Remarkable day in Territory politics yesterday. To cut a long story short, Chief Minister Terry Mills over in Japan, Adam Giles was approached by members of the CLP in saying that he had enough support to take over the leadership of the Country Liberal Party. As a result that is exactly what happened with Dave Tollner to be his Deputy. To talk more about what’s happened in the past 24 hours in Territory politics the Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory.
Nigel Scullion, good morning.
Good morning, Matt.
You’re quite pleased to see Adam Giles as the new Chief Minister of the Northern Territory?
Well I am for a number of reasons particularly because this is the end of what I think was quite an unstable time. Certainly the last four or five months have been quite an unstable time and just as another Territorian had my head in my hands a bit that it appeared that the Parliamentary Wing were very introspective. They were more concerned about the machinations of their wing rather than Territorians and I think a lot of Territorians felt that. So yes, I am absolutely overjoyed that that is now time behind us and Territorians can look forward to a period of stability and I think cohesiveness. When Terry returns from Japan I understand that he will be and I hope certainly that he will be joining the Ministry. So all of that bit of a history is over but I have to say look, you have to commend Terry Mills, he led the Country Liberals back into government. He won a huge mandate from Aboriginal people for this new conservative government. The other person who played a significant role particularly in the election of course was Adam Giles with his work in the indigenous communities. But you, I can not imagine opening the cupboard door when Labor left I think it was $104m or something, the big black hole that Clare Martin spoke about. And when Terry Mills opened the door there was this great lump that says $5.5bn. The GDP of a small nation. So you know we’ve got the same population, a bit larger than the population of Bondi and we owe $5.5bn. It’s a bit hard to reconcile but they were very stressful times over the last seven and a half months for Terry Mills and the team and that no doubt has flown over into the tension that has created this introspection. I’m delighted as a Territorian that that’s now over and of course I think it’s a great day for celebration. I know there will be lots of questions about Japan and how happy they are you know, all those interesting elements but we should never lose touch with the fact that he is not only the first Aboriginal Chief Minister of the Northern Territory but the first Aboriginal head of government since federation. A lot of them will go ho hum particularly Adam but I think it is really important and it’s an opportunity to celebrate that in the Territory we have a reflection of our demographic, 30% Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. We’ve had out of the three recent Chief Ministers, Henderson, Mills and now Giles you know, the third one quite appropriately is a direct representation of the Territory population. So great day.
It was said that it was only going to be a matter of time before Adam Giles got the numbers to secure the leadership but do you think it was handled poorly in the sense that Terry Mills was over in Japan when this has all unfolded?
Oh look, I’d have to say if somebody comes to you and says oh, by the way in this critical time we would like you to take over the leadership of the party, to say oh look, we are just going to hang around we’ll see if the air schedules fit. So if someone has got to come back from Japan, I’m not sure how long that’ll take, a week and a half. Do we let him know now when he’s in negotiations or you know, that is not a part of reality. Yes, politics can be an ugly game but for the first time someone has started putting the interests of the Northern Territory at that point in history above the interests of the CLP. Yes, that might make it a bit uglier, people might have their nose out of joint and because the perception we might have all been a bit more gentle or sensitive about things.
This is not a time for any of those things, this is a time for action, to get on with the business about looking after Territorians to end this introspection. They’ve done that. I am sure Terry understands and that’s in the interests of the Territory. He’s a person who has always had the interests of the Territory at the heart. He’d understand what’s happened, why it’s happened and just tremendous to see we’re now moving on.
What does this mean now from a federal level obviously you are the Northern Territory Senator, the Country Liberals Northern Territory Senator, a change of leadership again, what does this mean now from – in terms of dealing with the Northern Territory Government?
Well look, I mean we had no problems in dealing with the leader of the previous Northern Territory Government. In the Country Liberals the leader is first amongst equals and certainly that is the case with Adam Giles. So it doesn’t matter really who’s, who’s – they’re a party, they’re a political wing, they stand for a particular series of values and those values are still there.
There’s been no change in those or the relationship but one thing that has changed I mean, to be frank I was pretty worried. You know, Solomon, Lingiari, my Senate seat. You know, people say the CLP brand how are you going? Well, it’s awful people in the street saying I think it’s awful, you care more about yourselves, rah rah. That’s finished now and so frankly from a political standpoint if that’s the nature of the question, certainly I think our prospects have, have – are recovering not weakening.
So I think that’s an important thing from a political perspective but from a Territorians perspective what they need is stability. They understand now the nature and the enormity of the task in front of all of us, all of us as Territorians have got to deal with this massive and obscene debt but it is still difficult to understand the size of it that was run up by Delia Lawrie and in the previous Labor Government. And so it’s a task I know that Adam Giles will ensure that we rally all Territorians together and to ensure that we’re all on the same side we have a strategy to ensure we can repay the debt and we can go back to the days where we can afford to build infrastructure and move forward as we deserve.
All right Nigel thanks for your time this morning.
Great to talk to you Matt.
Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory Nigel Scullion.