Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 February 1999



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 February 1999

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Parliamentary Record 14


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 17 February 1999 I hear a lot from the local people when I travel through communities. It is very important, I believe, that provision of ongoing training for elected councillors and for identified positions be targeted. Some progress is being made but it is too slow, I hear from people in communities. I do believe that those communities must accept some responsibility for the training, identifying people to be able to take on those positions within their councils. Much more active professional development is required. This will allow key personnel to be recruited locally. Examples exist of councils being poorly served by unqualified or inexperienced staff, as we heard from the minister in her statement. I know of one community where I believe the mechanic was charging overtime, claiming to work almost 90 hours a week. I am not familiar with the contract of that person, but one has to raise ones eyebrows when this is happening within a council and the council has to pay that sort of money. There are those concerns when people are selected who dont have the experience to be able to negotiate contracts or handle their budget in an appropriate manner. The ministers statement is quite broad. It doesnt provide specific detail on a number of important points. The statement talks about developing constitutions for larger councils that to some extent protect smaller communities. These safety nets need to be built into the constitutions not for a fixed period but ongoing. The minister must ensure that failsafe measures to protect small communities are enshrined in the framework and not left to chance. The minister talked about establishing advisory and reference groups. There are questions we need answered, and I am sure the minister will be able to respond in summing up. How will the membership of these groups be chosen? Will they be resourced to travel right around the Territory consulting with stakeholders? What are the reporting arrangements and timelines? Similar questions apply to the regional reference groups referred to in the ministers statement. Consultations with stakeholders must be extensive and genuinely reciprocal. A statement on local government reform cannot be allowed to pass without some comment on the debacle concerning the sacking of the Yulara Council. The sacking of the council did leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Territorians, particularly those in the local government community. I hope the proposals outlined by the minister are not another example of the heavy hand of the Country Liberal Government on many people working hard through local government involvement to support and improve their own communities. We will have to wait and see. The opposition records it thanks to those involved in local government, particularly those who are actively trying to have addressed the problems many councils face as a result of past policies of the Country Liberal Party government. We will continue to work with local government to ensure a stronger local democracy in the Northern Territory. M r HATTON (Nightcliff): Mr Speaker, I rise to support the statement by the minister. In opening, I would like to respond to 1 or 2 points made by the honourable member for Arafura. One of the things that I am continually fascinated by in this Chamber is that we hear members opposite suddenly becoming the great champions of - in this case - the local government system, and in particular the very specialised structure of community government. They also criticise the CLP government of the day or the CLP governments in general for somehow not properly supporting or backing this system of government. The member for Arafura might be very curious to know that the whole concept of community government was an innovation by the Northern Territory CLP government, specifically to give the flexibility to enable local government structures to work, particularly, in respect to rural, remote and Aboriginal communities. The CLP government set the initiative and worked assiduously for 2 decades to get this process up and developed. It fought a lone-handed battle against some of those - and I talk particularly about those supporters of the Northern and Central Land Council - who have worked so hard to prevent the development of local government in communities, and these are organisations that are consistently supported by the Labor Party in this Chamber. So, why would they draw the assumption that we are the people who are somehow not supporting community government? The CLP government has bent over backwards to provide any sort of innovation that would encourage the development of local government, and a form and structure of local government that suits the needs of the local community, against the opposition of land councils. I well remember, when I was local government minister, at a meeting at Ti Tree Station, a meeting of all the Anmatjere people in the consultations on setting up local government. The big battle there was the consistent structured campaign, at that meeting, by the Central Land Council trying to convince the people they did not want community government and they should adopt this Mickey Mouse federal association structure. Who is supporting community government verses those who are opposing community government? The member for Arafura and the members opposite ought to look very closely at their political allies, and 2774