Country Liberal Party

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Country Liberal Party
Leader Adam Giles
Deputy Leader Willem Westra van Holthe
Founded 1974
Headquarters 107 Woods Street
Darwin NT 0800
National affiliation Coalition
House of Representatives
1 / 150
Senate
1 / 76
Northern Territory Parliament
12 / 25
Website
Country Liberal Party
Politics of Australia
Political parties
Elections

The Northern Territory Country Liberal Party (CLP) is an Australian Northern Territory political party[1] affiliated with both the National (formerly "Country") and Liberal parties of Australia. The CLP contests seats for the Coalition in the Northern Territory rather than the Liberal or National parties.[2]

The CLP dominated the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from its establishment in 1974 until the 2001 Legislative Assembly election, when it lost government winning only 10 of the 25 seats, and was reduced further to four parliamentary members at the 2005 election. At the 2008 election it increased its numbers, winning 11 seats. The CLP returned to office following the 2012 election, winning 16 seats, and leader Terry Mills became Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. Mills was replaced as CLP leader in March 2013 by Adam Giles, who also became Chief Minister. Giles was the first indigenous Australian to lead a state or territory government in Australia.[3] After further defections, numbers fell to reduce the CLP government to minority government status in July 2015.[4][5]

The CLP fielded candidates at the 1975 federal election, winning one seat in the Senate and the non-voting seat in the House of Representatives. Since 1979, the CLP has been formally affiliated with both the federal National Party (previously National Country Party) and the Liberal Party. It has full voting rights within the National Party, and observer status with the Liberal Party. Currently, the CLP has two representatives in federal parliament: Nigel Scullion is a Senator and Natasha Griggs holds the Division of Solomon seat in the House of Representatives. Scullion is the Senate leader of the National Party, while Griggs sits with the Liberals in the House.

Party philosophy[edit]

The CLP stands for office in the Northern Territory Assembly and Federal Parliament of Australia and primarily concerns itself with representing Territory interests. It is a regionally based party, that has parliamentary representation in both the Federal Parliament and at the Territory level.

It generally competes against the Australian Labor Party (a party founded by democratic socialists, now functioning more as a social democratic party). It is closely affiliated with, but is independent from the Liberal Party of Australia (a mainly urban, pro-private enterprise party comprising anti-socialist conservative as well as more classically liberal membership) and the National Party of Australia (an agrarian conservative rural and regional party).[6]

The Party promotes local issues like statehood for the Northern Territory as well as more broadly liberal values like support for individualism and private enterprise, as well as traditional conservative values and progressive political policy.[6] In indigenous policy, the party has committed to improving education and job creation and to reducing a culture of welfare dependency.[7]

Party structure[edit]

Branch delegates and members of the party's Central Council attend the Annual Conference of the Country Liberal Party to decide the party's platform. The Central Council is composed of the party's office bearers, its leaders from the Territory Assembly and the Federal Parliament and representatives of party branches.[6]

The Annual Conference of the Country Liberal Party, attended by branch delegates and members of the party's Central Council, decides matters relating to the party's platform and philosophy. The Central Council administers the party and makes decisions on pre-selections. It is composed of the party's office bearers, its leaders in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, members in the Federal Parliament, and representation from each of the party's branches.[6]

Both the Nationals and Liberals receive Country Liberal Party delegations, and the party president has full voting rights with the National Party and observer status with the Liberal Party. The party also directs its federal members and senators as to which of the two other parties they should sit with in the parliamentary chamber. The CLP vote is often tabulated together with either of its coalition partners in many election results tables, or included within a single Coalition vote.[citation needed]

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

The Whitlam Government passed legislation in 1974 to establish a fully elected unicameral Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to replace the previous partly elected Northern Territory Legislative Council, which had been in existence since 1947. The term of the Legislative Assembly was four years. Initially, the Legislative Assembly consisted of 19 members, which was increased in 1982 to 25 members, the present number. The Northern Territory was granted self-government in 1978.

Foundation and electoral record[edit]

Following the creation of the Legislative Assembly in 1974, the Territory's branches of the Country and Liberal parties merged to form the "Country Liberal Party" (CLP) to field candidates at the 1974 NT election for the Legislative Assembly.[6] The driving force behind the merger was Sam Calder, the Territory's sole federal member of Parliament from the Division of Northern Territory, who was the elected member of the federal Country Party and represented the Territory in the House of Representatives, with non-voting rights.

The CLP has contested every Territory election since 1974, and has also contested many by-elections.

The CLP formed the Territory government from 1974 until the 2001 election. For much of that time, it ruled the Northern Territory as a one-party state; it never faced more than nine opposition members. Indeed, the CLP's dominance was so absolute that its internal politics were seen as a bigger threat than any opposition party.[8] This was especially pronounced in the mid-1980s, when a series of party-room coups resulted in the Territory having three Chief Ministers in four years.

At the 2001 election the Labor Party won government by one seat, ending 27 years of CLP government.[6] The loss marked a major turning point in Northern Territory politics, a result which was exacerbated when, at the 2005 election, the ALP won the second-largest majority government in the history of the Territory, reducing the once-dominant party to just four members in the Legislative Assembly. This result was only outdone by the 1974 election, in which the CLP faced only two independents as opposition. The CLP even lost two seats in Palmerston, an area where the ALP had never come close to winning any seats before.

