin on 17 January 2004 acknowledged Dean Brown and I, he also praised Chief Minister Clare Martin and Premier Mike Rann. The latter had flown his Liberal Party predecessor John Olsen from the USA so he might share in the occasion. In Adelaide, Senator Nick Minchin had acknowledged my role as did Premier Mike Rann. Our Chief Minister ignored her predecessors and in great fan-fare rode into town on a train she once interjected in Parliament was:
“a faded dream”.
Somewhere along the way, Labor had written Gough Whitlam into the script. As Gough rode into town aboard the VIP Prince of Wales carriage he made a claim to be the real architect of the railway. Some of us were just a little bemused by this statement:
“I am delighted Australia has now completed the Transcontinental Railway which my Government and the then Premier of South Australia had inaugurated thirty years ago”.
Murf walked into my office wavering the NT News article about having highlighted the relevant passage. He left without a word but not before he had scribbled ‘what rubbish’ across the article.24 The attempted re-writing of history wasn’t lost on the public. I received a number of letters from Territorians congratulating me on the achievement. I was touched that so many bothered to find me and take time to write and express their thanks. For example, the Pickering family wrote:
'’Our family congratulate and thank you for the very significant part you and your Government, at the time played in the vision, planning and commitment to the Adelaide to Darwin railway. It would appear unfortunately that the present Government had to be publicly prompted and reminded to acknowledge you and your successor’s important roles that made this great national project a reality. As you no doubt are aware all Territorians whatever their political persuasion deep down know who were the individuals and the Party that made the railway a reality’’.
Later a gift set presented to VIPs attending the event was arranged by John Holland Chairman Janet Homes a Court and delivered to my office by the rail operator. John Holland was a consortium member of the project. I thought this a very thoughtful and considered gesture by a woman I have a huge personal regard for.
I am reminded of Federal Opposition leader Simon Crean’s welcome to President Hu Jintao to the Joint Sitting of the Commonwealth Parliament on 24 October 2003. Crean’s speech was a thoughtful contribution that included a reference to the start of the bilateral relationship between China and Australia. Crean said:
‘’On his visit to Australia four years ago, your predecessor, President Jiang Zemin, paid tribute to the pioneers of the relationship between our two great peoples. President Jiang said then: ‘There is an old Chinese saying: when you go to the well to draw water, remember who dug the well’. So it is with great pride that I note the distinguished presence in this chamber of one of those well-diggers – former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam’’.
This was a generous reminder and one that Clare Martin and those advising her might have learned from. I suspect that Dennis Burke was similarly ignored which if so was equally unacceptable. Burke had played his part in the ‘team’ that Barry Coulter spoke about when he wrote to me on 27 August 1997 (Archives Document) following the Prime Ministers announcement a few days earlier on 23 August 1997:
'’It has certainly been a team effort regardless of where individuals live and work and who they represent. The task of convincing the cynics, both professional and amateur, that our railway should be built has never been less than extremely difficult. And without you our team effort would have been diminished’’.
In politics, it is an easy gesture to be generous towards your political predecessors.25 Unfortunately, that generosity of spirit often alludes people on both sides of politics for reasons that escape me. Finally, I don’t underestimate the important role that others in the public service played in finalising the project. As I was Federal President at the time and Peter Conran Federal Cabinet Secretary I was well placed to know who was doing what and about the, at times, protracted financial negotiations. By the time Barry Coulter and I had left parliament the heavy lifting was over and all that remained was to finesse the financial arrangements which at times proved challenging nonetheless. However, the ‘architects’ of the project pre-dated those who would later make claims of success that was not theirs alone.
The railway was always intended for freight, not people. As important as the train has become for Territory tourism the Territory Government must re-engage on freight and the linkage to our Port. The critics and naysayers still abound however like most major infrastructure projects in Australia it will take time to fulfil its destiny as an important trade link between southern parts of Australia and ports beyond Darwin. This is a clear responsibility of the NT Government to re-engage and reconnect with our near neighbours. Meanwhile, we will stoically put up with all and sundry continuing to take the piss out of us as is a time honoured Australian pastime.
I have included euthanasia under Chief Minster although the issue started when I was a Minister but, thereafter, I was left to deal with the aftermath. In my view, the whole episode was a debilitating distraction from the real business of Government. I make no bones about the fact that, white many considered euthanasia an important issue, it did not create a single new job, did not add to the wealth and prosperity of Territorians and diverted Government resources away from the real issues of the day. It was a political indulgence that ended in failure. The most recent parallel is the predictably failed attempt of the ACT Government to legalise gay marriage. As Canberra faces significant reductions in the public sector this was the top line issue for the Gallagher Labor Government. The one positive outcome of euthanasia debate was the enhanced palliative care facilities and support now available to Territorians.
I am pro-life – I oppose euthanasia, abortion and capital punishment. The latter will come as a surprise to many as I was the ‘hard knuckle’ law and order politician of my era. At least I was consistent. The Euthanasia debate provided a rare insight into how parliamentarians respond and react when they are confronted with a conscience vote and can’t hide behind a political party. It’s not easy, particularly when you know that your electorate does not share your view. In Their Own Words I wrote:
“The overturning of the legislation was inconsistent with our aspirations to become a State. For me it was the principle rather than the cause. I remain opposed to euthanasia but not the right of Territorians in a functioning democracy to exercise the same rights and privileges as other Australians; the legislation should have been left to the Legislative Assembly of the NT. In my estimation the legislation would have in time been overturned; in the current Assembly for example there is little support. The enhanced palliative care facilities in the NT and the advances in medical science centred on pain management have done much to address the whole issue of dying with dignity. It is a perverse outcome that the pro euthanasia advocates did more to advance palliative care and medical research than the Right to Life and related organizations. Governments Australia wide including in the NT was forced to react against a background of support for euthanasia in the wider community. Further the ‘battle’ has left residual ill will towards the NT from activist groups opposed to euthanasia which in turn has thrown up another road block to securing support for Statehood from the broader community”.
There was another part of the story that played out behind the scenes that I still smart from. First, it was claimed I was opposed to euthanasia because I was Catholic. Once elected Chief Minister, I chose to defend the legislation. I was vilified by sections of the Catholic Church for not unilaterally overturning the legislation. I reminded members of the Catholic hierarchy that, if they wanted to ensure Catholic men and women would never be elected to Australian Parliaments. persist with such demands that they be Catholic first and Australians second. Catholics are still being successfully wedged in public life today – there was a ham-fisted attempt to make an issue out of Tony Abbott Catholicism; no such attempt over Julia Gillard’s atheism. As matters turned out, the broader Australian public didn’t buy into this nonsense despite the best effort of some.
The conscience vote left in its aftermath a divided CLP parliamentary wing. We had been pitted against each other over the issue and despite best efforts to be respectful of one and other’s position it didn’t quite work out that way. The only consolation was that the same was being played out on the other side. It may have been slated as a conscience vote but that clearly meant different things to different people. When a senior member of Perron’s staff appeared on the balcony overlooking a candle lit vigil against the legislation and gestured towards our Party President Suzanne Cavanagh below, with his hand shaped as a pistol, that removed any semblance of people having the right to decide one way or the other. I don’t for one moment suggest that Marshall condoned such behaviour, I am confident he wouldn’t have. As I was to learn, a lot was done in my name as Chief Minister that I neither approved or instructed.
It is a fiction to believe that a Chief Minister can step outside the persona of head of government to introduce and prosecute a Private Members Bill. It would have been better had Marshall nominated another to undertake the task which he would have strongly supported. Despite all the denials, there were those who felt an obligation to support foremost the Chief Minister. Others were true believers and some were hedging their bets. What was clear to me was that minds were made up and arguments constructed accordingly long before they rose from their seats to speak on the second reading of the Bill. To give most their due, many members of the Assembly made the effort to canvas their electorates and research the topic. They had to - every member was expected to speak. The Bill was probably the most keenly read document in Parliament, next to members individual Superannuation Statements. My speech in the second reading is on the website (Archives Documents). For those who want to read all contributions and have an interest in the background of the Legislation, its passing and subsequent amendment of the Northern Territory (Self Government Act) 1978 the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory has a very good summary on-line.26 Reading back over my second reading speech two particular paragraphs stood out for me:
'’Much has been made of the fact that I am a Catholic. I make no apologies for my faith. In fact, I am probably a fairly poor example. Let me assure people listening to this debate that religion alone has not shaped my thinking on this issue. Those who oppose euthanasia do so usually within the context of diverse religious, philosophical and personal perspectives. Some of the greatest opponents of euthanasia are in fact agnostics or atheists. Real life experience, such as the death of family members, has greatly influenced my thinking. When you hold your father in your arms as he dies, as I did, you have ample opportunity to reflect on death and dying’’.
'’Let me share with members something which I was deeply ashamed of at the time. I recall that, when my father lay dying, after yet another call to the bedside, when doctors failed yet again to predict when he might die, I said in my anguish: ‘Why doesn’t he get it over and done with?’ I was deeply ashamed at the time of having said that, but I am told…that it was not uncommon reaction. Relatives often suffer as much as the patient. The anguish and suffering of relatives is not, however, an argument for euthanasia. Last week, a letter was circulated in the Chamber in support of euthanasia. It set out to relate a real life experience. It was principally about the relatives and not the person who was dying. Without realising it, the person who wrote the letter was, in fact, underscoring the point that we should not kill patients, our loved ones simply to comfort the relatives and the bystanders. A right to die becomes a duty to die’’.
And so I cast my vote against the legislation. I formed up in the Division with the losing side and notwithstanding have not changed my mind. A loyal CLP supporter and constituent George la Sette shouted abuse at me in the Chamber. That was fine - George believed that his local member had let him down and he was entitled to his opinion. One thing for sure I wasn’t about letting myself down and what I believed to be right. Euthanasia is wrong no matter which way you slice and dice it. George campaigned for the CLP in the next election and I was grateful for his support.
A proposed amendment to the third reading was defeated 12 to 13. Thereafter, Mike Reed and Mick Palmer took the view that the numbers were not there to ultimately defeat the legislation and crossed over. Can’t say I agree with their approach as I would rather be remembered for my consistency than simply following the numbers. As an aside, the reality is there was only ever one vote in it; Wes Lanhupuy27 Member for Arnhem, a full blood traditional Aboriginal man delivered the legislation which made a complete nonsense of the claim that the Act targeted indigenous Territorians. On the final count, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill passed 15 to 10. The Act came into operation on 1 July 1996 and was subsequently circumvented by the Commonwealth Parliament on 25 March 1997. Four people took advantage of the legislation including one from inter-state.
Once we had put this chapter behind us we were able to get back to our day jobs – working for the Territory. Some will argue that the Parliament should be about ideas as much as it is about major projects. The social infrastructure of society is I agree as important as physical infrastructure; universal suffrage, the abolition of slavery and anti-discrimination legislation stands out. One positive from the whole episode was that the issue of palliative care was prioritized in a way not seen before. Pro and anti-euthanasia advocates strongly support palliative care as they do medical wills, a Durable Power of Attorney and the right to refuse medical treatment. These are all sensible and mature policies.
To keep matters in context in my observation, pro-euthanasia advocates in my experience are not a ‘bunch of nutters’; they believe passionately in their cause as much as I oppose them. Marshall Perron continues his crusade to have similar legislation introduced in State jurisdictions, so far unsuccessfully. His determination and resolve is not to be under-estimated.
I was never the Treasurer; I left that role to Mike Reed at his request. He was keen to be Treasurer and as Deputy was entitled to pick his portfolio.28 It doesn’t follow that I was an economic illiterate, far from it and nowadays my commercial and corporate engagements are wrapped in financial considerations.
From the moment I joined the Ministry in 1990 I paid attention to the instructive lessons delivered by Barry Coulter to Cabinet complete with his ‘crocodile jaws’ graph, depicting the fluctuating differences between NT revenue and expenditure. My take out from Barry was that some debt was fine as long as it was infrastructure focused and not spent on recurrent expenditures like NTPS wages; we needed to be vigilant and manage NTPS staffing numbers;29 as a Government we otherwise strived to live within our means and we supported and underpinned where necessary the big employers and wealth generators tourism and mining. We were always mindful of our expenditures and despite the accusations of our political opponents that we wasted money we were probably too conservative at times. As Education Minister I learned the hard lesson that if you neglect repairs and maintenance you can pay up to four fold to recover the asset.
On my watch as Chief Minister, the finances were very different from what obtains today – my era was pre-GST and notwithstanding I was one of the original signatories to the new Federal State financial arrangements that came to pass following the introduction of the GST,30 my Government never benefited from those new arrangements. I likened our Federal State financial arrangements as akin to a ‘begging bowl’ experience. As the Premiers Conference rolled round the Commonwealth offer would be slid under the door of our hotel rooms the night before.31 Hard to believe that was how the States and Territories transacted business with the Commonwealth. Also the States and Territories were intensely competitive with each other culminating with the NSW Carr Labor Government running print advertisements against the smaller States and Territories.
I can make the simple comparison of the Perron Stone Governments and what came afterwards by posting three charts prepared from figures available from the Office of the NT Public Service Commissioner and Treasury papers. Those charts are startling and worth some explanation as to what went wrong leading to the NT’s current financial predicament. Based on those charts Perron and I could pat each other on the back and move on. However, given the reluctance of the CLP Government to make the obvious comparisons with NT Labor as part of the narrative leading into the next Territory election it’s worth revisiting the story to give historical context to both the Perron and Stone Governments. The engagement of the former Chief Minister Paul Henderson, who’s Government presided over this disaster, somewhat disinfects Labor from their culpability. The CLP can hardly criticize their ALP predecessors if they have contracted in their expertise (so-called) to govern.
In 2011 I took a close look at the NT’s finances and up until the General Election in 2012, not much had changed. Initially I struggled to get any real visibility as to the NT’s financial circumstances. This obfuscation by the Henderson Government was akin to the antics of the now discredited NSW Labor Government that was also swept from office.
Unlike NSW which is a powerhouse of economic activity underpinned by a large population, the NT is a small jurisdiction with severe limitations and overly dependent on GST revenue. At the time I worked through some of the detail from the NT Government’s own publications. Speaking broadly, the economy of the Territory was and remains fairly patchy; there’s nothing new about that. The NT is an unsophisticated economy that has become reliant on the GST (as it was on Commonwealth Grants during my time) and has an under-performing mining sector. Tourism is under pressure for a variety of reasons not least the Australian dollar which fortunately is now heading in the right direction. Given tourism is our largest employer, currency fluctuations impact our visitor numbers. It is easy to misunderstand the NT economy; cranes on the skyline and a big defence presence are both very visible but do not necessarily equal economic prosperity. In 2011 Defence was predicted at 7.9 percent of our Gross State Product so as important as it is Defence never was and isn’t the driver of our economy. Our employment figures over the last decade are at times misleading and hardly reflective of the fact that 1/3 of the population is ignored.
Under Labor the ever expanding public sector soaked up quite a few workers and the participation rate distorted the overall picture. However, employment figures alone don’t tell the story. The real problem lay in our resources sector which had shrunk over the last ten years and tourism sector being under real pressure. To put matters in context, Territorians have been fortunate with GST receipts; when we negotiated with John Howard for the GST in place of the previous style of Commonwealth Grants we predicted an immediate gain which was achieved in 2001/02 (I had already left the scene). By the end of the 2011 financial year dating from 2001, the Martin and Henderson Labor Governments had received $800 million in GST windfalls in the sense they were funds over and above what was budgeted for within each budget year. These were the GST payments that had been previously advised by the Grants Commission at the beginning of 2011 - money above the increases budgeted for. On top of this, there were increases in GST that were occurring between each year - rivers of gold – what I could have done with those dollars in Government.
One incredible thing was that despite the bounty that the NT enjoyed, the NT Budget papers show 2003/04 was the only year when the Labor Government actually budgeted for a surplus as measured by the standard measure of the Fiscal Balance. They actually did a bit better than that in the next two years, particularly in 2007/08 because there was so much money rushing in at the end of the year they couldn’t spend it all. However, the following years’ budgets always spent all the extra money, plus some. To borrow a phrase from Joe Hockey Territory Labor ‘’had a spending problem’’. If the Martin and Henderson Labor Governments had done nothing more than saved some of this unexpected income when the GST receipts were rocketing upwards, even a little, then the Territory would be in a relatively debt free position today and the Mills and subsequent Giles CLP Governments would not be facing the financial pressure points they do, particularly when it comes to Power and Water. If the Martin and Henderson Labor Governments had employed only 2,000 extra public servants rather than the estimated 5,500 public servants that we know of, the NT would have had over a 1 billion dollars in savings today. The problem is that when the wheel turns and you haven’t put some aside when times are good, it makes it very hard when things are tight.
This “spending problem” was even more pronounced in the later years when the rate for growth of GST revenues tapered off. Just like Federal Labor did with the Mining Tax, the NT Labor Government budgeted for large increases in the GST and spent accordingly and then blamed the non-realisation of the “budgeted” revenue for the increase in the budget deficit. The money simply didn’t arrive and NT Labor was in denial.
Labor squandered the opportunity of a century; their economic credentials, if they ever had any, are truly in tatters. On balance, the CLP had a long history of prudent financial management. By the time Barry Coulter delivered his last Budget to be succeeded by Mike Reed and I retired successive CLP Governments had ferreted away close to $750 million in the ‘Conditions of Service Trust’ designed to protect and anticipate public service wages and superannuation. Long before a Federal Government dreamed up the concept of a Future Fund the CLP had established one – we had our ‘hollow logs’, part of which helped pay for the railway. Perron and Coulter between them with the wise guidance of Under Treasurers Neil Conn and Ken Clarke were the masters of putting money away for a rainy day. To emphasize the point, if the extra revenue had been used to reduce superannuation liabilities or spent on capital purposes such as reducing debt or capital works, the Territory would be in great shape.
Instead the money was spent on an ever burgeoning public service which increased almost 40 percent in ten years of Labor (14,400 in 2002 increased to 19,900 in 2012 an increase of 38 percent).
Government overhauled the NTPS Superannuation Schemes in 2001. The longer service of existing public sector employees and wage increases to those still in the old schemes had the effect of compounding the superannuation liabilities which had gone up by 70 percent over the same period confirming where the extra money went – wages. We don’t know the actual public sector numbers on Labor’s watch as ‘consultants’ were engaged across all Departments and distorted the real numbers. Again this was an exercise in obfuscation.
The Territory’s General Government net debt was $1.2 billion thereabouts as at 30 June 2011; the same as when the Burke Government fell in 2001. What a missed opportunity for the ALP to prove they were better than us. What should concern Territorians now is that by 2015/16, on the Henderson Government’s own figures and predictions the General Government net debt was forecast at $3.6 billion.
When you add Power and Water and other much smaller business type entities, the Net Debt for the NT’s Non-Financial Public sector was projected to be $5.5 billion. That figure does not include superannuation liabilities. For that you can add at least a further $2.7 billion. That rounds us out at $8.2 billion. If you were a corporate entity you would have been getting some insolvency advice at this point.
Faced with that number it prompts the question how much is the NT getting from Canberra going forward. The projected Commonwealth payments – Specific Purposes and General Revenue Assistance – over the next four years according to the most recent Commonwealth Budget Paper 3180 are fairly modest.
