Present pollies not a patch on past


p2213-Bernie-KilgariffLETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The disarray of Territory politics at present is tempting many commentators locally and interstate to claim this is a consequence of the meager choice of quality in our political candidates due to the Northern Territory’s small population base, reflected in such comments as “our gene pool is simply too shallow”.
On the contrary, such comments reveal a lack of knowledge of the NT’s political history, and conveniently ignore what’s happened in Federal politics and some state governments (NSW, for example) in recent years.
It’s also ironic given that the majority of our “gene pool” from which we derive many of our members comes from interstate, a point not lost with some who criticise the current Chief Minister, for example.
The NT’s much smaller population decades ago was a major impediment for the devolution of powers from the Commonwealth for self-government.
This factor lay behind the NT Legislative Council (1947-74) consisting partially of elected members and with little legislative power; and also of limited voting rights for the NT’s Federal member, too.
Even the fully elected Legislative Assembly initially had no greater powers than its predecessor, from 1974 until self-government was granted in 1978.
Yet the Territory’s tiny population base of that era was no impediment to the rise of a number of politicians of great calibre, integrity, character and achievement.
Amongst these were Jock Nelson, Bernie Kilgariff, Dick Ward, Harry Chan, Frank Johnson, Tiger Brennan, DD Smith, Neil Hargrave, Len Purkiss, Colonel Lionel Rose, Sam Calder and Tony Greatorex (significantly, most of those named are associated with Central Australia, a region of far sparser population then than it is now).
Some were rough diamonds or had comparatively brief careers in politics, and there were personality clashes, too; but their standards of behaviour and intellect were far superior to anything we see today and their achievements vastly more outstanding.
They were all genuinely committed towards the NT and spent most of their lives here (only two died interstate); there was none of the lip service so common to our politicians now.
Sadly they are largely forgotten despite some having buildings, parks, streets, suburbs or electorates named after them. Perhaps the reason for our corporate memory loss is that these figures from the recent past now put us all to shame.
History is vital for the perpetuation of good government.
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs
Caption: Retired politician Bernie Kilgariff at a function held during the CLP Annual Conference in Alice Springs in August 1988, during which he and his wife Aileen were awarded Honorary Life Memberships to the party of which they were foundation members in 1974. Mr Kilgariff’s political career was from 1960 to 1987, serving as a Non-official Member of the NT Legislative Council (1960-68), Member for Alice Springs (1968-75) and Senator for the Northern Territory (1975-87). He still holds the record as the NT’s longest-serving politician. Photo by Alex Nelson.


  1. There are people born here and there are those born here who will defend the rights of the territory and its people.
    I am at a loss when being a politician became a self serving paid position.
    Bernie was a great man and an uncle to me by marriage. He loved the Territory and its people he had the respect of all.
    It is a sadness to our home, the Territory, that our leaders changed with the election of Dennis Burke.
    It was clear that from then the CLP lost direction and were kicked out to open the flood gates to Labor to come in and almost close Alice Springs down.
    I am also out there to say the closing down of our town started with the CLP with Burke at the helm.
    Self-serving elected members are not required in our Territory. There are a few good people in there but they are overrun by the others.
    We Territorians require stability, honesty, loyalty and real representation. CLP or Labor.
    At this time that is not an option. A dysfunctional CLP is still better than Labor.
    Change is needed in the CLP and that change needs to be in the party and remove the disruptive members who control foundation 51 and their supporters.
    Members who use the party for their egos.
    At a cental council meeting in Darwin I chastised the elected members for using the Labor spin book as their bible.
    And also reminded them we are a conservative government, not socialist. If they wished to follow Labor mentality why would anyone vote for the CLP?
    Terry Mills was not happy with me. I received a few nasty phone calls from him. There is a very huge divide between socialist government and conservative. That has reduced to a slight crack.

  2. No statesmen any more. Just wannabes if they couldbes but never willbes, out to get what they can out off the system that is completely broke.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here