We need to bring trust back to government: Dale Wakefield

p2350-wakefield-election-night-okThe toppling of Chief Minister Adam Giles in his own seat by political newcomer Dale Wakefield, announced late yesterday, may have been the coup de grace for a party that had always thought it was born to rule the Northern Territory.
And if that wasn’t enough, Deputy Chief Minister Willem Westra van Holthe in Katherine was also ousted, leaving the CLP with a mere two seats.
Although Ms Wakefield won by a slim 27 vote margin and with the help of preferences from a gaggle of Independents, her determination and effort were remarkable: She resigned from a job she was dedicated to, running the women’s shelter, and she campaigned untiringly.
She spoke with editor ERWIN CHLANDA this morning.
NEWS: Congratulations on becoming the first Labor MLA ever to hold an urban Alice Springs seat. What were the stand-out messages you received in your very extensive door knocking in Braitling?
WAKEFIELD: People were sick of having a local Member not focussed on local issues. Transparency of government. Fracking was big along with solar development, youth issues and the future of young people who perhaps were heading down the wrong path. Concern over hooning was raised across the town.
NEWS: The party which held power in the NT by far the longest has just moved from a comfortable majority four years ago to near annihilation. Could that happen to Labor?
WAKEFIELD: This election shows that if you don’t listen to the electorate, and you don’t take their concerns seriously, anybody can lose their seat. Michael Gunner has given that message to us very strongly. We need to bring trust back to government because I think that has been eroded.
NEWS: How will you do it on the ground – when there is a groundswell of opposition to a government proposal, as we saw with the sale of TIO, for example, or when the government leased the Darwin Port to a Chinese company with links to the Chinese military?
WAKEFIELD: I’ve learned a lot from door knocking. We must have opportunities for people to catch up with me regularly. I learned a lot from standing in Yeperenye [shopping centre] – I had a wide range of people coming up to me. Michael has talked about having community cabinets, including young people. We’re talking about basing community cabinets in high schools. It’s a matter of being committed to making things happen on the ground.
NEWS: What is the role in political decision making of the town’s big lobbies – Town Council, Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Central Australia, Congress and ALEC?
WAKEFIELD: Michael made catching up with the Mayor his first priority when he was down here this week. We’ve talked about local decision making in the bush as well, so we need to be working with local government. Our restructuring of departments is designed to provide for direct lobbying. The decision making process within them will be very clear and the advocacy roles will be much stronger. We want to work particularly with the NGO sector. They are the people on the ground doing the work.
NEWS: Do you think the lobbies I have mentioned were assertive enough vis-a-vis the Giles government? Were they taking it to task?
WAKEFIELD: What I have heard from many people is that they feared there could have been consequences if they criticised the previous government. It seems there was a sense of people not feeling as free to speak out as they could. I am not afraid of full and frank public discussion. That’s how we get to good outcomes, to be brave enough to have these difficult conversations. Government needs to be able to do that.
NEWS: Will the three Labor Members in The Centre work against the Berrimah Line syndrome and if so, how?
WAKEFIELD: There are no CLP Members south of the Berrimah line. We have very strong voices. We know the Berrimah Line is a concern within the community. I’m confident we can get that concept out of Territory politics.
NEWS: How and with whom will you consult on a national Indigenous culture centre?
WAKEFIELD: We haven’t assigned ministries yet. Once we have more detail I will be happy to talk about the process.
NEWS: What can we expect to see from Labor on the family violence front? For instance, will Labor move to ensure more housing options (beyond the shelter) for women and children who want to escape violence?
WAKEFIELD: We will make sure that our housing policies, including in remote communities, and our domestic violence policy are strongly aligned. We’ll be working with the sector on moving this forward.
NEWS: Will you be seeking a portfolio tomorrow and if so, which one?
WAKEFIELD: I am absolutely focussed on being the local Member for Braitling. I’m still letting this sink in.
NEWS: Would you reject a portfolio if you were offered one tomorrow?
WAKEFIELD: I would serve in any way the Chief Minister and the rest of the team think is the best way for me to be a strong advocate for Braitling and the Territory.
NEWS: There is concern about the Festival in Light. It will cost $1.3m each time it is held and the Government has apparently been committed to six events, as is the case with the Red Centre NATS, at the same cost. Should these go on or not?
WAKEFIELD: For the Summer NATS I know there is a contract in place. I’m not so sure about the Festival in Light. I’ll be seeking information very quickly because some people have raised concerns with me about animal safety.
NEWS: What’s it feel like to be entering Parliament?
WAKEFIELD: I want to give a big thank-you to anybody who has given me support. I’ve had so much of it. Since it was announced yesterday I’ve been flooded with messages of encouragement. It really has been quite overwhelming.
PHOTO: Dale Wakefield got the rockstar treatment from Warren Snowdon MHR on election night in anticipation for of her defeating Chief Minister Adam Giles. Yesterday, after completion of the postal vote count, it became a reality.


