The American Republicans call their party the GOP - the 'Grand Old Party' and they say it with conviction. The Labor Party bangs on about being the oldest political party in Australia, 'the light on the hill' and the now dead tree of knowledge that defines them. The NT Country Liberal Party has for the second time rebadged as Country Liberals. Call me old fashioned but for me its the CLP - the Territory Party. A political organisation that has delivered more for Territorians than any other in our history. Founded by and run by Territorians - may it always be so.
On arrival in Alice Springs in 1986, Josie and I joined the NT Country Liberal Party.1 We maintained our Victorian Liberal Party membership.2 The CLP is a unique political organisation created by the Liberal and Country parties when they stepped away from the Territory in favour of the fledgling new party. Alf Hooper3 was the first President and the Management Committee and Central Council comprised an impressive cross section of the Territory community. The CLP leadership before Self Government consisting of Goff Letts4 and Grant Tambling5 would in time be defeated, giving rise to the ascendancy of Paul Everingham6, the first Chief Minister. For those seeking a factual account of CLP history, I recommend the authoritative work of the late Alistair Heatley.7
On my website, I have archived an extensive collection of media coverage that tells a story about the CLP in my time and through the prism of the legendary Frank Alcorta. Other commentators, Fred McCue and the late John Loizou, bring their own perspective on what they believed was happening in the CLP during that period. Overall the avid reader and researcher will glean their own view of events and political dramas associated with that period overlapping self - Government, through to my retirement from the Assembly in February 2000. The archiving of media coverage from that time remains a work in progress.8 I welcome any material others may like to contribute by way of articles, media and photos. The CLP marks the 40th anniversary of its founding this year 2014. It would be timely to update Alistair Heatley’s scholarly publication; as to who would be entrusted with such a task, I am uncertain.
I had previously met Paul Everingham through the Liberal Party in Victoria and been inspired by his challenge to ‘look north’ for a political career. Together with an opportunity presented by Pat Loftus and referred to in Chapter 7: Moving to the Territory, we decided to give the NT ‘a go’. In time, I moved rapidly through CLP ranks, as Everingham predicted. To put matters in sequence, the Everingham CLP Government had been re elected in 1983; one year on Paul had resigned to successfully contest the federal seat of the NT and, on 16 October 1984, Ian Tuxworth was elected as the Chief Minister. We had arrived in Alice Springs early in 1986 to establish our legal practice.
My connection with the NT had begun in 1982, thereabouts, through the legal profession when I visited first as Associate to Sir Edward Woodward of the Federal Court and then as a barrister (visiting counsel from the Victorian Bar). I was no accidental entrant to Territory public life - I came to the NT with the clear purpose of entering politics and I was a man in a hurry.
The period 1984 to 1989 was a tumultuous period in the CLP’s history and we arrived smack in the middle of it. In time, I would play a central role in events as they unfolded. Josie and I joined the Alice Springs branch of the CLP in February 1986 and became active members. On 19 March 1986 the seat of Araluen fell vacant with the retirement of Jim Robertson.9 I unsuccessfully contested the pre selection, however, I was elected a Central Council delegate for the Alice Springs Branch shortly after.
I lived through the subsequent fall of Tuxworth, election of Hatton and, at the August 1986 Annual Conference, I was elected Party Vice President. Graeme Lewis was also re elected President defeating Grant Heaslip. Three months later, on 4 December 1986, Graeme resigned as Party President and was replaced by Grant Heaslip in February 1987. In the intervening period, my fellow Vice President Bill Forwood and I managed the affairs of the Party, notwithstanding I was the Acting President. In that capacity, I oversaw the expulsion and removal of Ian Tuxworth and his key supporters from the CLP. In February 1987, having assisted the election of Grant Heaslip as the new President I successfully contested pre selection against sitting CLP Member Dennis Collins but was defeated in the General Election 7 March 1987. When CLP President Grant Heaslip resigned 15 May 1988 I was first acting, later confirmed as President of the CLP on 4 June 1988 at the famous ‘Alligator River’ showdown. I retired as CLP President September 1990 and was endorsed and elected the Member for Port Darwin 27 October 1990.
That’s the Executive Summary - I’ll now set out the story in greater detail: Sadadeen, the pre-selection and defeat in the 1987 General Election are dealt with separately. Also, I document our move to Darwin from Alice Springs, and my successful election as the Member for Port Darwin in 1990.
Prior to my arrival in the NT, the CLP was going through a very difficult period of internal conflict. This followed the resignation of Paul Everingham as Chief Minister to successfully contest the Federal NT seat against incumbent ALP member John Reeves. Everingham and his successor, Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth, were at odds over a number of issues and Tuxworth had his own challenges including alleged travel rorts raised by Labor leader Bob Collins. Before Tuxworth, the party had largely been managed by Everingham, Lewis and Wyatt. That arrangement fell away under Tuxworth who sought to assert his authority, which he did initially, with the support of the Parliamentary Wing. The friction between Tuxworth and the old axis of Everingham and Lewis, was in time, a major contributing factor to Tuxworths’ demise.
As Josie and I settled into Alice Springs we sensed an air of conflict between Central Australia and Darwin and the alignment of forces supporting and opposed to the Chief Ministership of Ian Tuxworth. The conflict was building when, on 19 March 1986, the Alice Springs seat of Araluen fell vacant after former Minister Jim Robertson10 retired due to ill health. I discovered that Tuxworth and Robertson were opposed and there was ‘bad blood’ between the two.
Chief Minister Tuxworth had let it be known that he favoured the Chairman of the NT Tourist Commission, Eric Poole,11 to succeed Jim Robertson in Araluen. Nonetheless, I nominated for CLP pre-selection, mindful that it was an opportunity to ‘be noticed’ as a potential parliamentary candidate. The tactic worked. Although I was unsuccessful at the time, from then on I was spoken of as a potential Assembly member. I also applied myself enthusiastically to Eric Poole’s campaign in the by-election to demonstrate I was a team player. It was a very tight by-election as the CLP faced down two independents as well as the ALP. It was all hands to the ‘tiller’ and unsuccessful candidates Stone and Richard Lim proved we could take it on the chin and work hard for the endorsed candidate. This stood Richard and I in good stead for future pre selections. Shortly after, with the support of Roger Vale and Hermann Weber, I was elected as a Central Council delegate and attended my first meeting in May.12
Behind the scenes the seeds of disunity and upheaval were being cultivated. On 28 April 1996, former Deputy Chief Minister Marshall Perron took himself off to the back bench - this didn’t resonate with me at the time. Tuxworth’s leadership was in trouble by May and his resignation followed a pantomime of sorts as the Parliamentary Wing members threatened then endorsed Tuxworth’s leadership only for it to be torn down at a Central Council meeting where President Graeme Lewis led the charge on 10 May 1986. I was present at this, my first, Central Council meeting and recall watching events unfold as speaker after speaker aligned for or against Tuxworth. Federal colleagues Bernie Kilgariff and Paul Everingham went ‘toe to toe’. Parliamentary Wing members sought to defend Tuxworth; branch delegates responded detailing the concerns of their members and the public in the northern suburbs. No one held back. Lex Silvester, former Chief of Staff to Ian Tuxworth, made an emotional speech and gave Tuxworth up, contradicting a particular version of events offered by Ian - you could have heard a pin drop. I sat in silence and took it all in bearing out that sage advice that, sometimes, what you don’t say is as important as what you say. What an introduction to my first meeting. In any event, the entire episode was outside my frame of reference and the protagonists were contesting events, sleights and conspiracies outside of my knowledge and understanding. Ultimately, Tuxworth threw in the towel in front of Central Council and walked out with his supporters and all members of the Parliamentary Wing present except Ray Hanrahan who stayed behind to work the room. Ray whispered to me:
“The King is dead, long live the King”.