At least the GST is expected to increase in the time ahead but that won’t materialize if the economy doesn’t get moving. Confidence remains flat and consumer confidence marginal. Also at least a third of every one of those figures comprises specific purpose grants. Specific means granted for a purpose like health, education, roads – not wages or superannuation provisions. Monies in – monies out; the Martin Henderson Governments were living beyond their means borrowing more money to survive. Schools, hospitals, roads, police, infrastructure, public parks and amenities were all sacrificed just like under Labor in NSW.
In summary, my economic snapshot is that Territory Labor did well for a while and did salt some money away, and that was what led to the reduction in Net Debt for a time. Full credit to Clare Martin and Syd Stirling. As their political fortunes faded they started to panic and lost their resolve. Territory debt increased rapidly despite the massive increase in financial capacity which should have placed the NT in a relatively safe position for the future with minimal debt and other liabilities including superannuation. Territory Labor blew it and the CLP Government needs to make sure that Territorians understand the narrative.
Territory Labor squandered an unprecedented opportunity that even on their revenue estimates was not going to continue. Worse Territory Labor left Territorians with a legacy of a large, growing wages bill and increasing debt to unsustainable levels. Territory Labor did nothing to reduce the mounting superannuation liability, when they had the perfect opportunity to do so. Despite all their protestations as to who did what, Territory Labor’s hospital pass on Power and Water remains one of the greatest challenges facing the Giles Government. Labor’s attempt to blame former CLP Governments for the woes of Power and Water falls flat when we now know they had the money to deal with all the issues and they were the Government for over a decade. To quote a Ruddism: ‘’fair suck of the sauce bottle’’.
For the simple and startling comparison look at the graph NT Net Debt; it provides a useful insight into fiscal performance of successive NT Governments – CLP and ALP. The evidence of Territory Labor financial incompetence is plain to see.
The massive growth in the public service also points to a Government that had lost its way. By way of background NTPS numbers had remained relatively stable from 1983 to 2002. They increased modestly from 2002 to 2008 (again full credit to Clare Martin and Syd Stirling) and thereafter accelerated to an alarming rate to current levels. Some of these increases were a consequence of tied grants but the larger proportion involved NT discretionary funds. Surprisingly, the ever increasing NTPS numbers was the single largest expenditure component of the Government and continued even when revenue growth expectations were not realised. It’s as though no one was in charge; I am yet to hear former Treasurer Delia Laurie explain why she allowed this to happen.32 For NT Labor there is no getting away from the fact that the role of Treasurer was rotated between Henderson and Laurie and both are responsible.
The Territory Labor Government just kept spending at an ever increasing rate and made no real attempt to adjust to the new circumstances. The NT’s financial predicament today (including Power and Water and increased power prices) is a direct consequence of Territory Labor’s financial mismanagement. This I had pointed out in my letter to the Editor in 2009.33 Had the NT experienced a marked increase in population such increases might be acceptable but it wasn’t the case. In the decade to 2002 which largely mirrors the Perron Stone Governments the Territory population grew by 18 percent. The corresponding growth in the NTPS in real numbers was an extra 300. In the decade following the defeat of the Burke CLP Government the population grew by an equivalent 18 percent. Here’s the rub under Territory Labor - the NTPS grew by a whopping 5,500 in real numbers - a 38 percent increase. At an average cost of approximately $1m per annum for every ten public servants employed, it’s not hard to see why Labor’s debt legacy is growing so rapidly, creating a rising burden on current and future generations of Territorians to pay for it.
Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services (First Stone Ministry 26 May 1995 to 30 June 1995. Second Stone Ministry 1 July 1995 to 20 June 1996. Third Stone Ministry 21 June 1996 to 1 July 1997. Fourth Stone Ministry 2 July 1997 to 14 September 1997)
The day that Martin Bryant murdered 35 people (23 wounded) at Port Arthur, Australia changed forever. 28 April 1996 was a day of infamy that affected us all. John Howard had been elected Prime Minister 2 March 1996 - 2 months in and he was dealing with a crisis of unimaginable horror. Also new on the ‘political block’ was Tony Rundle elected Premier of Tasmania on 18 March 1996. This tragedy was a lousy introduction to their respective leadership. Rundle had asked Howard to come to Tasmania to stand alongside him; I would do likewise in 1998 when the Katherine floods wiped out the town. As Howard noted in his autobiography:34
‘’The gun control drama illustrated both the unpredictability of politics and the reality that public perceptions of a PM are often shaped by how he responds to unexpected crisis’’.
Howard and Rundle stoically fronted the endless media conferences; consoled the families of victims and re-assured the Nation.
In his own words John Howard ‘’had passed a very important character test’’.
Tony Rundle was not rewarded by Tasmanians for his role - his Government was defeated 14 September 1998. A dignified compassionate individual Tony did not deserve to be treated in that way but the poor performing Tasmanian economy overtook him. Later there would be resistance to the uniform firearms legislation in Tasmania of all places. As Chief Minister I had become the Northern Territory Minister for Police on 1 July 1995 and was about to be thrust into an unwelcome limelight before I knew it.
In the aftermath Prime Minister Howard resolved to force change to firearms legislation Australia wide, an ambitious task. Despite strong public support some jurisdictions tried to buck the push. Howard was adamant and threatened a referendum and federal firearms legislation – he meant it. Federal Cabinet had already decided on 6 May 1996 to prohibit the importation of all semi-automatic and automatic firearms but legislation controlling existing weapons already in Australia were the domain of the States and Territories.
Police Ministers were called to Canberra to meet with Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams on 10 May 1996; I was the only head of Government among them. Premiers should have been there rather than entrusting the discussion to a number of relatively junior Ministers. Clearly, some were playing for time as the noisy wheel of fringe groups had started to agitate against change. On the other side of the barricades, were those who saw an opportunity to disarm the Nation. Agreement on a raft of issues alluded us when John Howard stormed into the Cabinet room set aside for our meeting. He was in no mood for compromise; angry, agitated and annoyed the Prime Minister was on the war path and would have his way. He threatened federal intervention; funding cuts; mused on a referendum35 – whatever it would take and, more to the point, he had public opinion in the main population centres on his side. Daryl Smeaton, the senior public servant in attendance, had made a number of very sensible suggestions including the Commonwealth funding the gun buy back scheme. John Howard recalls in his autobiography the WA Police Minister Bob Weiss pushing back. I was not the least bit surprised; he was from WA and that’s what they do regardless of the issue. What surprised me was why Bob was having the fight given WA legislation was already a lot stronger than a number of other jurisdictions - that all got lost in the argument. The pressure on Daryl Williams was enormous as Attorney and a federal member from WA. In the final wash an agreement of sorts was hammered out and largely complied with.
On my return, I delivered a Ministerial Statement on the meeting 14 May 1996;36 and the NT Legislative Assembly Moved a Condolence Motion that same day.37 I don’t doubt that the States and Territories could have tried to stand the Prime Minister up if they had the nerve but this was a fight not worth having. I formed a view early on that what Howard was proposing was the right thing; people shouldn’t have access to self-loading military style weapons. I had seen firsthand in the services the effect of such fire power and didn’t need convincing. I had some colleagues who were nervous of the reaction in their electorates. We needed to be sensible and as matters transpired we were. I had advanced a couple of compromises which others would not embrace and would later fight to defend the existing legislation as it obtained to hand guns.
First task was to separate the fiction from the facts. I half expected that our existing firearms legislation would be found wanting but it wasn’t. The larger jurisdictions of QLD and NSW were the problem. Remarkably in Tasmania the sentiment was against change. Our legislation was modeled on South Australia and Western Australia. We had the most stringent firearms legislation in Australia. In the final wash up our amendments were minor. When I tabled the draft Firearms Bill38 21 August 1996 (see Archives Documents) the heat had largely gone out of the issue in the NT although some groups continued to agitate. Mike Reed on my behalf introduced the Firearms Bill Second Reading on 26 November 199639 (see Archives Documents). One petition signed by 4249 Territorians was presented to the Legislative Assembly against the proposed amendments on 20 February 1997. It had been sent to me to table and was clearly intended to test my resolve - this was a sizable petition for our part of the world. However, I was not for turning. Again I had a group telling me I would be swept from office 6 months out from the biggest electoral victory in the CLP’s history. The legislation was passed after a marathon sitting on 27 February 1997 following extensive debate and amendment.40 The legislation was further amended after I had left the Assembly.
Throughout it all we had our moments with one individual ‘of interest’ causing NT police concern. Task Force officers slept in our home in Zealandia Crescent over three nights as a precaution - a very unsettling experience. I was assigned ‘close personal protection’ with Sergeant Jo Smith from the NT Police Task Force. I came to like Jo very much and he remained on my staff for an extended period long after the threat had passed - we all liked having Joe around. He once asked me whether he needed to get a passport. I think I greatly disappointed him when I advised that wouldn’t be necessary. It was a bad day when the Chief Minister of the NT needed police protection; we always prided ourselves on the accessibility of politicians in the NT. We mixed in the community, our numbers were in the phone book as were our addresses. Suddenly, the tragedy of Port Arthur reached all the way to Darwin.
The events of Port Arthur forced the Nation to confront gun control in a way that has eluded other countries. I could have taken a populist approach in the NT but it wasn’t the right thing to do. As I keep reminding others – get the policy right and the politics follow.
As I am writing about police related matters this is a convenient opportunity to comment directly on Police, Fire and Emergency Services and the ambulance service.
Starting with the ‘ambos’ for those not aware the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem otherwise known as St. John’s Ambulance has been entrusted with responsibility for the ambulance service in the NT over forty years.41 This arrangement dates from 1976 following Cyclone Tracey.42 St. John’s have done an outstanding job for decades and to this day I never understood the attempt of the Martin Government to strip them of their contract to provide the service. Fortunately, that did not come to pass - the counter campaign tactics was designed by Murf on behalf of St. John’s. He also thwarted the ambitions of Treasurer Syd Stirling to privatize the Territory Insurance Office (TIO). I have often wondered whether Labor knew he was in the back ground on both occasions, and more.
My relationship with the NT Police dated back to Alice Springs where on occasion I appeared for members of the NT Police Association. Notwithstanding that I was often on the opposite side of the bar table I had respect for the men and women who comprised our NT police force. Spat on, kicked, belted, scratched, abused, and traumatized – NT police are a remarkable group of dedicated men and woman. I had appeared regularly in Alice, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Nhulunbuy and was often engaged in long drawn our contests on behalf of clients. At times long periods of cross examination did not endear me to certain police who saw me as an extension of the accused. I noticed however whenever the boot was on the other foot they would seek me out to represent them - I took that as a compliment. It’s a tough gig being a copper and I have long held the view that as a community we don’t do enough in support. Post politics Josie and I gave some modest support to Police Legacy, a very worthy cause. I once saw a bumper sticker that carried a very poignant message:
“Stand up for Police or stand up for yourself”.
In Government, I quickly worked out that the best way to deal with police was threefold – stand up for them, tell their story and take time with them. Throughout my tenure in the portfolio I spoke regularly about police.43 I fronted every graduation ceremony I could so that they knew from day one the NT Government valued their service and sacrifice (Archives Images). I socialised with police and hosted drinks on the Chief Ministers balcony regularly. I wanted NT police to know I appreciated them and what they contributed to our community. In Government I worked hard in the portfolio to advance their interests where I could. Pay and conditions were a constant balancing act as were police numbers. The recurring argument over police numbers are, in my view, a furphy; it’s how you deploy the numbers at your disposal that matters. Brian Bates was an outstanding Commissioner; fearless in his representations and advocacy on behalf of the service (‘force’ if you were talking to the Association). The Association office bearers were inevitably ‘old school’ and dedicated none the less to the interests of their members. Wendy Brown, Gowan Carter aka ‘Angry’, Garry Mosley, Shaun O’Sullivan aka ‘Mulligan’, Peter Thomas, Andy Smith aka ‘Smithy’, Max Hill, Jack Clifford and more recently Sean Parnell and Vince Kelly among them.
I initiated a tri-service memorial for Police Fire and Emergency services on the Esplanade in 1998; I thought it important that they have their own memorial to mark the sacrifice of police officers in the line of duty. Turns out the Police Association still want their own stand alone and to my disappointment have not made use of the memorial in the way it was intended. National Police Memorial Day may date from 2001 but well before my time there was always an annual remembrance service held at St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral and other commemorations. Since 1962, the members of Lodge Foelsche have conducted an annual graveside service to commemorate the life and service of Paul Foelsche to the people of the Northern Territory at the old cemetery attaching to the Folsche Masonic Lodge in Parap. I dutifully attended to make my respects to the great man.
The Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service (NTFRS) manage fires and other emergencies in the major NT towns while Bushfires NT, as elsewhere, is largely comprised of volunteers with a small core of full time officers. They are the primary provider of fire and rescue services throughout the Territory. Bushfires NT work in parallel. NTFRS manage bushfires in the more populous parts of the Darwin rural area, while Bushfires NT are responsible for the outer areas which comprise approximately 99 percent of the Northern Territory. Over the decades, these volunteers have given of themselves to protect and serve our community. As Minister and Chief Minister I was always keen to get out and about to praise their efforts.44 When money was tight we could not always provide the level of support needed. I was so impressed by the level of commitment in the NT that post politics where ever I see an opportunity to provide support I do. As Chairman of Energex my support for SES in QLD is a direct consequence of my Territory experience. If I could slip a trailer or two over the border I would.
The ‘firies’ Number 1 Station and main training centre was located in Stuart Park which made it into my electorate. An independent, rugged and at times assertive bunch, I got the distinct impression they were not that fussed on politicians (particularly of the CLP variety). I dutifully attended graduations and training displays when requested. I finally worked the ‘firies’ out when I engaged a contractor and his mate to lay a path for me at Zealandia Crescent. One morning when I went down into the garden to see how they were doing the conversation turned to jobs. It turned out that both were moonlighting firemen; the inevitable question came up - ‘’What do you do mate?’’ I managed to evade the question and just went with the flow. When I had a pool built in the backyard the contactor asked me to go buy two slabs of ‘green cans’. Why I asked? He responded ‘’The ‘firies’ are coming round to fill the pool - it costs two slabs’’. I complied and remained in the house as they connected the hoses to the fire hydrant on the footpath. Later Mick Palmer told me I got ripped off – the going rate was one slab. No wonder PAWA had a shortfall on water revenues. Nowadays PSEMA guidelines on ‘Conflict of Interest’ and half a dozen other instruments administered by a legion of officials and no doubt audited by another agency have put paid to such outrageous conduct. However, that’s who we were and that’s how things got done back then.
As far back as I can remember I held Republican sympathies. I struggled with the notion that we Australians didn’t have our own homegrown head of State. I understand the proposition that the Governor General is the Head of State as the Queen’s representative and that position has in recent times been occupied by an Australian. I believe if you ask people on the street regardless of their views on the substantive issue they would be confused and probably don’t care. My views were never driven by anti-British sentiment or antipathy towards the Crown. From school I had an appreciation of the Commonwealth and, although it’s a separate issue, have been opposed to changing the flag. To me, the latter proposal is ‘messing’ with our history. Supporters of the Republic who confuse the two issues do the republican cause harm. My support for the Republic was always contingent on remaining in the Commonwealth and I know that was foremost in the consideration of the Sovereign. Other republics take their place in the Commonwealth and all acknowledge the Crown as the head of the Commonwealth - may it always be so.
Nowadays I describe myself as an ‘Elizabethan’, having almost travelled full circle. As the Republic moved to centre stage in Australia in the early 1990’s, I publicly identified with the cause. My predecessor Marshall Perron ensured that the NT Legislative Assembly was the first Parliament in Australia to debate the topic and I rose on the occasion to nail my colours firmly to the mast of the Republic.45 We were well ahead of the Republic Advisory Committee, chaired by Malcolm Turnbull46 of the Australian Republican Movement who submitted a report to the Government on 5 October 1993. Thereafter, Keating announced a working party of ministers to develop a paper for cabinet and ultimately put forward a minimalist republican model. It was however John Howard who gave Australians the opportunity to participate in a Convention and vote in a Referendum – not Paul Keating.47
As Chief Minister, I was an active participant in the Republican Convention convened by the Howard Government.48 I was aligned with the ‘direct elect’49 advocates at odds with the ‘minimalist’ republicans led by Malcolm Turnbull. I had some very strange bed fellows including Pat O’Shane, Phil Cleary, Paul Tully and Moira Rayner - all long-term opponents of everything I stood for except on this solitary occasion. Pat O’Shane kept looking at me sideways as though she was in a bad dream. Some of the ‘direct elect’ proponents would go onto vote against the Republic or not vote at all. Unlike others who were going with the flow for fear of upsetting old alliances and political affiliations I fought energetically behind the scenes to try and hold the republican vote together. Notwithstanding Malcolm Turnbull’s at times imperious approach, whereby he managed to offend many who opposed him in contrast I worked closely with Neville Wran,50 Janet Homes a Court,51 George Pell52 and Mike Rann53 to keep the two camps together. Malcolm’s heart was in the right place but he doesn’t suffer fools and was completely focused on his end goal. As he would prove in his pursuit of the Federal seat of Wentworth he is a human Exocet missile and best not to get in the way.
The republicans may have had a measure of success at the Convention as the model of a bipartisan appointment of the President was carried, but ultimately lost the war. The referendum was defeated on 6 November 1998.54 It was a bad year for referendums bearing out the theory that Australians are quite contrary when it comes to such proposals. The preferred model on the floor of the Convention carried the day largely assisted by direct-elect advocates who voted it through or abstained when urged by the Monarchists to vote it down.55 It was that model Prime Minister Howard put to the Australian people. My preferred option was not supported but I campaigned and voted for what came to be referred to as the ‘minimalist model’ when the referendum vote was held; many of the direct elect republicans did not - shades of Statehood.
The genesis of the overwhelmingly defeat of the referendum was a divided republican movement.56 It is my belief that it will remain so for generations to come. The lessons from the Northern Territory Statehood referendum were not lost on me - better half a pie than no pie at all. Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) successfully wedged the republican camps and notwithstanding they didn’t carry the day at the Convention persuaded the Australian electorate to overwhelming reject the YES case. Much of the ACM success was leveraged off the back of Tony Abbott’s refrain:57
‘’You can’t trust politicians to select the President’’.
Fast forward thirteen years and I tend to agree. The passion over the Republic has largely dissipated however the way in which the Parliament operated in the last term raised serious question marks about the election of a President in such an environment. The election of the turncoat Liberal MP Peter Slipper as the Speaker, one of the most important roles in our democracy to shore up the failing Gillard Labor Government was a reality check. I thought at the time a Government intent on clinging to power ‘’no matter what it takes’’58 prepared to install ‘Slippery Pete’ as Speaker could not be trusted to do what was right by Australians. Some might argue that there is no such comparison; to start had the minimalist model been adopted the selection was to be bi-partisan and not determined by a simple majority. Maybe so, but what the conduct around Slipper proved is that Governments are prepared to do deals and a Head of State should never be chosen in that way.
For me, it’s no longer about a Queen or King in a far off place but rather who the Parliament of the day would elect. What this episode brought home to me was that a desperate Government will always do whatever it takes to cling to the Treasury benches – in this case the Labor Government and their conservative Independent accomplices. This demonstration of cynical political manipulation has reaffirmed my belief that unless the President is directly elected by the people then the Constitutional Monarchy should prevail. I don’t believe that is going to happen any time soon.
