OPINION PIECE – NT DESERVES FAIR REPRESENTATION SUNDAY, 4 OCTOBER 2020
EVEN though our population is now growing, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has taken away one of four Northern Territory seats in federal parliament. It’s gone. Come next federal election, without action, the NT will revert to a single seat in the House of Representatives. It’s difficult to know if the lack of action from the PM and Liberal Party to stop this is malicious or ignorant, but the disastrous result for Territorians is the same. Today I am heading to Canberra for the budget session, where the Morrison government will deliver the biggest budget deficit in the history of our country. In this time of COVID, the continued protection of our health and the need to drive economic recovery should be a high priority.
Australia’s economy is struggling. Yet here in the NT we have abundant natural resources and enormous capacity for sustainable development – provided we get some initial support. We welcome long overdue changes to the NAIF and what we need now is NAIF staff with actual sector experience and have them permanently based in Darwin. Thoughtful investment in the NT will help create the jobs and strong communities to set Australia on the road to recovery. But this won’t happen if we are denied adequate representation in the federal parliament to advocate for positive change. It’s critical that the NT maintains sufficient person-power in Canberra to put our case effectively. That’s why there is bipartisan support from both Territory Labor and the CLP to ensure that the NT retains its two House of Reps seats. A number of National Party politicians from outside the NT also support maintaining our seats. The tiny triangle of Tasmania and its 540,000 people sends 17 representatives to the federal parliament.
Conversely our Territory of 1.3 million sq km and 245,000 people has a mere four representatives – half the population, but less than a quarter of the representation. More than one-quarter of Territorians are Indigenous – by far the largest proportion of any Australian jurisdiction, speaking more than 100 Aboriginal languages and dialects. Many of them are also amongst the most disadvantaged people in Australia. Many already feel abandoned, overlooked or even silenced by our political system. That was before they had a single person to represent them, and the diverse needs of the additional 180,000 Territorians, in federal parliament. The federal government must not sit on its hands while a contrived, antiquated piece of its own electoral machinery threatens our already minimal representation.
Should the unthinkable happen and the Prime Minister does not support fair representation, it will be hard to escape the conclusion that the Coalition government is setting the Territory up to fail. I for one, won’t stand idly by and let that happen.
Luke Gosling is the federal Labor member for Solomon in the Northern Territory.
This piece was first published in the Sunday Territorian on Sunday 4th October 2020.