Later, some 15 years on, this sentiment of seamlessly changing allegiance would assume meaning to me in a way I would never have contemplated.
Tuxworth formally resigned on 13 May 1986 and retreated to the back bench. The Central Council meeting was a surreal occasion since Council had no authority to hire or fire Chief Ministers. In the aftermath the following week, on 14 May 1986, at a hastily convened wing meeting Steve Hatton unexpectedly emerged as the new leader. Steve Hatton had been elected to the Assembly two years earlier, in 1984. At the time, I remember thinking ‘how exciting is this’ but, as time moved on, I came to appreciate that the events of that day set a very poor precedent for future dealings between the parliamentary leader and lay membership of the Party. Sadly, not much has changed in more recent times.
New Chief Minister Hatton, with Lewis on board, began to shore up his support. Hatton and Lewis set about crafting a new regime but the remnant Tuxworth forces bore great enmity towards Lewis. In the June 1996 Central Council meeting Tuxworth forces, spearheaded by the Tennant Creek CLP branch, unsuccessfully attempted to bring a no confidence vote in Lewis. I continued to paddle my own canoe trying to catch up with all the nuances and history but it wasn’t long before I incurred the ire of the new Chief Minister. Hatton formed the view I was a troublemaker and despatched his henchman Peter Joseph Murphy aka Murf to sort me out. The confrontation occurred on the steps of the Alice Springs courthouse after I was leaving Court for the day. Murf drove his finger repeatedly into my chest and laid down the law about upstart party members (a Melbourne lawyer no less). It’s one of the few times I have taken a backward step and was left speechless. As he strode away without missing a beat I thought to myself ‘I need him on my team’. Over time, we would build an inseparable friendship that I hope I captured in Murf’s Obituary (Archives Documents).
In any event, I soldiered on. As a Central Council member I was presented with an opportunity to get to know the wider CLP family. Predictably, I had my say on different issues and started to build an alliance of sorts within Central Council with delegates from throughout the NT. Notwithstanding Hatton’s antipathy, I continued to build a base in Central Australia culminating in my election as Vice President of the CLP. At the August 1996 Annual Conference Lewis was comfortably re elected President over Grant Heaslip and Bill Forwood and I were elected Vice Presidents. If I thought stability was around the corner I was mistaken. A war of words continued between Senator Bernie Kilgariff and Graeme Lewis. Kilgariff announced he would not contest the next election. On 1 December 1986, Paul Everingham announced he would also not contest the next Federal and on 4 December Lewis resigned. In the interim Barry Wyatt had announced he would he travelling overseas during 1987.
Bill Forwood and I were left to manage the Party in the vacuum. The election of a new President Grant Heaslip would not occur before early February 1987. I assumed the role of Acting President. Remarkable, all inside of 12 months of arriving in the NT and I was still trying to work out who was who. Word started to circulate that Tuxworth was secretly establishing an NT Nationals party to contest the 1987 general election. Hatton met Tuxworth head on and demanded an undertaking of all Parliamentary Wing members that none would defect. We were meant to believe that the move for the NT Nationals was coming from disillusioned members of the CLP outside the Parliamentary Wing, spearheaded by Jim Petrich and supported by the QLD Nationals. Tuxworth denied his involvement as a battle of words raged through NT media between Hatton and his predecessor. On 8 December, Hatton delivered his ultimatum on Tuxworth.13 With Lewis gone and me now occupying the chair, I was right in the middle of it. Tuxworth denied the allegations but Hatton demanded action and, on 8 December 1986, I convened Management Committee armed with the news that the Parliamentary Wing had expelled Tuxworth where upon we formally expelled Ian from the CLP. On 22 December, Tuxworth joined the NT Nationals founded by Jim Petrich. Resignations from the CLP and further expulsions followed.
In the interim the Member for Braitling Roger Vale14 had taken me under his wing and started to mentor and encourage my ambitions. Roger was the consummate local member and a great friend and supporter. He threw his support behind me to displace his CLP colleague the Member for Sadadeen Denis Collins. Vale the most successful constituent politician in CLP history detested Collins and was determined to see him off. In politics first, you need to be noticed and preferably in a favourable way and second, you need to be mentored by those who have gravitas in the Party. The battle for Sadadeen and the aftermath is set out below. I have documented the Sadadeen contest as a separate heading, notwithstanding events were running parallel with the story about Tuxworth, the NT Nationals and my election as CLP President. To do otherwise would make the story complicated and at times confused. Put simply, there was so much on the go I wondered at times how I kept track of it all switching from Vice President to acting President to endorsed candidate and back to President.
The period dating from self Government in 1978 to 1984 had been stable. The 1983 election had delivered 19 seats to the CLP and 6 to Labor but things were about to change. 1984 to 1989 was a tumultuous period in the CLP’s history driven by five sequential events: Everingham’s departure as Chief Minister, first to contest and then resign the federal seat after only one term; the forced resignation of his successor Ian Tuxworth as Chief Minister; the unexpected resignations of CLP ‘titans’ Graeme Lewis and Barry Wyatt; the arrival on the scene of the NT Nationals; and, the ultimate overthrow of Steve Hatton as Chief Minister.
All of that happened inside of five years and we still survived - a testimony to Territory resilience but not to be recommended to future generations.
Following my election as CLP Vice President in August 1986, I was presented with a unique opportunity to shine as a senior office bearer in the CLP organisational wing. The CLP was in upheaval: Graeme Lewis was re-elected comfortably but was ultimately replaced by Grant Heaslip in February 1987. I agitated for Heaslips election post Lewis as a means of shoring up the ‘country vote’ and membership outside of Darwin. Also, I needed to get free of the Presidency so I could contest a pre selection - for me that was the main game. As matters turned out, the objective of aligning country interests was later best served by Noel Buntine when he joined the Management Committee. Noel proved critical to the survival of the CLP.
Picking up the threads, Hatton had replaced Tuxworth in May and I was elected vice President to Graeme Lewis in August 1986. The Presidency, in my own right post dated the 1987 General Election where the public electoral battle against the NT Nationals had been fought. However, I served as Acting President between December 1986 and Grant Heaslip’s election in February 1987; after Heaslips resignation in May 1988 I served as Acting President until June 1988 when I was elected President.
In my first stint as Acting President I presided over the expulsion of Ian Tuxworth and his supporters. The conflict over Tuxworth, and ultimately the NT Nationals, had been intense within the CLP organisational wing. The Party had split and fellow conservatives and disaffected CLP members, re-badged as NT Nationals,15 attempted to wrest control of the Northern Territory from the CLP. The catalyst for the formation of the NT Nationals was Ian Tuxworth’s resignation as Chief Minister. His later expulsion from the CLP, together with a number of his key supporters, proved fertile ground for the new entrant in Territory politics. The CLP was at war - families, friends and business colleagues divided. As Acting President I presided over numerous expulsions including some of our founders. With the fervour of Joe Stalin the Management Committee set about identifying our enemies within and dealt with them swiftly and brutally.
The convenor of the NT Nationals, Jim Petrich, had resigned from the CLP over the fall of Tuxworth and by November 1986 mobilised the formation of the new Party. He was immediately supported by elements in Queensland including the Townsville Branch, as reported in the NT News 29 October 1986. QLD Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen officially launched the NT Nationals in Darwin on 14 February 1987 after a whirlwind tour of the NT.16 He did so without the approval of the National Party Federal organisation and in defiance of Federal leader Ian Sinclair and President Shirley McKerrow. However, the NT Nationals had their supporters federally and came within 1 vote of official recognition.