John Howard has consistently raised the concern that a direct elect President might claim a competing mandate to an elected Prime Minister and that would be problematic (for the Prime Minister). The recent mutterings of the outgoing Governor General Quentin Bryce on the republic plays to such fears. If Quentin thought she was being helpful making those remarks whilst still Governor General she wasn’t. I thought that would have been obvious.59 In any event I have moved on and have been helped in that direction by planned amendments to the Succession removing the rule of primogeniture and in part removing the unjust discrimination against Catholics. The selection of a Catholic godparent to Prince George reaffirmed a new welcome attitude to my faith. More to the point I am very much at ease with a continuing Constitutional Monarch subject to performance given the known quality of what is coming; a mature Crown Prince who has served a very long apprenticeship to succeed as King Charles III and his son William who with his wife Kate have engaged and inspired the Commonwealth – the republicans worst nightmare. In my view Australian’s have a better idea of what lies ahead than the vagaries of a Parliament or for that matter the wider electorate.
Recasting a vote today, I would retain the Constitutional Monarch. The republic will only get my vote if it is ‘direct elect’. If I might also be a little controversial, I see no bar to a member of the Royal family occupying the position of Governor General. Even with my republican disposition, I thought it very short sighted that Prince Charles, who had completed part of his schooling In Australia and will be the Monarch as King of Australia was not afforded the opportunity.60 Hawke’s republic never materialized – didn’t even come close. Hawke’s view appeared subsequently to enjoy a level of support from John Howard. Quoted on Southern Cross Radio Prime Minister Howard said:61
“We have for a long time embraced the idea that the person who occupies that post should be in every way an Australian citizen”.
In the hype of the Republic and its lingering aftermath, that was probably so but times have changed. As a Nation we have well and truly moved on despite the ‘gushing’ and nauseating enthusiasm of the commentariat suggesting retiring Governor General Quentin Bryce has re-ignited the Republican debate. If we are part of the Commonwealth and Charles and William are destined to be the King of Australia I cannot see the objection other than the manufactured assertion that the Governor General must be a long term permanent citizen – who decided that? In any event the Republic has been and gone and not likely to be seen again in my lifetime so we should deal with what is and not what might be. Australia is a constitutional monarchy - the people of Australia exercising their democratic rights decided so. It’s official (indeed, for the first time with a popular mandate) and fiddling around the edges trying to pretend that we are not is nonsense. ‘Republican creep’ like booting the Governor of NSW out of the official residence, changing oaths of allegiance, removing the Sovereigns portrait and abolishing the Knights and Dames of Australia on a whim smack of a ‘we know best’ attitude. We lost, in fact we were thrashed.
If at some future time Prince William was willing to serve as Governor General of Australia in my assessment Australians would embrace him. Such an appointment wouldn’t interfere in the right of Australians to re-visit the Republic issue one day. On who should decide I believe that it is a matter exclusively for the Government of the day. Monarchists urging the decision revert to the Sovereign undermine the very principles that underpin a constitutional monarchy.62
I lament the Statehood referendum result as my worst failure in public life. Some close to me say that I am obsessing over an event that was of less importance than winning an election. It is suggested that Statehood was a priority of the political elite and commentariat and not the broader constituency many of whom came and went from the NT without a second thought about constitutional development. I disagree – for the CLP it was an article of faith. We were the Party of ‘Self Government’ and we would be the Party of ‘Statehood’. Our Party has been defined by the quest for Statehood and it remains unfinished business.
I responded fully to the questions put to me about Statehood in the publication co-Edited by former Chief Minister Clare Martin ‘In Their Own Words’. I accepted responsibility for the defeat of the Referendum – nothing has changed. In the court of public opinion I was out manoeuvred by my opponents and in turn presided over an inept campaign – the people involved worked for me so I am responsible. However, I do have a view on the history, dynamics and role of others who have sought to excuse themselves from any culpability including CLP colleagues who could have done more. Some colleagues tried harder than others but ALP members didn’t try at all.
True to form the ALP, who had opposed Self-Government, did all they could to scuttle Statehood. They sent their supporters to man the NO case at polling booths the length and breadth of the NT many of them unashamedly captured on film. The ALP worked hand in glove with the Land Councils on the mobile polling booths to promote the NO vote. The Land Councils at the time were among their core constituencies and they were not about to venture onto their patch advocating a YES vote. Notwithstanding my criticism of the ALP I understand the importance of keeping your base close; Labor had an irreconcilable challenge that is no longer in play.
It is time the ABC stopped perpetuating the myth that the referendum enjoyed bipartisan support; it did not. ALP bipartisanship was only on offer when they were getting what they wanted. There is no such beast as bipartisanship unless the other side can gain more from it than the side offering it. The evidence remains overwhelming. It is remarkable however that notwithstanding ALP treachery we almost made it; regrettably in the political arena there is no second prize. For those in the Land Councils who opposed the Federal Invention ponder this – short of the Commonwealth retaining control over indigenous affairs had the NT been a State the Federal Government would have been constrained.
The seeds of defeat of Statehood were planted long before the event. We won the 1997 election with a crushing victory over Labor – good but also bad. I had set myself up for a fall with such a result; the electorate always welcomes the opportunity to bring their leaders down a peg or two and the referendum on Statehood was to prove an ideal opportunity. Further I misread the 1997 result as a mandate to get on with Statehood on my terms. The reality is no Chief Minister has ever had a mandate for Statehood; we have all mouthed the rhetoric and championed the cause but the electorate has never been jumping out of its skin over the issue even during the overturning of euthanasia. A recurring mistake was to confuse the overwhelming public support around Australia in times past for NT Statehood as evidenced from a number of polls with a relatively small majority of support among Territorians (Newspoll of 2 April 1995 is an example). This support inter-state is not to be confused with the reservations of number of State Governments and other key stakeholders who were not entirely happy about a new entrant and among other things what that might do to the make-up of the Federal Parliament.
The Submission of the Department of Chief Minister dated 22 January 1999 to the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee of the Legislative Assembly sets out all the polling – published and private; it makes for depressing reading.63
There were a number of other mistakes along the way, clear in hindsight and largely of my making. The triumphal announcement in Canberra with John Howard and I in the Prime Ministers Courtyard made for great media but sent the very message my predecessors and I had railed against in the Territory – a decision imposed by Canberra. That wasn’t the case but that’s what it looked like – the Howard Stone Axis telling Territorians what was good for them. It was further compounded by my Ministerial Statement in the Legislative Assembly where I proceeded to tell Territorians what was good for them – according to Stone and Howard. The assumption was that Territorians ‘were chaffing at the bit’ for Statehood which we now know they weren’t. Second, we were in too great a hurry. The moment you set dates such as the Centenary of Federation or Self-Government Anniversaries they become the compelling objective rather than taking the electorate with you and getting the detail right. There was no rush and an incremental approach over the life of a number of Parliaments would have been more sensible. Third, for me to be overseas during a critical part of the campaign was a terrible mistake. It was akin to the Commander in Chief vacating the field of battle to go on annual leave; I was in Ireland as the Attorney General attending a world DPP Conference. By the time I returned to Darwin the unfolding disaster was like a runaway train as I scrambled to rally the public and CLP membership to avert the impending disaster. It was also a mistake to run the referendum on the same day as the Federal election - a salutary lesson. Nick Dondas would later claim that he lost the federal seat because of this dynamic alone; an amusing proposition that had the backing of Senator Grant Tambling.
The Constitutional Convention reinforced many of the negative perceptions including that of Territorians being railroaded on Statehood. The Convention also provided a platform for those opposed to Statehood to cement their relative positions. The walk out by the Indigenous delegation was meant to inflict maximum political damage; I have no doubt it was planned and executed with that outcome in mind. Notwithstanding a number of important principles were agreed and a framework settled going forward. It was a worthwhile exercise and one that can be built on in the future. The Chairman Austin Asche, and Co-Chairmen Jim Robertson and Bob Collins, did a solid job of steering the Convention towards a number of sensible resolutions. Behind the scenes, Jim Robertson, the Territory’s first Minister for Constitutional Development, played a critically important role in persuading delegates towards sensible out comes. The reality was that the Prime Minister was not going to be bound by the Convention and the wording of any proposed Constitution in any event however he could hardly ignore it in its totality.
This underscores the fundamental and recurring mistake we make in the Territory about Statehood and our approach. Technically it’s not our call; it is a gift of the Commonwealth who could proceed with or without a referendum. The Commonwealth writes the Constitution not Territorians. John Howard rang me after the vote to commiserate and see whether I still wanted to push on. I thanked him for his support but the vote was in, although marginal 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent it was ‘NO’. A case in point the ACT voted NO to Self-Government but were ignored.64
The continuing commentary in the NT on Statehood is at times misinformed and belies a complete lack of understanding of the Self Government Act. Why was I so bullish in my approach? Simply put we had a Prime Minister who for the first time agreed to abide a referendum; he approved the question (but not to the wording of any Constitution we might put up); we have never had a Prime Minster go out on limb for us in the way John Howard did and in the future probably never will. John Howard never backed away from his support which dated from an interview he gave in Alice Springs in 1987.65 Speaking in Darwin in 1998 some seven months before the referendum, he said:66
“Can I also say as a member of a party as long as twenty two years (a reference to the Fraser Government) ago presented itself to the principle of Statehood for the Northern Territory, let me repeat the assurance I gave to Shane Stone shortly after I became Prime Minister, and that is that my Government and two Coalition parties that I lead in the National Government of Australia remain absolutely committed to the achievement of full Statehood for the Northern Territory’’.
The plan was that Statehood would coincide with the Centenary of Federation in 2001. In retrospect, an overly ambitious milestone leaving only three years to sort through the detail at a Federal level. I had an in principle agreement on 4 Senators but the remainder was a work in progress; there was no way the Commonwealth or the States would agree to a full quota of 12 Senators.67 Whenever I secured ‘in principle’ support for Statehood at COAG or a Leaders Forums it was always on the basis that we would not push for the full quota of 12 Senators. That was an argument for another day contingent on population growth and post a grant of Statehood. The Centenary came and went and in any event we missed the moment when we voted NO in 1998. I very much doubt Statehood would have been achieved given the then composition of the Senate. Today, Canberra is interested in less States, not more despite the platitudes of Federal leaders since. Also, to the surprise of many Paul Everingham once a champion of NT Statehood, has since called for the abolition of the States.68
To put things in context, seized with the support of John Howard I was in a hurry to get it done; I was not, as Clare Martin once sought to imply, ‘interested in my place in history’. In the NT the Constitutional Committee with its indeterminable deliberations had become a roadblock. The Party room had little confidence in our views being prosecuted on the Committee. Worse we had a mishmash of ideas on various issues but no cohesive policy on what we wanted in or out of a Constitution. This contrasted sharply with the ALP who was intent on changing the voting system to break CLP dominance. Decisions taken in our approach to Statehood were endorsed in the Party Room so it was disingenuous of others to claim I was off on a frolic of my own. I certainly had strong views on some of the ideas that were being advocated and bandied about including reserved Indigenous seats (since proved unnecessary given how many sit in the Assembly on their merits and not because of a token quota), recognition of traditional law setting up ‘two laws in the NT’ and changing the voting system to Proportional Preferential – Hare Clark as in Tasmania and the ACT.
I have been asked why I didn’t just go along with the Committee; let them run their course and have the Convention of their dreams. The path of least resistance would have been to lie down and give Labor and the Aboriginal industry everything they wanted and back flip once we got through the referendum. That was not my style.
At the Federal level we were operating in an environment where the Government of the day did not have a working majority in the Australian Senate; first hurdle was to arm the Howard Government with a YES vote. We did not know what the future held but it was one step at a time and passage through the House of Representatives was going to be a lengthy process on the legislative program. The makeup of the then Senate would have been somewhat hostile to our conservative aspirations but negotiable.
Ironically, had Territorians voted YES the legislation would ultimately have been deliberated by a Parliament where both Chambers were controlled by the Howard Coalition Government and Clare Martin would have been the first Premier of the NT; thus securing ‘her position in history’.
As the serving Federal President of the Liberal Party during the Howard Government I was well positioned to make sure that no one on my side of the political fence ran interference; there were some ‘moderate’ Liberals who were never comfortable with the CLP and our approach to Government. Another wasted opportunity went by the board; imagine today what the ‘lunatic fringe’ of the Greens would seek to impose on Territorians. The risk would be so great that one could justifiably vote NO unless there was real certainty about what comprised our Constitution.
The whole exercise was a failure of communication tainted by political opportunism. The palatable ignorance of some people who for example claimed they would vote YES next time must have them wondering what happened to the second chance – thirteen years on. In my view, it is most unlikely in the foreseeable future there will be a second chance and any further support is not there among Territorians today. To rub salt in the wounds, most of the naysayers have left the NT. It was not possible to achieve a bipartisan approach; the ALP’s key constituency at that time would not have agreed.69 I have read with interest some of the unchallenged evidence post the referendum and media coverage in the immediate aftermath. John Bailey, the former NT Labor member for Wanguri, gave evidence before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (referred to below). Bailey claimed the result turned on the role of me alone; ‘squarely at my feet’ as the ABC like reporting.
Polling at the time suggested the real reasons people hesitated ranged from financial considerations to life style issues; I get a mention but nowhere near the top of the list. Those reasons offered up in the research and taken with the continuing opposition of the peak Aboriginal organisations makes for a difficult road ahead as every subsequent Chief Minister has discovered. I recommend to readers the Submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee dated 22 January 1999. For those who comment on or write about NT Statehood the Submission is important reading in dealing with a number of the urban myths that still have currency (Archives Documents).
As to the role of Bailey and Hatton who co-founded ‘Territorians for Democratic Statehood’ the organisation that ran the NO case, I will leave it to others to make their own assessment of their respective roles. I have included in Archives Documents most of the media coverage of the time which is accessible by searching Statehood.70 There was one interview that should be marked out for special attention. It was conducted by Maxine McKew and that ‘even handed’ NT journalist Murray McLaughlin who never missed a chance to stick to the CLP on ABC Lateline 15 October 1998.71 History records that same Maxine McKew went onto become a Labor MP so in retrospect I am now not the least bit surprised at the flagrant bias of the program.
At one point a question to Steve Hatton elicits the following response: ‘’one of the campaign slogans at the time was, we want statehood, not Stonehood’’; a slogan it turns out crafted by the same organisation Hatton and Bailey co-founded that ran the NO case.
A number of Wing members were incensed by Hatton’s comments however I suggested we let it go and he never repeated them. Nothing was to be served by further pursuing Hatton in the twilight of his career. He was no doubt disappointed when Denis Burke did not re-appoint him to Cabinet but it was never going to happen. Burke had experienced Hatton up close during the heated debates in the Wing meetings over Statehood.
Denis Burke displaced Steve Hatton’s participation in the Convention. Burke was given a free hand and went onto manage the CLP input into the Convention in a workman like manner. Denis Burke carried the support of the Parliamentary Wing in the way he ran the CLP position in the Convention including our view on various issues - he had my 100 percent confidence. He dealt with a range of challenges that had the potential to bring the Convention to a halt. It was an opportunity for Denis Burke to prove himself to his colleagues which he did. Later criticism of Burke by the ALP for his role in the Convention was without merit and purely political designed to under-mine his Chief Ministership. I specifically excluded myself from participating in the Convention save for making a Welcoming Address as I didn’t want to be an ongoing subject of division on the Conference floor.
It has been claimed by Bailey and others that I hijacked the Statehood process. The ABC consistently and predictably runs the same lines. What peeves Bailey is that I and others tumbled to what he was up to. What irked Labor was that their attempt to capture Statehood on their terms was caught out. Calls for bipartisanship were cover for an agenda to change the voting system and to incorporate into a Constitution a range of rights and privileges that extended only to the indigenous community including enshrining customary law – that is, ’two laws’. That was never going to fly with Territorians. The change of the voting system was critically important to Labor. They had given up on ever winning in the NT. Our system of one man one vote; single member electorates was seen as an insurmountable hurdle. They wanted a Proportional Representation — Hare-Clark model as exists in Tasmania and ACT. This model entrenches the ‘left’ at the expense of the conservatives. I am not holding my breath waiting for Labor to admit their duplicity and treachery but I have had enough chats on the other side of ‘the political aisle’ to get an informed insight as to what was going on back then.
One matter that does puzzle some people is why we persisted with putting a question that touched on the Convention which had become the focus of furious disagreement. The Prime Minister in his correspondence (Archives Documents) had made it clear that the Federal Government would not be bound by the deliberations of the Convention in any event. That was public information and for those paying attention it should have been clear that the Federal Government (in fact the Commonwealth Parliament) reserved the right to frame a Constitution on the behalf of Territorians. The CLP didn’t want a constitution to be determined in a vacuum. At the very least we wanted to send a message that we had considered what might be in or out and had support for certain broad constitutional principles, for example not changing the voting system from preferential to Hare Clarke. The Greens and the ALP have delivered voting systems in the ACT and Tasmania with disastrous consequences and, at the time of the referendum, they held sway in the Senate. We had every reason to be concerned. On this score I have no regret about including the Convention reference in the Referendum.
Every Chief Minister since, apart from mouthing the rhetoric, has avoided engagement except Paul Henderson. Clare Martin’s plan to coincide with the 30th Anniversary of Self-Government in 2008 came and went.72 Chief Minister Paul Henderson had two shots at it when he thought Statehood would be achieved.73 The first was to coincide with the 100th birthday of the Territory in 2011.74 His second approach on 27 October 201175 was when he announced that a Constitutional Convention was to be held in April 2012 with a Referendum in 2013 and that all ended in tears notwithstanding legislation is now on the books. Henderson was quick to blame the CLP but conveniently avoided any criticism of the man who held the balance of power in the legislative Assembly, Gerry Wood (see Archives Audio). I suspect the hard heads in the ALP behind the scenes were asking the question ‘why are we going into the electorate on Statehood on the cusp of a Territory General election?’ - a very good question indeed. That said, I give Paul Henderson full credit for progressing ‘the cause’. The question for the CLP now back in Government - ‘’what’s next?’’
Henderson’s Convention requires a mere 25 percent of the vote to participate as an elected delegate. My suspicion is that the ALP are trawling the notion of a method of voting to lay the ground work to change the system which, in response, I am sure they will protest loudly. The track record of the Statehood Committee was a mixed bag with people of good and pure intentions clearly left wondering about the real commitment of Government. I met privately with individual members of the Committee including Barbara McCarthy. I welcomed the opportunity to share my introspective reflections and frustrations at what had occurred. A person close to the work of the Committee conceded to me that she felt used and only part of the window dressing of an issue Government was wary of. I well and truly understand the wariness of Government. I don’t agree with calls to take the politicians out of the process.
The Legislative Assembly is the duly elected forum of all Territorians and should not be sidelined at the expense of an elected Convention comprised of part time volunteers who have the luxury of time and resources with little or no background in Government to participate in a Convention. The broader ‘silent majority’ run the risk of being disenfranchised in such a process. A combined elected, appointed and Legislative Assembly Convention would be most representative – appointed members provide an opportunity to import ‘expertise’. A case in point was the agreement between the CLP and ALP to appoint the Chairman Austin Asche and joint Chairmen Jim Robertson and Bob Collins.
