Just a week ago Shadow Minister for Government Accountability, Ken Vowles — speaking in the context of the looming seventh Ministerial reshuffle on the two year anniversary of the Country Liberal Party’s return to government after eleven years in the wilderness that is opposition — described the CLP Government as “the most dysfunctional administration anywhere in Australia.”
“Two years into Government the scorecard tells a story of rank incompetence, arrogance and chaos,” Mr Vowles said.
Vowles provided a useful scorecard of the revolving door to the CLP Cabinet which had, since August 2012, seen:
Two Chief Ministers,
Four Deputy Chiefs (now vacant),
Four Education Ministers,
Three Business Ministers,
Three Employment Ministers,
Three Local Government Ministers, and
Two Health Ministers.
In the past week the CLP has done a very effective hatchet job on itself. Last week it was caught up in a “cash-for-documents” scandal involving a uranium prospect and an elusive character best known as “the Midnight Pegger.” Then on Thursday last week recently-resigned Treasurer Dave Tollner dumped on his own party in no uncertain terms.
Describing his parliamentary colleagues as “a nest of vipers,” Tollner told local commercial radio’s Pete Davies that the NT Parliament was “immature” and that the “vipers” were “sitting behind me throwing knives in my back.” On Friday the NT News reported Tollner as saying that “I just can’t be a part of a party that doesn’t accept me and the work I’m doing.”
If Tollner doesn’t get either or both of his gigs back — which seems the likely course — he may sit on the backbench until the next general election in 2016. But he may split the swag altogether and leave the CLP and sit as an independent and join the swelling ranks on the crossbenches. The CLP would then have to govern as a minority, with just 12 seats in the 25 member NT Parliament. If Tollner takes the nuclear option and resigns from parliament Labor would be odds-on to take his seat of Fong Lim at the consequential by-election.
The Northern Myth has heard of intensive party polling in advance of the upcoming by-election in the seat of Casuarina recently vacated by Labor’s Kon Vatskalis. Labor will retain Casuarina in a canter but has been polling as a matter of course.
The CLP’s polling has apparently been more targeted with an emphasis on party leadership and naming a shortlist of Darwin-based MLAs, including Peter Chandler. And for many Chandler may be the coming man for the Deputy’s position in a poor field.
There is an outside chance that at tonight’s meeting of the Parliamentary wing of the CLP that a spill of all positions will be called and maybe — and this is a pretty remote maybe — Chandler may skate through as a cleanskin to the top job. One other rumour — and that is putting at its highest — doing the rounds of the hallways of Parliament House is that the CLP “wets” are chasing numbers for a combined Willem Westra Van Holthe / Peter Chandler ticket.
As CLP éminence grise Shane Stone noted earlier this year, the CLP has to “kick some goals.” For many in the NT the CLP government of Chief Minister Adam Giles has barely been kicking points and Giles looks increasingly rattled by the chaos that surrounds him Tonight his long-suffering party may well call it quits on his leadership.
On Saturday the NT News editorial — Political stench still thick in air — told it’s readers that:
TWO days after Parliament aired allegations linking political donations with access to information, the stench surrounding Territory politics only grows stronger.
The Government yesterday had opportunities to clear the air — but it could not do so successfully.
Public faith in the Northern Territory political system, so eroded through successive sagas never fully explained, needs to be restored.
We, as the people who voted them in, deserve nothing less.
Tonight’s meeting of the CLP’s Parliamentary wing may see the beginning of the restoration of that public faith.
Image: David Tollner & Adam Giles from Darwin’s Little Prick “lifestyle” magazine.