The Federal National Party joined with the CLP to bring an application heard by Justice Morling to prevent the NT Nationals being known simply as the National Party. The role of Federal National Party Director Paul Davey, and subsequent Federal President Stuart McDonald, proved vital in winning the day. The Honourable Stuart McDonald, former leader of the National Party in the Victorian Legislative Council and an old friend dating from my time in the Country Party, was under a lot of pressure to support Tuxworth. Victorian Nationals as well as the QLD party had part funded the NT Nationals. It has been suggested that the Federal National Party waived and that Federal Leader Ian Sinclair sought to extract an undertaking that all future CLP federal members would sit in the National Party room - that is not my recollection; it is illogical in any event as such a move would have opened the door to the Federal Liberal Party. A salutary reminder to those who talk up a separate Liberal Party in the NT - when we needed the National Party they delivered and stood by the CLP. Such loyalty should not be lightly dismissed.
The NT Nationals drew an impressive cross section of Territorians to their banner. At their peak they had over 600 members and 6 branches. Many of their candidates were respected sensible people. The loss of Bobby Liddle to the NT Nationals was a coup as was the flagged recruitment of Jay Pendarvis of Mudginberri fame who was personally recruited by Joh.17 As matters came to pass Jay declined the invitation. I give a lot of credit to Steve Hatton as Chief Minister for the critically important role he played in outmanoeuvring Tuxworth and the NT Nationals. Unfortunately for Steve, he would never reap the reward for his efforts as, post election, the focus was on the worst primary vote in our history to date rather than the acknowledgement that he defeated the NT Nationals - ‘a win is a win’ was lost somewhere along the way. As events played out nationally the QLD Nationals launched the ‘Joh for Canberra’ campaign that ultimately wrecked the Coalitions election chances in the double dissolution that year. The Hawke Government was returned 11 July 1987 having gone earlier to thwart Joh. John Howard’s leadership was left in tatters and Joh was for ‘the high jump’ with his colleagues losing the QLD Premiership to Mike Ahearn on 1 December 1987. For Joh, the NT Nationals were about his federal ambitions; for Ian Tuxworth it was a pathway back to Government on his terms and political vindication.
In my view, the NT Nationals did not endure and failed for four reasons: first, their core foundation was ‘disgruntlement’ and ‘disaffection’ and the public was so attuned. Second, they were just another urban party - they were no Country Party by any stretch of the imagination; third, they were headed by Ian Tuxworth who had been rated as one of the least approved Chief Ministers in our short history. Finally, they were seen as being orchestrated from outside the NT. Constant references to Joh and QLD played to the same tune promoted by the CLP about the ALP taking their orders from Canberra. They were ‘outsiders’. Territory media played on all four and, in particular, gave Sir Joh short shrift.18 As an aside, when Pauline Hanson and One Nation turned up ten years later in the NT we knew how to deal with quasi conservatives trying to take over our patch. The Tuxworth-NT Nationals episode was a bitter, acrimonious period in the CLP’s history; that we survived it to rebuild the Party out of the ashes of division surprises me to this day.
Later, we would re-embrace and rehabilitate those who had made a mistake (and confessed to ‘having the wrong dreams’19) if the CLP was to regain its mantle as the Territory Party we needed to be a ‘broad church’. That meant going back to our roots to reinforce our Liberal Country parentage. It also involved the ‘rehabilitation’ of those who had embraced the NT Nationals.
I had agitated for Heaslip’s election as a foil to the NT Nationals but it turned out to be a disaster. My colleagues on the Management Committee had a view on Grant and it wasn’t complimentary. Further, some believed he secretly supported Tuxworth although I never saw any evidence of that. Ian and Grant had been friends, Heaslip was no fan of Everingham and coming from Central Australia he was aligned to the country party ethos. By the time Heaslip had arrived in the role I had done all the ‘dirty work’ as acting President having presided over the expulsion of many of those who had been his friends and colleagues - he would never have to face such a prospect. It should have been a walk in the park to get us over the election held 7 March 1997 and then ‘right’ the ship. Unfortunately, matters didn’t work out and Heaslip resigned as Party President in controversial circumstances on 15 May 1988. I took on the mantle of Acting and later President following the CLP ‘show down’ at Alligator River on 4 June 1988.
The events at Alligator River were a ‘watershed’ in Territory politics. The CLP was redefined as the baton passed to the next generation. Up to my armpits in blood we had won the day and the CLP was reborn. Beaten before we arrived, victorious as we left - there were some great speeches made that day. People were on the edge of their seats for hours riveted by the verbal stoush that saw the ‘hucksters’ win the day20 (Archives Documents makes for some compelling reading).
In between Lewis’s departure and Alligator River I had built a strong alliance of core supporters among the Party activists including Paul Everingham, Suzanne Cavanagh, Charlie Taylor, Barry and Cath Wyatt, Herman Weber, Richard Lim, Bob Brough, Peter Trenchard and John Hare. Chris Nathaneal21 and Bill Forward22 drifted in and out of the group depending on the issue and Grant Tambling seemed always on the wrong side of the argument.23 Graeme Lewis had stepped back and, for a period, would be in ‘the wilderness’ caught in the crossfire and fallout from Tuxworths resignation, Hatton’s departure and the long expected arrival of Marshall Perron as Chief Minister. Lewis and Perron were not close exacerbated by Lewis standing against Perron for Fannie Bay pre-selection in 1987. Despite the best efforts of Barry Coulter to try and look after Lewis he remained an ‘outsider’. Lewis was not part of our group although relations were cordial and I had a regret about him being a major casualty of the in-fighting. It is for Graeme to confirm but I believed his resignation in December 1986 was about removing himself as an object of division given the looming fight with the NT Nationals for the hearts and minds of Territorians. He didn’t want to be the focus of on-going angst within the Party and he is to be admired for doing what was best for the Party, also, he was about to nominate for CLP pre-selection and it’s not a good look when the Party President goes up against a sitting member of the political party you lead. After Alligator River Hatton was stuck with a Party President he didn’t want, his supporters in Central Council had been thrashed, marginalized and against that background his leadership limped on. Hatton’s parliamentary colleagues were less than confident in his leadership even though they had survived the 1987 General Election.
Notwithstanding the narrowest of victories to the CLP in 1987, the Hatton CLP Government was returned with NT National preferences after a very low primary vote.24 The CLP suffered a 20 percent swing resulting in one of the worst primary votes ever - 39.4 percent. The on-going division between the CLP and the NT Nationals gave rise to continuing conflict within the party.25 The Parliamentary Wing was clearly divided within. We had barely ‘dodged a bullet’ and the on-going dysfunction of the Government and appalling election result ultimately led to the toppling of Chief Minister Steve Hatton by Marshall Perron on 13 July 1988. Three years on, in the 1990 General Election, the NT Nationals would exit the Territory stage in defeat having gained a little oxygen when they won the Flynn by-election on 10 September 1990 with the election of respected Alice Springs business identity Enzo Floreani. Had they hung, on even by one seat in the Assembly, they had the capacity to disrupt and complicate the conservative side of Territory politics.
Post 1988 I went onto forge a very strong partnership with Marshall Perron. In the beginning, we barely knew each other. Marshall had not been embroiled in the infighting in the organisational wing. Instead he had been paying particular attention to Ian Tuxworth’s activities and otherwise had observed the ongoing conflict from the margins as a back bencher. He had been under considerable pressure to rejoin the Ministry and consider the leadership. Marshall and I had different strengths, learned to trust and rely on each other and set about rebuilding the CLP. We had all the bases covered between the Organisational and Parliamentary Wings. What had been on offer to Steve Hatton and rejected out of hand was picked up by Marshall Perron.26 We were about to make the CLP great again, and we did. It would turn out to be one of the most enduring tag teams in the history of the CLP from 1988 to 1995 the year I succeeded Marshall as Chief Minister. Running parallel for the same period was the relationship between Marshall Perron and Barry Coulter. Leader and Deputy - confidants, friends and close colleagues. Looking forward, it could have gone either way. It was destined to make for a complicated set of circumstances and one in which Marshall Perron was the central player.
