Dan Murphy’s, proper purposes and political donations

Today’s Northern Territory News has a front page story revealing that “liquor giant Dan Murphy’s will take on the NT government in the federal court in a bid to open a store in Darwin”.

Like another current controversy featured here concerning CLP government interference in public service appointments, this story also raises important questions about government probity, transparency and accountability. However it relates to actions by the new Gunner Labor government rather than the CLP.

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Political operatives ordered public service boss

A significant aspect of transparent and accountable public governance involves a public sector that is not only efficient but fair and not subject to undue politicisation.  In that context there is an important story by Christopher Walsh in today’s Northern Territory News titled “Political operatives ordered public service boss“:

“COMMISSIONER for Public Employment Craig Allen took part in initiating a month-long hiring freeze at the request of political operatives in order to consider a restructure of government departments that never eventuated.”

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Railing About Politics

Following the successful NT Governance Summit, CDU School of Law is joining with Darwin Press Club to present fairly frequent (possibly monthly) events on Tuesday evenings with prominent speakers or small panels discussing current public governance or political issues in an entertaining but thoughtful, analytical way. We’re calling it “Railing About Politics!” because it will happen at the Railway Club, Parap (where food and liquid refreshments are of course available).

As with the Summit, we’re planning on streaming the events on Facebook Live so anyone anywhere can participate online. We’re aiming mostly to focus on issues that are not only relevant to Territorians but much more widely. Email ken.parish@cdu.edu.au to be put on a mailing list to receive notifications of “Railing …” events.

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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