LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – I write to update your readers that I am still the Labor Member for Stuart.
I have been expelled from the Caucus on December 22 for the remainder of the term, until the next scheduled Territory election.
My actions since the election in August 2016 show my commitment to the constituents of Stuart and to the fundamental Labor value of diversity in discussion, then unity in action.
The Labor Party had delivered a resounding win: 18 seats in total, including 11 new Members of Parliament. Almost two-thirds of the incoming Labor MLAs, myself included, were new to Parliament and full of optimism.
Unfortunately, early in this term, I realised to my great concern that, for the most part, the incoming government was re-assembling the team on the Fifth Floor of Parliament who had led Labor to defeat in 2012.
It became evident very quickly that there was to be very little diversity of discussion, or, in fact, much discussion at all. I first expressed my concern about this publicly in a piece in the Alice Springs News Online on January 18, 2017. Now the undue influence of some Fifth Floor staff has been widely acknowledged in the media and public opinion.
The matter at hand currently is that I maintain my commitment to the Northern Territory Labor Party, and I am unwilling at this time to surrender that membership.
It has been communicated to me in writing that although I have been excluded from every function of the Parliamentary Labor Party wing, I am, as the Member for Stuart, to take direction from the Caucus as to how to vote and how to speak in Parliament.
This is clearly undemocratic and all Territorians should be concerned about Members of the Legislative Assembly taking direction from a Party apparatus that they have been expelled from.
I have made my concern about what this means for democracy clear to numerous Party officials, officials of Parliament, former colleagues and Opposition and Independent Members.
To all intents and purposes, my ongoing commitment to the wider Northern Territory Labor Party is being used to disenfranchise my constituents in Parliament.
The Member for Stuart will not be heard in Caucus or be able to vote on Caucus decisions, yet will be expected to abide by those decisions.
This is diametrically opposed to the Labor values of discussion, consensus, and then unity.
For this reason, I have sought to represent the constituents of Stuart for the remainder of the term in the only way that is clearly in line with basic democratic principles and that is as an independent in Parliament, while remaining a member of the NT Labor Party.
I would agree that all of this is but a sideshow. The real issue facing the Northern Territory is the budget crisis.
This jurisdiction is too small for us to squander valuable ideas and input because of petty political squabbling.
I remain committed to doing whatever I can to make the Northern Territory a better place for the constituents of Stuart, and indeed, all Territorians.
Without containing the financial crisis, no Government will be able to deliver our long term objectives of an economically equitable, environmentally sustainable, and socially inclusive Territory.
Scott McConnell (pictured)
Member for Stuart