In 1987, as the CLP Vice President, I defeated the pre-selection of the CLP member for Sadadeen Denis Collins after a bruising contest that divided the Centralian community.27
My bid to enter the NT Legislative Assembly ended in failure when I was defeated, in fact thrashed in the 1987 General Election and Collins was returned overwhelmingly as an Independent Conservative. He would later resist attempts to join the NT Nationals. Chief Minister Steve Hatton28 was conspicuously absent on my campaign trail compared to Paul Everingham, Roger Vale, Bernie Kilgariff29 and Roger Steel30 who all door knocked and campaigned solidly against Collins. Paul Everingham taught me how to door knock Territory style. Clamouring over side fences, brushing aside barking dogs with a firm knock on the door and that Everingham trademark drawl:
“G’day I’m Paul Everingham, just come round to introduce Shane Stone the candidate for Sadadeen”
At which point, I would thrust a calling card at the person and we would leave without further conversation heading for the next side fence and assembled dogs who looked like they could rip your throat out. When I questioned Everingham about why we didn’t get into a conversation with the occupant he retorted:
“It’s only the Labor people who want to talk so they can hold you up - keep moving’’.
I wasn’t good with dogs and since most Territorians have a dog or two door knocking can be a harrowing experience. Josie was the only other person I ever door knocked with who was completely fearless of dogs; one look and they went to ground. Federal candidate Helen Galton and I had an interesting experience door docking during the federal election in Alice Springs. Once up the driveway a huge grey German shepherd rose up out of the concrete. Fortunately, he had more interest in Helen than me. The owner appeared and rescued Helen before ‘Rin Tin Tin’ could get too amorous.
Collins matched my efforts on the doorstep with great effect. He letterboxed his favourite pancake recipe while I bored people silly with my ‘visionary’ plans for the NT. Collins delivered a great lesson in how to have a conversation with your electorate bearing out the theory that all politics is ‘local’. Peter Murphy, engaged in a conversation with locals at the Memorial Club during the campaign, reported back:
“Murphy: Collins is an idiot. Alice local: Yeah, Murf but he’s our idiot”
Denis Collins was no idiot or dill, he knew his electorate and they knew him. He may have had some whacky ideas but we have all been accused of that from time to time. Later soundings to re-admit Collins as a CLP member were rebuffed. My public humiliation following the loss in Sadadeen proved a very difficult period for me. Apart from being defeated and denied an opportunity to enter the Parliament I was consumed with having let down the CLP in Alice Springs. Members had strongly supported my challenge and had steadfastly campaigned on my behalf facing down a local backlash against the ‘blow-in’ to ‘the Alice’.
Standing on the polling booth at Sadadeen High School one hour after the polls opened I turned to local businessman Paul Sitzler to ask how he thought I was going – In his typical dead pan broad Germanic accent Paul answered:
“Dead in the water’’.
He stayed with me all day even though he had been rostered on for two hours. He was later joined by his brother Peter Sitzler - a gesture never ever forgotten when it came to the Sitzler family. This was one of the toughest and loneliest days in my political career - standing on the booth all day knowing I had already been defeated. As MP’s will confirm, you know when you’re gone, eye contact is avoided, they move past quickly and only take the how-to-vote card as a matter of courtesy and don’t stop to talk on the way out. When the swing is on its on - it’s unstoppable. Then you stand up at the evening function, thank the few supporters who turn up and wish your opponent well through gritted teeth. I was amazed how many people stopped me in the street in Alice over the following week to reassure me they had voted my way - I almost sought a recount. It’s a tough game and not too many front up a second or subsequent time so demoralizing is the experience - in the NT John Elferink, Peter Styles, Clare Martin, John Reeves, Jack Ah Kit, Dave Tollner, Daryl Manzie and I are among the few.
Throughout this period while everything else was going on there was the controversy swirling around Ray Hanrahan, a very talented member of the CLP parliamentary team who in time rose to the position of Deputy Chief Minister.
Ray Hanrahan was the MLA for Flynn in Alice Springs from 1983 to 1988 and a senior Cabinet Minister.31 Ray was Territory born, very personable, intelligent and quick witted. The Hanrahan ‘saga’ as the media would constantly refer to it, was every bit the sideshow compared to all the other challenges we were facing as a Government and political party. A potential Chief Minister according to his many supporters Ray abruptly resigned, first from the Ministry (he was acting Chief Minister at the time) and later from the Legislative Assembly. In the subsequent by election the seat was lost to the NT Nationals. The role of branch Chairmen Jenny Sinclair and Alan Day who wore the brunt of the upheaval was stellar. I have not set out the detail of what transpired - that is best gleaned from the Archive media clippings. As observed by Laozi, a mystic philosopher of ancient China:
“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”
Ray Hanrahan was a loss to the CLP and the good Government of the Territory.
In the aftermath of Sadadeen, I dusted myself off, shored up my position as CLP Vice President and weighed all the options determined not to abandon my political ambitions. On reflection I concede had I won Sadadeen I would have struggled to be elected Chief Minister from Central Australia. In a perverse turn of events, my defeat by Collins was the best outcome as matters played out. On the other hand, I had started in Alice, had been ‘bloodied’ in the Centre and, as time progressed, they would claim me as one of their own. As Everingham had before me, I started out in Alice – it was good CLP folklore to build on. That connection proved fortuitous when it came to putting together a broad coalition of support in the wider Territory community. I have said to my son Jack on occasions that, in the unlikely event he ever wanted to pursue a political career in the Territory, he has the perfect double - conceived in the Alice and born in Darwin.
I never forgot Alice Springs and the people of Central Australia amongst them: Les and Marie Loy, Herman and Ruth Weber, the Sitzlers – Peter, Lorrie, Paul and Mina; and, my good mate Shelley Sitzler. The list includes: Pat and Bronwyn Adami, June and Dave Tuzewski, Felicity Kyberg, Glen Skipworth, Gail Brown, Helen English, John Guy, Michael Figwer, Vicki Warne, Ross Peterkin, Coleen and Joe Davis, Graeme and Catherine Buckley, Tony Richards, Wayne and Margaret Thomas, and Alan and Rhonda Day. Then there were the Keelors, Lims, Vales, Ryans, Thomas’, Kilgariffs, Waudby (Mount Wedge fame), Heenans and the Morgan and Vaughan families - they were all there for me. On my watch I returned the compliment and Alice prospered. The Alice Springs Branch of the CLP always stayed close to my heart; they gave me my first shot and stood steadfast through it all. Many of those people have now passed on or left the Alice. I hope, by including them in my memoirs by name, those living will understand the regard and appreciation I hold for them all.
We supported and helped each other and such was the sense of community in the Alice. I have the lasting memory of Rhonda and Alan Day helping us move into Sturt Terrace on their knees scrubbing the floors caked in dirt and excrement from a miniature horse that lived in the house with the previous owner. Alan would go onto play an important role in keeping the Flynn Branch of the CLP on an even keel during the implosion of Deputy Chief Minister Ray Hanrahan who resigned unexpectedly in August 1988. When he later moved to Darwin and sold his business, Alan became director of the NT Industrial Supplies Office. He was fearless in the prosecution of his role in support of Territory business. Rhonda worked briefly and occasionally as my electorate officer. Sharon and Richard Lim were rock solid supporters. Richard we chose as Jack’s Godfather. He was an outstanding Vice President of the CLP on my watch. In time Richard succeeded where I failed – he beat Denis Collins. The Lims were loyal friends and typical of the Central Australian network.