  1. The CLP had governed since the initial 1974 election until 18 August 2001 when the Territorians unhappy decided to try something else! But what
    One Nation?
    Territory Alliance?
    Socialist Alliance?
    No, centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP), led by Clare Martin, who won a surprising victory.
    On August 25, 2012, obviously the Territorians were not happy and decided to try something else! But what?
    The Greens? Independents? First Nation? New Parties? No, let’s go back to the CLP and its promise: “We’ve been very focussed, we’ve been on message and people of the Northern Territory want change and we’ve been able to show them that there is a better future for the Territory under a Country Liberals government.”
    The 11-year-old Australian Labor Party government led by Chief Minister Paul Henderson was defeated.
    Often our expectations are based on the assumptions we have about people or groups of people.
    Cross fingers and all will be well, because it is well know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

  2. The assertion that Dale Wakefield is “the first Labor MLA ever to hold an urban Alice Springs seat” is incorrect – she is the third; however, Ms Wakefield is the first to hold an Alice Springs urban seat since the fully-elected NT Legislative Assembly commenced in late 1974.
    The previous two Labor members for Alice Springs were Frank Johnson (two terms between 1949 and 1954 – he is also the only Alice Springs urban member to be elected unopposed); and Charles “Chas” Orr, elected in late 1965 for one term. Orr’s victory half a century ago is markedly similar to Dale Wakefield’s achievement, narrowly defeating an incumbent member who was the leader of a Territory-based political party (the North Australia Party).
    The 20% swing Dale Wakefield achieved against the CLP also echoes Labor candidate Di Shanahan’s 20% swing against the CLP in the Flynn by-election of September 10, 1988 (exactly 28 years ago today as I write this comment).
    On that occasion Di Shanahan topped the primary vote but lost after distribution of preferences from the bottom-placed CLP candidate, which enabled NT Nationals candidate Enzo Floreani to win the seat. Like Dale Wakefield today, Di Shanahan was prominent in local women’s services in the 1980s.

  3. Upon reading the first line of my comment again I realised Erwin Chlanda’s initial comment to Dale Wakefield is technically correct, she is the first Labor MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) to win an Alice Springs urban seat.
    The two previous Labor members were MLCs (Member of the Legislative Council). So my apology to you, Erwin, but hopefully any offence caused is offset by the additional historical background provided.
    [ED – No offence whatsoever, Alex. The Alice Springs News Online is privileged to have such generous access to your extensive historical knowledge.]

  4. So refreshing to hear concise and straightforward messages coming from Dale Wakefield.
    Voters simply want trust, integrity and to be listened to.
    Voters are so sick of policies and a spending approach that targets a particular demographic –with more of focus on how many votes can be bought for the next election.
    Sure, sometimes politicians have to make hard decisions – but the consequences of opportunities lost and any ensuing community division must be factored into the equation.
    Keep your focus on the long term betterment of the Territory, Dale!
    It will be hard to get things back on track – but your language and approach thus far is a great start.

  5. I’m not afraid of a full and frank discussion either.
    The NT News (who lobbied tirelessly for the Labor Party) today described you, Ms Wakefield, as a “hero”.
    Well, do we now all expect miracles from you!
    Starting with this – explain to me why you are removing the Homeowner-occupier Improvement Scheme that your predecessor Giles established.
    This scheme only cost the government up to $2000 per household. Remembering that Alice Springs is a working class town, and that small amount of money goes a long way for many of us, be we young families, seniors or people just needing that extra help.
    I expect a reply to this Ms Wakefield and don’t waffle to me about first home owners needing assistance more than us home owners. Just answer the question.

