NT Speaker blocks attempt to seize official opposition status from Country Liberal Party
Yingiya Guyula, Terry Mills and Robyn Lambley believe they can take official Opposition status from the CLP. (ABC News: Ian Redfearn)
Three independent Northern Territory politicians — known as The Alliance —have had their attempt to seize official opposition status in the NT Parliament temporarily blocked by Speaker Kezia Purick.
- Robyn Lambley, Terry Mills and Yingiya Guyula have formed an alliance
- Speaker Kezia Purick has not endorsed them as the official Opposition
- The CLP Opposition has only two seats in parliament
Former chief minister Terry Mills, his former deputy Robyn Lambley and member for Nhulunbuy Yingiya Mark Guyula signed an agreement they said established them as a coalition of independents that meets the requirements to take official opposition status from the two-member CLP.
But they said Ms Purick told The Alliance at a meeting this morning that she would not be making the decision on who forms Opposition, despite making that call in 2016, when it was given to the CLP.
Ms Purick declined to comment but The Alliance said she told them to take their request to Parliament.
“The dynamic in the NT chamber has changed and we have to think about Opposition and Government very differently,” Ms Lambley said.
“We’ve formulated policy, and a way to work together. We’ve ticked all the boxes that were required. [The Speaker] listened to us and said ‘that’s not my responsibility’. I think she’s obstructing us from becoming the Opposition.”
NT Speaker Kezia Purick says she would not make the decision on who forms Opposition. (ABC: Alan Dowler)
Opposition criteria unclear
The issue involves the interpretation of advice from the Territory’s Solicitor-General, which was tabled in Parliament in October that stated a Coalition Opposition could function provided it “demonstrate a public commitment to act cooperatively based on aligned ideologies … and a written agreement pledging to always act collectively”.
The Alliance said it met that criteria, but it remained unclear if that applied to a coalition of three independent members.
It’s also unclear who would interpret this.
A spokesman for Chief Minister Michael Gunner declined to comment on how this would be resolved.
If it goes to a vote in Parliament, it would mean the Labor Government could decide its own Opposition because they have a majority of members.
Parliament resumes next week.
Yingiya Guyula, Robyn Lambley and Terry Mills have formed an alliance. (ABC News: Ian Redfearn)
‘A radical change’
Mr Mills said Territorians were frustrated with the two major parties and want a new alternative.
He suggested The Alliance would be the future of politics in the NT, with many voters disillusioned with Labor’s handling of the economy and the CLP’s attempts to hold it accountable.
He expects more independents to be voted in at the 2020 NT election.
“This could make a radical change in how we operate in the Northern Territory,” he said.
“If we keep going in the same way, we are in further trouble and I don’t think we would be able to get out of it. I think the community is expecting a different approach and I think that approach should be that there be a new Opposition.”
Mr Guyula said he agreed to enter into The Alliance in an effort to work cooperatively to better represent his constituents.
“Forming an alliance with Terry and Robyn gives me a bit of strength so I can stand as in partners,” he said.
In October, constitutional law expert George Williams told the ABC that the Northern Territory’s situation was unusual and the assembly should look at drafting firm rules and processes about how the Opposition is formed that reflect its high number of independent MLAs and the possibility of more after the 2020 election.
“[This] does show how poorly Westminster systems are designed for anything but two-party government,” Professor Williams said at the time.
“As we move increasingly to the fracturing of the two-party vote and the rise of independents, conventions can cease to work and, as here, we can be left in uncharted waters.”