Against this background we moved to Darwin in 1989 to expand the Buckley & Stone law practice. By this stage I was President of the CLP having weathered the daily ‘hand to hand’ conflict with those who would consign the CLP to the waste bin of politics. With Joh’s demise in Queensland in 1987 and the Federal Nationals having spurned Tuxworth the end of the NT Nationals was in sight. We would never fully recover all our wayward members, some would never come back to the fold and there remained lingering resentment within the CLP to some. Others were never CLP members to start with and, in time, would hitch their wagon to the next wave of celebrity conservative to come our way. Pauline Hanson, Bob Katter and Clive Palmer attracted some support in the NT - they won’t be the last.
Our shift from the Alice in around 1989 transformed our lives, again. Josephine was pregnant with Jack as we packed up our belongings to drive north after three years in the Alice. We had made the drive between Alice and Darwin on previous occasions. Part of the highway between Alice and Tennant Creek remained unsealed punctuated by potholes, washaways and the never ending red dust - it was a solid two days drive. We knew we were close when reaching the outskirts of Katherine the remnants of a large battered roadside sign appeared through the swirling red dust:
‘You’re in cattle country. Eat beef you bastards’.
Sam Kekovich wouldn’t fit in up here although I confess I love his ads (and lamb). I recommend the ads to overseas readers - they provide a unique insight into Australian humour.32
We lived first at our townhouse in Bambra Crescent Larrakeyah and later purchased a home at Jacksonia Circuit Nightcliff. By this stage, Jack had arrived. Much later, when endorsed as CLP candidate for Port Darwin, I promised to move into the electorate if successful. Local constituent Leo Venturin made a big point to me about living local. In the NT it did and still does matter if you live in your electorate. After my election as the member for Port Darwin we moved to Zealandia Crescent Larrrakeyah. Our new home backed onto our former town house in Bambra Crescent. If I recall the reason we moved from Bambra Crescent to Nightcliff was because of our dog Sharka - I shake my head looking back at that decision.
Josephine and I were full partners and I the ‘in-house’ Counsel at Buckley & Stone prior to commencing my parliamentary career in October 1990. Graeme Buckley was the managing partner and a very hard working colleague. Graeme played an important role in furthering my political ambitions. The new Buckley & Stone Darwin office was located in the Darwin Mall. In recruiting staff, we were reported to the NT Law Society by Ward Keller when Brenda Jamnick walked through our door followed by Annette Smith, and another. Apparently we were ’poaching’. In any event, the complaint was rejected as frivolous. Welcome to Darwin I thought - what’s with the NT Legal profession? Business boomed; we won many clients and in time Graham and Catherine joined us from the Alice leaving Tony Morgan to manage our Central Australian practice. It didn’t take us long to make our mark in Darwin and establish a loyal following. We learned to forgive Ward Keller their churlishness.
In between my practice and political involvement, I became embroiled in the Bob Liddle affair which threatened to derail my political career with a finding of “unsatisfactory conduct’”, albeit ultimately resolved between Bob Liddle and I. This protracted episode, which included a successful Appeal to the Supreme Court of the NT, was a painful, expensive, and emotionally draining period.33
By way of background, businessman Bob Liddle, an indigenous Territorian from Alice Springs, was selected as the CLP candidate for the Federal seat of the Northern Territory in 1988. Bob had a long history in the resources sector and counted among his clients a number of substantial Australian resource houses including Western Mining. He was well connected and an articulate advocate for empowering indigenous people through mining. Attracting a candidate of Bob’s stature to stand against the incumbent Labor member Warren Snowdon was a win for the CLP. Later, Bob became disaffected with the CLP and joined the NT Nationals. In the course of 1989, concerns were raised about Liddle’s candidature and the matter was placed on the Agenda of Central Council meeting held in Darwin in October. Bob Liddle was well known to me and, in a professional capacity, my law firm was the agent for Liddle’s interstate lawyers. As his solicitors agent I was privy to certain information about Liddle. I had mixed feelings about Bob’s candidature. He would later accuse me of orchestrating his removal so that I might gain the federal preselection for myself, or for my close ally Helen Galton, who was subsequently endorsed. I had no ambitions to be the federal candidate. My sights were firmly set on the Legislative Assembly. As matters came to a head there was a single piece of correspondence, the nature of which I still cannot disclose other than it would have assisted Bob. I asked his permission to take it to the meeting. It was always my evidence that I had Bob’s consent but I never got it in writing – a fatal mistake and one that other practitioners should be very conscious of. Bob Liddle’s pre-selection was overturned and Helen Galton was endorsed. Bob in a former life was a boxer, a very good one. He was a fighter and not about to go quietly. I was subsequently dragged screaming and kicking before the NT Law Society. Such matters were not meant to be aired publicly back then, however, I occupied the ‘front page’ of the NT News repeatedly. Any suggestion that I would be extended confidentiality went out the window over night.
The ABC were rapacious in their coverage egged on by the Labor lawyers. Somewhat ironically, I was represented by former Federal Labor member John Reeves who had become a close friend. It came down to Bob’s word against mine and a number of other witnesses including Chief Minister Marshall Perron who testified in my defence. Perron remained supportive through-out and appeared as a witness in the initial hearing. He was unwavering in his support which was important given he had an intimate knowledge of the facts and what had transpired. The Ethics Committee, chaired by Trevor Riley QC (I would later appoint to the Supreme Court) found that I had misused my position as Liddle’s former solicitor to his detriment. The Committee found that I had taken the file (it was a manila folder with a single one page document inside and not the practice file) to the meeting and placed it in front of me at the top table where I was presiding as President. It was a finding of fact that the document was not revealed but the presence of the file put Bob Liddle ‘’under undue and unfair pressure’’. The Ethics Committee found the complaint proved and that my conduct was ‘’unprofessional’’. I recall at the time being crushed by the verdict. The Committee found I had failed ‘’to give undivided fidelity to his (my) clients interests’’ and in doing so had breached the Professional Conduct Rules concerning a conflict of interest. It was a body blow on every count – as a legal practitioner and former member of the Victorian Bar I took very seriously my professional reputation which had been shredded. Having been found guilty of ‘’unprofessional conduct’’ I was fined $1000.
I took the matter to the Supreme and argued that the Law Society did not have the power to make the decision and I had been denied natural justice. At this stage, my legal fees were running away like galloping horse save that my friend John Reeves was acting pro bono, something I have never forgotten. The matter was heard by Martin J, the decision was quashed and remitted back to the Law Society. Not to be outdone, the Law Society reduced the offence from “unprofessional conduct” to the lesser offence of “unsatisfactory misconduct’’ and fined me $750.00.
In the course of the Appeal it transpired that the Professional Conduct Rules of the NT Law Society had never been approved by the Chief Justice as required by the Legal Practitioners Act. This comedy of errors which for me was very unfunny would later cause me, as the Attorney General, to clean up all the loose ends of professional conduct matters and to resource the NT Law Society so that they might do the job expected of them, and other legal practitioners would not go through what I did. Regrettably, it didn’t end there. Following my election in 1990 to the Assembly and appointment as the Attorney General in 1992, Bob Liddle laid two further complaints dating from the original complaint. I was clearly being got at as successive Question Times proved. Twice I was forced to stand aside as the Attorney while matters were deliberated, it was back to the Supreme Court and defamation proceedings issued against the ABC. It was messy, draining and traumatic. It almost broke me – financially and emotionally. Later Bob Liddle and I would settle our differences but not before I had been put through the wringer.
