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HomeIssue 9CLP: Back to the future

CLP: Back to the future

p2373-shane-stone-3By ERWIN CHLANDA and ALEX NELSON
The Country Liberal Party on the weekend elected someone who doesn’t live in the Northern Territory as its president: Shane Stone, a former Chief Minister, and president also of the national Liberal Party.
Alice Springs CLP chairman Jamie de Brenni could not be reached for comment but the party’s candidate for Araluen in the August 12 election, Steve Brown, says the election of a “fly-in, fly-out opportunist” was the work of the old guard which all but annihilated the party and caused its drop from 16 seats in Parliament to two.
Mr Stone, a lawyer, made no secret of the fact that he came to Alice Springs in 1986 to get into politics.
Within weeks of arrival he sought preselection for Araluen – one of the four town seats at the time.
p2373-shane-stone-2Mr Stone moved to Darwin in 1988, gained the seat of Port Darwin and became Chief Minister from May 1995 to February 1999.
His pushy attitude resulted in a narrow defeat of the statehood referendum in 1998.
Mr Stone resigned as a consequence and was replaced by Denis Burke who lost the next election, ending 27 years of CLP rule of the Territory.
Mr Stone is known as a very capable administrator and operator behind the scenes.
He likes to travel and consult widely, pressing the flesh. He’s very good one on one, very persuasive.
Judging by his earlier performance, in his bid to turn ‘round the party’s disaster he is likely to be looking for people with skills, with strong business backgrounds, a high profile.
Not much of that is likely to be happening in Alice Springs, the party’s birth place. The town now has only two seats, neither held by the CLP: The main game will be in the Top End.
It would not be a surprise if the idea of a Centre Party – centre geographically as well as politically – would get a new lease of life, mooted by tourism figure Rex Neindorf in 2008 and by ex-mayor Fran Kilgariff earlier.
p2373-shane-stone-1The style of governing in the NT altered during Mr Stone’s time. The centre of gravity shifted to Darwin, and Mr Stone became notorious for his gaggle of minders, many of them sourced from the Murdoch newspaper stable.
Another hallmark decision was Mr Stone appointing himself as a Queen’s Counsel.
[Alex Nelson is a local historian and a significant former player in the CLP, including being the chairman of Flynn Branch in 1990.]
All photos supplied by ALEX NELSON. From top – Chief Minister Marshall Perron and CLP president Shane Stone at the party’s annual  conference in Alice Springs, August 1988 • “Napoleon” Stone in a cartoon I drew for the Alice Springs News in 1995. Mr Stone and Bonaparte had much in common, including the first names of their wives: Josephine • CLP President Stone, manning the party’s stand at the Alice Springs Show, serving me a sausage sandwich on July 1, 1988. At left in the photo is Dave Bottrall, and at right, June Tuzewski.


  1. Shane Stone’s comment regarding disunity is death had nothing to do with the real demise of the CLP at the August elections.
    The CLP lost writ large because of the toxic leadership team driven by ego, self-interest, arrogance and poor connection with the people of the NT who supported them.
    Campaigning around Braitling, I was alerted to people’s choice NOT to vote for their then incumbent local member due to their displeasure with his antics and those of his Treasurer. He only has himself to blame for the brand trashing they received.
    His fault … not that of others.

  2. Wow! Back to the future is right.
    “Ego, self-interest, arrogance” the problems for the last CLP government says Phil.
    Remind you of anyone?
    Remember Stonehood?
    Remember Shane Stone QC FOAT (father of all twins)?
    And the CLP can’t find anyone better than this for president who actually lives in the NT?
    I am lost for words.

  3. Time for an alternative party to be set up perhaps, rehashing the old is not a good idea, time to move on from what was.

  4. Wow. It seems the CLP learned nothing from the last election and is now doomed for certain extinction.
    It appears that the quality of branch membership is the real issue, the swamp needs to be drained, but I fear it is now too late.

  5. Thanks Phil Walcott for your very astute observation. Far more valid than the inane comment of Steve Brown, who obviously cannot see the wood for the trees. The loss of all those elections absolutely reflected the failure of the Giles government to govern for all Terrotorians. “Toxic” indeed!
    Shane Stone was a fine Chief Minister who achieved the best-ever CLP election outcome in 1997, and whose positive legacies are well remembered in Alice Springs and across the NT. His work in and for the NT has never ceased, and will continue.
    Mr Brown of course was nowhere to be seen at the CLP conference this week – so much for his concern.

  6. It seems that the CLP hasn’t learned what appeared a fairly obvious lesson from their last term in government.
    After a number of years in the wilderness, upon returning to power they seem to have dug up the old guard who had been involved in sending them into the wilderness in the first place.
    This appears to be another step backward for the rank and file members, who I wouldn’t have thought could step back much further.

  7. A wise man once told me that politics was the greatest ever spectator sport where the followers of one party follow blindly no matter what their performance on important issues to local communities that they are representing.
    So it was with the CLP. Like the proverbial mushrooms they were swallowed by the compost they expected us to grow in, but their legacy will survive in roads and structures that were not really essential and lots of black skid marks on what roads are left.
    It reminded me of the ancient Roman games where the effort was on entertaining the people to take their minds off the real issues, but without the sex workers under the pavilions.

  8. Shane Stone doesn’t live in the NT? He’s still in his Darwin city apartment. In the past when away, it was always his base.
    Besides, the return of Stone ensures the Giles-factor is definitely dead in the water, as Steve Brown is well aware.
    Anything that ensures that period is finished, is worth backing. CLP Alice has a loooooong way to go, as they’ll no doubt discover, probably the hard way.


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