By ERWIN CHLANDA
The small Alice Springs group promoting the Australian Country Party in the NT is seeking to run 25 candidates in the next Territory election but is still reluctant to give details of its policies.
Former WA Parliamentarian Ian Britza (pictured), who recently joined the main local spokesman, Eli Melky, a town councillor and veteran campaigner for two other political parties, says the party is registered Federally, and as such has Territory registration as long as there is a recognised representative.
All the party needs is on person in every state and “Eli is the one person in the NT, the registered co-ordinator for the party in the NT.
“Closer to the date we’ll obviously release these policies. Eli Melky is responsible for releasing policies.”
Mr Melky, speaking with the Alice Springs News together with Mr Britza, says nation-wide, the membership of the party is “over the 1000 mark”.
Mr Melky says discussions about a merger are under way with the Seniors United Party of Australia.
Mr Melky says the Territory’s economy is at the top of the agenda, and “spend less than you earn” is a basic strategy.
“The debt is running away from us,” he says.
About the government’s pay freeze for the executive, Mr Melky says the public service is “a voting block in their own right.
“We need to understand the knock-on effect – there needs to be a balance in all of these things, and you can’t have a knee-jerk reaction in any of these matters.
“We would not rush into it the way the government is approaching them. When you are reducing a workforce you are also reducing contributors to the economy.”
Some people may leave the NT because they can no longer afford to live here.
Would the party continue the wage freeze or not?
“We do have a plan for fixing the economy … to turn things around [but] the details of these policies will be launched at a later date … right now we are not going to give our good ideas to the Opposition.”
Because the party is registered federally Mr Melky says he is not concerned about meeting the minimum 200 requirement for membership by the NT Electoral Commission.
NEWS: What is the CLP getting wrong in Opposition? Why do we need your party with a similar political philosophy?
MELKY: The CLP, currently with two sitting members, will be fielding 23 if not 24 equally brand new inexperienced candidates. We say we can find 25 candidates with a plan, with policies, over time.
Mr Melky says the CLP has made it clear they will not preselect previous members.
NEWS: Are you talking to other right-of-centre political interests such as 1 Territory?
BRITZA: We are in the middle of having discussions with all of those involved.
MELKY: Sorry, not the ones you mentioned. What Ian is about to tell you … we’ve just entered into discussions with the Seniors United Party. We are not engaged in a conversation with 1 Territory nor with independents … but what you are asking is a logical question. What you want to avoid is to break up the [centre right] vote.
NEWS: The majority of the NT members are members of the Town Council. Should the council be political?
MELKY: In my eight years on the council I have never been party political and I’m not going to start now.
NEWS: Why should the council not be political? It’s the most powerful representative of Alice Springs. It has nine elected members and is exposed to a government sitting 1500 kilometres away.
MELKY: There is no law that says it can’t be political, in my view, if you are elected as an independent. If you got elected on the back of a party, which I think in the past the Greens have, they are entitled to be political.
NEWS: Does the Country Party take the view that the council should be a political force as well?
MELKY: As individuals we get involved in political issues such as the art gallery, climate action, in things that are outside council core business. We do that all the time. We get involved in safety, in issues that are Territory based and federally based all the time.
NEWS: In the 2021 council election, will there be candidates standing as members of the Country Party?
MELKY: We’re not even thinking about that. We’re focussing on the Territory election. Council has proven to be good grounding for many politicians, Paul Everingham, Chansey Paech the most recent. But council should not be used as a stepping stone overtly, someone to jump in as a councillor and then jump straight out to become a Territory or Federal candidate. I’ve been a councillor for nine years.
NEWS: You stood in Braitling as an independent in 2016, part way through your council term.
MELKY: Yes I did.
He said he saw the opportunity to represent the public at a higher political level. It would seem that may well be the case again next year, when the NT election is due, a year out from the end of Cr Melky’s council term.
NEWS: How many other parties have you been associated with?
MELKY: The CLP and Palmer United.
Country Party seeks to stand candidates in all seats
By ERWIN CHLANDA