Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (17 June 1986)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (17 June 1986)


Debates for 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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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 - Tuesday 17 June 1986 --------- One example which you may have heard of, Mr Speaker, is that people are concerned that community government confers many revenue-raising powers, and that this may be a prelude to the government cutting back on the funds it provides. This would force the communities into unreasonable revenue-raising efforts, compared with the effort-neutral principle which is embodied in our own dealings, and those of the states, with the Grants Commission. I previously gave service charges as an instance of this. It is not the only one. Another problem has been brought to my attention. I have discussed it with departmental officers, and I would like to bring it to the attention of members of the Assembly. I do not intend to move an amendment. At this stage, I think it better if I just mention it. The government may then wish to take further action. It relates to the dissolution of community governments. In considering my words, I would like members to reflect on the current position of local government bodies in the Northern Territory which are not incorporated under this act. These bodies, which are incorporated under the j\ssociations Incorporation Act, have a form of incorporation and an act which bears no relationship to the actual functions they carry out. It is an inappropriate piece of legislation. It does, however, give these bodies one particular attribute: they are virtually independent of the minister, except when it comes to funding. The minister has no power to abolish or to sack the members of these local government bodies. That is an attribute which they are asked to give up when they go into community government. As I said, we are working on a dirty blackboard, and people are quite suspicious. They say: 'The government pushed us into this. They will dissolve us. They will put in a manager. We are back to superintendent days'. Members may see that as being totally unrealistic, but I venture to say that there is not a single member on the other side of the Assembly who has lived under a superintendent, with one possible exception. It may be that that member, who is now a minister, will be able to explain to his Cabinet colleagues that living under a superintendent was at times a fairly difficult effort. There were a number of very authoritarian superintendents who tended to have their own particular views, not just on how the community should operate, but about how everybody in it should conduct the very smallest detail of their lives. If people suspect they may be going back to something like that, in spite of the other gains local government has made for them, they will resist community government strenuously. One possible way of overcoming these misgivings concerning the process of dissolution of a community government would be to provide a capacity for the courts to judge whether the dissolution was an appropriate course of action. I doubt very much whether the minister will accept the courts being placed over him as a watchdog. However, there is another possibility. Where the community government has been dissolved, the people could have an ability to decide that they wish to have new elections, that they wish to come out of the management phase. At the moment, there is a requirement on the minister to consult with the residents of a community government area to determine whether a majority are in favour of an election being held. The minister is not to appoint a date if he is satisfied that the majority of the residents are not in favour of an election being held. However, if the majority of residents are in favour of an election, the act only states that the minister 'may' decide to hold an election. Perhaps this is the mandatory 'may', and should be read as 'shall'. However, if clause 302 were reworded slightly, it could give the minister the 34

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