The grammar lesson for today, courtesy of John Elferink MLA in the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory.
John Elferink is the member for Port Darwin and holds the portfolios of Attorney-General and Justice, Correctional Services, Children and Families, Public Employment, and Leader of Government Business in the Giles Ministry.
Alison Anderson is the member for Namatjira and has been a member of the NT parliament since 2005. On 27 April 2012, Anderson and Francis Xavier Kurruppuwu and Larisa Lee left the Country Liberal Party to join the Palmer United Party, with Anderson as the party’s Northern Territory leader.
Kezia Purick is the the member for Goyder and is the Speaker of the NT Legislative Assembly.
The following exchange is from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly last evening.
Mr ELFERINK (Leader of Government Business): Madam Speaker, I move that the Assembly do now adjourn.
Ms ANDERSON (Namatjira): Madam Speaker I would like to recognise the new member for Blain and respectfully acknowledge his maiden speech yesterday.
On ABC news tonight Mr Graeme Lewis, director of a company called Foundation 51, was quoted as follows:
Foundation 51’s contribution to the Blain by-election was research only and that any financial contribution was unsustainable or words to that effect.
Member for Blain, did you receive the sum of $10 000 for consultancy work paid to you by Foundation 51, either directly or indirectly, or a sum of money thereabouts? Are you aware, member for Blain, of any polling done by Foundation 51, either before or during the Blain by-election? Are you aware, member for Blain, that the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory was advising others that you had been preselected prior to the preselection taking place the following day?
Are you aware, member for Blain, of the whispering campaigned that took place against you from within the ranks of the Country Liberal Party during the Blain by-election? Member for Blain, are you aware of the rules and regulations which make up the Northern Territory Electoral Commission in relation to financial disclosure?. Member for Blain, are you aware of the penalties associated with non-disclosure?
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! These questions should be put through the Chair.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Namatjira, could you direct your comments through the Chair.
Ms ANDERSON: Thank, you Madam Speaker. Member for Blain, are you aware of the penalties associated with …
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! She remains in breach. She is using the second person accusative rather than the third person referencing her comments through the Chair.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Namatjira, could you please reference your speech in such a way that it is in the third person.
Ms ANDERSON: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Member for Blain are you aware …
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! She is in breach of the standing order relating to all comments should not be directed to a member but should be going through the Chair.
Mr GUNNER: Speaking to the point of order, Madam Speaker! She is directing her comments through the Chair and is talking about another member of the Chamber. I have talked about the member for Port Darwin in this Chamber in the past. Other members reference members in this Chamber when they are talking.
The point of that standing order is comments need to be directed to you as the Chair not directed across the Chamber at another person. She is not directing her comments across the Chamber, she is directing her comments through you as the Chair.
Mr ELFERINK: You are covering up for this now are you?
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Namatjira, continue but talk to me as the Speaker through the Chair.
Ms ANDERSON: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Member for Blain, are you aware of the penalties associated with ..
Mr ELFERINK: A point of order, Madam Speaker! I reference the standing order that relates to direct references to other members across the Chamber. She should be directing her questions as follows: ‘is the member for Blain aware’, in the third person. She is now directing her comments directly to the member. That is inappropriate and in breach of standing orders.
Madam SPEAKER: Member for Namatjira, if you could phrase your statements – I think you get the general feeling.
Ms ANDERSON: Is the member for Blain aware of the penalties associated with non-disclosure regarding contributions, whether in kind or otherwise, or cash for an amount of $1500 or more? Is the member for Blain aware of the current independent commission against corruption currently taking place in New South Wales? Is the member for Blain prepared to go on the record and state that he, members of his family, friends or others, including associated entities, did not receive any contributions, whether cash, research of any kind or any donations from Foundation 51?
Is the member for Blain – are you aware that, upon a change of government, there may be an opportunity for an inquiry into matters concerning the same? We call on the Northern Territory Electoral Commission to undertake an investigation into this matter concerning Foundation 51, and its apparent associated activities with the Country Liberal Party.
This is about transparency and honesty, and is a mantra this government preaches in the House all the time. Member for Blain, as you said so well in your maiden speech – do you want to represent the constituents of Blain with honesty and integrity or forever have your reputation tarnished? Would you like to come clean now or later? Thank you.
Mr ELFERINK (Port Darwin): Madam Speaker, I cannot let that go without a response. I am desperately saddened that members opposite, particularly the members for Namatjira, Arnhem and Arafura, claimed to have gone their way because they are looking after the interests of people in remote communities across the Northern Territory.