The continuing challenges to winning Statehood are five-fold: first, when we tell people that nothing will change other than to gain constitutional equality with the States that is immediately discounted the moment they learn the package includes more politicians. NT politicians who argue for parity of Senators from day one would do well to keep their counsel. Second, people remain suspicious of referendums in Australia. Only 8 out of 44 referendums since federation have succeeded. It took 3 referendums to achieve Federation.76 We need to be more realistic and accepting that we are in for a ‘long march’. Third, the education of the electorate is inter-generational and very long term. The proposition that we should have simply had a vote – YES or NO – never found favour with the community; people wanted to know what they were voting for. The problem is that regardless of how much information you put into the market place there will always be those who claim that there is never enough. It simply is not a barbeque stopper and never was. It is very difficult to engage people on the subject and to maintain their interest. We spent close to $500,000 on the information campaign leading up to the referendum in 1998 – electronic, print media and direct mail. The CLP faithful ran a ‘get out the vote’ campaign on the day – we have never had so many people on the polling booths. We still had people turn up to vote and say they didn’t know what it was about.
Finally, the big challenge is in finding a Prime Minister who will back Statehood and mean it as John Howard did. Good luck.
If I might offer a way forward in the context of changed circumstances: I suggest at first instance that the planned Convention deals with the very concept of State and Statehood - what does it mean? Also, define the principles on which a Constitution for that State might be based. For example, do we support single member constituencies based on preferential voting. Once settled, these Constitutional Principles would be put to a plebiscite, not a referendum. For example, we might get agreement across the board to the principle of ‘one man one vote’ - that’s a start. Hopefully, we might find the basis of agreement across a wide spectrum of what’s important in a functioning democracy. Unlike in 1998, some matters are no longer top of mind. For example,e the law is relatively clear on traditional law; there is one law. Indigenous people don’t need quotas; they have proved that. I believe recognition of indigenous people in the Commonwealth Constitution, which I support, will probably be forthcoming unless it gets tangled up in calls for a Treaty or recognition of ‘frontier wars’. As for the NT Land Rights Act, we have a much more pragmatic and sensible attitude nowadays hence my view that if the Commonwealth wants to keep the legislation let them – we have had all the fights and since the ‘sunset clause’ has been and gone, it’s time to move on. Importantly, many indigenous Territorians are no longer captive to the Land Councils and have demonstrated their preparedness to break from the ALP voting bloc.
The actual writing of a draft Constitution might be the subject of a further Convention. One thing is for sure, a Convention or two with accompanying plebiscites would do more to raise the consciousness of the wider electorate and engage their attention if taken slowly, incrementally and in conjunction with our school curriculum. We should abandon an end date for a Statehood referendum in the meantime rather than risk a second failure. I don’t claim the foregoing as my idea – it was an approach crafted by Jim Robinson many years ago and sadly overlooked. We should have paid closer attention.
Much was made by the ABC of Steve Hatton as the ‘father’ of Territory Statehood. I am among the first to acknowledge Hatton’s commitment, passion, belief and efforts. I strongly disagreed with his approach but don’t disparage his place in history which is shared by others who have an equal claim to such accolades. Goff Letts the first Majority Leader and his deputy Grant Tambling have largely been airbrushed out of CLP and NT history. They laid down the important building blocks for Statehood through their negotiations for Self Government. All the negotiations leading up to and including the final Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Development for The Northern Territory (known by the acronym JPC) were ongoing from 1974 to 1976. The Committee reported first on a fully elected legislature and then on self Government. Next came our last Chief Secretary and first Chief Minister Paul Everingham and his deputy Marshall Perron who led discussions with the Fraser Administration from then on until July 1978 primarily about funding arrangements for Self -Government, the model for that government having already been settled during Lett’s time. Everingham completed the ‘deal’ with the Fraser Administration and presided over the grant of Self- Government and committed all future CLP Administrations to the pursuit of the ultimate goal of Territory Statehood.
In parallel was Jim Robertson who held the responsibility in Government and was the Territory’s first Minister for Constitutional Development. Later, in his special adviser role to both the Perron and Stone Governments, Jim’s involvement was inter-generational which afforded him a unique appreciation of the unpublished corporate history of Self Government and Statehood. Jim had Labor’s number dating from Jon Isaacs’s through-out and provided sound guidance in where we were heading. He was diametrically opposed to much of what Steve Hatton was prepared to concede. There are clearly a number of ‘fathers’ of Statehood and, give him his due, Paul Henderson has done more than any other ALP leader to advance the cause so I include him in the list.
Next there is an urban myth that has some currency in the NT – it is that Everingham was offered Statehood by Fraser but rejected the proposal. According to those participating in the self-Government deliberations at the time, this is not true. I am assured what happened was Malcolm Fraser got up on the back of a truck in Raintree Park on a typical ‘wet season day’ he was heckled and had rubbish thrown at him by ALP supporters. In a flustered moment, Fraser said “statehood” rather than “self-government”. It was an unintentional slip and never used again by the Prime Minister; further it was never raised by the CLP leadership and the term never appeared in any submission to or as a consideration of the JPC in its Report which set out the principles of Self-Government for the NT. Opposition Leader Jon Isaacs, in Labor’s unending opposition to constitutional advancement and Self-Government for the NT used the term ‘statehood’ in the ‘78 campaign - ‘First things first-statehood later’ knowing full well no such thing had ever been sought by the CLP nor offered by the Commonwealth.
Much was made of my comment ‘’If you don’t want Statehood don’t vote for it’’ as though that was a defining excuse to vote NO. I assumed that everyone who could vote was grown up and could make a decision on the merits. Clearly, in the case of some people I underestimated their churlishness including a number of senior lawyers.
Finally, one other point relates to the theory put about that, by voting down Statehood it was proof the CLP could be beaten. Supposedly, this gave confidence to the electorate to throw the CLP out in 2001 so the Burke defeat was really my fault. Such a claim denies the facts that between Perron and me, we never won a single by-election and we incurred 5 straight losses of the Federal seat. The CLP had been beaten a number of times and those who made such claims exposed their very thin grasp of Territory politics. The CLP went onto retain the Federal seat of Solomon in the same year that Burke lost Government. 77 The apportionment of blame to me was a view perpetuated by some commentators fuelled by angry defeated CLP MLAs. To be blamed for an election defeat in 2001 for a Government I left in the beginning of 1999 stretches the imagination somewhat.
Statehood and the attendant circumstances remains an emotional and weighty issue for some of us. No doubt others will differ in their recollection of events which is their right. I do know this that unless those who were among the ‘players’ find some shared goodwill and resolve to get it right next time round then our further constitutional development will remain forever stalled. We might start coming up with why we support Statehood and ditch some of the emotional claptrap we have all used from time to time.
I am very proud of being part of bringing the V8 Supercars to the NT and the way our event has led Australia in developing a template for a sport that has broad family appeal. Further, it adds significantly to our Territory economy through interstate visitation and all that comes with the extensive expenditure of the travelling caravan of teams and their supporters. I had no interest or passion for motor-sports so in that sense I was the ideal person to champion the event on its merits. To understand the background to the V8s involves an appreciation of the tragic events surrounding the first ever legal Cannonball Run held in Australia from 22 to 27 May 1994. The Cannonball Run was conceived as an event by Marshall Perron and managed by Australian motoring veteran Allan Moffat.78
In Government, we weren’t all ‘revheads’;79 as a group we didn’t have the passion and enthusiasm of Marshall Perron and Daryl Manzie who were at the forefront of the event. That said, we were all on board and saw merit in showcasing the NT on a run between Darwin and Yulara via Alice Springs and back. We were persuaded the event would draw the headlines and interest of the world – that it did, but not in the way we anticipated. The event commenced from Darwin 22 May waved off by Chief Minister Perron with great fanfare; initially all went well. The race from Darwin to Alice to Yulara back, a distance of nearly 1600 kilometres attracted 118 entrants. It was not as in the movie of the same name a race where drivers went ‘hell for leather’ with the aim of breaking the speed limit and avoiding the police.
To start with, the NT had open road limits at that stage so there were no speed restrictions; there were however traffic laws that enforced safe and responsible driving. The event was strictly controlled; it contained three distinct phases – the ‘flying mile’, timed sectors and normal driving. The road was open to regular traffic throughout the race although NT Police swept the highway ahead of participants. In the normal driving sector NT road rules applied.
On May 24 tragedy struck when a Ferrari F40 crashed into a checkpoint killing the occupants Akihiro Kabe and his co-driver Okano and two track officials Tim Linklater and Keith Pritchard. A Coronial Inquiry would subsequently find driver error but in the immediate aftermath, the race was bad news for the NT. Southern media predictably went to town on us; we were invariably painted as irresponsible ‘hillbillies’ yet again. The death of two race marshals was felt keenly in our community particularly amongst those of us who knew the families. Marshall Perron absorbed the avalanche of criticism; it clearly impacted him and it was obvious to me that he took very much to heart what had happened.
Later talk about resurrecting the event was somewhat like Statehood – even the most enthusiastic ran a mile, except Daryl Manzie. First, he wasn’t going to be put off by the tragedy of the first race. He argued that motor sports by their nature are inherently dangerous and people die. Second, if we weren’t going to embrace another Cannon Ball we should consider a similar event that was progressively capturing the enthusiasm of Australia – touring car racing (on the cusp of V8 Supercars). Cabinet was predictably lukewarm and somewhat apprehensive; we had all been a little traumatized by the Cannonball tragedy which had been extensively debated in the Legislative Assembly. Daryl kept the conversation going; Marshall retired and I became Chief Minister. I still didn’t have any real interest in motorsports but that was all about to change. Shell had come on board the Touring Cars and Daryl had opening a line of communication with the Chairman of Shell, Dr. Roland Williams. In another context, I had come to know Roland given Shell had an historic and substantial interest in the NT on a number of fronts. One thing led to another and urged on by Daryl I was introduced to Tony Cochrane the front man for the newly formed Sports and Entertainment Limited (SEL) established in April 1997 following Cochrane’s departure from sports promoter IMG. Under the new ownership of the event SEL had a 25 percent equity in The Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company (AVESCO).80 Tony Cochrane had taken the punt of his life in leaving IMG and together with his partners buying out the IMG interest. I soon discerned that Cochrane the consummate showman brimming with over confidence and an aggressive style to match was hungry to make a success of what had become a tired contest. The only substantive event was the Bathurst 1000; the rest was at best a ‘mishmash’ of fixtures largely mendicant to privately owned venues. Cochrane was trying to break the nexus with the private venues and had the idea if State and Territory Governments would come on board and pay a fee to AVESCO to stage the event then he would have the makings of a viable business. This was the strength of having someone like me who had no interest or passion in motor sports passing the ruler over what was proposed. Cochrane had my attention and in time he and his management team including veteran former Shell Executive Wayne Cattach would create one of the most successful sporting events in Australia’s history.
The hurdles to staging an event in Darwin were many and costly. CAMS81 weren’t keen; they had been luke-warm about the Cannonball Run and as far as they were concerned we Territorians were not to be trusted. They had found themselves centre stage in the Coronial that resulted from the four deaths. Shell was none-the-less enthusiastic; the company at that point underpinned motor sports in Australia and had the muscle to make their support count. CAMS officials visited Hidden Valley, gave it the general thumbs down and presented a shopping list of improvements clearly designed to frighten the living day lights out of any Government. CAMS wanted me to understand that they had formed a view about the Northern Territory Government that was less than favourable. The game changer was legendary driver Dick Johnston82 a Shell sponsored driver. Dick flew up to meet me at Hidden Valley to talk about an event. He asked what I knew about car racing; what events I had ever attended, did I know who he really was? Embarrassingly, I struck out on all questions and many more although I could tell him I thought he had won a Bathurst race, perhaps, maybe. He looked at me searchingly, turned to my Ministerial car and ordered the driver Gary Wiltshire out. He suggested I ‘’Jump in’’. Around the track we went; not once but three times. As Dick stepped out of the car with that broad Dick Johnson smile he quipped:
‘’That’s car racing Chief Minister’’
It was a defining moment and one I recall with great clarity. I was hobbling at this stage. It turned out I had bruised the outside of one foot as I instinctively tried to brake as the passenger when Dick took the corners at speed I didn’t think possible. I asked Dick about CAMS; he had all the answers and the solutions. I understood Cochrane’s business model even if I didn’t have an appreciation of the intricacies of the sport so there and then I committed to a V8 car race in Darwin. This was me running ‘amuck’ with the cheque book.
There was never a Cabinet Submission, no costings or analysis of benefits to the NT at the beginning. I took a decision and I defy anyone to this day to tell me I was wrong. Leadership is about backing your own judgement and on this occasion I had made up my mind and I was not for changing despite the howls and protests from one particular public servant. It is true that we spent millions of dollars in upgrading Hidden Valley and that expenditure has continued as the venue has been turned into a valuable world class public asset that can hold its own among the many motorsports venues in Australia.
The inaugural event in July 1998 was a show stopper and is now firmly on our Territory calendar. I am pleased to report that V8 Supercars at Hidden Valley have always enjoyed bipartisan support. I congratulate Territory Labor and the CLP in opposition for maintaining that support.
There are two footnotes to this story: first I asked Perron to be the inaugural Chairman of Hidden Valley Promotions the forerunner to the NT Events Corporation that had the carriage of the V8’s. Marshall recruited Paul Cattermole and they did an outstanding job together before Marshall handed the Chairmanship over to Andy Bruyn. I like to think that the role offered Marshall redemption of sorts following on from the Cannonball Run - his belief in and support for motorsports had been vindicated. The slate had been wiped clean as he delivered a first rate motoring event as he always intended. Second, the NT led the way in developing the template of the V8 Supercars Australia wide. Subsequent commentary waxes lyrically about the Clipsal 500, Sydney 500 and other events but the reality is that if I had not agreed the Premier of South Australia John Olsen pondering the loss of F1 would never have had the confidence or belief in V8 Supercars to stage the first Adelaide event in September 1998. John and I were and remain close friends and we talked often about whether this was the right way to go. I was committed but John had a few more obstacles than me to overcome. It is very much to his credit that he made the right call and he can claim the Clipsal 500 as part of his legacy. Kate Carnell followed in the ACT and the template for State and Territory sanctioned events had well and truly become a reality.83
Needless to say I am now a motorsports enthusiast reinforced by successive ‘hot laps’. Dick and Jill Johnson are great mates of ours (I now know who he is) and Tony Cochrane and I post politics have gone onto launch iEC one of Australia’s most successful exhibition and concert touring companies in Australia.
I came from the dream-time, from the dusty red soil plains I am the ancient heart, the keeper of the flame. I stood upon the rocky shore, I watched the tall ships come. For forty thousand years I’ve been the first Australian. We are one, but we are many. And from all the lands on earth we come We share a dream and sing with one voice: I am, you are, we are Australian.84
I have a long and ongoing relationship with indigenous people dating from my time as Associate to the late Honourable Sir Edward Woodward AC OBE. As a barrister, I was at times retained by the Katherine Regional Legal Aid Service (KRALAS) and the Northern Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (NAALAS) on matters principally within the criminal jurisdiction. When we moved to Alice Springs in 1986 issues relating to ‘land rights’ figured prominently in the local conversation. On my election as Chief Minister in May 1995, I embarked on a ‘listening tour’ of the Territory. I was interested in what people had to say and I ranged widely over the Territory including remote communities. I was particularly interested in meeting with indigenous leaders who were at the forefront of trying to improve the lot of their people.85 We didn’t always agree, however, we at least started a conversation.
It has been claimed that historically the CLP and I opposed land claims in the Northern Territory, spoke out against Native Title claims and was generally disparaging towards indigenous people.86 I agree, the NT Government did oppose many land claims but not all; what was settled and agreed received scant media attention as it did not play to media themes that the CLP was a racist reactionary Party. By way of example I refer back to my account as Minister for Mines and Energy in the previous chapter on the negotiated outcome over the Mt. Todd gold mine. The McArthur River mine negotiations were another example. If we were an obstacle to settlement of the Kenbi Land claim we were in a long queue with other indigenous people who over the decades disputed the claims and counterclaims.
If the southern Chardonnay set from the leafy suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney bothered to pay attention to Kenbi they would come understand that there is no one big ‘Aboriginal tribe’, Australian Aborigines are not a homogeneous group but rather affiliate through clans and skin groups. It wasn’t through lack of trying that Kenbi wasn’t settled on ‘my watch’ or anyone who came before me. Following a meeting with Northern Land Council Chairman Galarrwuy Yunupingu during the course of 1997 we both believed we had a solution only for it to be rejected by competing claimants.
Contesting land claims was as much about testing the veracity of claims of one indigenous group as against another as it was about blocking those who had no claim at all. Make no mistake, the ferocity with which one group opposed another had to be experienced to be believed. This was the nonsense of anyone being able to claim aboriginality as of right and then attempting to leverage a land claim. Land Commissioners were obliged to test the evidence and make an informed decision. In my view, it’s hard to understand how participating in legal a process could be construed as racist.87 The Australian Aborigines are not a homogenous group as is evident in the contested Native Title claims today. Also, there was the overriding concern that the broader Territory community not be locked out of parts of the NT land mass and waterways. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act applied only to the Northern Territory pre-dating the Native Title legislation and Territorians were entitled to believe that they had become the playground of ‘social engineering’ crafted in Canberra whilst the rest of Australia looked on with some curiosity. On the topic of Native Title writing in ‘In Their Own Words’ I offered this insight on Native Title:
“The passage of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) resulted in an ongoing one sided dialogue between the NT Government and Commonwealth with key issues remaining unresolved. The most immediate issues of concern to the NT centred on the status of Crown Land, pastoral leases and coexistence of the legislation with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) 1976 (Cth). Matters were not resolved until the passage of the Native Title Amendment Act 1998 (Cth) otherwise known as the 10 Point Plan. Premier Richard Court of WA and I drafted the first of the 10 Point Plan compromise subsequently finessed by Commonwealth officers”.
Unfortunately, spirited and at times disproportionate public spats fed southern perceptions best exemplified in my disagreement with Northern land Council Chairman Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM in 1997 when I referred to Yunupingu as:88
‘’just another whinging whining carping black”; the retort “Shane Stone is a good for nothing redneck” added to the occasion.
This poisonous exchange was the culmination of a decade long struggle over land rights and Native Title between the Territory’s two ‘big men’ exacerbated by claims of racism.89 The matter was ultimately resolved in the Federal Human Rights Commission. Over time that exchange prompted a haunting realization that something had to change as we both cared about the plight of indigenous Australians.