In more recent times, it has been conceded to me that certain Labor lawyers met with a particular ALP MLA to massage, devise and execute a strategy designed to make the most of my predicament. I have been given the names of those involved and what strikes me is the hypocrisy of one of the individuals who has been the subject of a number of adverse conduct findings by the NT Law Society over the years.
On reflection, when I look back on it all, my protagonists never succeeded in derailing my political ascendancy. It was all part and parcel of the guerilla warfare designed to drive the CLP from office. Quite frankly, I mishandled the situation to my detriment. It was a valuable lesson learned and not forgotten. I remain grateful to George Watkins,34 John Reeves, Wayne Thomas35 and the late Bernie Kilgariff who all played a role in rescuing my career out of the Liddle matter. John Reeves in particular never gave up on me and appeared pro bono throughout.
With the next General Election due in 1990 I had all but given up on a second chance to enter the Legislative Assembly. Chief Minister Marshall Perron remained very supportive of my Presidency and sought to persuade me to seek a further term. However, that was not to be and mid 1990 I flagged my intention to retire as President of the CLP and concentrate on my legal career and await a further opportunity in 1993. Internal party battles had taken their toll and by this stage I had accumulated sufficient ‘political baggage’ to stymie a career in the foreseeable future. Two things happened: first, a public commentary emerged over the future and renewal of the CLP largely driven by Frank Alcorta at the NT News.36 Frank started to get traction and other commentators piled in. Second, the economy was in trouble and questions were being raised about the capacity of the CLP Government to manage through with the current gene pool.37
The Territory was facing extreme financial hardship as the Hawke Keating Labor Government tightened the purse strings - there was also “the recession we had to have”, as Federal Treasurer Paul Keating called it, and the stock market crash of 1987. The 1989 pilots strike was a king hit to Territory tourism, our largest employer. World commodity prices were in the doldrums and the proposition that the NT might one day have an iron ore mine seemed a far off and fanciful proposition. When it came to the NT economy, the stars were not aligned and we were in trouble (see Archives Audio).
Third, Chief Minister Marshall Perron intervened and, with the support of the sitting member for Port Darwin and Minister for Education Tom Harris,38 I successfully contested Port Darwin in that year’s General Election on 27 October 1990.39 In the interim, and with the support of Suzanne Cavanagh, I had managed to secure Gary Nairn as my successor as CLP President. He was an outstanding choice recruited laterally into the role and, in time, would go onto become the Federal member for Eden-Monaro for four terms and Special Minister of State in the Howard Government.40 The CLP should not be adverse to lateral recruitment of the President; sometimes we simply don’t have the right person in the ranks and, as Gary Nairn proved, it is possible to reach out to a leading figure in the Territory community to take on the role.
Darwin was a much smaller city when we arrived in the 1980s. Before Cyclone Tracey it was a small community: the city was dramatically transformed after the devastating natural disaster. However, that disaster caused Darwin to be rebuilt as a modern metropolis, Australia’s most northern capital. Despite its size, Darwin had a vibrant arts community, proactive ethnic communities, impressive infrastructure and offered a range of very good restaurants and colourful restaurateurs. Theo and Toshi Manolas had ‘Giuseppe’s’, Charlie presided at ‘Charlies’, Christine and John Lamotte had up market ‘La Chaumiere’, ‘Captain John’ the ‘Mississippi Queen’, Frank and Julie Lam the ‘Tai Hung Tol’ in Parap, and Everingham’s favourite haunt, the Lee Dynasty in Cavenagh Street, to name some. Frank and Julie hosted numerous CLP fund raisers and events in support of my candidature. Darwin also had a number of ‘topless bars’ and lingerie restaurants like ‘Bogarts’ in Parap. There was also the Marrara Hotel run by George Gameson aka ‘the Guvnor’. These places were all part of the fabric that made Darwin colourful and different. I am sure some people from southern States looked down their noses at this raw side of the ‘Top End’ capital; this bastion of ‘red neck’ Australia swimming against the tide of political correctness flooding Australia. Petty Sessions aka ‘sweaty passions,’ across from the Assembly and run by Christo, was a regular haunt of Members from both sides of the political fence, senior public servants, media and business and hardly a sideways glance at the topless waitresses working the tables. These were very colourful times and we didn’t much care what the rest of Australia thought and quite frankly I still don’t.
Charlies, an Italian seafood restaurant enshrined in Top End folklore, was where the CLP leadership met regularly to take some of the more important decisions on the NT’s future. Charlie was famous for his ‘chilli bugs’ and robbing his customers as though it was part of the service. His wife Loretta worked tirelessly in the kitchen when she wasn’t at St. Mary’s Cathedral dusting and cleaning - she was a Saint. The back room was reserved for our use. On more than one occasion lunch became dinner. Darwin is fairly constrained and dull these days compared to the past. With modernity and engagement with the Asia Pacific came restraint and sense of civility that has, at times, given way to a nightclub scene that brings great disgrace to our city although, in that respect, Darwin isn’t alone.
Later, as a Minister and Chief Minister, the Parliamentary Wing would dine out after each sitting day. Different restaurants were well patronized into the early hours of the morning. Business people, media and public servants would follow ‘the caravan’ to grab a minute; have a discussion on the margins about things that mattered. This informal engagement with Government kept us on top of our game, informed and alert to issues that shaped the future of the Territory. Our ‘political intelligence’ was second to none: we knew what was going on, when and where. Nowadays, to see a Minister is a major undertaking shrouded in process and ‘probity’, that favourite word used by senior public servants to keep Ministers out of the loop. No wonder so little gets done at times. Politicians today seem frightened to make a decision; I say back your judgement and have a go. You are not only in Government you are in power so get on with it. Probity - an excuse to do nothing.
We also took an important decision as a Government that has remained in force. Despite the new Parliament’s magnificent dining facilities we decided we would not have a parliamentary dining room operating in competition with local restaurants. We used the facility for receptions and events but always had the catering brought in from local restaurants. A subsidized parliamentary dining room would have decimated the local surrounding restaurants: full points to Territory Labor in upholding this policy.
Darwin has changed socially yet the city has continued to grow exponentially from a range of commercial activities dating from Self Government. It was claimed recently, by journalist Paul Cleary writing in The Australian41 comparing Darwin and Dili, that onshore development from Timor Sea gas piped to the Northern Territory ‘”has transformed the once sleepy outpost into Australia’s Dallas”. What rubbish. Since Cyclone Tracy, Darwin has not been a ‘sleepy outpost’ - something like that could only be written by someone not paying attention to Darwin’s growth over the past four decades and who perhaps has never been to Dallas.
Darwin was growing long before Timor Sea Gas was a reality and ConocoPhillips arrived on the scene. We have a long way to go before we come close to rivalling Dallas with a population of 1.2 million and part of the sixth largest economy in the USA. If Cleary was trying to give the impression that Darwin only came alive with the arrival of Labor into office he’s well off the mark.
Under my chapter headed ‘Federal President of the Liberal Party’, I deal with this topic in greater detail. The Executive Summary argues that the CLP should maintain it’s independence as the third conservative party in the Coalition. To be clear, I do not and never have supported the CLP being absorbed by the Liberal Party or for that matter the National Party. The current arrangements work just fine.