Unfortunately, all we have heard from day one is smear, innuendo and deceit. The only thing the member for Namatjira is interested in is engaging in the lowest and most base form of politics, using the Chamber to make inferences about the integrity of a person. If she has a shred of courage, I ask her to make those inferences and launch those attacks outside of this Chamber, and suffer the consequences.
I do not have a clue as to what the member for Namatjira is referring to, but she is not looking after the interests of the people of the Northern Territory. The cowardice being displayed here is monumental, and does nothing for people living in Papunya, on the Tiwi Islands, in Maningrida, on Groote Eylandt or in Beswick.
All this is – it seems to be some bitterly motivated vitriol against the government. If that is what they want to do, that is fine, but it is not a legitimate position to take when it comes to representing the people they claim to represent. How does this type of smear campaign and attacking people’s personal integrity, in any way, help people in the bush?
All we have heard so far from the member for Namatjira are claims against the taxpayer – ‘You owe us money, you have to give us all of this stuff. This is how we are going to represent people.’ It has been entirely about nothing more than self-interest from the member for Namatjira, and this is just another example.
This is puerile nonsense. It has no foundation other than some information she is relying upon from disgruntled former CLP members. She has been on radio, saying people have been calling them most outrageous names and the only allegation they have been able to attribute to an individual is towards me.
The allegation is of such a facile nature as to not warrant a response, nor will I respond to it. The types of things they claim to have been called are highly inflammatory, so the time has come for them to put up or shut up.
I have not seen from any of these members the put up. Let us see the names of the people who say these awful things from the member for Namatjira, because what she has related on radio is lies, not true.
The amount of times I heard the former Leader of Government Business, Dr Chris Burns, standing where I am standing now, saying, ‘You guys can cuddle up to her to your peril’ I agree with Dr Burns in hindsight. You do rely on what the member for Namatjira says to your peril, because it is not true.
She is prepared to use third party hearsay, if that is what she is hearing, as a way of slandering people and engaging in the most spiteful conduct. Spite does not produce better results for the people of Papunya, Nyirripi, the Tiwi Islands or Groote Eylandt.
But, it always is easy to destroy, to tear down. It is difficult to build, create, strive to create something against the natural forces of the world. It takes time, dedication and focus.
The member for Namatjira has on repeated occasions, as the president and CEO of Papunya council, as an ATSIC commissioner, as a Labor minister and as a CLP minister had opportunities to build. On each of those occasions, for whatever reason, she has stepped away from opportunity and preferred to destroy. She has taken the easy steps, which is what she is doing now. She is true to form.
I am desperately disappointed that someone who has the intellectual grunt of the member for Namatjira uses it for such nefarious purposes. From the get go, she has not been telling the truth. She has lied to me on a number of occasions and continues to do so.
I am like the member for Nelson in relation to this; it does not bother me as my skin is thick, but it does not serve the people of the Territory well, especially those who need representation the most.
Where are the impassioned pleas one would expect to hear from newly independent members to argue for the things they perceive to need in remote communities? We hear none of it. We hear a leader of a small group of independents lashing out and trying to break things, rather than trying to lift things up.
She has just read out in the House a ghastly abandonment of our sacred duty as parliamentarians, and I deeply disappointed she has taken the coward’s response.
This is facile beyond all imagination. She must start stumping up evidence for these outrageous allegations, but of course she will not because she cannot. She is left with nothing other than the hollow noise she will make as an empty vessel.
The problem with that is finally people will see her, in fact, they already have begun to see her, en masse, as a person who simply cannot be trusted with the truth. She came in here and decided to pose a bunch of questions which were thinly veiled accusations; if she said them outside this place, I am certain they would no longer stack up as non-actionable, in spite of the low level of protection afforded politicians for defamation actions.
The member for Namatjira has introduced into the public domain a series of allegations. Let us see the evidence and see what you can build around this.
I ask the media to turn a critical eye to the motivations and actions of the member for Namatjira if they choose to report on them, because I am concerned that whilst they give the member for Namatjira oxygen she will continue thriving on that oxygen. That is the problem we will face.
I do not doubt that the member for Namatjira’s comments will be reported, but I ask the journalists to ask her, ‘Where is your evidence? Let us see the evidence. Let us see the paperwork.’
Because until the member for Namatjira stumps up, this is just her, apparently, making stuff up, or, worse still, somebody else is making stuff up and she is uncritically repeating it in this House at the expense of the reputations of the members of this House.
I am also starting to suspect there is an element of collusion between her and the Leader of the Opposition, particularly in the area of racial vilification positions, as one says they are the subject of racial vilification and the other wants to ride into the environment as the champion against racial vilification.
Surely the Labor Party is not going back to that well and trying to drink from it for the political ends of the Northern Territory Labor Party.