  6. Pat W: Great example of the point I made in my previous post.
    First, why don’t you explain how dishing out $2000 per home is a smart use of taxpayer funds?
    There are so many anecdotal examples of this policy being rorted. Really, what good long term, measurable infrastructure benefit did this policy bring to the Territory?
    If you were serious about helping NT housing infrastructure and home owners in the Territory there are plenty of more strategic and intelligent ways to do so.
    Think targeted subsidies for particular technologies (i.e. solar), home efficiency enhancements (i.e. water saving infrastructure), elderly access improvements (i.e. railing or wheelchair access) or storm prevention measures.
    Let’s be sensible and targeted with taxpayer moneys!
    Not to mention getting NT housing policy back on track!
    Oh yeah, and um hmm Labor reintroduced the first home owner grant.
    Are you really complaining because you want them to keep the cash handout too?
    Talk about me, me, me. I guess you must be a CLP voter!

  7. Ha! Started already, the angry Pats of this world after you before you are even in Parliament, Dale, let alone in a ministry.
    Full, open and frank government? Watch Yes Minister.
    There are plenty of ‘Pats’ out there with a gripe about things you, and often they, know nothing about.
    Or have all twisted in knots.
    Full, frank open discussions will tie you up in conversations / diatribes that go nowhere except down frustration alley.
    And then you’ll learn about Cabinet solidarity, you’ll get the talking points … and before you know it you are Jim Hacker.
    Steep learning curve coming up I reckon. Just be polite, good-hearted, do your best, and don’t expect gratitude, or to be loved by all. Good luck Dale.

  8. @1 Kofi: In relation to $2000 assistance scheme being a waste of tax payers’ money. I would have to disagree with you.
    Under the scheme of the things you mentioned: solar technologies, infrastructure (water saving devices) and home improvement including infrastructure for the elderly, all are available under that homeowners’ scheme.
    This scheme contributed to stimulating the Alice Springs economy giving small business and homeowners a “hand up” as opposed to a “hand out”!

  9. Well done Dale. Be great if you now tell us how you are going to put Alice Springs first and help small businesses to keep their heads above water.
    We dont need to hear more about fracking, speed limits and the old chief minister. Tourism, construction and reasons to keep people in Alice. Not just public servants in the service industry.

  10. This is off subject.
    Ian Sharpe, I am fascinated how you managed to put the words “after you before you” next to each other in one of your sentences … and it still made sense! (Yes, I am easily amused.)

  11. Congrats to Ms Wakefield.
    Whilst we are having this frank and fearless debate, can we have a little chin wag about the public servants at the ABC, and the Don Dale situation being used to influence voters.
    I’ve looked and looked, and no where in their charter can I see that they are supposed to be the propaganda wing for the Green and Labor parties in this country. I do stand to be corrected though.

  12. Paul Coughlin: Greetings Paul, yes you are easily amused. Always were, as I recall.
    I hadn’t noticed the juxtaposition, puzzled when I read your comment, had to go hunting for it. Well spotted.
    Another Observer: Strange name, looked it up, seems to be code for “too timid to put name to comment”.
    In order to prosecute your argument you need to explain how the ABC program is pro ALP / Green propaganda, rather than good investigative journalism.
    You start from a position of lack of credibility given you mumble from the shadows, but give it your best shot. Or step into the light, own up to your opinions.

  13. @ Ian: Your response to Another Observer makes me think of the work of the Investigative Staff of the Boston Globe, that resulted in the Pulitzer Prize winning book titled “Betrayal. The Crisis in the Catholic Church”.
    The findings of this investigation inspired the major motion multiaward winning film “Spotlight”, drawing attention to networks of child sexual abuse and the coverups within churches and government instituions, resulting in inquiries, Royal Commissions, and investigations uncovering unspeakable crimes against humanity.
    The Four Corners program put the spotlight on the “military” torture and mind control practices that destroy ones identity, and breaks ones spirit. It also asks the question who are the perpetrators who is in charge. Maybe some politicians, and government ministers who have been around for a long time, both Territory and Federal, should be held to account, for things that happened under their watch, not just rotated around to other positions.
    This is not just a NT issue but rather a global one, the misuse of power using violence and fear to control divide and manipulate.
    Thank God for Investigative journalists. Lydia Catcho’s story is worth a look.

  14. “We need to bring trust back to government because I think that has been eroded.”
    No “think” about it and includes all three tiers (two too many?) of government.
    Good luck in trying to change the situation.
    “Yes Minister” is alive and well and will stay that way with the bureaucrats, minders and apparatchiks running the show, many of whom would not survive if it were not for the regularity of the government nipple fortnightly.


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