By ERWIN CHLANDA
With the Adam Giles CLP disaster fresh in our memory, and the Michael Gunner ALP disaster unfolding before our eyes, the four year old 1 Territory Party likes its chances.
It now has some 550 members, says Vice-President Sue Fraser-Adams (pictured), enough to apply for Federal registration (500 needed). The Party has contested three elections in the Territory with just over 200 members.
The Federal registration is currently delayed by the Wentworth by-election on Saturday (registrations are on hold until it is over) although 1 Territory is already calling for candidates in both NT and Federal seats.
As building up membership is laborious – the Electoral Commission “check every single applicant” – this puts 1 Territory streets ahead of former CLP Chief Minister Terry Mills who is also making noises about founding a new party.
So far he has not progressed beyond “asking for people’s feedback,” he told the Alice Springs News Online.
Ms Fraser-Adams says a key policy of the 1 Territory Party is abolishing fracking in the NT: “If people want it stopped, they will need to elect us to power.” Both ALP and CLP are committed to “unconventional” gas production, she says.
Yet supporters come from all directions: From Labor to Greens to CLP to One Nation, even Long Grassers: ”We sat down in the dust with them, asked them how we should solve this problem or that. It opened so many doors”.
Outdated image from the Woolworths website: Under the new floor price forget the $8 special.
“They are very astute. We have quite a few Long Grassers as members.”
She herself was a member of the CLP for 20 years and its president for 18 months.
Ms Fraser-Adams says she left because it was clear to her that “Adam Giles and Dave Tollner would take us over the electoral cliff. Giles is still a card carrying member of the CLP branch in Alice Springs”.
She doesn’t do things by halves. Her opposition to fracking is based on reading 350 technical papers, down to studies of steel and concrete components of the wells.
The NT Government is one of 1 Territory’s greatest generators of support. “Shooting itself in the foot, arm, leg and everywhere else” with the alcohol floor price the most recent example across the Territory, and the art gallery in Alice Springs a defining moment in The Centre.
“They managed to bring together the chronically divided Town Council, voting 100% against the government. Great job!” she says.
The juvenile detention centre at Pinelands is another issue brewing in the Top End – one that has yet to pop up in Alice Springs.
But as an economist by training (Masters Degree in Commerce, Batchelor in Economics, 20 years in the construction business with projects worth $26m in Katherine and Darwin), she expects one of the greatest issues in the next Territory election will be Mr Gunner’s “terrible financial management”.
She says with a Budget of $6.5 billion we are already about $4.5 billion in the red, paying almost $1 million a day in interest.
Within three years we will be owing more than the entire annual budget – about 7.5 billion in net debt, meaning the debt to revenue ratio will be 119% according to this year’s Budget papers, she says.
“The interest bill will rise to nearly $1.5 million a day – that is a lot of schools, hospitals and roads we will not be able to fund.
“We run the risk of losing our credit rating. People think we’ll be bailed out – I would not be so sure. The Feds will be thinking about just coming and taking us over again.
“In fact the other States and Territories are already looking at how much money the NT Government is getting.
“The deficit is a nightmare, the future horrendous. There is no plan to repay it or pay it down; it is a job creation scheme put on the credit card.
“An examination of the Budget papers shows that every department except two have blown their budgets.”
Meanwhile, what she calls the engine of the economy – small to medium size businesses – are hurting, closing down and leaving town, chased out by high costs, crime, an unsympathetic government and red tape.
Government contracts are going to firms that are “either very large or they are given to their mates” she says and often to interstate companies that have little more than a PO Box in the NT.
“The managing director doesn’t live here, his kids don’t go to school here, he doesn’t buy his groceries in the NT,” she says.
Ms Fraser-Adams says her companies has always worked within the private sector, not government contracts.
“Huge amounts of government money is being thrown around with little long term effect. Every public dollar invested should do the work of $10. The Government should be lean, green and hardly ever seen.”
She has no faith in the alcohol floor price: “It won’t work. The purpose needs to be to reduce the incidence of problem drinking.
“Addicts will just move to another addictive evil, other drugs, other types of alcohol; nothing will change. Most Territorians realise that.
“We will have no outcomes. Spending taxpayers money in itself does not always create positive outcomes.”
But this won’t affect the next election because – cynically – the first evaluation of the floor price is scheduled for after that, she says.
1 Territory has managed to run “on the smell of an oily rag”: “We know how to be thrifty – a good training for a Government-in-waiting.”
Currently helping out as a volunteer with the aero modellers at the Masters Games, she has been catching up with local 1 Territory members and is casting her eye around for new ones.
A name change for the party is under discussion, as some are confusing the party with One Nation.
“Every election we fight, we are getting better,” says Ms Fraser-Adams.
By ERWIN CHLANDA