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What Does Cracker Night Mean to You?

It is time to lift and set a new course informed by where we have been. Sure these are tough times but why can’t we come together around a renewed vision? Together we can engineer a new future with the combined efforts of the talent and tenacity of everyday Territorians who have chosen to all this place home.

A fiery family fun night and a celebration of Territory freedom or a night to be endured that we could do without?

I am not setting out to answer this question but observe the increased polarisation within the community on this issue and intend drawing attention back to the essence of this important day. What is it really all about?

I am well aware that any politician who even dares to suggest banning fireworks risks a Sir William Wallace or Darryl Kerrigan style assault against anyone would dares to threaten Territory ‘freedom’.

It is unfortunate that the public debate has become more about fireworks than anything else.

But what are we celebrating?

I guess few make the link to the long campaign to gain self governance that ended on July 1 1978 as they light the wick on a bumble bee or a screaming demon?

But even a brief read of the history of the decades long fight to wrest control from Canberra that is reason for Territory Day makes one feel proud.

Imagine the moment when Canberra formally transferred the right to Territorians to govern themselves.

On that day a large crowd gathered on the Esplanade to witness the first NT Government ministry being sworn in and celebrate a landmark milestone on the journey to Statehood.

As a new minister described it when asked on the day: ‘people were so happy about self-government and no longer being chained to Canberra. People were sick of it’.

For the record in 1980 when other States and Territories moved to ban their respective ‘cracker nights’ or Guy Fawkes that were traditionally held in November the new NT government chose to retain ‘cracker’ night and move it to July the first to celebrate Self Government Day.

It is time to ignite the spark of a new vision that harkens back to those foundations and sees the NT as the nation’s leader in Northern Development unique in its purpose working as equal partners with Aboriginal traditional owners and building ever closer ties with our northern neighbours.

A vision where at the grassroots the community is entrusted to seek solutions to complex social problems rather than burning millions on Royal Commissions and countless reviews, studies and inquiries.

Surely the time is right to chart a new course that is informed by where we have been but then confidently designs and engineers a new future based on the rich wealth of talent and tenacity we have right here.

We have people with a heart and soul for our unique place in this nation willing and capable of continuing the fight to wrest control from experts and design our own path.

Capturing this vision and working together is the key.

Now that would be something to celebrate!

Dull Disengaged and Dangerous.


You would have to be dull to believe that offering inducements to entice other Australians to move to the Territory is a good idea. Not only is it poor social and economic policy it is just dumb politics because it offends the people who already live here; our fellow Territorians.

This idea is evidence of a growing disengagement from economic reality. The factors contributing to population decline are manifold. Belief that a government subsidy can solve that problem is dangerously misguided.

It is my firm belief that the best path to population growth is less government intervention and a greater enabling of private enterprise.

If small business is really the engine room of the economy then that engine room needs to be understood and central to any population growth initiative.

When the private sector wants to employ more people the growth will be organic, authentic and sustainable because supply always follows demand.

The Chief Minister astonishingly reverses this principle by aiming first to build population [supply] with a government subsidy then hope the jobs will materialise [demand] once the people get here!

Bill Clinton was right when he said; ‘It is the economy stupid!’

The $1.5 million spent to promote a new image of the NT may change some people’s perceptions of the Northern Territory but at the end of the day people will move to the NT for an actual job not a feeling or a subsidy.

Improving law and order would be the best incentive that could be offered right now.

On the national level this plan risks further damaging our reputation within the commonwealth because it is the other States and Territories that contribute to the national GST pool from which the NT draws almost 70% of its total revenue.

The NT takes way more from that national pool then we put in. That is because that payment comes with the expectation that a reasonable level of service would be delivered to Australians already living in the Territory.

To use that revenue to induce people here from other States with their GST contributions looks like a rort.

Requests for the NT to be respected by the Commonwealth or even considered as contenders for full Statehood are eroded when we fail to act with the maturity befitting a State. Spending without caution, casually increasing debt to dangerous levels and then acting like tricky, ungrateful, mendicants is not a good look.

So what could be done instead?

Get back to basics. Upon election the NT Government correctly set before itself the goal of rebuilding trust in government but that is done by governing well not by social engineering.

If cash payments to entice people north is the answer it makes one wonder what was the question government asked?

Calls to me from local business people show they were not asked for the solution.

One thing is becoming very clear. This is a government that trusts government more and people less. I will believe otherwise when problem drinkers or young lawbreakers become the real focus of policy instead of the broader population.

