Victor P Taffa
The Northern Territory was annexed from South Australia in 1911 only 10 years after the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Northern Territory has a vast abundance of minerals that along with Western Australia and Queensland will lead our country well into the 21st century. So what is the difference between Northern Australia and Northern Territory?
Western Australia and Queensland are States and the Northern Territory is just a Territory of the Federal Government. The mineral wealth of the Northern Territory is not spread in the way the authority of a State Government is able to provide.
Territory status is holding back the development of the ‘top end’ and this is leaving the lives of many Indigenous Australians in abject poverty. Canberra tells Darwin what to do and has little real decision making power.
Many people argue that State Government’s should be abolished. This is a good theory but the practical reality is that Canberra would end up divesting duties to areas that would be based on old State boundaries and there would be great conflict between the hundreds of Regional Governments and the Federal Government. Many small hospitals would have to close and with no guarantee of new large impersonal hospitals opening quickly.
As there is already the states of South Australia and Western Australia, the new state would most appropriately be called Northern Australia. There has been some talk that a new state could be established without a State Governor. Australia is not a Republic and as such the new State of Northern Australia would require its own constitution although this could contain a preamble for Indigenous Australians and a State Governor with appropriate access and authority to Her Majesty Elizabeth II.
Access to Queen Elizabeth is still required because as with a cricket match or football game a neutral umpire is not only preferable but essential for good governance.
The current situation is that there is a Chief Minister in the Territory. Prior to Federation, the Colony of New South Wales had a Prime Minister. W.J.Lyne served from 14 Sept 1899-27 Mar 1901.Upon achieving statehood, the Chief Minister should be called Premier as in the existing states.
Statehood for the Northern Territory is largely dependent upon Territorians supporting it at a referendum. A few years ago this was defeated and that result has only been to the detriment of Territorians.
Statehood would require adjustment to that chamber that former Prime Minister Paul Keating once described as ‘unrepresentative swill’. Prior to 1984 the six existing states elected 10 Senators and there were 2 for the Territories. This gave a total of 64 Senators. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke increased the states’ Senate representation to 12 Senators plus the 2 from the territories. This gave a total of 76 Senators.
Has an additional 12 Senators provided voters with greater representation or accessibility to politicians? Upon the granting of Statehood for the Northern Territory the Senate representation from the seven States should be 10 each plus 2 for the A.C.T. This would allow for a total of 72 Senators instead of the 76 at present.
Senate Representation before Northern Territory Statehood:
6 States: 12
Senate representation after Northern Territory Statehood:
New South Wales: 10
Northern Australia: 10
South Australia: 10
Western Australia: 10
Should there be a concern with the readjustment of political representation one should look no further than in New South Wales. In 1988 the Unsworth Government increased size of the Legislative Assembly from 99 seats to 109. The Greiner Government reduced the House back to 99 seats and the Carr Government reduced the chamber to the current size of 93 seats. This represented a net loss of 16 seats.
Changes to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly:
Unsworth Assembly: 109 seats
Greiner Assembly: 99 seats
Carr Assembly: 93 seats
Net loss of seats: 16 seats
With Northern Territory statehood the representation of the senate can be adjusted to suit the importance of a new state of Northern Australia. No one should decry the Northern Territory their chance to become a State.
Although Queensland should restore a democratically elected Legislative Council, the new State of Northern Australia would have adequate Senate representation to compensate for the lack of a State Upper House. The Commonwealth would as such retain some influence in Darwin’s affairs.
The Constitution of the new state of Northern Australia should have appropriate powers as found in other state constitutions. A watered down version will not give a new Premier authority.
Many people that I have spoken to over the years said that the Territory is ‘too small’ to become a state. The same argument applied to Hawaii and Alaska until 1959 in the United States. Statehood for the Territory will be the catalyst for growth and pride.
As with Western Australia and Queensland, the new state of Northern Australia can become an economic powerhouse for this nation. It is no accident that these 2 states achieved dramatic growth. How did that happen? The growth in Western Australia is thanks largely to Sir Charles Court and the growth in Queensland is thanks largely to Sir Joh Bjelke Peterson. Territory status for the Northern Territory is holding back not only the Territory, but this nation. A wealthier new state of Northern Australia can go a long way to assist the Indigenous and improve their lively hoods.
The Alice Springs-Darwin railway took 100 years to go to Palmerston and as with any major city Darwin is deserving of a railway station. Some people argue that the ACT should also be granted statehood and that Queensland should become 3 states. As in the United States the Capital city was given an administrative area that enhanced the status of the city. Washington D.C. was the model for the A.C.T. and the Northern Territory is the Northern gateway to Australia.
The ACT was established by an Act of Parliament to locate a National Capital. The case in Queensland is also very different. In 1922 the Labor Government abolished the Legislative Council and the reintroduction of an Upper House will avoid the need for Queensland to become 3 separate states.
The case of the Northern Territory statehood reflects a different need. The state of Northern Australia as our seventh state in the Commonwealth will only enhance our nation and reduce the prospects of this country from becoming a republic. It is time for the Northern Territory to come of age.
When visitors to Australia arrive in the ‘top end’ they currently come to The Northern Territory. One could be forgiven for asking the Northern Territory of what?
Following the granting of Statehood visitors arriving in the ‘top end’ would enter the State of Northern Australia. The State of Northern Australia has a far more positive impact than simply The Northern Territory.
Is there a difference in a name? Without doubt the impact of Statehood will have a profound positive benefit upon ‘top enders’ for decades to come.