Government of the Northern Territory

Government of the Northern Territory
Logo of the Northern Territory Government

The Northern Territory is governed according to the principles of the Westminster system, a form of parliamentary government based on the model of the United Kingdom. The Northern Territory has had internal self-government since 1978, but it does not have the full legislative independence of the Australian states.


Legislative and executive powers

Legislative power rests with the Legislative Assembly, which consists of the Crown (represented by the Administrator of the Northern Territory) and the members of the Assembly. While the Assembly exercises roughly the same powers as the state governments of Australia, it does so by a delegation of powers from the Federal Government, rather than by any constitutional right. This means that the Federal Government can advise the Governor-General of Australia to overturn any legislation passed by the Assembly; the Federal Government exercised this power, for instance, when it repealed the Territory's voluntary euthanasia laws. (See also Electoral systems of the Australian states and territories).

The government consists of a Ministry appointed by the Administrator, from the elected members of the Assembly. The Administrator would normally appoint the leader of the majority party in the Assembly as the Chief Minister, who then chooses the remainder of the ministry. The Northern Territory Government is a member of the Council of Australian Governments.

Current parliament

The current head of government is Chief Minister Paul Henderson who replaced former Chief Minister Clare Martin, who led the Australian Labor Party to their first Northern Territory electoral victory in August 2001, and to a second victory in June 2005. The Leader of the Opposition Country Liberal Party has been Terry Mills since January 2008.

In the 2008 election the Labor Party won a one seat majority of 13 of the 25 seats. In June 2009 former Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour resigned from Labor in protest at a policy of rationalising of Territory outstations. Ms Scrymgour immediately indicated that she would still support the Government in motions of no confidence and Government supply and appropriation bills. So the Henderson administration became a minority government with 12 Government members, 11 Opposition members, and two independents holding the balance of power.

In August 2009 a second indigenous Labor member Alison Anderson quit the Labor caucus. Until her resignation Ms Anderson was the Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Heritage; Minister for Parks and Wildlife; Minister for Arts and Museums; and Minister for Indigenous Policy. Unlike Marion Scrymgour, Ms Anderson did not indicate her confidence in the Government. Ms Scrymgour immediately rejoined the Labor caucus, however this still left the Government with only 12 members. The Henderson Government negotiated a deal with the second independent Gerry Wood whereby Mr Wood would support Territory Labor to continue minority government in exchange for 37 projects and policies many directly relevant to his rural electorate.

Federal representation of NT

The territory is represented in the Commonwealth parliament by two members in the House of Representatives (the Division of Solomon and Division of Lingiari) and two members in the Senate. The Member for Lingiari also represents voters from Australia's Indian Ocean Territories (Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands), while the Northern Territory Senators represent those voters in the Senate.

Proposed Northern Territory statehood

For many years there has been agitation for statehood. A referendum was held on the issue in 1998, but the proposal was narrowly rejected. This was a shock to both the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments, for opinion polls showed most Territorians supported statehood. However, under s. 121 of the Australian Constitution, the terms of admission of new states are decided by the Commonwealth Parliament. The terms offered included an increase to three seats in the Senate from two. The other states all have 12 senators. Alongside what was cited as an arrogant approach adopted by then Chief Minister Shane Stone, it is thought that many Territorians were reluctant to accept statehood on the offered terms.[citation needed]

See also

External links

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