The 2008 election saw the CLP recover from the severe loss it suffered three years earlier, increasing its representation from four to 11 members. Following the 2011 decision of Labor-turned-independent member Alison Anderson to join the CLP, this increased to CLP's representation to 12 in the Assembly, leaving the incumbent Henderson Government to govern in minority with the support of Independent MP Gerry Wood.

Historically, the CLP has been particularly dominant in the Territory's two major cities, Darwin/Palmerston and Alice Springs. However, in recent years Labor has pulled even with the CLP in the Darwin area; indeed, its 2001 victory was fueled by an unexpected swing in Darwin.

2012 Return to office[edit]

The CLP under the leadership of Terry Mills returned to power in the 2012 general election taking 16 out of 25 seats,[9] defeating the incumbent Labor Government led by Paul Henderson. In the lead up to the Territory election, CLP Senator Nigel Scullion sharply criticised the Federal Labor Government for its suspension of the live cattle trade to Indonesia - an economic mainstay of the territory.[10]

The election victory ended 11 years of Labor rule. The victory was also notable for the support it achieved from indigenous people in pastoral and remote electorates. Large swings were achieved in remote Territory electorates (where the indigenous population comprised around two-thirds of voters) and a total of five Aboriginal CLP candidates won election to the Assembly.[11] Among the indigenous candidates elected were high-profile Aboriginal activist Bess Price and former Labor member Alison Anderson. Anderson was appointed Minister for Indigenous Advancement. In a nationally reported speech in November 2012, Anderson condemned welfare dependency and a culture of entitlement in her first ministerial statement on the status of Aboriginal communities in the Territory and said the CLP would focus on improving education and on helping create real jobs for indigenous people.[7]

2013 leadership spill[edit]

On 13 March 2013, Adam Giles led a leadership coup against Terry Mills, and became the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.[3]

A year later, three indigenous CLP MPs resigned from the party. Mills had retired from politics by then, raising the prospect of the CLP being reduced to a minority government had it lost a by-election in Mills' old seat of Blain.[12][13] However, the CLP retained Blain despite suffering a large swing against it, allowing it to retain a bare one-seat majority. After further defections, numbers fell to minority government status.[4][5]

Federal activities[edit]

The Territory Country Party members first contested the 1919 federal election, with a newly established federal Country Party contesting the 1922 federal election. The 1922 election saw the main anti-Labor party, the Nationalist Party of Australia deprived of a majority, and were required to form a coalition in order to command a majority on the floor of parliament. The price for such support was the resignation of Nationalist (ex-Labor) Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, who was replaced by Stanley Bruce.

Since 1922 the Northern Territory has had one non-voting Member in the House of Representatives.[14] Harold George Nelson was the inaugural member serving between 16 December 1922 and 15 September 1934. He was elected as an Independent but later joined the Labor Party. Between 15 September 1934 and 10 December 1949 the Division of Northern Territory was held by Adair Blain, an independent member. Between 10 December 1949 and 31 October 1966 the Division was held by Jock Nelson, a member of the Labor Party.

In 1966, the Country Party was established in the Northern Territory, while the Liberal Party was a small party. In recognition of this, the local Liberals supported the Country Party candidates for the sole NT seat from 1969 to 1972. An alliance had formed, primarily against the conservatives' arch-rival, the Australian Labor Party. The Territory seat was won by the Country Party's Sam Calder at the 1966 federal election, who held the seat from 26 November 1966 to 19 September 1980. In 1968, the federal Coalition government gave the Member for Northern Territory full voting rights.[14]

After the 1974 federal election and the subsequent Joint Sitting of parliament, legislation was passed to give the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory representation in the Australian Senate, with two senators being elected.

The CLP fielded candidates at the 1975 federal election, winning one seat in the Senate and the non-voting seat in the House of Representatives. Since 1979, the CLP has been formally affiliated with both the federal National Party (previously National Country Party and the Country Party) and the Liberal Party. The CLP contests seats for the Coalition in the Northern Territory rather than the Liberal or National parties.[15] It has full voting rights within the National Party, and observer status with the Liberal Party.

Currently, the CLP has two representatives in federal parliament: Nigel Scullion is a Senator and Natasha Griggs holds the Division of Solomon seat in the House of Representatives. Scullion is Senate leader of the National Party and has been the Minister for Indigenous Affairs since 18 September 2013 in the Abbott Ministry and Turnbull Ministry, while Griggs sits with the Liberals in the House.

Parliamentary Leaders[edit]

Year Name Notes
1974 Goff Letts Majority Leader[Note 1]
1977 Paul Everingham Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from 1978
1984 Ian Tuxworth Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
1986 Stephen Hatton Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
1988 Marshall Perron Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
1995 Shane Stone Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
1999 Denis Burke Chief Minister of the Northern Territory to 2001, then Opposition Leader
2003 Terry Mills First time, Opposition Leader
2005 Denis Burke Opposition Leader
2005 Jodeen Carney Opposition Leader
2008 Terry Mills Opposition Leader to 2012,
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from 2012,
ousted in leadership spill by Adam Giles
2013 Adam Giles Incumbent, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, minority government
  1. ^ While the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly was created in 1974, self-government was not granted until 1978.

References[edit]

External links[edit]