Here for my sins is the text of another letter I have just submitted to the local Northern Territory News:
The statement in your editorial of 2 December 2015 that “neither of the major political parties is in a position we would consider as ready to govern beyond 2016” is certainly correct, although the 2016 limitation is unnecessary.
In a tiny place like the Territory, a single party in an effectively two party “winner take all” system will almost never have enough talented MLAs to form a competent Ministry. Hopefully we will manage to elect a handful of additional talented individuals at the 2016 election, but still neither party will have enough to form a competent Ministry solely from their own parliamentary ranks.
Moreover the vicious adversarial culture of NT politics deters many talented individuals from even standing for election or pre-selection.
Our political situation will not improve until its systemic shortcomings are addressed. The other 2 tiny polities in Australia (Tasmania and the ACT) both have multi-member electorates where MLAs are elected by proportional representation on the Hare-Clark system. It provides greater depth and diversity of representation and encourages formation of coalition governments where a greater range of views are heard and co-operation and compromise are necessary.
Even in our current Legislative Assembly, Independents like Gerry Wood and Kezia Purick have greater abilities and experience than most of the major party MLAs on either side, and would make excellent Ministers in a coalition government.
This sort of system could be introduced right now by ordinary NT legislation. Another possibility for achieving a competent Ministry would be to allow a limited number of suitable experts from outside Parliament to be co-opted for specialist portfolios (e.g. Treasurer, Attorney-General). That would require Commonwealth co-operation by amending the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act but it is also well worth considering.
I am hoping that a formal statehood process will provide an opportunity to consider these and many other possible reforms, but there is no reason to delay until then. The need for competent government has never been more urgent.
Senior Lecturer in Law