The Time Is Right To Grant Statehood For The Northern Territory
Victor P Taffa
The Northern Territory has a long and proud history and the time is right for Statehood to be granted to The Northern Territory. The Northern Territory was established by New South Wales in 1825. The Northern Territory was transferred to South Australia in 1862 and annexed from South Australia in 1911. The Northern Territory was dissolved in 1927 and reformed in 1931.
The Northern Territory Legislative Council was formed in 1947 and replaced with a Legislative Assembly in 1974. Self Government was granted in 1978. An earlier referendum on Statehood was defeated in 1998 as the issue did not have bi-partisan support between the Country Liberal Party and NT Labor. The issue of statehood now has bi-partisan support from both parties.
It would appear that there is nothing to stop the Northern Territory Government from holding another Referendum on this matter at a time of their choosing. Admission to the Federal Parliament as a State is a different process under the Commonwealth Constitution.
Some key matters to be decided with Statehood are as follows:
The new State would retain the existing boundaries of The Northern Territory. Parts of Western Australia and Queensland would not be annexed off to form a new State of Northern Australia.
OWNERSHIP OF LAND:
Currently people owning properties in New South Wales have title to the land such as Torrens or Strata Title. All land in the Australian Capital Territory is owned by the Commonwealth of Australia. Under Northern Territory Statehood, land title would be the same as in New South Wales and other States.
The new name of the new State would have to be called something other than territory due to the legal status of Statehood. The most appropriate name to call the new State would be Northern Australia. This is in keeping with the current States of Western Australia and South Australia.
The new State of Northern Australia would have a State Premier as opposed to a Chief Minister.
The new State of Northern Australia would have a State Governor as opposed to an Administrator.
The new State of Northern Australia would have a new State Constitution as every other existing State has.
Senate Representation for original States is 12 Senators each. When Northern Australia becomes the 7th State of the Commonwealth the Senate Representation for original States would be 12 Senators per State. Northern Australia would have 6 Senators initially and the ACT would maintain 2 Senators giving the new look Senate 80 Senators instead of the current 76 Senators. The Commonwealth Constitution provides for original states maintaining equal representation and not less than 6 Senators. Australia became a Federation of States on 1 January 1901.
New Look Senate
New South Wales 12
Northern Australia 6
South Australia 12
Western Australia 12
Total Senators 80
*Australian Capital Territory
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
The new State of Northern Australia would retain 2 seats in the House of Representatives given that Senate numbers would increase to 6.
One suggestion for a new State Flag would be to have the Union Jack in the corner with the other current circular emblem in the middle of the Flag. There should be a public competition for a new State Flag as was the case with the design of the Australian Flag.
VOTES OF FEDERAL REFERENDA:
The Commonwealth Constitution provides that a Referenda or Referendum question be carried by a majority of voters in a majority of States. As the 7th State of the Commonwealth of Australia the granting of Statehood to the Northern Territory would not affect s.128 of the Commonwealth Constitution.
Statehood for The Northern Territory provides for Constitutional certainty that people in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia have had since Federation in 1901.
Statehood for The Northern Territory provides certainty for Territory Governments keeping mining royalties. Statehood gives The Northern Territory a new direction for the 21st Century.
Statehood gives The Northern Territory legal powers that all six existing States have and are not as such beholden or owned by the Federal Parliament.
Statehood allows The Northern Territory to compete in the Sheffield Shield cricket competition. The Sheffield Shield is a cricket competition between the six States of Australia.
Some people in the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T.) have also argued for Statehood. The A.C.T. was created as an administrative capital for the Commonwealth of Australia. The A.C.T. is much smaller in size than The Northern Territory.
Statehood would not affect land agreements made for various aboriginal people. Such agreements would simply transfer from the Commonwealth to the new State.
Statehood would ensure that all Supreme Court rulings made in The Northern Territory would remain paramount in the new State.
There are some people that seek to abolish States and simply have Federal and Local Governments. The reduction of a tier of Government will mean the abolition of The Northern Territory Government and the A.C.T. Government. Abolition of States takes away peoples legal rights and political representation.
Political Power in a democracy is fragile. Australia has one of the oldest continuing democracies in the world. Our democracy is what our Army, Navy and Air Force defend. Australia was attacked by Japan during World War II and Darwin was bombed on numerous occasions.
Not only should Australia retain three tiers of Government but The Northern Territory also becomes the 7th State of Australia.