Former Liberal Party President and Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Shane Stone AC QC was never noted for his reticence. Not at all.

Instead he modelled himself as a sort of Sun King of the Deep North, the principal mover and shaker of the Territory. The former Alice Springs-based suburban solicitor and naval reservist once notoriously crowned himself, while Chief Minister, as a Queens Counsel, “because I can”. He was consistently disparaging of the local peasantry, once describing them as “whingeing, whining, carping blacks”. And while he abysmally failed to convince Territorians of the virtues of Statehood, he operated on the same basis as the 17th century French monarch, Louis XIV: “l’etat, c’est moi” (le territoire, c’est moi, didn’t have the same ring).

He was deposed after a back bench revolt in early 1999, but his old mate John Howard picked him up from the political gutter, enthroning him as President of the federal Liberal Party where he was best known for penning the “mean and tricky” description of Howard rival, Peter Costello. Stone left the presidency in 2005, but was gonged in 2006 with a Companion of the Order of Australia, our highest civilian award.

Stone’s born to rule attitude was supposedly history, so imagine the surprise of Territory Legislative Assembly Speaker Jane Aagaard when Stone put it to her that he speak from the floor of the Assembly to a Condolence Motion this morning. Word has it that he figured as a former chief minister, blessed from on high by no less than the prime minister himself, he considered he had the right to speak from the bar table of the parliament.

Aagaard politely refused. L’etat, c’etait moi?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey