By ERWIN CHLANDA
“Their arrogance is now equaling that of the former regime.”
So says Independent Member for Araluen, Robyn Lambley (at left), commenting on what she describes as the Gunner Government’s ongoing refusal to come clean on how the Opposition in the NT should be formed.
Among 20 written questions presented by her to Chief Minister Michael Gunner (at right), this is the key one, taking aim at just two CLP Members being recognised as the Opposition: “Now that there are seven Independent Members of the NT Legislative Assembly, with the possibility of more independent Members being elected in 2020, what changes could be made to better reflect the unique nature of the NT Parliament?”
The Independents are Jeff Collins, Yingiya Mark Guyula, Ms Lambley, Scott McConnell, Terry Mills, Kezia Purick (the Speaker) and Gerry Wood.
The Opposition currently consists of Gary Higgins and Lia Finocchiaro.
Ms Lambley has repeatedly raised related issues, while being constantly fobbed off, she says.
This is Mr Gunner’s latest reply: “The extensive advice you have already received answers these questions.
“I encourage you to focus your energies on the concerns of Territorians, rather than continually focusing on yourself.”
Says Ms Lambley: “These questions have never been answered.
“I have never received a nil response like this to the hundreds of Written Questions I have asked over the years.
“The growing arrogance of this Labor Government is quite shocking. They clearly don’t want to answer my questions. Too sensitive, obviously.”
Parliamentary protocol is that Written Questions from Parliamentarians must be answered within 30 days.
The Opposition gets considerably more support than ordinary Members, such as research staff crucial to effective monitoring of the government, “including $1m a year, effectively to spend as they please,” says Ms Lambley.
The Independents don’t have funding for a Whip, a leader of government business, to keep an eye on what’s coming up in Parliament.
Unless the Government or the Opposition volunteer information, “most of the time the seven of us are in the dark or distinctly disadvantaged in doing our job. We can’t function as well as we need to,” she says.
All the Independents are sharing two research officers. This number has not been increased when the number of Independents grew from five to seven.
She says there is a formal alliance between her, Mr Mills and Mr Guyula – 50% more people than in the Opposition – but that is not acknowledged as a reason for being declared as the Opposition.
Ms Lambley raises the possibility of a new party being formed that may have more members than two, and asks about the process of an Opposition being appointed: Is that done by the Chief Minister? Or by the Speaker, she enquires.
Asked about moves to form a Territory branch of the National Party, Ms Lambley says Independent and former CLP Chief Minister Terry Mills “has been talking publicly about the options for an alternative to the current two major NT parties over the past week.
“From my perspective there is nothing to report.”
She says the Chief Minister refuses “to recognise Independents in the Parliament and the status of the official Opposition. This response to these 20 written questions is quite unbelievable.”
The questions are:–
1. Who determined the official opposition in August 2016? Who actually made this decision? Was it the Chief Minister? Was it the Speaker? Was it someone else?
2. If it was the Speaker, then why could the Speaker determine the official opposition in 2016 but claims she cannot determine the official opposition now in 2019?
3. If it was the Chief Minister, please explain the process used by the Chief Minister to determine the Official Opposition in 2016?
4. If it was the Chief Minister, on what authority or advice did the Chief Minister make this decision?
5. Why is the Speaker now no longer willing or able to determine who is the official NT Opposition?
6. Does this mean that the Speaker will never, under any circumstances, determine who the Opposition is, or just in certain circumstances?
7. Under exactly what circumstances would the Speaker determine or decide who the official NT Opposition is?
8. Under exactly what circumstances would the Speaker not determine or decide who the official NT Opposition is?
9. Is this position taken by the Speaker not to decide who the official NT Opposition is, supported or endorsed by the Chief Minister?
10. Who will determine the official opposition, if a political party numerically greater in number than the current CLP Opposition forms within the term of the 13th NT Parliament?
11. What process will be used to determine the official opposition, if a political party numerically greater in number than the current CLP Opposition forms within the term of the 13th NT Parliament?
12. Who will determine the Official Opposition in August 2020 if there are multiple claims for Opposition status, and what will the process be?
13. Given that the NT Solicitor General has not provided advice on the process to be used to decide the official NT Opposition, who will decide on the exact process used?
14. Under exactly what circumstances would the NT Parliament, rather than the Speaker, deter mine or decide who the official NT Opposition is?
15. In the case of the NT Parliament determining who is to be the official NT Opposition, would the Gunner Government be voting on this motion as to who their Opposition would be?
16. Now that there are 7 Independent Members of the NT Legislative Assembly, with the possibility of more independent Members being elected in 2020, what changes could be made to better reflect the unique nature of the NT Parliament?
17. Who would form the official NT Opposition if no political party affiliated Members, just Independent Members , were elected to the cross benches of the Legislative Assembly in 2020?
18. Is it true that under the advice of the NT Solicitor General on these matters provided in 2016 and 2018, if no political par ty affiliated Members, just Independent Members, were elected to the cross benches of the Legislative Assembly, then there would be no Opposition?
19. How would our democracy function without an Opposition?
20. Given that the NT Solicitor General in her advice to the NT Parliament on the matter of the official NT Opposition in 2016 stated that a group of Independents could not form the Opposition, could you please explain the rationale for this opinion?
Gunner stonewalls Lambley's Opposition queries
By ERWIN CHLANDA