Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 4 December 2013
Parliamentary Record 9
Debates for 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 4 December 2013 3150 being at arms length from government. We need some independent advice to assist informed decision-making, and there needs to be a channel for feedback on proposals for change. Last time I looked on the Victoria Daly website, I did not see anything there about the governments proposals for boundary changes. I do not see anything on the East Arnhem Shire website about the desire or aspiration of Groote Eylandt to have a separate regional council. Their desire and aspiration to do that is perfectly within their right. The fact there is no consultation, no channels through which to move that forward, is unforgiveable. Given this governments track record of preference for agreement making with a select few, we will not hold our breath that we might see something transparent in the near future. We agree, on this side of the House, that in supporting this motion we need a better measure of the level of support there is for change among the affected residents. I know I have talked about this before, but the member for Nelson is very clear in this motion about the need for a plebiscite or referendum. We would be keen to explore options for better assessment of community support. That community support is critical. In that context, I note the Aboriginal Land Rights Act sets out a process for change to land council boundaries that include a plebiscite, as does the Queensland de-amalgamation process. These are options that should be seriously considered. It is about having a rigorous and transparent process in place into which people have an opportunity to have input. We support the general principle that if there is agreement to go ahead with the proposed new council, there should be no changes by the government to the existing councils elected members. Any changes should be made by the people on the election day where the residents of both councils will elect their representatives. It is a democratic process which should not only be respected but protected as well. Local government is about grassroots democracy. That is the strength of local government and the strength of the three tiers of government. The people of a local government area need to connect to and own their elected representatives, and it is local people at the ballot box who should have the power to choose their elected members. Procedures already exist under the Local Government Act for action to be taken to remove a councillor from office in certain circumstances, whether that be through misdeed, illegal or corrupt behaviour or other such matters. This is why we also see codes of conduct for elected councillors. Those are the powers that should be employed to remove elected members from office, if that is required, not sacking by gazettal notice, using new unilateral powers for the minister. One can only speculate how loud the howls of outrage would be if the government in Canberra was proposing such powers over the Northern Territory government. Sadly for the 15 minutes of my breath and that of the member for Nelson, I do not imagine there will be much support from the members opposite. We have become used to that. They are not particularly interested in accountability, transparency or consultation. That is a great shame. It is a great disservice to the people of the Northern Territory, particularly those in the third tier of government. Mr McCARTHY (Barkly): Madam Speaker, aint democracy grand. I support the Independent member for Nelson and the motion brought forward, in the essence of democracy, on a General Business Day, where the opposition and the Independent get to present real alternative policy to government. I support this motion and I support democracy. Essentially, when we talk about democracy, we talk about a parliament. While I will not regress to the Punic Wars to make my point about the Westminster System, I will talk about the parliament, because we all represent Territorians. In this debate, I want the minister to visualise the linking of arms of the shire of MacDonnell, the Central Desert Shire, the Barkly Shire, the Roper Gulf Shire, the East Arnhem Shire, the West Arnhem shire, and we have not even come near the Victoria Daly shire. Let us say the Victoria Daly shire is the test case. For some mysterious reason, the Vic Daly Shire has been selected to be restructured. The members motion is very pragmatic and is good advice to a government. The government is only the numbers in this parliament and if we truly reflect the parliament in representing all Territorians, then we will consider clear policy alternatives, not changing the policy, but considering additions to it. This is a particularly pragmatic addition to this major policy. So let us look at the Victoria Daly Shire, the test case, and use the honourable members motion to design the initiative that will support the governments policy. It would be nice to know the Victoria Daly Shire gets it right. The minister is very confident in this House, announcing that the government has a mandate, it will govern for the people and they will essentially do whatever they like. The government does not have a mandate to get it wrong. The government has a mandate to get it right. It would be horrible to see that $6.2m, appropriated for scraping shires in the 2013-14 budget frittered away down the track when this government gets it wrong. The Victoria Daly is the test case. The budget appropriation is there. The ministers will is to restructure the shires and the motion stands. The
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