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 Kenbi land claim survived. But it would face more challenges from CLP governments until a newly-elected Labor government decided in 2001 to call a halt to legal shenanigans and accept the December 2000 recommendations of Aboriginal Land Commissioner Peter Gray.
“ … a rancid dead dog.” Ex-CLP leader Jodeen Carney. Northern Territory News. July 2015, channeling an Adam Giles quote from 2009.
The Territory has very few friends “down south”, where we have come to be seen as over-indulged redneck mendicant whingers, sucking endlessly on the public nipple of taxpayer generosity. Suspending NT self-government would be a popular decision in most parts of Australia.
Many years ago I had a T-shirt produced by local Darwin artists Chips Mackinolty and Therese Ritchie. On the front of the shirt was a woman talking to her husband about a request from their child, who was standing before them resplendent in one of those cheap cowboy outfits we all had as children. From the foggy mists of memory she was saying something along the lines of "Johnny wanted a Cowboy Outfit for Christmas. So I got him the Northern Territory Government." Colin Holt's show, "30 Years of Chief Ministers - the official portraits we should have had" runs from 8 July to 4 August at the Alice Springs Public Library.