Yunupingu is no ordinary Aboriginal man; the 1978 Australian of the Year, Order of Australia recipient, Chairman of the Northern Land Council a position he held for twenty five years. He had been at the forefront of indigenous activism for decades and fought at various times Governments of both political colours. Land ownership was fundamental to his sense of culture and empowerment; it went to the very core of his Gumatj spirituality, identity and sense of purpose. Galarrwuy had at times been dogged by controversy and in that sense we something else in common. I was on a different pathway framed from my time with Ted Woodward and Aboriginal legal aid beating the drum of ‘self-help’ and responsibility for one’s own actions. In Government my mantra “land rich yet dirt poor” questioned the whole underlying rationale of Aboriginal title.90 Yunupingu had strongly disagreed but what he did agree on was that there had to be a better way and real return on investment than his people had achieved to date. Solutions had to come from within and not from imposed strategies and measures seen through the prism of ‘white fella’ social engineering. ten years later in 2007 we became business partners to put into practice what we believed would make a difference. Nowadays Dhupuma Resources has become a reality.91
As Education Minister and Chief Minister I took every opportunity to celebrate indigenous excellence through receptions, speaking in the Adjournment Debate and attending community events. As many CLP Ministers before me we had a loyal indigenous following and we worked hard to ensure they knew we were supportive and committed.92 The 1997 General Election result proved that indigenous Territorians continued to vote for the CLP. Terry Mill’s achievement in the 2001 General Election winning a number of never before won ‘bush’ seats remains a high water mark for the CLP.
On my retirement as Chief Minister there is little doubt some in the Aboriginal community were glad to see me depart the scene but that was not a universal view (see Archives Documents). For example, an extract from a letter from the Miriam Rose Baumann of the Nauiyu Nambiyu (Daly River Community) tells the other side of the story:
“At the time of your retiring from the position of Chief Minister, I am writing to extend the sincere thanks of this Council for your assistance to us over the past years both as Chief Minister and former Education Minister. Your involvement with Daly River, and the Nauiyu in particular, has always been extremely positive and I am sure you will be sorely missed in the future”.
The Daly River community were not alone in writing to thank me for my contribution to indigenous affairs. Later when conferred the Companion of the Order of Australia the Northern Land Council wrote to me congratulating and acknowledging the award - a very nice gesture from an old protagonist.
I have maintained my interest in indigenous affairs and expressed strong public support for ‘The Apology’ much to the annoyance of some on the conservative side amid forecasts of endless litigation that has not eventuated.93 The acknowledgement by Prime Minister Abbott of his predecessor Kevin Rudd’s decision on the Apology summed it up nicely:94
“Our country had a unifying and healing moment, the like of which we very very rarely see”. Abbott said it was a great moment in the nation’s history and had happened because of Mr Rudd. Tony Abbott went onto say that as much as he put John Howard on a pedestal, “in this respect at least, his (Rudd’s) immediate predecessor had lacked the imagination to grasp that opportunity…the decency to see it, here was something that needed to be done”.
I have an ongoing commitment to working with indigenous Australians who in my considered view:
“need a hand up, not a handout”
I remain skeptical of those I describe as the chardonnay sipping armchair experts of the leafy suburbs of southern States.95 They want to drown indigenous Australians in taxpayer funded programs. These well meaning people have a ‘Disneyland’ view of blackfellas - thanks for saying it Bess Price because the rest of us get pilloried as racist if we even hint that the Aboriginal industry and their supporters are on the wrong bus.96 The late Charlie Perkins once said to me words to the effect that Aboriginals don’t need more training, they need more jobs.
In the spirit of the ‘apology’ as we move towards persuading Australians to acknowledge our first Australians in the Constitution I make a plea not to over do it - treaty isn’t part of it and the latest claims whirling around ‘frontier wars’ and ‘invasion day’ are yet more whitefella ideas that can only divide Australians. I thought Greg Craven’s recent Opinion piece in The Australian newspaper was a timely contribution to the debate.97
When asked by the editors of ‘In Their Own Words’ whether I might have done more for Aboriginal Territorians my response is best summarised thus:98
“In my assessment all Governments generally have done their best with the resources available but it is and never was enough”.
A common response from all who have served as Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and participated in the publication.
On issues such as the empowerment of indigenous women and the challenge of domestic violence the following sections of this Chapter sets out in some detail my Government’s response to this scourge. The existing (no longer looming) health crisis in the Indigenous community is critical matched only by the disenchantment of Aboriginal youth who feel dis-empowered and left behind - that whitefella schooling didn’t exactly deliver what they were promised - a job.
The CLP has a long history of promoting and supporting Territory women. The CLP membership has always included strong women who have assumed leadership positions throughout the history of the Party. My government like CLP administrations before me was committed to building a community in which women participated fully in all aspects of Territory life.
On becoming Chief Minister in 1995, I inherited a well-run Women’s Policy Office under the directorship of the legendary Jennie Gzik. All her staff, together with the members of the Women’s Advisory Council and its executive group, the Businesswomen’s Consultative Council and its executive group were up and running. Also, officers throughout the NTPS charged with that all-important responsibility of monitoring, developing and promoting strategies that assisted Territory women in their growth and development as equal partners within our community, were in place.
It was occasionally suggested that I had done little to advance the cause of Territory women – me, the Minister who introduced the Territory’s first Anti-Discrimination legislation, stood up for nursing mothers in public places and restaurants, who employed senior women on my staff all the way up to Chief of Staff wasn’t doing enough? This criticism flew in the face of my concerted efforts to promote and mentor women on their merits. My mother Pam Stone a political pioneer in her own right imbued me with a sense of responsibility to assist women where I could climb up that elusive rope ladder. My wife Josephine a lawyer and activist in her own right and member of the Women’s Advisory Council would have let me know were I failing her expectations. I believe action speaks louder than words and frankly the record speaks for itself. Whether as a Minister, Chief Minister, Party President or corporate executive many women will attest to my active support and encouragement in giving them a go – on the merits.
I am very proud of the achievements of my Government, and previous CLP administrations, in the initiatives and strategies that were carried into effect in support of Territory women. We brought a ‘whole of Government approach’ to women’s policy unlike other Governments around Australia who had similar agencies tucked away in a silo out of the way. In the CLP we did more than simply pay lip-service to these very important issues, and I believe that is widely recognised throughout Australia to this day. The fact that a small jurisdiction such as the Northern Territory was applauded for its initiatives on domestic violence, for example, speaks for itself. The very pro-active way in which we worked tirelessly to assist Territory women to make a go of it in the commercial sector has also not escaped the attention of other State administrations over the years.
I delivered a Ministerial Statement to the Assembly ‘Initiatives to Support the Development of Territory Women’ on 25 August 1998.99 I have drawn heavily on that Statement in this Chapter as it is a contemporaneous account written by me and others over forteen years ago. It sets out in some detail our policies, our strategies, our hopes and our aspirations for Territory women at that time. I had a very clear plan for the future and the CLP government was absolutely determined to see through those strategies for the benefit of all Territory women.
The population split on my watch was 48 percent to 52 percent and a labour force participation rate of almost 65 percent which was 10 percent higher than the national average. Further some 1.5 percent of Territory women owned or operated a small business on my watch. Territory women tended to be independent, self-sufficient and well-informed. They were very much the product of the Territory environment, also the demographic was markedly younger than the rest of Australia with an average age overall of twenty seven years thereabouts. It was just plain good politics to be a champion of Territory women. As Mao Zedong wisely observed:
“Women hold up half the sky”
I had long committed to programs and initiatives to ensure that Territory women could fully participate in the life of the NT. I had created the Ministry of Women’s Policy and retained it within my portfolio as head of government. I also had a system in place, along with specific projects and programs, to ensure that my Government was well informed on a wide range of policy priorities for women throughout the Territory.
The Businesswomen’s Consultative Council and the Women’s Advisory Council were two peak advisory groups that assisted in keeping the government informed. These two councils interacted and worked to develop cooperative alliances with other Territory committees and groups. The Businesswomen’s Consultative Council, for example, meet jointly with the Business and Professional Women’s Association. Two members of the Women’s Advisory Council were members of the Businesswomen’s Consultative Council to ensure interaction between the two councils.
Operating within the department of the Chief Minister was the Office of Women’s Policy. Its primary charter was to advance Territory women’s policy priorities. It interacted strategically with the Businesswomen’s Consultative Council and the Women’s Advisory Council as well as with other groups and committees. Government agencies including the Office of Youth Affairs, the Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Office of Aboriginal Development, advised the Office of Women’s Policy to ensure that initiatives relevant and suited to the Territory’s diverse population were met. The Office of Women’s Policy also convened the Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee to advise on the implementation of the CLP Government’s Domestic Violence Strategy, an initiative dating from the Perron Government. Territorians will recall it was badged as:
‘It’s Got To Stop’.
The chair of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee reported directly to me as head of Government. Other agencies also had structures in place to ensure that women’s aspirations were integrated in government planning. Territory Health Services, for example, had a women’s health adviser who was active in that agency as well as on other committees and advisory structures. The framework provided my Government with information that encompassed diverse groups, special interests, professional issues, regional matters and discrete projects. The information was used to develop and form policy initiatives and resource allocations. Programs were aligned with the CLP government’s existing strategic direction for women, as detailed in the Plan of Action for Women in the Northern Territory to the Year 2000. The directions set out in the plan included four key reform areas: women’s status in society, women’s economic security and independence, the elimination of violence against women, and the health and wellbeing of Territory women. Policy directions for the government were primarily guided by this plan of action. The plan encouraged government agencies to extend activities beyond the requirements set out as a base line. The plan was developed with input from women of different backgrounds, interests and circumstances throughout the Territory. Consultations encompassed women in urban centres and remote localities, in small and large communities, on properties and in mining towns. The plan reflected the priorities that Territory women themselves identified as important. They included ensuring strong accountability measures were in place to monitor the plan’s progress.
Both the Business Women’s Consultative Council and the Women’s Advisory Council reported directly to government. The work of government agencies was detailed in the Women in the Budget paper each year. This paper provided an overview of government programs, activities, achievements and expenditure, particularly in relation to the plan of action for women. Advancing the reform objective in improving women’s status in society comprised a wide range of initiatives.
The Northern Territory Women’s Advisory Council (WAC) gave women in the community a direct pathway into the decision-making of government. For a time my wife Josephine served on the Council and took a special interest in superannuation reform. The Council provided my colleagues and me with an important conduit to the community. Territory women, through the Council, had helped the government turn this pathway into an active and productive channel for communicating, networking and injecting a woman’s priorities into the business of government. The Women’s Advisory Council worked to ensure women throughout the Territory were informed about and involved in policy development and the decision-making process. In the initial period as Minister for Women’s Policy I approved a total of $30,000 in additional funding for the Council’s annual budget to support the process. The WAC, with support and membership from the Business and Professional Women’s Association, CLP Women, Labor Women and the Greens actively worked to involve more women in the political process. A Women and Politics reference group was formed in Darwin and Alice Springs in 1997. The Council initiated a survey to find out what Territory women wanted to know more about in regard to the political process. As a result, a forum took place in Alice Springs on the most frequently mentioned topic - understanding, creating and implementing policy. Forums were subsequently held in Katherine, Tennant Creek and Darwin. The Council considered how best to respond on the other topics which were identified: media skills, public speaking, leadership styles, understanding the Constitution and parliamentary procedure. A Women and Politics function held in Darwin in 1997 attracted close to 100 Territory women.
Importantly, the Women’s Advisory Council and the Businesswomen’s Consultative Council were represented in the Northern Territory Statehood Convention. This gave women input into an important event in our history and ensured that their priorities were taken into account in the deliberations of the Convention. An important new initiative of my government was the rural women’s strategy.
In 1997, research released by the National Farmers Federation showed that 32 percent of Australia’s farm workforce was female, and that around 40 percent of all business partners in broadacre and dairy farms were women. At the same time, women occupied less than 20 percent of paid management and board positions in the agricultural sector. It was intended that the strategy would give rural women a new decision-making and planning system through which they could advise government on issues such as telecommunications, roads and transport, power and mail services. This was an innovative strategy involving rural women in building a more responsive, competitive and sustainable rural sector. Further the Office of Youth Affairs in my department had been formed to initiate, oversee and coordinate a whole of government responses to policy priorities for young Territorians.
I also created the Ministry for Young Territorians within my own portfolio to oversee this process. The Round Table of Young Territorians regularly held regional forums. The inaugural Northern Territory Youth Festival was held from August to October 1997. It attracted some 11500 young participants. Moira O’Brien, a member of the Chief Minister’s Round Table, was the Territory youth delegate to the national Constitutional Convention. Young women showed a high level of interest in the Round Table and demonstrated their readiness to take a leading role in shaping our future. Around 75 percent of all applications to join the Round Table were from young women. At that time, 80 percent of participants in regional forums were young women. The Office sponsored the Student Citizenship awards that are presented each Australia Day. In 1998, 80 percent of the 100 recipients nominated by their schools were female. Mentoring was another area under active consideration in government and business in the Territory. Women showed a keen interest in mentoring as a way to both enhance competence in their current role and position them for promotion.
At the time of the 1997 general election, I made a commitment to publish mentoring options and guidelines. Specific activities took place during the course of 1998 to increase discussion and debate of these issues, and strategies were tested in some government agencies. Publications, workshops, seminars and forums on mentoring were advertised and available in the major population centres Darwin and Alice Springs. A number of high-profile Territorians presented a personal and professional perspective on mentoring at the seminars. Implementation guidelines had been produced and were launched at the first mentoring seminar in March 1998.
The result of a survey undertaken in the NTPS by the Office of Women’s Policy was made available for the seminar to provide an informed basis for discussion. Early results of the survey revealed that Territory experiences did not necessarily reflect many of the assumptions that appeared to underpin practices in other Australian States or overseas. An early and subsequent analysis indicated that the mentoring experiences and work-based aspirations of Territory women and men were more closely aligned than different.
Additionally, plans were implemented in the public sector to involve women more actively in decision-making. The percentage of women on peak boards, authorities and committees in the Territory had risen from 20.6 percent in 1995-96 to 23.49 percent in June 1997. This figure further increased in 1998 my last full year in Government. I advised during the 1997 Territory election that women’s input in decision-making and policy advice to government would be expanded by the direct involvement of chief executive officers in the appointment of women to boards and committees. Public sector agencies thereafter were required to advise my department of any committee vacancies 6 months prior to the vacancy occurring. This provided time to ensure well-qualified, experienced and suitable candidates were identified. My department continued to publish the gender representation on boards and committees in its annual report. The public sector had a number of best management practices in place to complement other initiatives. Equal opportunity management plans were routinely undertaken. New models emerged to improve work and family options and to respond to changing patterns of work, and women’s career development options were enhanced through specific women-in-management courses as well as public sector management courses (see Archives Images).
During the 1990s, we were going through a period of rapid technological change and this in turn impacted the way we accessed information and did business. Territory women including those in remote and rural centres benefited from an increase in the use and number of communication technologies. The WAC in conjunction with the Northern Territory Library Service and the Department of Communications and Advanced Technology designed an information network that could be accessed via the telephone, the Internet, and in libraries, health centres and through other public places. This system provided a relevant, accessible and simple service to women.
An interactive homepage was developed by the Office of Women’s Policy during the course of 1998 to inform women about policy development initiatives. The website provided access to information and included pathways for Territory women to comment on policy and discussion papers. An Internet website was also developed by the Office of Youth Affairs to provide customers of that office with access to resource and reference material.
The Department of Arts and Museums also launched a website to allow easier access to information on such things as sponsorships, art directories, and calendars of events, programs and facilities. This newly-formed department of Arts and Museums also arranged for cultural programs, touring exhibitions, regional activities and events and workshops that enhanced and showcased women’s artistic work. The Museums and Art Galleries division achieved at least 50 percent representation of women artists in its exhibition program. Through the regional museums program Arts and Museums installed a photographic exhibition of Extraordinary Lives in the national Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame.
Arts sponsorship programs for Territory women in 1998 exceeded $150,000. Ten sponsorships were provided specifically to enable female artists to professionally develop their artistic skills and their networks with other artists. A public art exhibition by the Alice Springs Women’s Shelter also received sponsorship. The exhibition contributed to a display on national ‘Stop Violence Against Women Day’ in April 1998. Other sponsored projects included an artistic skills exchange between three Aboriginal women artists in Ramingining and central Australia writing on Territory arts activities in national journals, and encouraged the participation of young women artists in community events such as the inaugural Northern Territory Youth Festival. Through a joint sponsorship of $10,000 from the Department of Arts and Museums and $5,000 through the Office of Women’s Policy an innovative dance theatre production entitled What Silence Knows by Sarah Calver and Karyn Sassella focusing on domestic violence was performed in the Territory as part of Women’s Own Work in 1998.
A number of awards and events recognised the development of women was initiated by my government. I introduced the Chief Minister’s Northern Territory Women’s Achievement Award. I was strongly of the view that Territory women be encouraged to meet the challenges that life brings and so help create a dynamic and vibrant Territory society. It was my intention to recognise such endeavours through this new award. The winner or winners of the Women’s Achievement Award were announced each year in March in celebration of International Women’s Day I set aside 9 March 1998 to launch the award and make the first presentation.
The Northern Territory Women’s Fellowship was established to assist women, or groups of women, implement and report on projects that were of professional interest and that also assisted to advance Government policy priorities as identified in action our plans. The Fellowship was subsequently re-badged as the Chief Minister’s Scholarship for Women. Valued at $15,000, funding at this level was noteworthy. Over the years, the Fellowship had been used to assist Territory women to enhance professional skills and to record Territory women’s histories.
In 1997, I presented the Fellowship to Leonie Norrington, who was using a mix of oral recording and writing techniques to capture Territory women’s opinions and experiences and so develop their confidence and skills as writers. On 25 November 1998 I presented the Fellowship to Anja Tait. The Fellowship was first awarded in 1988 and 1998 marked the first decade of the Fellowship. All past winners were invited to take part in a planned special event in the Hall of the Parliament in Darwin (Archives Images).
Since 1995 Telstra had been conducting national businesswomen’s awards. My government also provided $15,000 towards these awards. The Territory was the only jurisdiction to provide such support to the Telstra awards (see Archives Images).
In addition to formal awards the research of local historians had contributed to a public awareness of what women have given to the Territory. For example the 1997 publication ‘Fit for the Gentler Sex’ written by Helen Wilson and Barbara James and launched by the Women’s Advisory Council, was an excellent example of the quality publications available. The Alicia Johnston lecture, also arranged by the Women’s Advisory Council was held to commemorate the work of an outstanding young lawyer who was particularly concerned with disadvantaged youth and women who had experienced domestic violence and sexual assault. In a unique way each contributed to advancing Territory women.
My government was keen to involve women further in the economic development of the Territory and to provide opportunities for women to enhance their economic security and independence. To this end, the Business Women’s Consultative Council reported on economic issues that impacted on Territory businesswomen. The Council recognised and built on the fact that women are significant contributors to our economic growth. Established in 1993 when I was Minister for Industries and Development the Council arose from an increasing awareness of the number of women in the small business sector. The Council worked to capitalise on opportunities and address key issues relating to business, to provide businesswomen from all regional areas with an opportunity to have input into government on issues, and to assist the integration of women into the business community. Council members brought a wealth of information, experience and expertise to activities. I valued their advice greatly. Council delegates attended conferences in Australia and Asia to keep members up to date on economic issues and to maximize trade and economic development opportunities. This was an important connection which the Territory continued to pursue in spite of the volatility created by the Asian Financial Crisis affecting the economies of some of our near neighbours.
