Hawker Britton Occasional Papers and Media

Northern Territory no confidence vote

August 2009

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The Northern Territory Labor Government today survived a no-confidence motion introduced by Country Liberal Party Leader Terry Mills.

The Government’s hold on power had been shaken in recent weeks by Alison Anderson’s resignation from the ALP in protest over the Government’s handling of the $672million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Project, leaving Labor with 12 of the 25 Legislative Assembly seats.

The Territory has been self-governing since 1978. The Country Liberal Party (CLP) held power until 2001, when it was defeated by the Clare Martin-led ALP. Martin was Chief Minister until 2007, when she resigned, leaving Paul Henderson to take up the reins.

Henderson led Labor to a third successive victory in 2008, with thirteen of the 25 seats in the Territory’s unicameral Parliament.

That result left the Government with a working majority of one, meaning the recent upheaval threatened Labor’s hold on power. Consequently, Country Liberal leader Terry Mills introduced a motion of no-confidence in the Henderson Labor Government.

In Westminster parliamentary systems, a vote of no-confidence from the Parliament effectively means the end of the Government. A vote of no-confidence would have meant the CLP would have become the new Government, or the Territory would be forced to hold a second election within twelve months.

With the Government holding 12 seats, today’s vote was essentially in the hands of Independent MP Gerry Wood.

This morning, Wood voted with Labor to ensure the Henderson Government continues as a minority government. Wood argued this outcome would result in the least disruption to the Territory’s economy, which so far has remained relatively buoyant through the ongoing downturn.

In siding with the Government, Wood has agreed to support the Government in supply and appropriation bills (meaning the Government can still operate) and agreed to vote with Labor on any future no-confidence motion, unless it was brought on the basis of corruption.

In return, Wood secured a number of agreements from Labor, including:

As a caveat, Wood warned his support for the Henderson Government was contingent on it fulfilling its agreement with him. Moreover, should Henderson lose his position as Chief Minister, or should another Labor MLA quit the party prior to the next election in three years' time, the deal will be called off.

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