By rights, Terry “Freckles” Mills will want to get out of NT politics as soon as possible. Last Friday, one day after the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party dumped him from the NT’s top job his successor Adam Giles fronted for an interview on local ABC TV.
Giles described the Mills government as:
… a Government in crisis, we had pain everywhere, we were hurting Territorians.
To his credit, Giles was brutally frank:
We have hurt people, we have hurt the public servants who are so important in the Northern Territory … there’s no doubt we were a divided bunch, I was divided, David was divided, we were all divided, we weren’t enjoying our jobs and that came out in the way we did our business.
I think you can understand that Terry would be in a very hurt position. I have said sorry to Terry about the way it came out – it wasn’t intended to be. Terry is a good man – he believes in what he does – it’s just happened to be that over the last few years we haven’t seen eye to eye on the way to provide that leadership and the management and the governance. I have been an agitator for a long time in wanting either Terry to change or to have change in the way we do our business. That occurred yesterday when people decided from our parliamentary wing that they wanted to go with that model of change in leadership. I know it doesn’t reflect good – seven months into a new Government, a change of Government I understand that but the hurting and the bleeding that was happening for Territorians, when I have constituents and friends of mine in my electorate saying this is just crazy, it can’t go on – something had to be done.
Earlier this week the ALP issued a Call for Preselection for Terry Mills’ seat of Blain, a working-class electorate in Darwin’s satellite city of Palmerston. CLP sources described that preselection call as “mischief.”
Word on the street is that Mills will soon announce his resignation from the NT parliament – most likely after next week’s three sitting days – and that Giles will call a by-election for mid-June.
Labor reckons it has a good chance of taking Blain from the CLP though it will be a very big ask, with Mills taking a two-party preferred vote of 63 per cent at the NT general election just seven months ago. Mills has held Blain since 1999.
There are other issues on Adam Giles’ radar.
Last week he appointed MLA Alison Anderson to his favoured Ministry of Local Government. Local government is a hot issue in the NT, where reform of that sector was a key selling point at the last election, particularly in the bush electorates where the CLP won the four seats that now form its majority.
Mills gave his two most difficult ministries – Health and Local Government – to now Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner and Adam Giles respectively. Both performed well, with Giles leading a broadly consultative reform process and reportedly winning a substantial increase in funding for Local Government in the upcoming NT Budget.
That increased budget will apparently see up to seventy public servants engaged to sell Giles’ – now Anderson’s – local government reforms across the NT. This is a very big call when most other departments have had to cut staff right back to the bone. The Northern Myth understands that the new staff will be initially engaged for six months but that their contracts may be extended for up to three years. If this is correct, and if those officers are chosen wisely – i.e. they are “sympathetic” to the government’s agenda and philosophy – they could form an important cadre of political operatives in the regions leading up to the next election.
Alison Anderson’s management of the local government reform process will be one of the key performance indicators for the Giles government. Adam Giles won’t be the only one with a keen eye on how well she does.