The Business Women’s Consultative Council also hosted forums and seminars. Members worked with the Australian Council of Businesswomen to hold a Northern Territory Business Women’s Summit in Darwin in 1997. The Council assisted the Department of Asian Relations, Trade and Industry to promote October Business Month in the Territory. The Australian Council of Businesswomen would later adopt from the agenda of their NT counterpart the topic concerning skills shortage in regional, rural and remote Australia. A paper prepared in the Territory on this theme has been circulated nationally before going to Prime Minister Howard.
The Business Women’s Consultative Council worked with the Northern Territory Retail Industry Training and Advisory Board to encourage young people to enter the retail sector and consider going into small business as a credible alternative to academic studies and careers. It also contributed to the debate on tax reform and superannuation at a local and national level, and assisted in the development of joint venture partnerships as a result of interaction in the region, such as the one between Centralian College and Cybernetics Training Co in Malaysia, trading as Training Solutions. Further the council worked to improve women’s access to information services, to develop women’s leadership skills and to encourage the delivery of customer focused businesses. The Council’s activities promoted women’s excellence in the private and public business area. As I stated at the time of its inauguration, the establishment of the Council was a step forward for women in business in the Territory.
During the 1997 election campaign, I reiterated that research would take place on women’s financial independence, that a financial planning kit for women would be developed, and that research would be undertaken for a paper on women’s wealth. The financial planning kit for women was well under way when I left office. In keeping with the need to adopt a customer focus, a Territory-wide survey was undertaken in 1997. This survey investigated the attitudes of Territorians to the financial services available and on whether a kit for women would be useful. A total of 880 responses were received from across the Territory.100
The results provided an early direction for the financial planning kit. The survey was complemented by focus groups of young women, indigenous women and women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to ensure that many opinions were taken into account. The kit also benefited from new and local research, through the Office of Women’s Policy, to report on how women create, store, display and disperse their wealth. I also directed that the WAC consider the important issue of superannuation, particularly as it affects women. This was an area of particular concern to me because I had seen the impact that a lack of superannuation planning can have on women. The Council produced and distributed a fact sheet and articles for information and organised regional forums on superannuation.
I had made a detailed Ministerial Statement on domestic violence and sexual abuse in November 1997. I was determined to strive for a Territory that was safe from violence at home and in public places. It was one of the key reform areas identified by Territory women and further the Territory programs had engendered respect throughout Australia. Our coordinated model was viewed with some envy as a best-practice response, and many of our programs were copied in other jurisdictions. The Territory had also received prestigious National awards for specific programs. Territory initiatives that attracted particular praise and attention included: the Aboriginal family violence strategy, which was designed with indigenous Territorians to initiate, support and monitor community-based responses; the Territory-wide data collection project set up to establish, track and report on the incidence of domestic violence across the Territory; the development and accreditation of the only formally available and recognized domestic violence training course in Australia at that time the Diploma in Human Service Work (Domestic Violence); and the ‘It’s Got To Stop …’ community education program which helped to change NT community attitudes to violence and abuse.
My Government spent approximately $3.6 million a year directly on combating domestic violence. This spending was well above the reported per capita spending of the larger States. Under my Government, money had been provided to improve crisis accommodation services and to extend available counselling and support services. In 1997, some 80 women and their families were provided with priority housing because of the need to escape from domestic violence. In the same period, 31 safe rooms were installed in properties for women who needed additional security in their home. An additional $256,226 had been provided for a major upgrade to Dawn House, $180,000 for a purpose-built centre for the Yarralin community, and $50,000 for the Nhulunbuy Crisis Accommodation Centre. The Darwin Women’s Housing Association received a total grant of $640,000 to purchase and upgrade housing under the community housing program. The Katherine Women’s Crisis Centre received $25,400 prior to the devastating flood. My government monitored the needs of Katherine post the flood given the emotionally charged atmosphere that flows from natural disasters. I also charged the chair of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee with responsibility to keep me fully informed about the crisis centre.
The fourth reform area identified by Territory women was health and well being. The Northern Territory women’s health policy continued to be implemented through Territory Health Services. The policy incorporated the women’s cancer prevention programs, the National women’s health program, the domestic violence program and the alternative birthing services program. The Women’s Health Unit developed protocols, minimum standards and a training package for Territory Health Services staff that provided services to sexual assault victims. The link between sexual assault and alcohol had been researched and increased funding provided for sexual assault services in Darwin and Alice Springs. Additionally, resources had been allocated to provide a sexual assault counselor in both Katherine and Tennant Creek.
A Northern Territory birthing services policy had been developed to increase access to alternative birthing services to those offered by the traditional maternity wards in our hospitals. Four pilot programs were initiated: the antenatal and postnatal care was provided by Wurli Wurlinjang, with birthing support from the Katherine Hospital; Aboriginal health workers were made available in all Alice Springs Hospital maternity areas; the Darwin Rural Health Service working with Oenpelli and surrounding communities to develop antenatal information for Aboriginal women; and the Danila Dilba Aboriginal Medical Service organising a 2 day Top End women’s forum to discuss women’s health and birthing. Culturally appropriate, community-based antenatal support was also provided through the Strong Women, Strong Babies, Strong Culture program. This program was introduced in 8 Top End and 2 central Australian communities, and was adopted for use in the Pilbara and Kimberley areas of Western Australia. The Darwin Homebirth Group received $10,000 to host the 17th National Homebirth Conference in Darwin in August 1997. The theme of this conference was Birthing Our Way - Birthing Across Cultures.
The Alice Springs Community Health Services postnatal depression project was implemented to increase nurses’ awareness of the symptoms and incidence of postnatal depression. This project assisted nurses to identify women suffering from postnatal depression and to respond appropriately. The program was extended to the Palmerston area during 1998.
The Living With Alcohol program expanded its work to reduce the personal, social and economic cost of alcohol-related harm in the Territory. The program focused on interventions at the early stages of drug and alcohol abuse. Programs continued to target women in relation to alcohol and tobacco consumption. Territory Health Services maintained a number of positions to assist women in rural and remote communities to develop local education packages in relation to the transmission of HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
The Territory’s active participation in programs that aimed to reduce the incidence of, and deaths from, breast and cervical cancer in Territory women was most significant. The women’s cancer prevention program, jointly funded by the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments worked to increase the number of women having tests and provide early detection of any existing problems. Under the Northern Territory breast screening program, 7000 women had been screened since 1995. 2438 women were screened for the first time in 1997. Screening and assessment centres were established in Darwin and Alice Springs and a screening unit visited Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy. There was a marked increase in the number of Territory women having Pap smears. The Territory women’s cancer prevention program was contracted by the Commonwealth to organise the first national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Well Women’s Workshop in Alice Springs in 1997. Nearly 200 women from all over Australia attended, including many from remote communities.
In January 1998, my Government announced funding of $90,500 for a Central Australia residential facility. This was used to provide a multipurpose supported accommodation facility for people with a disability. It allowed for indigenous people from that area to be placed closer to their families and land.
The Women in Sport and Recreation (WISAR) program and the Start program encouraged women to be active participants in sport and recreation. Both these programs were offered in 1998. Indigenous women in small communities in particular were encouraged to participate. The success of these programs was demonstrated by the number of women who participated. An estimated 8000 took part in the last WISAR program. The Northern Territory Institute of Sport had been set up to assess and monitor high-performance athletes from all sports. It also provided the opportunity for talent identification. In 1997, 54 women received squad and elite sport scholarships totalling $120 000.
I have not covered all of my Government’s specific initiatives and achievements on women’s policy but I hope the reader gets the flavour that my Government, as CLP Governments before me, made a substantial contribution to good policy and strategies properly funded that impacted Territory women. Women’s policy priorities were firmly on my Government’s agenda. We were doing what Territory women asked us. We were working with women to improve their status in society, to increase their economic security and independence, to eliminate violence from their lives and to improve their health and wellbeing within our community. I was determined to ensure that the Territory continued to advance those areas that Territory women considered important. As we approach the next century, it was vital that Territory women were able to participate actively in all spheres of Territory life and that the enormous contribution they made was recognised. Territory women needed to seize the moment and be authors of their own destiny and I and my colleagues were determined to play our role in delivering that outcome.
The commentary above on Education, Training Arts and Women’s Policy overlaps much of what was happening in Youth Affairs. It might said that my portfolio responsibilities consistently included a youth component. Sally Anne Pitt was in charge of the Office of Youth Affairs and was the consummate policy guru. She was ably assisted by Ministerial officers, including Samantha Cavanagh, who was my ‘eyes and ears’ on such matters and worked closely with Michael Pitt, her husband who was attached to my personal staff.
I spoke regularly in the Adjournment Debate on young people in the Territory. My comprehensive Ministerial Statement sets out in greater detail my Government’s agenda on Youth policy.101 Our formation of the Youth Round Council was an important initiative but more so because they advised the Chief Minister direct - unlike other States and Territories the Youth Round table had a direct pathway to the head of Government in the NT. The exchanges were real, substantive and meaningful. When the Ministerial Council with responsibility for Youth Affairs met in Darwin we invited the NT Round Table to meet with the Ministers including Federal Minister Gareth Evans.
Many of the young Territorians thought it ‘cool’ to have the opportunity to speak directly with Ministers from other States and the Commonwealth. I also made sure that our youth had every opportunity to participate in National forums including those events relating to the Centenary of Federation.
It was always my earnest while hope that some of our young people would one day emerge in public life and take a seat in the Legislative Assembly. I didn’t care which political party they chose so long as they participated in our democracy.
In Chapter 17 ‘Life after Politics’ I set out in detail my ‘not for profit’ activity that has had a youth focus, principally the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and the Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award.
Following my election to the Legislative Assembly Michael Barrett, who had been known to me for many years, suggested that I become the Patron of the Combined RSL Clubs of the NT. Michael was an ex-serviceman, former small arms instructor at Duntroon and a stalwart of the RSL and Legacy. He would later serve with me on the Defence Reserve Support Council. He and Annie were legendary figures around Darwin. Time spent as the Official Secretary and Executive Officer of Red Cross NT meant he had an impressive network. Annie worked for Peter Conran in the Department of the Chief Minister which added to their gravitas as citizens who made things happen. If Michael Barrett recommended I become Patron of the Combined RSL Clubs of the NT that was good enough for me. This was not a difficult decision as I had a strong predisposition towards the ADF and veterans and remained an active reservist during my time in Office. While living in Alice Springs I attended service events including Anzac Day wreath laying in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs representing the Royal Australian Navy.
Later in Darwin, I participated in such events and commemorations as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. The Darwin sub Branch was in my electorate of Port Darwin and although not a member I regular dined at the Social Club. The Darwin Rotary Club also held their meetings at the RSL and I had an opportunity to occasionally participate notwithstanding I was an honorary member of Port Darwin Rotary. I had developed a strong rapport with legendary President ‘Lofty’ Lane although I sensed he wasn’t that enamored with the CLP. Later I dealt with Ross Mangan who wrote me a very thoughtful letter when I left Parliament (see Archives Documents). The letter dated 25 February was a grateful acknowledgement:
“I am writing to thank you for your support for the Darwin RSL during your period as Chief Minister. The renovation of the Cenotaph would not have occurred without your interest and involvement. The result is something we are very proud of. I am also personally grateful for the encouragement you have given me in my role as President of the Darwin Sub-Branch”.
Apart from being generally supportive of important commemorations such as the Bombing of Darwin, ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day, Vietnam Veterans Day and Battle for Australia, I committed early on to the refurbishment of the Cenotaph on the Esplanade. The task had commenced under Marshall Perron when he launched the first Commemoration of the Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1992. The repeated failure to acknowledge Perron for elevating the commemoration back in 1992 is disappointing. However Marshall Perron’s initiative kick started an ongoing refurbishment and expansion that I enthusiastically embraced.
Our Cenotaph and surrounding memorial plaques are worthy of a capital city and commemorates the many overseas service personnel and the units who have a ‘Top End’ connection. For years, our Cenotaph with the dedicated plaques along the walkway overlooking the Darwin Harbour was an attraction to many elderly service veterans making one last pilgrimage to the city where they spent the war. Nine ships were sunk in Darwin Harbor during the Japanese attack including the USS Peary. In 1992 one of Peary’s four-inch guns was emplaced as the Peary Gun Memorial pointing toward the ship’s final position. In 2001, a memorial service was conducted at the Gun Memorial and a plaque dedicated on the 50th anniversary of the ANZAC Treaty marking the enduring ties between Australia and the United States that date from the events surrounding the sinking of the USS Peary. In addition to our WWII veterans and heritage, the Territory has a sizable Vietnam Veterans community. Successive Australian Governments were slow of the mark in acknowledging our Vietnam Veterans including the RSL. After much agitation there was the belated Welcome March Home in 1987 followed by the dedication in 1992 of the Vietnam Memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra. I had, over the years, come to know Gary Casey, a NT police officer prominent in the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia NT Branch (VAA). I was always happy to do what I could for the Vietnam veterans. They were my demographic and I knew many who had gone to fight in the war; that proximity guaranteed a strong commitment on my part. A facility central to the work of the VVA was Coral House in Darwin. Initially funded by Commonwealth Veterans Affairs, the house was rented from the Northern Territory Government and operated under a joint Territory Federal Government funding arrangement.
Closer to home, the NT Protocol Director Colonel Doug Gibbons recommended a memorial to the single Territorian to have died in the Vietnam War Reg Hillier MID be erected in Palmerston . Reg attended Darwin Primary School Woods Street (Frogs Hollow) travelling by bus from the family’s 11 Mile property where he lived with his father Ted, brother and two sisters. Leaving school Reg worked as a stockman on various Vestey’s properties, including Nicholson (WA) and Limbunya Stations. Reg enlisted in the Army in October 1961 and served in Vietnam as a Section Commander in B Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, from 26 May 1965 until 29 November 1965. He was killed in action at Vo Tu in Binh Tuy Province. Corporal Hillier was Mentioned In Dispatches and awarded the Military Merit Medal and Gallantry Cross with Palm by the Republic of South Vietnam. It seemed the very least we could do was to mark Reg Hillier’s ultimate sacrifice.
As Chief Minister, I agreed to serve as the Patron of the NT Branch of the Navy League, a position I surrendered on my retirement. The former Administrator John Anictomatis AO a former Vietnam veteran stepped up in my place. I supported the League in every way I could during the my time as Patron and ensured they benefited from some modest NT Government support.
On related matters I was supportive of the Reserve (as well as serving in the Reserve) and took every opportunity to engage where I could. A number of Vietnam vets had remained in reserve service as had others who had left permanent service. I also took the opportunity to speak in the Adjournment debate. On 1 July 1998, when the 20th anniversary of self-Government was celebrated across the Northern Territory, one of the events to mark the occasion was a march-past by veterans of the Northern Territory Army Reserve.102
The CLP was regularly savaged over environmental and heritage issues – our support of mining negated all other initiatives on the environment. We were never preservationists and didn’t accept the argument that Darwin should be preserved in a ‘time warp’ populated by Sydney William’s huts and crumbling buildings riddled with concrete cancer.
The declaration of Charles Darwin Park, one of the largest in an urban setting didn’t earn a single compliment from the usual rag tag collection of environmental warriors who inhabited the fringes of the Territory community. The legislated protection of mangroves in Darwin harbour and coastal waters to protect the ecosystem, the professional fishing exclusion zones, the record number of national parks Territory wide.103 the continual efforts to overcome seawater intrusion in our low-lying estuarine and coastal plains, the sustainability of the freshwater and saltwater crocodile104 and the iconic Desert Park in Alice Springs105 and Wild Life Park in Darwin106 counted for nought. The constant refrain was that we had no environmental legitimacy while we supported mining.
The political reality remains that it doesn’t matter in the NT as Territorians have never embraced the Greens and their anti-development caravan. The Environment Centre might as well have come from another planet so little did they resonate with Territorians who are instinctively conservationists. Indigenous Territorians who comprise a third of our population are champions of their environment notwithstanding many support mining. Many CLP Ministers had genuine environmental credentials – Mike Reed a former officer with the NT Conservation Commission carried his passion into office. As did Marshall Perron, an accomplished recreational diver, pastoralist Barry Coulter did likewise. Senior bureaucrats like Bill Freeland and Col Fuller were every bit the ‘bushmen’ and others like me keen recreational fishermen. We lived our environment every day. Our lifestyle was and remains paramount – Territorians inhabit the great outdoors, more so that most Australians, and in that pursuit are much attuned to the environment.
I worked with two Prime Ministers – Paul Keating and John Howard. I had come to know Bob Hawke when delegated by Perron to attend meetings on his behalf with the Prime Minister. The relationship endured principally through a shared interest in China. I admire Keating in part for a number of his policy achievements.
Nowadays, Paul benefits from a political nostalgia we all crave. I watched with interest his recent address to the ALP Caucus marking thirty years since the floating of the dollar. I suppose resorting to past heroes goes someway towards airbrushing the Rudd Gillard Rudd era out of the public consciousness. I couldn’t help but notice, however, the shot of Keating positioned between the portraits of Latham and Rudd - underscores the importance to look around and observe the background against which you are being framed. I am yet to forgive the ‘’recession we had to have’’ as it almost sent my family and many Australians to the wall. Unfortunately, at times Paul was too prone to slogans and symbolic gestures but we are all guilty of that. Paul didn’t have too many friends on the conservative side by choice although he struck a chord with Jeff Kennett. He made great play of coming from Bankstown but I suspect he had a more privileged upbringing than I did growing up in public housing. Keating had more in common with John Howard than he was ever prepared to concede.
I rate both Prime Ministers as the last true conviction politicians occupying the role; men prepared to stake their jobs on what they believed in. The arrival of Tony Abbott potentially makes three. ‘In Their Own Words’ I wrote of Keating and Howard:
“During the time of the Keating Government predictably we were at times the subject of adverse commentary from Paul Keating – as was everyone regardless of political colour. He was generally engaged in a war of words with the Labor Premier of QLD Wayne Goss MP who proved a great distraction (according to Wayne Queenslanders were waiting on their porches with baseball bats for Paul Keating when he came calling). John Howard was far more measured and I don’t recall him ever descending into an adverse commentary about the NT and our style of administration. Privately I recall he was at time bemused by my style pointing out that I had the advantage of a unicameral Parliament and a dysfunctional Opposition”.
I’d like to think that Territory Labor was dysfunctional because we made them so - all those twenty seven years sitting opposite looking at us would have been enough to send anyone mad. As to the relationship with John Howard timing in politics is everything. ‘In Their Own Words’ I wrote:
“From May 1995 to March 1996 the Keating Labour Government prevailed federally. However the Keating Government (remnant Hawke Keating administrations) was nearing the end of its 11 year run and as defeat loomed Government was caught in paralysis and engagement was down to a minimum. From March 1996 to February 1999 the Howard Liberal National Government was in full swing. The NT Commonwealth relationship was defined by the Howard Stone partnership – the stars were perfectly aligned in the Territory’s favour. Never before or since has this been achieved. The election of John Howard as Prime Minister opened a whole new range of opportunities for the Territory leveraged off our personal relationship that extended back to the late 1970s. Most importantly when Howard was in his first term as Opposition Leader and failing under the assault of the Peacock forces every State President of the Liberal Party at that time had either written to Howard or communicated a want of confidence. As CLP President I had instead written a letter of support much to the annoyance and in defiance of Chief Minister Perron. To start we are not part of the Liberal Party so I was not about to fall into line with a campaign being driven out of Victoria and second I had great faith in Howard being a first rate Prime Minister one day. I subsequently traveled to his home in Wollstonecraft Sydney after he had been deposed to pledge ongoing support. John Howard never forgot that gesture. If you have the trust and confidence of the Prime Minister of the day as a Premier or Chief Minister your task is much easier in advocating the cause of your jurisdiction. You don’t win every argument but the odds are in your favour. For those who knew the story my election as Federal President of the Liberal Party in 1999 came as no surprise”.
