Terry Mills (Australian politician)

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Terry Mills
9th Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
Elections: 2012
In office
29 August 2012 – 13 March 2013
AdministratorSally Thomas
DeputyRobyn Lambley (2012–2013)
Willem Westra van Holthe (2013)
Preceded byPaul Henderson
Succeeded byAdam Giles
Member of the Northern Territory Parliament
for Blain
Assumed office
27 August 2016
Preceded byNathan Barrett
In office
31 July 1999 – 20 February 2014
Preceded byBarry Coulter
Succeeded byNathan Barrett
Personal details
Terence Kennedy Mills

(1957-12-22) 22 December 1957 (age 62)
Geraldton, Western Australia
Political partyCountry Liberal (1999-2016)
Independent (2016-present)
Spouse(s)Ros Serich
Alma materWestern Australian College of Advanced Education
CabinetMills Ministry

Terence Kennedy Mills (born 22 December 1957) is an Australian politician who was Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from 2012 to 2013. He served as a Country Liberal Party member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1999 to 2014, representing the electorate of Blain. He also led the Country Liberal Party in opposition from 2003 to 2005 and from 2008 to 2012 prior to his victory in the 2012 election. Mills served less than seven months as Chief Minister before being ousted by Adam Giles in March 2013 in a vote of his party's parliamentary caucus. The 2014 Blain by-election followed his parliamentary resignation.

After resigning from the CLP, Mills regained his old seat as an independent at the 2016 election.

Early life[edit]

Mills was born in Geraldton, Western Australia, and lived in the agricultural town of Mullewa for a time with his parents, Bernard and Patricia. He was educated at St Patrick's College, Geraldton, before moving to Perth and gaining a Diploma of Education at the Western Australian College of Advanced Education. In 1983, he commenced teaching at a private school in Perth, and in the same year married Ros (née Serich). They had one son and one daughter. In 1989, the family moved to the Northern Territory, where Mills became principal of a Christian school.

Political career[edit]

Mills joined the Country Liberal Party in the 1990s, and in a 1999 by-election, was elected to the seat of Blain in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Initially, he served as Chairman of Committees. In 2001, following the defeat of the Country Liberal government, Mills assumed the shadow portfolios of Youth Affairs, Education, Employment and Training, and Sport and Recreation.

On 14 November 2003, he replaced Denis Burke as Leader of the Opposition, and assumed the portfolios of Shadow Treasurer, Asian Relations and Trade, Territory Development, Railways, Racing and Gaming. He resigned on 4 February 2005 to be replaced by Burke, who subsequently lost the 2005 election and his own seat. Mills himself suffered a 9.5 percent swing amid the massive Labor wave that swept through the Territory. He was left as the only CLP member from Palmerston, an area that has historically been a CLP stronghold. Indeed, he was the only CLP member holding a Darwin-area seat in the Legislative Assembly, and one of only two CLP members from the Top End.

Mills served as deputy opposition leader to Jodeen Carney for three years. On 29 January 2008, however, Mills asked Carney if she was willing to swap posts with him, with Mills taking over as leader and Carney becoming deputy leader. Carney turned the proposal down and instead called for a leadership spill. The vote was tied at two votes for Carney and two votes for Mills. Carney, taking a cue from the action of former Australian prime minister John Gorton in 1971, announced that a tie vote was not a vote of confidence and resigned. Mills then took the leadership unopposed on a second vote.[1][2]

At the August 2008 election, the CLP increased its representation to 11 seats (from four in the old parliament), regaining much of what it had lost in its severe beating of three years earlier. This rose further in 2012 when Labor-turned-independent MP Alison Anderson, with Mills' encouragement, joined the CLP.

Chief Minister[edit]

At the 2012 general election, the CLP won government on a four-seat swing, primarily due to a large swing in remote Aboriginal areas which had historically supported Labor. Mills was sworn in as Chief Minister of the Northern Territory on 29 August 2012.

When Mills was in opposition in 2011, he stated his support for an audit of the Northern Territory finances, saying that "[an audit] will be the start of a new era of transparency in government expenditure."[3] However, after coming into power he changed his mind on the issue.

