Giles and the Country Liberals – a Jekyll and Hyde government?

There are just over 9 months until the 2016 Territory election next August, unless there’s a successful “no confidence” motion in the Legislative Assembly in the meantime, or next May’s Budget is rejected. Both those possibilities presently look fairly unlikely despite endless division and instability within the Country Liberal government.

I thought it might be a useful project to list the positive and negative achievements and factors for the Giles government after nearly 39 months in government.  The most unusual feature of the list to my mind is the stark contrast between endemic political chaos and disunity on the one hand, and a quite solid and almost impressive record of economic management on the other. The government seems to have a Jekyll and Hyde persona that I find quite difficult either to understand or explain.

Anyway, here’s my list. Feel free to add your own in the comment box.

CLP Negatives

CLP Positives

  •  Deposing Terry Mills as Leader while overseas – tawdry and triggered ongoing Party divisions;
  • Significant increases in power and water charges –  perceived as too high and unfair;
  • Successive resignations by CLP MLAs (all women) reducing Parlt numbers from 16 to minority government of 12;
  • Sexist, homophobic, bullying, blokey boofhead culture;
  • Dave Tollner;
  • Deeply dodgy lands and planning adminstration – opaque, politicised, few safeguards, spot rezoning, favours for developer mates/donors;
  • McRoberts/Kamitsis affair;
  • Related allegations by/about Adam Giles;
  • Failed leadership coup against Adam Giles – farcical and revealed extent of Party disunity;
  • Foundation 51, political donations and illegality – no charges – corruption perception;
  • TIO sale – public outrage – public’s wishes ignored;
  • Palmerston imaginary Hospital – botched hole in the ground stunt;
  • The Non-Slap (Elferink brain snap);
  • Under-funding/resourcing of schools despite generous Gonski funding from Commonwealth – very unwise given chronically poor educational outcomes for NT – potential for much greater political damage if Labor and unions target this in election campaigning (stealing from our kids and giving to developer mates).
  •  Mills was a little too enamoured of economic purism & maybe insufficiently pragmatic – perhaps a necessary demise;
  • Power and water increases were necessary & responsible – ALP had irresponsibly delayed them. Increases less than southern states & territory prices still reasonable by national standards;
  • Generally responsible, competent economic management – Budget restored to surplus in a gradual, restrained way – achievement that has received insufficient credit;
  • Radically reduced fuel prices achieved through “light touch” regulation – a large and unexpected success given NT history of endemically high fuel prices – significant positive economic impact;
  • Kezia Purick and Gerry Wood unlikely to vote for no confidence motion, so government instability may be overestimated;
  • Sexist, homophobic, bullying, blokey boofhead culture (some people like that sort of thing);
  • TIO sale – probably a good, responsible decision in policy/economic terms (as opposed to public reaction), although sale price looks modest;
  • Darwin Port sale/lease – probably a very good move – price looks excellent – opens potential for developing trade links with Asia – major potential to underpin future NT economic growth;
  • Economy remains strong (second best in Australia), although mostly because of Inpex project which was a Labor achievement;
  • Tiger Brennan Drive widening works;
  • Sentenced to a Job prisoner work/rehab scheme;
  • Creation of NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

As for the utility of such a list in predicting electoral outcomes, it’s probably fairly small. Quite a few of the listed positive economic management initiatives are not perceived by the public as such, and it may be that some of the negatives are of interest mostly to political insiders.

The big questions are these.  Have issues like power and water price rises and the TIO sale controversy, along with general perceptions of chaos and disunity, resulted in a majority of voters making up their minds terminally against the Giles government? On the other hand, might tight Party discipline from now until the election (if it can be maintained), along with a succession of big development announcements (using the almost $800 million pot of money generated by the TIO and Port sales), allow the Country Liberals to sneak back into government?

CLP hopes are no doubt buoyed by the fact that Labor’s team is inexperienced and that new-ish leader Michael Gunner hasn’t made much of a public impression.  Labor seems content to keep running a “small target” strategy and punt on a continuation of public disenchantment with the Giles government.  That judgment might well prove correct.  They might be less complacent if the Country Liberals had a local equivalent of Malcolm Turnbull waiting in the wings to replace the unpopular Giles/Tollner double act. Fortunately for the ALP no such person exists.

Personally, I haven’t yet made up my mind.  The government’s strong economic achievements are a big factor for me. I could almost ignore 3 years of instability and political shenanigans if they could prove by their conduct that functional working relationships have been restored. On the other hand, significant reform in the lands and planning area is centrally important as far as I am concerned.  If Labor comes up with credible reforms and the CLP persists in its habitual (small “c” corrupt) approach, I would vote ALP despite significant reservations.  If neither proposes meaningful reform I will face a difficult decision. After all, Labor in government actually contributed to creating the current lands and planning disgrace, although the Country Liberals brought it to its current nadir.

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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Boohoo
Boohoo
6 years ago

CLP and NT Labor…..Tweedledum dee dum dee dum.

GrueBleen
GrueBleen
6 years ago

Three days now and not much by way of comments, Ken. Maybe not many are interested in the doings and don’tings of the NT legislators.

And perhaps that’s due to the hard tyranny of very low expectations. After all, as far as I can see, the NT legislators are about on a par with a western (Sydney or Melbourne) city council but with an order of magnitude more resources to expend on improving the lot of their mates and minions (not counting Matthew Guy and Fisherman’s Bend, of course).

So, not really much to choose between Tweedle and Twoddle, is there. And no hope of seeing any improvement either. But keep up the good work – without your contributions all of us in bigger plsces might just delude ourselves that we are especially cursed, and not just ‘par for the course’.

Chump sat alone
Chump sat alone
6 years ago

Thanks for the write-up.

Not from NT so miss a lot of this. The effort is appreciated.