As you will have guessed from my story, I hold John Howard in very high regard as a friend and colleague. We don’t agree on everything and at times he gets a bit testy with me. I have always taken that as a sign of endearment. In my view, although it ‘’got messy’’ at the end and Howard suffered the unnecessary indignity of losing his seat107 he was an exceptional Prime Minister who inspired and changed Australia. Our ongoing partnership in the IDU has kept our relationship current.
I have not seen or spoken with Paul Keating since he left office. I do read his occasional comments and found the Keating Interviews108 ‘interesting’ if I might be more generous than John Dawkins. He didn’t like my use of his throw away line in the 1997 NT General Election. Keating hated Darwin and the Territory:
“The best way to see Darwin was 30,000 feet on the way to Paris”.
Keating’s Territory colleagues were mortified but then again that was vintage Paul Keating no doubt flavoured by that short stint in the Whitlam outer ministry when he carried responsibility for the Northern Territory:109
'’Keating was all sharp edges, sharp suits, and knife-sharp observations’’.
Paul Keating was Prime Minister for five years, a solid run and together with Hawke changed Australia. He is an interesting Australian who we we can count among our ‘conviction politicians’ whether you agreed with him or not.
As happens with most public figures, the taxpayer gets two for the price of one. I am particularly fond of Jeanette Howard who I consider one of the most intuitive political spouses I have ever worked with. Jeanette was exceptional in her role as first lady; a great hostess, supporter, friend and confidant to her husband. She may not have been a regular in the social pages or gallivanting around with her pet projects but she quietly went about her role with considerable effect. On behalf of all Territorians I thank Jeanette for her unqualified and enthusiastic support for the railway - it made all the difference.
There were Eight Stone Ministries between 26 May 1995 and 8 February 1999. I remain enormously grateful to my colleagues for the way they worked collaboratively to implement our agenda. I initially kept a number of portfolios110. I rated Fred Finch,111 Mike Reed,112 Daryl Manzie,113 Barry Coulter,114 Denis Burke,115 Mick Palmer,116 and Eric Poole117 as capable and sound performers. In the main all made their mark and contributed significantly to the NT. I prized Fred Finch’s advice and in another time would have embraced him as Deputy, had he been prepared to serve. I recall Fred as the ultimate professional motivated by all the right reasons to be an elected member. Regardless of Finch’s early support for Coulter and offer to resign with the changing of the guard, I viewed him as a man of integrity and highly capable in executing his Ministerial duties. Fred served in a range of portfolios and was highly regarded as an Education Minister.118 I came to rely on Fred across a range of issues and post Parliament turned to Finch to implement the reforms I had recommended following the 2007 election rout of the remnant Burke CLP team. Notwithstanding the rivalry with Coulter, I credit Barry with keeping the railway alive and prosecuting the detail that enabled me to secure the Howard Government commitment119. Coulter had also been at the forefront of the east-arm development as an important part of the railway jig-saw. His legendary work as Mines and Energy Minister laid the foundations of many of the projects in the NT today.
Despite the on again off again antipathy between Barry and I, had he been leader in 2001 the CLP Government would have been returned. Daryl Manzie and Eric Poole both served with distinction as Ministers for Asian Relations and Trade, a portfolio close to my heart. It beggars belief that Poole was pushed out of Cabinet to make way for Dunham. Mick Palmer was the most ‘colourful’ and despite periodic demotions for ‘off field behaviour’ would rise to the occasion to deliver important gains in Primary Industry and Fisheries. He presided over the sustained growth in the live cattle trade and shepherded the fishing industry into a new era. His defeat as the Member for Karama robbed the CLP Parliamentary Wing of the corporate knowledge that would have served them well in Opposition and might have headed off some of the foolishness that beset the CLP. Burke was a good fit in Health and proved one of the most proficient to have held the portfolio which was considered a poison chalice to most. Burkes management of the 1998 Constitutional Convention despite all the controversy and adverse comment was very work man like and to Burke’s credit aided considerably by Deputy Chairman Jim Robertson behind the scenes. Reed was a capable Treasurer who as history shows was the fiscal conservative he claimed to be (and I wasn’t a ‘spend thrift’ for the record). Mike’s performance during the Katherine Floods was outstanding and his subsequent conferral as a Member of the Order of Australia deserved.120
I agree that Hatton121 made an important and lasting contribution as a Minister under Perron rather than on my watch. Hatton’s commitment to the Asian engagement, the negotiation of the Memorandum of Association and Arafura Games were all vitally important milestones. As Health Minister he undertook a workman like approach in a difficult portfolio. I did not reappoint Hatton to Cabinet after the 1997 election having formed a view on his performance shared by senior colleagues who agitated for his removal. He was the only Minister I dismissed as Chief Minister. For whatever reason, with a change of leader somewhere in the transition, Hatton lost his way. I can only speculate that, given our past history of conflict during the time I was President and Hatton’s abandonment of my candidature during the 1987 General Election there was just too much political baggage between us. Further, members of the Parliamentary wing were losing confidence in Hatton’s management of constitutional development. In contrast Poole thrived and performed for me as did Palmer. The latter’s appointment to Cabinet had been advised against by Perron, however, he turned out to be at times a star performer peppered by the occasional misstep.
Others who served in Stone Ministries were Peter Adamson and Tim Baldwin. Adamson lacked the most fundamental of competencies, was less than honest and would have been sacked had I remained in office. Adamson lost his seat and later served as Lord Mayor of Darwin. He was ultimately incarcerated for dishonesty offences. He wisely didn’t ask me for a character reference. Baldwin was a good constituent politician but the files piled high in his Ministerial office desk bore testimony to the fact he couldn’t make a decision, at times didn’t understand the public service and was consistently out of his depth – a fatal flaw for someone entrusted with a portfolio as important as the Lands Ministry. My assessment of Baldwin was at odds with Mike Reed who saw Baldwin as a future Deputy. Under the proposed change over Baldwin was to succeed Reed as the Deputy Chief Minister - it never happened. I recall Baldwin as never stepping up to his potential.122
All had their respective strengths and weaknesses and as a team they drove major reforms and reshaped the Territory. I bristle at the suggestion that State and Territory Ministers don’t make the grade or, as was once put to me by a federal MP, ‘‘are the Second II’’ compared with their Federal counterparts. To the contrary, I rate many a State Premier and Minister as more capable than many Federal Ministers on both sides. I remind those who argue the contrary that a Federal Health Minister doesn’t run a single hospital, an Education Minister not a single school. When it comes to services the community relies upon State and Territory administrations and the evidence generally speaks for it-self. school halls and pink batts are recent examples of the disconnect between the community and federal Ministers stepping outside national policy roles into the domain of hands on State and Territory counter-parts with disastrous consequences. With a combined service of sixteen years between Territory, State and Federal politics I am better qualified than most to make such an observation.
As to who had the capacity to step up going forward? I rated Richard Lim, Steve Balch and John Elferink123 as among the next into the ministry. Lim and Elferink ultimately made it. Unfortunately Balch lost his seat. Had he remained in the Assembly he would have enjoyed a fulfilling career; he paid a high price among some of his colleagues for enforcing a number of my edicts. Steve’s subsequent success in the private sector bears out his capacity. Both Richard and Steve had in their respective spouses Sharon and Gwen, outstanding supporters who worked as hard as their husbands in the electorate. John Elferink I believe was single at the time.
I was greatly influenced in my policy development by Under-Treasurer Dr Neil Conn AO124 ultimately appointed the Administrator on the retirement of Austin Asche. Neil was pro-active as Administrator in offering advice and counsel to the Executive Council. As his predecessor Austin Asche before him Neil had a vital interest in the NT and our continuing development. Peter Conran AM and Col Fuller AM both served as Secretary of the Department of the Chief Minister and had a defining influence on me in Government and post-politics. Recently I recalled to Peter our first meeting following my election as Chief Minister. I had come to know Peter aka ‘Rooster’ Conran well as a Minister.
On my election I flippantly asked of him “So what’s your job Rooster”, quick as a flash he replied “Keep you out of jail’’. I shut up.
Peter became my main confidant in Governance. He had an extraordinary depth of experience as the former head of the Law Department before his ascendancy to the Department of the Chief Minister. He served as Secretary to Cabinet and gave sage advice in that capacity to both the Perron and Stone Governments. I told him well in advance before the Statehood referendum that I wouldn’t be leading the CLP to the 2001 election. My plans to exit were well advanced. He decided to go ahead of me and I supported his application to my colleague Premier Richard Court.125 Peter secured a senior position in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.126 When the Court Government fell I recommended Peter to Prime Minister John Howard and in time he would be appointed as Secretary to Federal Cabinet; his appointment was terminated by the incoming Rudd Government.
Peter now serves as the Director General Department of Premier and Cabinet WA. In my assessment no other public service officer in Australia can match his experience and expertise. We remain close friends. Peter was followed into the role of Secretary of the Department of the Chief Minister by Col Fuller. You could not have found two more different officers in style. Col Fuller knew where all the bodies were buried; his intelligence in the wider community and in the public service matched MI6. Originally a Commonwealth officer he made the transition to the NT Public Service at self Government along with a number of other luminaries like Martin Finger and Otto Alder who helped guide the fledgling CLP Government on its way. No Secretary of the Department of the Chief Minister since has come close to mirroring Col’s grasp and performance in that role. News Limited journalist Frank Alcorta once described Fuller as having:127
“learned public administration from Fu Manchu and Caligula”.
Recently Col played a defining role in guiding the CLP back into Government in 2012. The NT news described his return thus:128
‘back with brawn, a beer and a touch of reality’
His work as shadow Cabinet Secretary and policy adviser gave substance to the CLP Parliamentary wing.
Little known is the role he played in preparing the submission to the NT Electoral Commission before the 2008 general election. In 2007, it occurred to Murf and I that there was an opportunity reshape the contest in 2008. However, we needed an accomplice in the exercise, someone who could do the heavy lifting of redrawing boundaries and the accompanying arithmetic. Fuller still had his pencil, sharpener, ruler and rubber (an eraser for American readers) - his standard tool kit. He diligently went about the task. Murf worked on the words and I the final document. The submission went in under my name.
The Labor Government and the ALP machine were asleep at the wheel. Henderson went into the election 19 / 4 (+ Gerry Woods) and emerged the other side of the election 13 / 11 (+ Gerry Woods). There were a number of reasons for the collapse of the ALP numbers foremost Henderson went too early and was depicted as opportunistic with the so called INPEX election. Of real consequence were new boundaries that caught the ALP unawares and was a contributing factor to their loss of seats – Fong Lim, Drysdale, Brennan among them129. Col Fuller deserves much of the credit for making the CLP competitive come the 2012 General Election. Terry Miles was very wise to take him into Government notwithstanding his crusty and at times contrary persona.
Other senior public servants that influenced my thinking included Margaret Lyons, Geoff Spring, Peter Allen, David Hawkes, John Flynn, Ken Clarke, John Gardner, Brian Bates, Peter Plummer, Lyal McIntosh, Robin Flannery and John Pinney. All in their respective roles had an opinion worth listening to. When it came to my personal staff Annette Smith had been with me a long time and I valued her confidentiality and loyalty. I didn’t appreciate how she was shunted around after I had left office - she had been a Chief Ministers personal secretary and she should have been found a suitable position of her choosing. Gary Shipway aka Shipwreck I inherited from my old mate Roger Vale when he retired from the Ministry.
Gary was with me through thick and thin and I always valued his friendship and loyalty. I was pleased to learn that the Giles Government had brought him back from Brisbane to Darwin to work on the staff of Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner. Samantha Cavanagh I had known since a child. She made me laugh and kept me in touch with reality. Her famous cartoon depicting me as a Borat type dictator in a far away place I still have. Then there was Murf - I checked in when I woke up and before I went to bed.
'’That was a f#*%ing awful interview this morning - lift your game’’.
Murf was the touchstone of reality, the coach, mentor and father confessor all wrapped up in one. You just had to get used to the chomping and spluttering on the nicotine gum. A truly great man.
I had my share of names - ‘Napoleon of the North’ and ‘Little Napoleon’ - I dont think either was a consequence of my wife being named Josephine. A close friend Paula Mathewson presented me with a small metal Napoleon figurine which still adorns my desk. ‘Teflon’, ‘Fat Boy’ and the ‘Fat Controller’ also figured from time to time. If my detractors were trying to ruffle my feathers they didn’t succeed. As for all that claimed loathing and hatred who cares - I had a job to do and based on my encounters in the street around the Territory these days I have more than my share of supporters who remember and for that I am grateful.
Eighth Assembly First Session 02/17/1998 Parliamentary Record No: 3 24 February 1998 Adjournment Debate NT Police Graduation Squads 61 and 62 pp. 771-772
I credit Barry Coulter as the single person who kept the rail project current up until support was finally forthcoming in 1997. As Minister for the Railway Coulter played a defining role over ten years; for a summary history see Ministerial Statement Hon Barry Coulter MLA Minister for the Railway Update on Adelaide to Darwin Rail Link Seventh Assembly First Session 20/02/1997 Parliamentary Record No: 39; see page 10,756 for Stone’s comments on Coulter; see also transcript of Prime Minister Howard’s speech on Opening of the Railway at Port of Darwin 17 Jan 2004 where Coulter and Stone were singled out; see also Eighth Assembly First Session 06/16/1998 Parliamentary Record No: 7 18 June 1998 Adjournment Debate Australian Institute of Management Tribute to Barry Coulter ↩
See Ministerial Statement by Chief Minister Hon Shane L Stone MLA The Liquid Natural Gas Project Eighth Assembly First Session 13/10/1998 Parliamentary Record No: 11 ; there is to be found in Hansard dating from Self Government a comprehensive record through Ministerial Statements of successive CLP Governments promoting as projects over 27 years ↩
For example Devolution see Education Amendment Bill (Serial 103) Sixth Assembly First Session 9/10/1991 Parliamentary Record No: 6 ↩
I laid out my commitment to Statehood in a Ministerial Statement The Northern Territory-Australia’s Seventh State Seventh Assembly First Session 20/08/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 24 ↩
Admittedly it was not Burke’s mandate – he never had one. Burke couldn’t get away from mandatory sentencing fast enough; he had always expressed misgivings underscored by pressure on the home front. Annette Burke the very capable Mayor of Palmerston was no fan mandatory sentencing ↩
Ministerial Statement on being elected Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Our Territory – The Future Seventh Assembly First Session 20/06/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 12 ↩
This lingering antipathy against Hatton persisted. Following the 1997 General Election colleagues openly canvassed the dropping of Hatton from Cabinet. When Hatton signed up to the forces opposed to my leadership he expected a return to Cabinet in return. Burke made it clear he would never include Hatton as he shared a view on his culpability over the Statehood referendum. However Burke would relent and appointed Hatton Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Chief Minister on Constitutional Development on 25 August 1999 ↩
In 1991 Australia was in the midst of a prolonged economic recession, with eight quarters of declining economic growth. Australia was in the grip of ‘’the recession we had to have’’ according to Paul Keating. The ‘One Nation’ economic stimulus was designed to kick start the economy through major infra-structure; the major project to eventuate was Macarthur River; other projects included removing the interface between Brisbane domestic and international airports and the single gauge line between Brisbane and Perth via Melbourne. Keating would claim that One Nation delivered 4 years of sustained economic growth ↩
As acknowledged in the speech of Prime Minister Paul Keating at the opening of the mine at McArthur River 6 September 1995 ↩
Laurie Brereton was one of the stand out Ministers of his day both in NSW (Minister for Health 1981–84, Minister for Roads 1983–84 and 1984–87, Minister for Public Works 1984–87 and Minister for Employment 1984) and in the Federal arena (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister 1991–93, Minister for Industrial Relations 1993–96, Minister for Transport 1993–96, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters 1993). Laurie was an enabler – he got things done and he was a great friend to the Territory when it came to McArthur River; he once said to me ‘’I have worked you CLP fellahs out – you’re really Labor’’. The CLP was very pragmatic and flexible when it came to getting the best for the NT, that didn’t make us Labor ↩
Some media occasionally sought to raise the issue of a ‘mandate’; for example see The Australian Newspaper Week End Review Maria Ceresa ‘The New Stone Age’ 10 August 1995 ↩
Mabo v Queensland (No 2) was a landmark High Court of Australia decision recognising native title in Australia for the first time. The High Court rejected the doctrine of terra nullius, in favour of the common law doctrine of aboriginal title, and overruled Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd (1971) a contrary decision of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory ↩
The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act provides the basis upon which Aboriginal people in the NT can claim rights to land based on traditional occupation. The Act was strongly based on the recommendations of Justice Woodward, who chaired the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission (also known as the ‘Woodward Royal Commission’). The Whitlam government first introduced a Bill to Parliament; however, this lapsed upon the dismissal of the government in 1975. The Coalition led by Malcolm Fraser, reintroduced a Bill passed 16 December 1976 ↩
Sixth Assembly First Session 30/11/1993 Parliamentary Record No: 23 : Ministerial Statement Impact of Native Title Bill on NT Mining and Petroleum Industry 30 November 1993 ↩
For example see Motion by Opposition Leader Mrs. Maggie Hickey Seventh Assembly First Session 02/18/1997 Parliamentary Record No: 30 Motion Censure of Chief Minister Ministerial Statement And Motion Implications of Mabo and Wik Decisions for the Northern Territory 18 February 1997 ↩
NSW Premier from 4 April 1995 to 3 August 2005 ↩
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was established by the NSW Government in 1989 in response to growing community concern about the integrity of public administration in NSW. Based on what has been aired so far in recent hearings about successive Labor Governments that concern was well placed ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 12/08/1997 Parliament Record No.35 12 August 1997 Question: Labor Policy on Native Member: Mr Setter to the Chief Minister ↩
Margaret Anne aka Maggie Hickey represented Barkly for the ALP in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1990 to 2001. In April 1996, she became leader of the ALP in the Northern Territory, and Leader of the Opposition. She had very little time to get her feet under the table as an alternative Chief Minister. I knew Maggie from Tenant Creek. I did not enjoy the lashings and ridicule I heaped on Maggie in the election campaign but such is the nature of the contest. Maggie is a very decent person who post Parliament has continued to maintain a connection with indigenous women in her former electorate ↩