I found in the NT Country Liberal Party a political organisation that best represented to me the old values of the Country Party in which I was ‘schooled’ and the pragmatism of the Liberal Party; socially conservative, it was heavily populated with fellow Catholics who had eschewed the Labor Party NTCLP Website link ↩
Later Alf Hooper would be enticed out of retirement by Chief Minister Hatton to contest the Presidency against me following the resignation of Grant Heaslip. See NT News ‘Hooper ‘available’ to head CLP’ 1 June 1988 ↩
Dr Godfrey Alan aka Goff Letts CBE was the Majority Leader of the NT from 1974 to 1977. A founding member of the NT branch of the Country Party in 1966 he contested the Legislative Council seat of Victoria River for the CP at the 1971 elections and subsequently become leader of the CP in the Council (he had previously served as an appointed Member of the Legislative Council). Following the announcement of the creation of the NT Legislative Assembly to replace the Council, Letts helped merge the Territory’s Country and Liberal parties into the CLP and led the party to victory at the 1974 election, winning 17 of 19 seats. He was elected Majority Leader- and was known as the Chief Secretary. He lost his seat at the 1977 election and was replaced by Paul Everingham. He was pre-selected by the CLP to contest the Federal seat of the NT at the 1980 General Election but withdrew to accept the position of CEO of the NT Conservation Commission. Letts broke from the CLP and resigned from his position at the Conservation Commission in 1983 to stand as an independent for the Alice Springs based seat of Araluen at the 1983 Territory election. He was awarded a CBE in 1978 for his services to the Territory and public administration. See also Heatley, A. (1996) Letts, Godfrey Alan (Goff)’, pp 192 – 194, Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 3. Ed. Carment, D. & Wilson, H. NTU Press: Casuarina ↩
The Honourable Grant Ernest John aka Grant Tambling AM former Darwin City Alderman was elected to the first Northern Territory Legislative Assembly as the CLP member for Fannie Bay in 1974. Tambling served as Executive Member for Community Development in this first Assembly pre Self-Government. In 1975 he became Deputy Majority Leader; he was defeated at the 1977 election by Pam O’Neil ALP. He was later elected as the Federal Member for the NT 1980 to 1983. He was defeated after one term by John Reeves ALP. 4 years later he was elected to the Senate at the 1987 federal election replacing Bernie Kilgariff. He is the only Territorian to have served in both houses of federal parliament. Tambling spent 14 years as a Senator, six of them as a parliamentary secretary, before being dis-endorsed by the CLP at the 2001 election. Tambling retired from politics and after two years was appointed as the Administrator of Norfolk Island 1 November 2003 to September 2007. Sandy Tambling was a tireless worker for the CLP through-out in support of her husband’s political career ↩
The Honourable Paul Everingham AO was the head of government of the Northern Territory from 1977 to 1984 serving as the second and last Majority Leader (1977-1978) and the first Chief Minister of the Northern Territory (1978-1984). He was the CLP member for Jingili in the NT Legislative Assembly. He was named leader of the CLP and Majority Leader after his predecessor Goff Letts was unexpectedly defeated in 1977. When the Territory was granted self-government in 1978, Everingham became the NT’s first Chief Minister. He resigned in 1984 to contest the Federal Seat of the NT held by John Reeves of the ALP. Everingham was elected as the Federal member for the NT 1984 to 1987. He retired undefeated to return to legal practise in QLD. He later served as the President of the Liberal Party QLD Division ↩
Heatley A ‘The Territory Party : The Northern Territory Country Liberal Party 1974-1998’ published 1998 NTU ↩
I am particularly grateful to the former Executive Officer of the CLP John Hare for making available extensive clippings of media and documents from his time ↩
By election held 19 April 1986 ↩
The Honourable James aka Jim Robertson was the CLP member for Gillen from 1974 to 1983 and Araluen from 1983 to 1986 when he retired undefeated after a distinguished Ministerial career. He served as Manager of Government Business in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Letts Executives (November 1974 - September 1977); Manager of Government Business, Executive Member for Community and Social Development in the Everingham Executive pre Self Government (September 1977 - June 1978); Manager of Government Business, Minister for Community Development and Minister for Education in the First to Third Everingham Ministries (1 July 1978 - 1 July 1979); Manager of Government Business and Minister for Education in the Fourth (1 July 1979-30 June 1980); Leader of the House, Minister for Education and Minister for Lands and Housing in the Fifth Everingham Ministry (30 June 1980- 25 January 1982); Leader of the House, Minister for Education and Minister for Community Development in the Sixth Everingham Ministry ( 25 January 1982 - 30 November 1982); Leader of the House, Attorney-General and Minister for Mines and Energy in the Seventh Everingham Ministry (30 November 1982 - 13 December 1983); Leader of Government Business, Attorney-General and Minister for Transport and Works in the Eighth Everingham Ministry (13 December 1983 - 16 October 1984); he retained the same portfolios in the First Tuxworth Ministry (16 October 1984 - 20 December 1984); Minister for Health and Minister for Youth, Sport, Recreation and Ethnic Affairs; also (until 25 February 1985) Leader of Government Business in the Second Tuxworth Ministry (21 December 1984 - 19 August 1985); Special Minister for Constitutional Development (until 26 March 1986) in the Third Tuxworth Ministry (19 August 1985 - 28 April 1986). He later served the Perron and Stone Government as a special Adviser on Constitutional matters including Statehood. He served as a Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Convention held in 1998 ↩
Former Minister the Honourable Jim Robertson retired causing a by-election; pre-selection was won by Eric Poole who was favoured by then Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth. Eric Poole had a wealth of experience as Chairman of the NT Tourist Commission (as the CEO was the known) and in the commercial field and was the right decision ↩
The organisational structure of the CLP mirrors the National Party - Branches, Central Council, Annual Conference with a Management Committee acting as the Executive of Central Council in between Council meetings ↩
NT News ‘Its either Ian Tuxworth or me’ 8 December 1986 ↩
The Honourable Roger Vale was a the CLP member for Stuart from 1974 to 1983 and thereafter Braitling until his retirement after a distinguished career undefeated in 1994. Roger Vale was the Speaker of the NT Assembly (17 June 1986 – 9 October 1989). He was Minister for Tourism, Minister for Youth, Sport, Recreation and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Central Australian Affairs in the Third Perron Ministry (13/11/1990 – 29/11/1992) . He was Minister for Tourism and Minister for Youth, Sport, Recreation and Ethnic Affairs and Local Government in the Fourth Perron Ministry (29/11/1992-15/09/1993). Roger Vale was considered one of the most successful constituent members of Parliament ever in the CLP’s history. Roger Vale passed away on 10 April 2001 ↩
NT Nationals never officially part of the National Party were supported by then QLD Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen in defiance of the Federal organisation. They were led by a former CLP Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth ↩
NT News 14 February 1987 ↩
The Mudginberri abattoir was the focus of a major industrial relations dispute from 1983 to 1985. The employees at Mudginberri had negotiated their own employment contracts without any union involvement and most refused to support the picket. Most of the workforce were members of the AMIEU but had little contact with the union. Ian McLachlan was President of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) during the dispute and later a Minister in the Howard Government. He later wrote that Mudginberri “turned the tide” against union power and “changed the nature of industrial relations in Australia”. John Howard, then leader of the Opposition, urged the creation of many more Mudginberris. Barrister for Pendarvis and the NFF was Peter Costello, who was to later co-found the H. R. Nicholls Society, act in the Dollar Sweets dispute and go on to become the federal treasurer in the Howard Government and a prominent architect of the Howard Government Industrial Relations reforms ↩
NT News Editorial ‘Sir Joh is not the man’ 9 February 1987 ↩