Labor always defaults to broad based, expensive and unfruitful societal measures to deal with social problems. Now we see the same with the population strategy.

If you ask business to help identify the measures to enable greater flexibility, capacity and desire to grow they will point to a number of issues with stamp duties and payroll tax high on the list. Crime and anti-social behaviour will always feature on the list and that is something government must deal with.

The other real work of government is to work constructively with the Commonwealth Government to solve the problem of population decline.

Perhaps with a persuasive argument and sound economic and social policy the Federal Government that could be moved to provide real taxation incentives to attract investment in the North. This must always include a practical and sensible engagement of Traditional Owners.

Perhaps the development of the north could be boosted by using the largely unused Northern Development Fund to provide meaningful rewards [like a Payroll Tax offset] for private sector investment in manufacturing in the north.

Government needs to listen and act on the concerns of northern agriculture and other people starved industries to grow by taking a new approach to targeted work visas specific to the needs of the north.

The intake of suitably qualified migrants seeking a new life in Australia should be directed to and required to stay in the north.

In the meantime the Northern Territory Government should focus on its core business; quality schools, improved health outcomes and reduced crime and anti-social behaviour.

Government paying people with our money to come here and then expecting locals to employ them when they get here as business daily battles property crime increases is not the path to rebuilding trust in government.

Change Politics to Get a Different Result

good idea text
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking that leads us into a crisis is not the thinking required to get us out of it. So, time for some fresh thinking.

Politics requires a new approach. But what is the problem?

Politics as we have experienced it for years is driven by one dominant mindset – how to win the next election. This impairs our capacity to assess or sensibly address real problems.

This approach has political candidates trumpeting their virtues while denigrating the opposition enough to get most people to believe them and make them the government.

While the party elephants battle it out for supremacy, all supposedly in the name of democracy, the citizen ants are trampled on.

This contest has problems viewed through a political lens because every solution must serve the dominant concern of how to win the next election. This is very different from an open-eyed objective assessment of community problems for the purpose of generating solutions to benefit the community as the primary concern.

Make no mistake: the social and economic problems we face are real and far more complex than any narrow political assessment can ever achieve. Crime, for example, is a very complex social problem, not a political problem. The same applies to the Territory’s economic crisis and future prospects.

Assessing social or economic problems through a political lens is a misdiagnosis from the start and can only generate political solutions. This incorrect diagnosis leads to solutions that are woefully inadequate in addressing the real issue because the ‘solutions’ is designed only to solve the political problem of how to get elected. That may benefit the political party but is certainly leaves the citizen out in the cold.

No wonder people are not bothering to vote.

An obvious side effect of this approach is that vision is narrowed to squeeze into a four year election cycle; this further handicaps efforts from the start, no matter how sincere.

Worse still is that this approach breeds cynicism which erodes public confidence in the political process. When people feel the real problems, in spite of promises, are never adequately addressed they become increasingly angry, frustrated and disconnected as faith in the political process evaporates.

Even though people instinctively sense the election promises are a bit far fetched they participate but with diminished enthusiasm. The reality gap between politics and the real world is widening. People live with real problems not political problems and most problems need a long term approach that is creative, logical and believable and, most of all, able to endure well beyond a four year cycle.

We need a new approach more than ever because the Territory is entering a new and critical phase. Unless we adjust our mindset and posture we may not be able to weather the storm.

So what is the answer?

An insightful analysis of the present deterioration of popular trust in the democratic process is offered by CDU law academic Danial Kelly. He describes a new type of political entity a vehicle that could provide a way forward.

This new construct could begin to shift the political dynamic away from political parties and return it to the citizens whose interests should be central to any democratic endeavour.

This could give the Territory the new political arrangement that is desperately needed. A new approach focused on problem-solving to benefit the people rather than an exercise designed around a contest to win an election for the primary benefit of a political party.

A new model encourages an approach that favours pragmatism and it would not be ideologically driven. Instead it would favour collaboration by creating space for elected representatives to work together awake to the reality they have authority conferred upon them directly from the electorate first; ahead of any party, ideology or exclusive agenda. This would lead to more sustainable logical and believable solutions that directly benefit the people they are elected to serve.

Without a new approach we are condemned to approaching problems the same way and vainly expecting different results.

As said before, we seriously need a new approach now more than ever because the Territory is entering a new and critical phase and unless we change tack we may not be able to weather the storms ahead.

