The Country Liberal Party has elected the right-hand man to Adam Giles as its new president.
- Ron Kelly is confident the CLP will do better at the 2020 NT elections
- The re-emergence of Mr Kelly has divided the CLP
- The party was hoping to rebrand with younger “fresh faces”
Ron Kelly served as chief-of-staff to Mr Giles until 2015, when he was made chief executive of the Department of Mines and Energy by his former boss.
In 2016, Mr Giles led the CLP to an electoral thrashing, winning only two seats in the NT’s 25 seat Parliament and losing his own.
The whitewash came after a tumultuous period for the CLP, with a failed leadership coup, defections which left it without a majority in Parliament and regular cabinet reshuffles.
But Mr Kelly, a 25-year veteran of conservative politics in the Territory, said his association with Mr Giles would not be a drag on the party’s electoral chances.
He said his experience in within the Giles government could even have a benefit for the CLP.
“I’ve seen some of the not so good examples of political governance but I believe that gives me enormous experience that will be complementary for the party,” he said.
While the party was focusing on the next federal election expected in May, Mr Kelly said he was confident the CLP would do better at the next Northern Territory election due in 2020.
“I absolutely believe the Country Liberals can win seats at the next election,” he said.
Kelly’s presidency divides party looking for fresh approach
The CLP had been rebranding itself with a focus on young political newcomers under director Brad Vermeer, who left the position in July after only a year.
Mr Kelly would not say how many members the CLP currently has on its books, but said it was growing and 30 new members had been confirmed at the weekend’s party meeting.
Mr Kelly’s re-emergence divided the party, which is still nursing sore wounds from its landslide defeat at the 2016 election that left it with only two seats out of 25, after four years of scandals and political in-fighting.
His candidacy also rankled some in the party who were looking for fresh faces to help rebuild the brand.
Ron Kelly was chief-of-staff to former NT chief minister Adam Giles during a politically turbulent time. (AAP: Daniel Munoz)
Mr Kelly was also formerly chief of-staff to NT Senator and current CLP president Nigel Scullion.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison snubbed the Northern Territory party in favour of the Tasmanian Liberals annual state council meeting in Hobart.