In February 2013, following a large swing to Labor in the Wanguri by-election, canvassing took place within the CLP to gauge support for a challenge to Mills from his Attorney-General, John Elferink. Lacking the support of key MLAs, Elferink ruled out a challenge and offered his resignation to Mills, which was declined.[4] In early March, Mills was unsuccessfully challenged by Health Minister Dave Tollner, who was sacked from Mills' cabinet after a six-and-a-half-hour party meeting. A little over one week later, on 13 March 2013, Mills, who was overseas at the time, was ousted by Transport Minister Adam Giles in an 11–5 vote of his party's parliamentary caucus. Following the leadership change, Tollner was promoted from the back bench to Deputy Chief Minister.


Mills resigned from Parliament on 20 February 2014[5] which triggered the 2014 Blain by-election.

As a sop to Mills, Giles appointed him as the Territory's commissioner to Indonesia and ASEAN. When Giles was nearly ousted as Chief Minister by Mills' former deputy Willem Westra van Holthe in February 2015, Mills tweeted a picture of himself laughing in delight, prompting Giles to sack him.[6][7][8]

2016 independent comeback[edit]

Mills announced on 7 August 2016 that he had resigned from the CLP and would seek to regain his former seat of Blain as an independent at the 2016 election. He likened the Giles government to a car accident, saying, "At the scene of an accident, one has a moral obligation to render assistance."[8][9] Mills finished six points behind Labor candidate and former federal MP Damian Hale on the primary vote, pushing the CLP into third place. He narrowly overtook Hale on CLP preferences, allowing him to return to the legislature after a nearly two-year absence.[10][11] He joined his original Deputy Chief Minister, Robyn Lambley, on the crossbench; Lambley had left the CLP in 2015, but easily won reelection as an independent.

Ironically, at the same election at which Mills retook his old seat as an independent, the man who had rolled him as Chief Minister, Giles, became the second Majority Leader/Chief Minister to lose his own seat.

In October 2018 Mills announced the planned formation of the North Australia Party.[12] He planned to become the opposition in the Northern Territory parliament after the collapse of the CLP vote left them with only 2 members in parliament.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barker, Anne (30 January 2008). "Mills takes over NT Opposition leadership". The World Today. Australia: ABC Radio. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Mills replaces Carney as CLP leader". ABC News. Australia. 29 January 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2008.
  3. ^ Statham, Laura (4 May 2011). "Call for audit of NT economy". The Sydney Morning Herald. AAP. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Attorney-General rules out challenging Mills as leader". ABC News. Australia. 19 February 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  5. ^ Smee, Ben (20 February 2014). "Terry Mills pulls pin in Parliament in a shock move". NT News. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  6. ^ "Adam Giles dumped as NT chief minister in late-night coup, Willem Westra van Holthe elected leader - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  7. ^ Supplied (3 February 2015). "Terry Mills reaction to Adam Giles dumping - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  8. ^ a b Ex-CLP leader Terry Mills quits party, slams Adam Giles leadership: ABC 7 August 2016
  9. ^ Blain - 2016 NT election: ABC
  10. ^ Xavier La Canna; James Oaten (31 August 2016). "Former CLP leader on track to win, while Lawrie looks to have lost re-election bid". 105.7 ABC Darwin.
  11. ^ Tally in Blain from Northern Territory Electoral Commission
  12. ^ "Former NT chief minister plans new party | Sky News Australia". Sky News Australia. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Barry Coulter
Member for Blain
Succeeded by
Nathan Barrett
Preceded by
Nathan Barrett
Member for Blain
Political offices
Preceded by
Denis Burke
Leader of the Opposition of the Northern Territory
Succeeded by
Denis Burke
Preceded by
Jodeen Carney
Leader of the Opposition of the Northern Territory
Succeeded by
Delia Lawrie
Preceded by
Paul Henderson
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
Succeeded by
Adam Giles
Party political offices
Preceded by
Denis Burke
Leader of the Country Liberal Party
Succeeded by
Denis Burke
Preceded by
Jodeen Carney
Leader of the Country Liberal Party
Succeeded by
Adam Giles