A new model that is locally relevant and nationally significant could have its beginnings here in the Territory.

Many boast that the Territory is a ‘can do’ place but then act as though everything is someone else’s fault. Instead I have faith in the quiet Territorians who are yearning for something different and real. I remain convinced that we can do politics better here by turning the process towards Territorians and away for the conventional approach we have endured for a couple of decades.

Over to you my fellow Territorians.

Change Politics to Get a Different Result

good idea text
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thinking that leads us into a crisis is not the thinking required to get us out of it. So, time for some fresh thinking.

Politics requires a new approach. But what is the problem?

Politics as we have experienced it for years is driven by one dominant mindset – how to win the next election. This impairs our capacity to assess or sensibly address real problems.

This approach has political candidates trumpeting their virtues while denigrating the opposition enough to get most people to believe them and make them the government.

While the party elephants battle it out for supremacy, all supposedly in the name of democracy, the citizen ants are trampled on.

This contest has problems viewed through a political lens because every solution must serve the dominant concern of how to win the next election. This is very different from an open-eyed objective assessment of community problems for the purpose of generating solutions to benefit the community as the primary concern.

Make no mistake: the social and economic problems we face are real and far more complex than any narrow political assessment can ever achieve. Crime, for example, is a very complex social problem, not a political problem. The same applies to the Territory’s economic crisis and future prospects.

Assessing social or economic problems through a political lens is a misdiagnosis from the start and can only generate political solutions. This incorrect diagnosis leads to solutions that are woefully inadequate in addressing the real issue because the ‘solutions’ is designed only to solve the political problem of how to get elected. That may benefit the political party but is certainly leaves the citizen out in the cold.

No wonder people are not bothering to vote.

An obvious side effect of this approach is that vision is narrowed to squeeze into a four year election cycle; this further handicaps efforts from the start, no matter how sincere.

Worse still is that this approach breeds cynicism which erodes public confidence in the political process. When people feel the real problems, in spite of promises, are never adequately addressed they become increasingly angry, frustrated and disconnected as faith in the political process evaporates.

Even though people instinctively sense the election promises are a bit far fetched they participate but with diminished enthusiasm. The reality gap between politics and the real world is widening. People live with real problems not political problems and most problems need a long term approach that is creative, logical and believable and, most of all, able to endure well beyond a four year cycle.

We need a new approach more than ever because the Territory is entering a new and critical phase. Unless we adjust our mindset and posture we may not be able to weather the storm.

So what is the answer?

An insightful analysis of the present deterioration of popular trust in the democratic process is offered by CDU law academic Danial Kelly. He describes a new type of political entity a vehicle that could provide a way forward.

This new construct could begin to shift the political dynamic away from political parties and return it to the citizens whose interests should be central to any democratic endeavour.

This could give the Territory the new political arrangement that is desperately needed. A new approach focused on problem-solving to benefit the people rather than an exercise designed around a contest to win an election for the primary benefit of a political party.

A new model encourages an approach that favours pragmatism and it would not be ideologically driven. Instead it would favour collaboration by creating space for elected representatives to work together awake to the reality they have authority conferred upon them directly from the electorate first; ahead of any party, ideology or exclusive agenda. This would lead to more sustainable logical and believable solutions that directly benefit the people they are elected to serve.

Without a new approach we are condemned to approaching problems the same way and vainly expecting different results.

As said before, we seriously need a new approach now more than ever because the Territory is entering a new and critical phase and unless we change tack we may not be able to weather the storms ahead.

A new model that is locally relevant and nationally significant could have its beginnings here in the Territory.

Many boast that the Territory is a ‘can do’ place but then act as though everything is someone else’s fault. Instead I have faith in the quiet Territorians who are yearning for something different and real. I remain convinced that we can do politics better here by turning the process towards Territorians and away for the conventional approach we have endured for a couple of decades.

Over to you my fellow Territorians.

Where to Now NTN?

‘As in nature politics abhors a vacuum’.
                                        Mark McKinnon

The NT News pre-election editorial described the past three years as the ‘federal coalition being at war with the Territory Labor Government’.   Believing Labor would win they urged Territorians to support Shorten to end the ‘war’.
That was a big mistake.
The election of Labor federally at best could only mask the governance problem at home; not fix it.

They said the ‘war’ was caused by the coalition mainly for political reasons.  But there is a more logical and less cynical explanation.

If Scullion and the Coalition are critical of Territory Labor it is more likely because it is warranted. The lack of scrutiny at home is the cause much more than any attempt to score a political point.