Brian Ede was the Labor member for Stuart in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1983 to 1996 and led Labor unsuccessfully to the 1994 Territory election an election he was confident of winning. He was in my assessment unlucky and should have perservered. I considered him a capable and intelligent opponent who would have been much harder to contest. He retired to Western Australia to run a nut farm ↩
According to the ABC’s Antony Green in his election preview 2008 Northern Territory Election Saturday 9 August 2008: “Labor’s 2005 election victory was a landslide that crushed the once dominant Country Liberal Party. If Labor’s victory in 2001 was something of an upset, the Martin government’s re-election was emphatic and proved that the politics in the Territory had changed. Labor’s 2001 victory broke the Country Liberal Party’s grip on Darwin’s northern suburbs. Labor’s 2005 re-election was even more emphatic, Labor pushing further into unfamiliar Territory, for the first time winning seats in Palmerston and in the Darwin rural areas’’ ↩
Transcript John Howard at CLP Function Darwin 26 February 1998 ↩
Letter from Prime Minister Howard read to Shane and Josephine Stone’s Testimonial dinner held in Darwin 26 March 1998 ↩
NT News ‘The Dream Steams on’ 3 February 2004 ↩
NT News ‘NT too small for big issues’ 7 August 2002 ↩
Wesley Wagner aka ‘Wes’ Lanhupuy (1 November 1952 – 25 August 1995) was the ALP member for Arnhem in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1983 to his death in 1995 ↩
Mike Reed served as Treasurer from 26 May 1995 to the fall of the Burke Government in August 2001 ↩
There was an Establishment Committee of Cabinet that scrutinized all public service appointments down to the tea lady during the Estimates Review process initiated during the Fourth Perron Ministry. It was a very effective process and one I have introduced at Energex ↩
The legislation was passed on 28 June 1999 as A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999. It gained assent on 8 July 1999 and came into operation on 1 July 2000 ↩
Treasury officials from all jurisdictions worked hard to come to an agreement as to who got what; in the meeting with the Prime Minister there was always an opportunity for another bone or two as I proved over time. Commonwealth Treasury Secretary Ted Evans had from my first meeting advised me to ‘’stay close’’ – I did and it paid off ↩
Delia Lawrie was appointed Treasurer in the second Henderson Ministry dating from 18 August 2008 and served in that role until the fall of the labour Government in September 2012; previously Paul Henderson was Treasurer ↩
NT News ‘Our history in the making’ 14 April 2009 ↩
Howard J ‘John Howard Lazarus Rising A personal and political biography’ Harper Collins 2010 p.254 ↩
Ibid p. 252 Howard believes a referendum to remove the firearms jurisdiction to the Commonwealth would have succeeded - I disagree. A majority of the people may have supported the vote but a majority of the States would not. Tasmania, NSW and QLD would have seen the referendum off. Look where the Shooters Party polls well to this day. In any event the Prime Ministerial bluff worked well as John Howard would prove on other occasions ↩
Meeting of the Australasian Police Ministers Council convened in the Cabinet Room Parliament House Canberra May 1996 Chaired by Federal Attorney General Hon Daryl Williams AM QC; Ministerial Statement delivered (see Archives Documents) ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 14 May 1996 Parliamentary Record No 21 Tragic Events at Port Arthur Condolence Motion pp. 6990 – 6992 ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 20 August 1996 Parliamentary Record No 24 Tabled Paper Draft Firearms Bill 21 August 1996 ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 26 November 1996 Parliamentary Record No 29 Firearms Bill (Serial 201) Presentation and second reading ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 25 February 1997 Parliamentary Record No:31 Firearms Bill (Serial 201) - Second reading in continuation, in committee, third reading 27 February 1997 pp. 11235-11261 ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 08/13/1996 Parliamentary Record No: 23 15 August 1996 Adjournment Debate St. John Ambulance in the NT pp. 8061-8062 ↩
Dunstan, F A History of St John Ambulance in the Northern Territory 1915 – 2012 The Volunteers May 2013 (available through the St. John Ambulance Service) ↩
For example see the following references in the Adjournment Debate to Police Graduations and Passing Out Parades: Seventh Assembly First Session 08/13/1996 Parliamentary Record No: 23 13 August 1996 Adjournment Debate Death of former officers Len Cossons p. 7820 and John Taylor p. 7821. See also Women’s Police Reunion (3 to 7 June 1996) p. 7825; Seventh Assembly First Session 11/28/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 18 29 November 1995 Adjournment Debate Tribute to Denver Marchant on his retirement pp. 6228-6229; ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 10/17/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 16 17 October 1995 Adjournment Debate National Firefighters Day p. 5310; see also Seventh Assembly First Session 11/21/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 17 23 November Adjournment Debate Ti Tree NT Emergency Service p. 5920 ↩
See Ministerial Statement by Chief Minister Hon Marshal Perron MLA Problems With Labours Republican Agenda and Recommended Solutions Sixth Assembly First Session 18/05/1993 Parliamentary Record No: 16; for contribution by Stone from p. 8288 ↩
Malcolm Turnbull was at the forefront of the Australian Republican Movement. In 1997 Malcolm was elected to attend the Australian Constitutional Convention. He led the republican case in that Convention and in the subsequent referendum. He went onto be elected a Federal Liberal Member of Parliament and was a Cabinet Minister in the Howard Government. He was Leader of the Opposition from 16 September 2008 to 1 December 2009 and prior to that Shadow Treasurer. He is currently Minister for Communications in the Abbott Government ↩
Paul Keating’s plan had been to facilitate a referendum to coincide with the 2001 Centenary of Federation ↩
The Australian Constitutional Convention 1998 was a Convention held at Old Parliament House Canberra from 2 to 13 February 1998. It was called by the Howard Government to discuss whether Australia should become a Republic. The convention concluded with ‘in principle support’ for a Republic (with a dissenting minority voting for a continuation of the Australian constitutional monarchy) and proposed a model involving appointment of the head of state by Parliament ↩
NT News ‘ Stone leads fight for President poll’ 5 February 1998 ↩
Hon Neville Wran AC QC formerly long term Premier of NSW and ALP party elder who carried much authority in Labour ranks ↩
Janet Holmes a Court AC at that time Australia’s richest woman, company director and successful entrepreneur ↩
His Eminence George Cardinal Pell AC at that time Archbishop of Melbourne ↩
Hon Mike Rann MP Premier of South Australia; Rann and I notwithstanding OUR different ‘political colour’ shared a friendship that dated from OUR time together in various Ministerial Councils. The friendship has endured past both OF US holding political office ↩
By this stage I had retired as Chief Minister but was still the Member for Port Darwin ↩
High profile direct elect delegates who abstained included former Brisbane Lord Mayor Clem Jones, former Independent NSW Parliament Ted Mack and former Independent Federal Parliament Phil Cleary ↩
Also confused messages from some republicans about changing the flag and not continuing in the Commonwealth were all free kicks to the ACM; the attempt of all mainstream media to ram the YES vote down the throat of Australians did immeasurable damage as did the elitist campaign presided over by Turnbull as the latte set lectured the western suburbs as to what was best for them ↩
Tony Abbott speech on the Republic subsequently captured in Bill Prior Cartoon Copyright National Library of Australia 22 October 1999 ↩
A political philosophy enshrined in the Labour DNA and best articulated in Richardson G ‘What Ever it Takes’ Bantam Books 1994 ↩
The only journalist I could find who picked up on this point was Michael Stuchbury of the Australian Financial Times on ABC Insiders 24 November 2013 ↩
It has been revealed in two interviews that Prince Charles was rebuffed by the Hawke Government in 1994 when Sir Ninian Stephen promoted the idea of his appointment; Prime Minister Howard in 2007 debunked the idea that Prince William be appointed and was supported in that position by Kevin Rudd ↩
News Limited On-Line ‘PM says Prince William not suitable for Top Job’ 29 June 2007 ↩
Canberra Time ‘Monarchists want Queen to choose Governor-General’ 8 December 2013 ↩
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs ‘Report into appropriate measures to facilitate Statehood’ April 1999 ↩
In 1978, the Australian Capital Territory voted at a referendum on whether the ACT should be granted self-government. Voters were given the choice of becoming a self-Governing territory, a local government or continuing with the Legislative Assembly being an advisory body to the Department of the Capital Territory. 63.75% of Canberrans voted to continue with the then current arrangement. Despite the outcome of the referendum, the Parliament of Australia passed the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act in 1988 and the ACT became a self-governing territory in 1989 ↩
NT News ‘Howard backs State move’ 5 December 1987 ↩
Transcript John Howard at CLP Function Darwin 26 February 1998 ↩
There is a total of 76 senators; 12 senators are elected from each state regardless of population, and the two each from the ACT and NT ↩
Herald Sun ‘Paul Everingham calls for the abolition of the States’ 26 October 2012 ↩
ABC 8DDD FM Morning Program Galarrwuy Yunupingu Chairman of the Northern Land Council observed: ‘’from where I sit the Northern Land Council region of the Aboriginal communities would not support the vote for Statehood campaign saying YES at any stage anyway’’. And later in response to a further question ‘’Aboriginal people are saying that why should we bother going into Statehood, we got our land, we got everything that we got, and you know why bother’’ ↩
Some of that media includes NT News ‘No’ leaves Hatton reeling 5 October 1998 ↩
ABC Lateline NT ‘Statehood referendum’ Maxine McKew and Murray McLaughlin 15 October 1998 ↩
ABC Stateline Mark Bowling & Barbara McCarthy ‘Statehood’ 23 May 2003 ↩
ABC News ‘Henderson wary of Statehood snags’ 23 April 2008 ↩
ABC News ‘NT push for Statehood on 100th birthday’ 1 January 2011 ↩
ABC News ‘Foundations laid for NT referendum on Statehood’ 27 October 2011 ↩
1898, 1899 and 1901 (the latter in Western Australia alone) ↩
The CLP went onto retain the Federal seat of Solomon 10 November 2001 in the same year that Burke lost Government on 18 August 2001. There was obviously nothing wrong with the CLP brand ↩
Allan Moffat OBE an Australian racing driver known for his four wins in the Australian Touring Car Championship, six wins in the Sandown 500 and his four wins in the Bathurst 500/1000. Moffat was inducted into the V8 Supercar Hall of Fame in 1999 ↩
a colloquial term used in Australia for a car enthusiast ↩
Formed in November 1996 to run the V8 Supercars the Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company (AVESCO) was a joint venture between the Touring Car Entrants Group of Australia (TEGA), sports promoters IMG and the Australian Motor Sports Commission ↩
The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport Limited (CAMS) has been the custodian of motor sport in Australia since 1953. CAMS is the National Sporting Authority (ASN) for motor sport in Australia, and is delegated this responsibility by the Federation Internationale de’l Automobile (FIA) ↩
Dick Johnston was a central figure in Australia’s all-new V8 Touring Car era introduced in 1993. Dick Johnson had a string of titles to his name at that stage including 3 Australian Touring Car Championships. As his career progressed Dick claimed motor racing’s grand prize the Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst in 1994. By the time he retired Dick Johnson won the Australian Touring car Championship 5 times, a record he shares with Mark Skaife and joined by Jamie Wincup in 2013. Dick won Bathurst 3 times ↩
I was never able to persuade Richard Court as Premier of WA as to the merits of a street race event in Perth. Instead in his election year Richard backed a yacht race off Perth ↩
“I am Australian” (also known as We are Australian) which was written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley of The Seekers and Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers ↩
For example see the comments attributed to Daryl Pearce Director of the Northern Land Council (NLC) in the article in The Age ‘A Southern Chief Up North’ 25 October 1995 ↩
See The Suburban Newspaper ‘Shane Stone: I’m Not a Racist or Redneck’ 29 May 1997; see also the acrimonious debate on the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition Mrs Maggie Hickey MLA Stolen Generation Eighth Assembly First Session 17/02/1998 Parliamentary Record No: 3 see page. 614 for my contribution to the debate ↩
I bristle at the tag of racist. I regularly spoke in the Parliament in a positive way about our indigenous community. Two examples are Seventh Assembly First Session 10/10/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 15 12 October 1995 Adjournment Debate Deck Chair Theatre Opening Kormilda Mural p. 5225; and Seventh Assembly First Session 11/28/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 18 28 November 1995 Adjournment Debate Aboriginal Ex-servicemen of Central Australia pp. 6053-6056 ↩
Both exchanges were aired on ABC Darwin during the course of the day 14 February 1997 ↩
NT News ‘Stone not worried by ‘redneck’ claim’ 17 February 1997 ↩
Recent reform on land tenure driven by indigenous Australians suggests that Marshall Perron and I were right on this issue from day one ↩
ABC ‘Political Rivals Become Business Partners’ 29 September 2007 ↩
I spoke regularly in the Legislative Assembly about indigenous Territorians and was keen to esnure their place in the Territory’s history. For example see speech on Henry Peckham Seventh Assembly First Session 21/02/1995 Parliamentary Record No: 8 Subject: Adjournment debate Date: 23/02/1995 p. 2713 ↩
The Australian ‘Nation must face sorry situation’ 4 February 2008; ABC ‘Prominent Liberals Back Stolen Generations Apology’ 4 February 2008; ABC ‘Turned Stone joins ‘sorry’ Supporters’ 5 Feb 2008; NT News ‘Former CLP Chiefs back an Apology’ 5 February 2008 (also set out the substance of the email sent to Liberal National Federal Parliamentary Wings) ↩
The Australian ‘Kevin Rudd calls time on a turbulent political career’ 14 November 2013 ↩
My description figures prominently in much of my commentary on indigenous affairs including my ongoing support for the Commonwealth ‘Intervention’ ↩
Speak for Yourself Chapter 5 Shane Stone Martin. C (Editor) published Charles Darwin University 2012 ↩
Eighth Assembly First Session 24/02/1998 Parliamentary Record No: 4 Ministerial Statement ‘Initiatives to Support the Development of Territory Women’ 25/02/1998 Mr Stone Chief Minister pp. 797-802 ↩
Preliminary results indicated that: 93% of respondents supported the development of a financial planning kit for women; 86% believed that financial information is often not user-friendly; 84% had sought financial advice from various sources, but only 58% found the advice useful; 14% stated that the information was not useful; 12% stated that, while the information was useful, the experience was negative; 80% of respondents believe that women are disadvantaged where finances are concerned; 72% believe that women are often neglected by financial institutions; 72% wanted appropriate information on investments (68% on superannuation and 51% on buying and selling shares); 56% of all respondents believed that women were discriminated against where financial issues were concerned, solely on the basis of their sex ↩
Eighth Assembly First Session 24 11 1998 Parliamentary Record No 12 Ministerial Statement Territory Youth - A Recommitment To Policy 25/11/1998 ↩
Eighth Assembly First Session 18/08/1998 Parliamentary Record No: 9 Adjournment debate 19/08/1998 ↩
To ensure the long-term conservation of the Saltwater Crocodile and its habitats in the Northern Territory a Wildlife Trade Management Plan has been developed by the Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport for saltwater crocodiles. This management plan covers the management of the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) in the NT. The plan is approved by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts as an Approved Wildlife Trade Management Plan under Subsection 303FO(3) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 on 29 September 2009. The plan is valid until 30 June 2014 ↩
A view not shared by Howard who suggests defeat as the Member for Bennelong saved him the indignity of sitting in the Parliament as a backbencher in Opposition ↩
I retained Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services, Minister for Ethnic Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Museums; he would later surrender Asian Relations & Trade, Arts & Museums, Ethnic Affairs taking on Constitutional Development from Hatton. In the 4th Ministry I added Public Employment. In the 5th Ministry I added Young Territorians, Women’s Policy, Statehood (re-named from Constitutional Development), Defence Support and Tourism (prompted by recurring concerns in the industry that the sector was in serious trouble; in taking the portfolio from Mike Reed I knew that I was risking the relationship with my Deputy. I was however determined to get better visibility of the portfolio). In the 6th Ministry I added Attorney-General to my responsibilities upsetting Burke who prized the portfolio and threatened to resign. In my final Ministry I renamed Statehood as Constitutional Development but kept the portfolio and gave back Tourism ↩
Fred Finch retired at the 1997 General Election. When he decide not to re-contest he offered to stand down immediately. I refused and aske him to serve on until closer to the election which he agreed. He was subsequently replaced by Peter Adamson, a poor choice it turned out ↩
Mike Reed held a range of portfolios in all Eight Stone Ministries including Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Mines and Energy, and Minister for Lands, Planning and Environment ↩
Daryl Manzie held a range of portfolios in all Eight Stone Ministries including Minister for Housing, Minister for Local Government, Minister for Aboriginal Development, and Minister for Correctional Service ↩
Barry Coulter held a range of portfolios in all Eight Stone Ministries including Minister for Tourism, Minister for Parks and Wildlife, Minister for Racing and Gaming, and Minister for the Railway ↩
Denis Burke replaced me in the Ministry when I became Chief Minister. He went on to serve in all Eight Stone Ministries. His portfolio included Minister for Power and Water, Minister for Work Health, Minister for the Territory Insurance Office ↩
Mick Palmer held a range of portfolios in all Eight Stone Ministries including Minister for Transport and Works, and Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries; Burke sought to sack Palmer for refusing to sign the letter of want of confidence against Stone however the Pastoral Industry leadership in Ken Warriner intervened. They did not approve of the actions against Stone and had offered to publicly support him if he wanted to fight on ↩
Eric Poole held a range of portfolios in all Eight Stone Ministries including Minister for Asian Relations, Trade and Industry, Minister for Regional Development, and Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Central Australia; he was sacked by Burke for refusing to sign the letter of want of confidence against Stone ↩
Fred Finch was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) on 26 January 2007. His citation read ‘For service to the community of the Northern Territory through the Legislative Assembly, particularly portfolio responsibilities of education, health and public works, to the surf lifesaving movement, and to Rugby Union football’. He had previously been awarded the Australian Sports Medal on 29 September 2000. His citation read ‘Outstanding voluntary commitment in competition at all levels, especially as an administrator’’ ↩
Eighth Assembly First Session 06/16/1998 Parliamentary Record No: 7 18 June 1998 Adjournment Debate Australian Institute of Management Tribute to Barry Coulter ↩
Mike Reed was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) on Australia Day 26 January 2005. His citation read ‘For service to the Northern Territory Parliament and to the community of Katherine’ ↩
Hatton served in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Stone Ministries; Attorney-General, Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for Constitutional Development ↩
I was genuinely surprised by Baldwin’s appointment as a CLP Ministerial adviser on the 5th floor given he couldn’t step up as a Minister ↩
Eighth Assembly First Session 08/10/1999 Parliamentary Record No: 18 11 October 1999 Adjournment Debate Inspirational of Speech by John Elferink ↩
Seventh Assembly First Session 11/19/1996 Parliamentary Record No: 28 19 November 1996 Adjournment Debate Dr. Neil Conn AO pp. 9827-9828 ↩
On his departure from the NT we presented Peter Conran with a watch of his choice engraved ‘From Governor Earl and the boys’; we had all enjoyed watching the movie Blaze which tells the fictionalized story of the latter years of Earl Long a colourful Governor of Louisiana brother of assassinated Governor and U.S. Senator Huey Long and uncle of U.S. Senator Russell Long; for political tragics it’s up there with The Tail that Wagged the Dog ↩
On my departure Denis Burke contacted Peter Conran and told him he could come back to the NT. Burke wrongly assumed Peter had left because of me. Once apprised of my plans Peter wasn’t prepared to work for those coming after me. He politely declined the invitation ↩
Sunday Territorian Frank Alcorta ‘McHenry is key to Hatton’s new plot’ 1988 ↩
NT News Saturday Extra ‘back with brawn, a beer and a touch of reality’ 22 September 2012 ↩
Josie Crawshaw worked it out and berated me in the street about her nephew Matthew Bonson losing Fong Lim ↩