Running sore for Rudd in the Northern Territory
The Sorry has come and gone and now Kevin Rudd has a problem that’s been simmering in Darwin and is possibly about to boil over.
Next week the Government of the Northern Territory could be brought undone by an angry woman and her unlikely ally, and it all started with the $675 million the Feds allocated to Indigenous housing for the Territory.
Alison Anderson this week quit the ALP and the ministry, and now holds the balance of power in the Legislative Assembly with Independent Gerry Wood. It’s fair to say the pair are being portrayed as crack pots who could bring down the government.
According to Anderson, who spoke to The Punch last night (she didn’t sound like a crack pot), she and Wood have agreed on a course of action for next Tuesday when parliament sits again.
They could support a motion of no confidence in the government of chief minister Paul Henderson, thus forcing an election, or they could form a minority government with the Country Liberals.
They are clearly relishing the suspense. Anderson said they’ve made up their minds but don’t intend to reveal their intentions until the last moment. As political theatre it’s delicious.
“A UFO-spotting former chicken farmer and a renegade MP raised in a desert humpy have emerged as the kingmakers in the Northern Territory”, AAP reported yesterday.
The NT News says the waters are muddied by the fact Ms Anderson is in a relationship with The Australian’s Nicolas Rothwell, and this is behind the series of exclusive interviews she gave the national broadsheet last week.
In a comment piece in The Oz yesterday Natasha Robinson described how Anderson had “thrown a bomb” into the heart of the Northern Territory bureaucracy when she quit on Tuesday. Robinson also described Darwin as “opulent”, but that’s by the by.
Anderson grew up in Indigenous community of Papunya in Central Australia, and had made it all the way to the NT cabinet as indigenous affairs minister.
She joined the ALP in 2004 and last night told The Punch quitting the party on Tuesday was the “easiest day of my life.”
Her issue is the way the money for indigenous housing was to be allocated. She said in her first briefing from bureaucrats about how the Rudd Government’s much vaunted program would be run, she was told just 30 per cent of the money would actually be spent on housing, the rest would go on administration.
“When I hit the roof about that they blamed the bureaucrat that briefed me and said I got it wrong,” Anderson said.
“This is the most amount of money ever given to the Territory for indigenous housing. We shouldn’t let the government cream off so much money for administration.”
Over two subsequent briefings Anderson said they reduced the amount allocated to admin by $55 million.
And he’s the gaping flaw in her strategy; if it really is about doing the best thing by indigenous Territorians - if she was making so much progress on bringing the admin costs down why quit?
Anderson told The Punch it was because she was so angry it took so long to make the progress she did. But her statement of resignation, which you can read here, is more about a lack of support from her chief minister and his refusal to condemn this article in the NT News.
It’s confusing to say the least, and it’s the kind of thing the rest of the country can only marvel at.
The Federal Government is already under fire for the lack of practical progress that has been made since Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations.
The Prime Minister would probably, quite rightly, describe what’s going on in the Territory as a “shit fight”, and to lose a whole Labor government over it would look very careless.
Proof the stink is a uniquely Territorian event - Anderson asked me to publish her mobile number so anyone who with questions can contact her.
Here goes: 0448 885 178.
At least she’s not hiding.
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