The Territory Government is not being adequately tested and without competition they can never be better.

A ‘friendly’ Labor government in Canberra would only reduce the amount of rigour and scrutiny needed at a time when it is needed most.

Territory Labor is performing very badly.

Truth is they can only blame themselves for that but still insist in attempting to blame the former government or the Federal Government for problems they have primary responsibility to deal with.

Now they have no option but to stand up and govern as they should.

It is noted that the editorial would not spare ongoing scrutiny of Territory Labor, that is good because it is needed as is a mature assessment of Coalition shortcomings.

But at home Territory Labor still gives the distinct impression they have failed to grasp the seriousness of our economic situation and the compounding social decline. Territorians are becoming increasingly worried about our future.

This is not political it is real and very serious.

Yes, the Coalition’s view that Territory Labor are the worse economic managers in the country may be harsh; but it is true.

The problem is the lack of robust scrutiny. Never forget Territory Labor Government’s cynical attempt to reduce scrutiny to almost zero by generously and swiftly resourcing a two-member opposition then offering crumbs to the five independents points to this being more about political self-interest than strengthening democracy.

To cynically and deliberately attempt to inoculate themselves from harsh criticism is a foolish and naïve tactic to secure victory at next year’s election.

This has never been about resourcing but governance.

They have openly attempted to sacrifice democracy to political expediency. What is compromised to keep makes an electoral loss next year much more likely because people expect more from government.   A change of government is almost certain If a robust alternative articulating the concerns of the ‘quiet Territorians’ is formed.

Because of the lack of a strong opposition at home is a better explanation for why Scullion and the Coalition came in to fill this vacuum.

So where to now NT News?

After Saturday’s election ‘miracle’ it is ‘quiet Territorians’ who will be seeking new leadership and the media have a particular and important role in contributing to that leadership.

Are We Able to do Politics Differently in the Territory?

Over a year ago I wrote this piece for the Northern Territory News. Today I have revisited the article in light of recent discussion of the formation of a new party for the Northern Territory and Northern Australia.

The 2016 election result presented the Northern Territory with an opportunity to ask bigger questions than ‘what resources the Independent members should get or what offices the Opposition should have?’

Framing the question around resources implies that the two party system is the Westminster model, and that any departure from this tradition is at best a novelty and perhaps even dangerous. Well that’s what the political parties want us to think.

As an Independent with nearly two decades’ experience in the cut and thrust of the party system I am not here to promote an anti-party agenda but to encourage a discussion about quality governance so we can assess whether our system is fit for purpose.

Surely after nearly 40 years of Northern Territory Self-Government it is important to ask: What is right and wrong with our parliamentary system? An honest question enables us to answer by strengthening what works and changing what doesn’t.

It is important to be reminded that the Westminster system did not start out as an adversarial contest between two rival parties; Government and Opposition. That came later.

To ensure fulsome scrutiny of the Cabinet the entire Parliament were the testers and challengers of ministers; that was the original approach.

Today that ‘scrutiny’ or ‘test of government’ takes the form of a contest between two political groups where party loyalty can too easily override loyalty to the Parliament.

We could do better but I am not suggesting everything stop while we have a major overhaul but out of respect for Territorians who want better from our Parliament we really need to have this discussion.

It may be a smart response [for Government] to say it is entirely up to the Independents to come up with the ideas. We will try to do that, but here is an opportunity for the whole Parliament and interested community members to begin an important conversation. The time is ripe for this.

The Westminster system has been adapted to suit the needs of different communities; it is not a one size fits all model. Similar smaller jurisdictions around the world also grapple with similar problems.

Of course we have some unique challenges: a small population, a large land mass, stark social and cultural issues and a small talent pool to draw upon to form an Executive. Surely it would be unwise to continue in the same manner and expect different results.

The NT Parliament commences each sitting day by stating our purpose: to advance the true welfare of all Territorians.

This is best achieved through good governance and that won’t happen by accident but by asking good questions and working to find good answers.

I know I am not alone in my interest in this topic, surely a topic whose time has come.

Terry Mills 2016

Dull, Disengaged and Dangerous — Northern Views by Terry Mills

You would have to be dull to believe that offering inducements to entice other Australians to move to the Territory is a good idea. Not only is it poor social and economic policy it is just dumb politics because it offends the people who already live here; our fellow Territorians.

via Dull, Disengaged and Dangerous — Northern Views by Terry Mills