Territory political bulletin

TA reader Homer Paxton has been hounding me for news of the outcome of the recent Katherine by-election in the NT, caused by the retirement of long-serving former CLP Deputy Chief Minister Mike Reed.

The CLP candidate won, but there was a swing to the ALP of almost 10%, and this former safe CLP seat (a margin of around 12%) went to preferences. It’s now held by the CLP by a margin of a bit over 2%, The main Independent candidate (Katherine mayor Jim Forscutt) ran third and polled surprisingly few votes. I don’t know why: I expected him to go close to winning.

I must say the strength of the ALP showing also surprised me (although they reputedly spent big bucks on the campaign). My “gut” level feel for the state of the parties in Darwin (there’s no published polling in the NT except in general election run-ups) is:

(1) Most people remain totally unimpressed with the CLP under Denis Burke, because he’s yesterday’s man; bitter, twisted and utterly ineffectual with an almost complete absence of constructive policies. Picture Simon Crean and multiply by three.
(2) The ALP has so far failed to re-stimulate the vibrant economic growth (in large part fuelled by Commonwealth defence spending) that sustained the NT until about 18 months before the CLP lost government. There are serious constraints on the Martin government’s ability to engage in Keynesian pump-priming to re-ignite the economy, because of the accumulated debt burden of 23 years of the CLP’s peculiar brand of corrupt agrarian socialism, but most people think they should and could be doing considerably more (and I agree).

The Martin government has also antagonised lots of interest groups with a somewhat heavy-handed approach to introducing new regulatory regimes. The Territory under the CLP was in many areas the last bastion of “rugged individualism”, with a complete lack of regulation in many areas the rest of Australia takes for granted. The lack of any open road speed limit; no points demerit system leading to loss of drivers’ licence (fortunately for me); no registration of builders (last bastion of jerry-building); and lax swmming pool fencing laws; are just a few examples. The Martin government has moved to tighten laws in several such areas, but has done so in a heavy-handed, inept way that has pissed off a lot of people.

A prominent example that’s currently costing Jenny and me a lot of money is its stupidly inflexible implementation of National Standards for swimming pool isolation fencing. We have 3 non-complying pools at home and in rental properties, but others are even more drastically affected. Suzy Kruhse, for example, has no less than 9 swimming pools requiring re-fencing, and the cheapest quote she can get for the work is $25,000 (despite the fact that her family owns Darwin’s largest swimming pool manufacturing company Viking Pools). Not surprisingly, she’s mounted a media protest campaign against the laws, and is becoming a familiar sight on TV and in the newspapers. Most home owners are less severely affected and less vocal than Suzy, but I suspect it’s a significant cause of voter discontent whose importance the government’s spin doctors may be under-estimating. A competent CLP leader might well be able to capitalise on these undercurrents and characterise the Martin government as a bunch of “down south” lefties undermining the freedom and relaxed lifestyle Territorians cherish and have previously taken for granted. It’s mostly bullshit, of course, but that sort of spin has worked well in the past for the CLP, and there’s enough of a germ of truth in it that I reckon it would work again if they had a decent leader. From the ALP’s viewpoint, they’re probably thankful the CLP managed to retain Katherine, because Burke had vowed to quit as leader if they didn’t. That’s the last thing Clare Martin would want.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Maybe there just aren’t enough people who are relaxed about the thought of their kids drowning in somebody else’s pool; or somebody else’s kids drowning in their pool.

If you don’t care about that, Ken , and I’m not suggesting for a minute that you should have to, not at all, think about your potential legal liability if had happened.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Dave,

You’ve just performed a fairly typical logical leap (for you), in that you assume that I don’t support the principle of swimming pool isolation fencing. In fact I do; indeed it’s been the subject of several heated arguments with both Jenny and Suzy, both of whom are totally opposed to the new regulations both in principle and practice.

My objection is purely to the moronic way the rules are being applied. For example, at our home the inspector insists that we must install security mesh on a window that opens onto the pool area. The window already HAS horizontal solid metal security bars below each louvre (not to mention fly screen wire on the outside), but apparently the regulations specify that louvres and/or bars must be no more than 100 centimetres apart. Ours are 103 centimetres! Not even the thinnest anorexic toddler with the skills of Harry Houdini could squeeze through, and it’s going to cost us quite a bit of money, not to mention creating an unsightly mess, to comply with this ridiculous interpretation. Just about every pool owner I’ve spoken with has similar stories of mindless bureaucratic idiocy. The high proportion of Darwin properties with swimming pools, and the reactions of every pool owner I’ve spoken with, suggest to me that this may well be a major problem for the Martin government.

woodsy
woodsy
2022 years ago

I am one with Jenny, the regulations, designed for more temperate climates, are ridiculous here and are causing extreme angst amongst usually apathetic voters. I’ve asked the Royal Lifesaving Society, the major mover in the introduction of the stupid regulations, to find out when was the last drowning due to a kid climbing a tree (all our beautiful palms will have to be cut down) or squeezing through a window to access a properly fenced pool, but they wont respond – because the answer’s NIL!!! All of the under 5’s that have drowned in fenced pools have gone into the pool thru an open gate and, unfortunately there is no cure for stupid guardians; I see there was another one in the paper today, but on a property at Humpty Doo where they don’t have to comply, how stupid is that?

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Woodsy, for us dim folk who just don’t understand, what has the climate got to do with the regulations? Is there something about living in the tropics that makes children less likely to drown in a back yard pool than if they live in Brisbane? Do they have water resistant lungs? Or what?

As for your beautiful palms: tough titties.

Graham
2022 years ago

They all have gills, apparently.