A new turn of phrase for the political lexicon crafted by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in reference to his uncle Chang Song-thaek; other phraseology of ‘the leader’ included “… committed such anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts as gnawing at the unity and cohesion of the party”; “…a depraved, corruption-addled drug-user who had ‘improper relations’ with women and gambled in overseas casinos after becoming affected by the capitalist way of living”; ‘’…pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scene’’; “Prompted by his politically-motivated ambition, he tried to increase his force and build his base… and his followers committed criminal acts baffling imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution’’. Kim’s speech writer must have an interesting role ↩
See Media Release by Chairman Nightcliff Milner Branch Harvey Fewings 16 May 1988 ↩
Chris was very much his own man with his own ideas about how to deal with the ongoing issues and conflict. He held a number of executive positions in the Management Committee over the years. An effective Treasurer, he conceived the idea of the CLP Financial Life Member and allowed Paul Zlotskowsi to take the No. 1 membership to get the scheme away, a gracious gesture on Chris Nathaniel’s part ↩
Bill Forwood was a Vice President of the CLP. He left the NT and was elected as a Liberal member of the Victorian Legislative Council. I have maintained my friendship with Bill over the years ↩
Tambling aligned with Steve Hatton at Alligator River. Grant was comprehensibly trounced; later, after the failure of the Statehood Referendum, Tambling made an uninvited intrusion into the CLP Party room to give the benefit of his political advice; he again interfered when he suggested my election as Federal President of the Liberal Party was not possible. See NT News Editorial ‘Divided over Stone’ 25 March 1999 ↩
Jaensch D & Loveday P ‘Challenge from the Nationals: The Territory Election 1987’ Australian National University North Australian Research Unit Monograph Darwin 1987 ↩
Sunday Territorian ‘CLP in Crisis’ 22 May 1988 pp.1, 2; Sunday Territorian ‘Stone In’ 5 June 1988 pp. 1, 2; NT News Editorial ‘CLP Back on Even Keel’ 8 August 1988; NT News ‘No Fireworks at Alice : Party Rallies Round’ 9 Aug 1988 p. 6 ↩
NT News Editorial ‘CLP back on even keel’ 8 August 1988; NT News ‘No fireworks at Alice The Party rallies round’ 9 August 1988 ↩
Collins had defeated the pre-selection of sitting CLP member Rod Oliver in 1980; he sat as an independent from 1987-94 and was subsequently defeated by Richard Lim for the CLP. Collins later joined One Nation ↩
I understand that it was difficult for Hatton to campaign against an old colleague but by this stage Collins had left the CLP and I was the endorsed candidate, in effect his candidate ↩
Bernard Francis aka Bernie Kilgariff AM was one of the founders of the CLP and served as a member of the NT Legislative Council and also the Legislative Assembly. He served as Speaker in the First Legislative Assembly (20 November 1974 – 16 July 1975); in the Second Letts Executive he served as Deputy Majority Leader and Executive Member for Finance and Law (August 1975-November 1975). He resigned to contest the 1975 Federal Election as the CLP Senate candidate and served in that role until his retirement. Bernie Kilgariff initially sat with the Country Party, later switched to the Liberal Party and was later elected Coalition Whip in the Senate ↩
The Honourable Roger Steel was the CLP member representing Ludmilla 1974 - 1983 and Elsey (Katherine) 1983 -1987. He served as Minister for Industrial Development and Minister for Transport and Works First and Second Everingham Ministries (1 July 1978 - 8 March 1979); Minister for Industrial Development and Minister for Transport and Works in the Third and Fourth Everingham Ministries (2 March 1979 - 30 June 1980); Minister for Primary Production and Tourism and Minister Assisting the Treasurer in the Fifth Everingham Ministry (30 June 1980 - 25 January 1982); Minister for Primary Production, Minister for Industrial Development and Tourism and Minister Assisting the Treasurer in the Sixth Everingham Ministry (25 January 1982 - 30 November 1982); Minister for Transport and Works and Minister Assisting the Treasurer Seventh Everingham Ministry (30 November 1982 - 13 December 1983). He also served as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly 28 February 1984 – 16 June 1986. Between 1987 and 1990 he served as the inaugural Director of the Stockman Hall of Fame Longreach based out of Brisbane. In 1991 he joined my Ministerial staff and served throughout my time in the Ministry and as Chief Minister ↩
Ray Hanrahan served in the Third Tuxworth Ministry Leader of Government Business, Minister for Health and Minister for Youth, Sport, Recreation and Ethnic Affairs following the retirement of Jim Robertson. Thereafter, Fourth Tuxworth Ministry from 14 May 1986 to 15 May 1986 Minister for Business, Technology and Communications and Minister for Tourism. First Hatton Ministry from 15 May 1986 to 18 March 1987 Leader of Government Business, Minister for Business, Technology and Communications and Minister for Tourism. Second Hatton Ministry following Hanrahan replacing Coulter as Deputy Chief Minister Deputy Chief Minister, Leader of Government Business, Minister for Lands and Housing, Minister for Conservation and Minister for Tourism. Third Hatton Ministry from 8 May 1987 to 20 December 1987 Deputy Chief Minister, Leader of Government Business, Minister for Lands and Housing, Minister for Conservation and Minister for Tourism. Fourth Hatton Ministry 21 December 1988 to 5 April 1988 Deputy Chief Minister, Leader of Government Business, Minister for Education and Minister for Tourism. Hanrahan resigned from the Ministry 5 April 1988. Served as Member for Flynn 3 December 1983 to I988. In the subsequent by election held 10 September 1988 Labor preferences elected NT Nationals candidate Enzo Floreani. The Electoral Division of Flynn was abolished in 1990 ↩
The Liddle affair forced me to stand aside as the Attorney from 8 to 13 April 1993. Thereafter, I was replaced as the Attorney by Hon Daryl Manzie MLA on 29 April 1993. The ALP never grasped how close they came to forcing me to resign from Parliament and abandon my political career. I later reclaimed the portfolio on 15 September 1997 displacing Burke who threatened to resign over being stripped of the role ↩
The senior barrister in my group at Latham Chambers, a man I considered one of the most talented Counsel I had ever come across ↩
Local Territory businessman with diverse interests and with his wife Margaret and family long term committed supporters ↩
Various media extracts are available in the Archives section of the website ↩
I thought that an unfair call given the performance of the CLP since Self Government ↩
The Honourable Tom Harris was the CLP Member for Port Darwin from 1977 to 1990. He served as Minister for Education in the Eighth Everingham Ministry (13 December 1983 - 16 October 1984) and the First, Second and Third Tuxworth Ministries (17 October 1984 – 24 April 1986); Minister for Health and Minister for Housing Fourth Tuxworth Ministry (29 April 1986 – 14 May 1986); Minister for Labour and Administrative Services in the Second Hatton Ministry (15 May 1986 – 18 March 1987; he resigned from Ministry 30 April 1987 following comments made about PNG). Later he was restored to the Ministry and served as Minister for Education and Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Constitutional Development (6 April 1988 – 13 July 1988); he served as Minister for Education and Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Constitutional Development in the Third Perron Ministry (4 September 1989 – 12 November 1990). Harris served as a Minister notwithstanding he was no longer a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly between following the 1990 General Election from 27 October 1990 to 12 November 1990. Tom Harris retired undefeated following a distinguished parliamentary and Ministerial carer to make way for me. He played a critically important role in securing post-secondary education for the NT including the foundation of the Northern Territory University now Charles Darwin University ↩
6th Assembly of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly; Tom Harris retired so that I might have the opportunity to serve in the Legislative Assembly. Until Harris flagged his intention, my only other option was to try and displace another sitting member something I was loath to do given the Sadadeen experience. Further, as President of the Party I thought it improper to even think about challenging a sitting member. Harris was deeply concerned about the future of the CLP and had published a document setting out matters he believed the Party needed to address ↩
It is good to see Gary Nairn back in the Territory playing a role in the CLP Administration – they are lucky to have him ↩
The Australian Paul Cleary ‘East Timor’s tribulations fuelled by Darwin’s great LNG pipedream’ 5 December 2013 ↩