Opposition leader will not be questioned on looming NT poll




Country Liberals president Ron Kelly (at right) will speak with the Alice Springs News this afternoon about the party’s strategies in the lead-up to next year’s election as Electoral Commissioner Iain Loganathan warns democracy in the NT is in peril because of voter apathy.


Mr Kelly’s approach to transparency contrasts with that of the two-member Parliamentary Opposition whose leader, Gary Higgins, will not discuss issues, while spruiking initiatives for the Top End.


On Wednesday the Opposition Leader’s minder returned a call from the News to discuss a request for an interview with him.


We had flagged that a few days earlier and this was the time to firm up the arrangement.


So claims Mr Higgins but he won’t be interviewed about it.

I explained I wanted to talk to Mr Higgins as the next NT election is just a year away: What is the status quo as he sees it? What will he change if his party regains power?


The minder’s initial answer was a blunt no – Mr Higgins is not available for the next three weeks, and no commitment was offered beyond that.


However, she would deal with written questions the News might care to submit.


As we have explained to her before, and on numerous occasions also to the Michael Gunner propaganda machine, which has developed government by minder into an insidious art form, that we do not engage in journalism by emails backwards and forwards with minders.


We pointed out that most answers beg a further question, and it would take weeks to deal with issues that would take minutes on the phone. We don’t work with hearsay and the Opposition Leader in person needs to be the source.


The minder said she might discuss our request with Mr Higgins but she hasn’t gotten back to us.


What we did get by email yesterday, 26 hours after my phone call, was a media handout from Mr Higgins “regarding the 12 month count down to the Northern Territory election” – exactly what the minder had prevented us from interviewing Mr Higgins about.


What the email did not contain was an offer for the News to probe his assertions and ask further questions.


The release asserted that Labor was elected “promising to be open and transparent … They weren’t and aren’t.”


Where is the openness and transparency of Mr Higgins?


In his media handout he refers to funding for upgrades to Kakadu National Park, a youth justice facility at the Pinelands Industrial Estate, cuts to magpie geese bag limits, a PET scanner and a cyclotron in Darwin, the “$40,000 Boundless rocket expenditure” and the City Deal for Darwin.


Alice Springs specific issues don’t rate a mention.

UPDATE August 26:
Mr Higgins has now offered to make time for an interview with the News. However, as we had already made arrangements to interview party president Ron Kelly, we thanked Mr Higgins and advised we would take up his offer in the near future.


  1. I have made the point a number of times for well over a decade, principally through Alice Springs News, in making two key observations about patterns in Territory politics.
    One is that governments that win massive majorities in elections suffer serious electoral backlashes in subsequent polls.
    This trend is strengthening over time; for example, in August 1997 the CLP won 18 seats and its greatest ever total vote across the Territory but it lost office for the first time in August 2001.
    Similarly, Labor won 19 seats in June 2005 but was reduced to a minority government in August 2008.
    There’s no reason to believe the Gunner Government, with its initial 18 seats (now 16) will not suffer a similar fate in a year’s time.
    The second pattern is that political parties whose leaders represent electorates outside of Darwin always lose elections.
    This pattern began as long ago as 1965 when the Member for Alice Springs, Colonel Lionel Rose, became the leader of the North Australia Party – he lost his seat by a narrow margin to Labor candidate Charlie “Chas” Orr, and the NAP was obliterated to a single winning member (Tony Greatorex, Member for Stuart).
    History went full circle when Chief Minister Adam Giles, the Member for Braitling, narrowly lost his seat in 2016 to Labor’s Dale Wakefield, and the CLP was reduced to its worst ever result of just two seats.
    The current leader, Gary Higgins, represents a rural seat and – consistent with the existing pattern – it’s highly unlikely in my view that he will succeed in leading the CLP to victory next year.
    As noted in another report, there’s a high level of disengagement of electors in the political process, and with democracy itself, in the Northern Territory.
    We live in interesting times.

  2. Gary Who?? Been missing in action for two years, and comes across in media now as just an arrogant has been. Pity for the party.

  3. Keep up the pressure Erwin. Next time the Opposition Leader visits Alice Springs he should sit down for a face to face interview. Voters deserve nothing less.


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