We’d like to welcome you to INQ, Crikey’s ambitious new inquiry journalism initiative. Starting June 24, INQ investigative reporting — lifting the rocks, connecting the dots, following the money trail and exposing misuse of power — will appear regularly in Crikey.
We look forward to sharing this exciting new phase with you.
Tamsin Creed, Publisher
Loftus Rule: A rebuttable presumption that where an NT government decision is questioned it is more likely to be a fuck-up rather than an innocent mistake. (Syn: snafu - situation normal, all fucked up)
Senator WALSH — I was aware of the fact that the Northern Territory is heavily dependent upon Commonwealth revenue [and] I have noted from time to time that nobody has a more voracious appetite for Commonwealth money than the present Northern Territory Chief Minister, although incongruously nobody is a more vocal critic of the Commonwealth taxes which raise the revenue which he so voraciously consumes. Senator Peter Walsh, Hansard, May 1983.
Graeme Lewis was part éminence grise, part bagman and part trouble-maker—as often within as without—for the NT's Country Liberal Party for more than forty years. Lewis passed away in early April while speaking from the floor of the 2018 annual conference of his beloved CLP. For all his apparent successes and failings—I'll leave the hagiography and excoriation for others—Graeme Lewis never held publicly elected office but nonetheless deserves respect as the Northern Territory's long-term political player par excellence. Lewis was also a prominent player in the Darwin Shuffle, the avoidance scheme that operated in the NT from at least the early 1970s through to the 1980s.
The CLP's 2016 election campaign was a shambles. Loughnane and Mitchell describe a"rudderless" and dramatically underfunded campaign. The Northern Myth understands that, notwithstanding the repeated assurances during the campaign that the CLP had a campaign war chest of $1 million, it was only after the election that the party's campaign debt of around $500,000 was revealed.
Gunner's real problems will be those he can do nothing—or little—about. The NT—a mendicant state that cannot pay its own way—is in a long downward spiral of economic and demographic decline. Mining and major industry is waiting for the next boom, the massive construction workforce at the Inpex gas plant in Darwin harbour will gradually wind down ahead of the plant coming on-stream in late 2018 or early 2019, and much more. The prospects for the Territory's economy over the next decade or so—a period during which Labor should continue to hold government—are little better than bleak.
Similarly curious is the fact that the Gunner government has seen fit to continue Quintis' major project status. As will become clear, if there were grounds for concern about the company's activities in the NT eighteen months ago, recent events warrant even closer attention.
CLP candidate Steve Brown described the indigenous employment and procurement polices as 'ill-considered' and 'blatantly racist.' Brown didn't elaborate on what aspects of his party's policies he considered 'racist' but it may be that he considered the policies unfairly favoured Aboriginal workers. Or discriminated against non-Aboriginal businesses or workers. Or both.
Foundation 51 has been the subject of intense media attention, and of formal enquiries by both the Australian and the NT electoral commissions and, despite years of digging by the media, NT Labor and others, no smoking gun has been, or is likely to be found. Foundation 51 was deregistered in May 2015.
The Gunner government’s end of semester Report Card gives it a fairly miserable failing D grade in the subject Accountability and Transparency. Teacher’s comment: “Occasional glimpses of promise and a marginal improvement on last year’s class (the worst the school has ever had) but much more effort is needed”.
I'll be in Darwin next week for the first phase of my research, focussing on documentary research and getting a few interviews. Drop me a line and we can catch up ...