COMMENT by ALEX NELSON
A recent editorial comment in relation to the NT Government’s sale of TIO stating “people overwhelmingly vote with their hip pockets” reminded me of two prominent examples that changed the course of Territory politics years ago.
Some may recall the enormous public backlash against the Hatton CLP government in mid 1987 following the decision to change conditions of employment for NT public servants. The CLP argued its hand was forced due to financial constraints imposed by a hostile Federal Labor government but this didn’t wash with furious protestors that jostled CLP politicians on the steps of the old Legislative Assembly.
The CLP’s timing from a political perspective (I was a party member) couldn’t have been worse as the Hawke government went to the polls in July that year. New CLP senator Grant Tambling had to rely on the distribution of preferences from all eight other senate candidates to be elected, and Labor’s Warren Snowdon took the federal seat of the NT, previously held by retired CLP leader Paul Everingham. Everingham famously declared that if he had stood again as the CLP candidate he would have “punched the Chief Minister’s head in” because of the public service controversy.
Warren Snowdon has since gone on to set the record as the NT’s longest-serving Federal member, and now has two years to go to equal Bernie Kilgariff’s record as the Territory’s longest-serving politician.
People voted with their hip pockets again in the NT elections of 1990 but this time it was Federal government policy that aided the CLP.
Earlier that year the CLP faced the prospect of its first defeat at the polls, and Chief Minister Marshall Perron was under enormous pressure.
I unexpectedly found myself as one of two CLP candidates for the seat of Stuart in the election campaign of October 1990, which included part of Alice Springs previously within the Braitling electorate.
During my doorknocking I found that crippling high interest rates for homeowners and businesses was overwhelmingly the major concern of voters. It was the Federal Labor government under PM Bob Hawke that was responsible for this situation but there’s no doubt that frustrated Territorians punished the NT ALP for it.
The CLP pulled a rabbit out of the hat leading to another decade in power. Marshall Perron went on to set the record as the NT’s longest-serving Chief Minister and the only one to retire from politics on his own terms.
These lessons have long been forgotten by the current CLP government.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the CLP in Alice Springs. There is a looming irony that the first Chief Minister from Alice Springs may end up being responsible for the demise of “The Territory Party”.
Will the sale of TIO again trigger a hip pocket vote? COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.
COMMENT by ALEX NELSON