Dare to dream of democracy

One of the most interesting suggestions that came out of last week’s NT Governance Summit was one by the ABC’s Antony Green proposing that the Territory might consider adopting a version of the New Zealand system of “top up” nationwide seats elected by proportional representation, in order to correct the frequent drastic imbalance between votes and seats that often occurs in Territory elections.

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Gunner’s faceless men

Chris Walsh from the Northern Territory News had an interesting article in yesterday’s Sunday Territorian claiming that “faceless men in Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s office” were having undue influence over the process of developing the forthcoming NT Budget, telling departmental CEOs how many millions of dollars they are required to cut from their forward budgets instead of the relevant Cabinet ministers undertaking that task.

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In search of fairness and equal opportunity

The Northern Territory has higher levels of inequality between rich and poor than most other parts of Australia. People living in remote Aboriginal communities are among the poorest in Australia, whereas the incomes of people in Darwin and Alice Springs are among the highest in the nation.

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Statehood, the Constitution and public opinion

No new State has been admitted or established since Federation in 1901, despite periodic bouts of seeming enthusiasm for NT statehood on the part of some politicians. For most people, it is an issue that produces almost universal guffaws whenever anyone mentions it, not only in the rest of Australia but among Territorians.  ‘Down south’ the reaction is seemingly fuelled by a perception that the Territory is a sinkhole for taxpayers’ money inhabited by Aborigines, crocodiles, and a handful of eccentric redneck Caucasians behaving strangely in the tropical heat.

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First Nations Representative Assembly

 

It is generally considered that a major reason why Shane Stone’s statehood referendum failed in 1998 was because of opposition from Aboriginal organisations (especially land councils) and their supporters.  That opposition in turn was to a significant extent due to a perception that Aboriginal interests were better protected by remaining under ultimate Commonwealth control.

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Ministerial Code of Conduct

A clear Ministerial Code of Conduct is one part of the armoury of democratic checks and balances needed to ensure open and accountable government. The Northern Territory has not until recently had one. However, the adoption of a Ministerial Code of Conduct was one of the recommendations of the Lawler Inquiry called by the previous Country Liberal government in relation to the so-called Stella Maris Affair in an apparent (and surprisingly successful) attempt to torpedo the political career of then Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie.

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Regulating donations to political parties

Author: Dr Danial Kelly

Public concerns and suspicions about the potential of influence, undue or benign, of political donations seem to be on the rise. Disengagement with mainstream politics by the electorate is manifest, partly due to distrust of politicians and integrity of government. I don’t hear anyone claiming the current state of politics or electoral campaign behaviours to be healthy or conducive to good governance.

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Anti-corruption commissions (ICAC)

Author: Eric Withnall

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (‘ICAC’), as a conceptual part of the Australian legal system, poses an existential threat to corrupt politicians and public servants, and those that deal with them, by redefining the judicial rules of engagement when it comes to sophisticated public graft. Described as a ‘permanent Royal Commission’, a model ICAC can result in unprecedented revelations of corruption at the highest levels of government – albeit at the expense of the legal protections afforded to every Australian by the justice system.

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Multi-member Parliamentary seats

Critics of Northern Territory self-government have sometimes argued that the NT has too small a population to generate the level of talent necessary to form a government and ministry. It’s certainly true that at just on 250,000 the Territory’s population is no larger than some local council areas “down south”.

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