Willem Westra van Holthe

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Willem Westra van Holthe
Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
In office
3 February 2015 – 14 February 2016
LeaderAdam Giles
Preceded byPeter Chandler
Succeeded byPeter Styles
Deputy Leader of the Country Liberal Party
In office
3 February 2015 – 14 February 2016
LeaderAdam Giles
Preceded byPeter Chandler
Succeeded byPeter Styles
Member of the Northern Territory Parliament
for Katherine
In office
9 August 2008 – 27 August 2016
Preceded byFay Miller
Succeeded bySandra Nelson
Personal details
Born
Willem Rudolf Westra van Holthe

(1962-08-22) 22 August 1962 (age 56)
Rotorua, New Zealand
NationalityAustralian
Political partyCountry Liberal Party
Spouse(s)Jennie Westra van Holthe
ChildrenThree
ResidenceKatherine, Northern Territory
OccupationPolice officer

Willem Rudolf Westra van Holthe (born 22 August 1962) is an Australian politician. He was a Country Liberal Party member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 2008 to 2016, representing the electorate of Katherine. He was Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from 6–14 March 2013 and from February 2015 to February 2016, resuming the position following a leadership challenge to Chief Minister Adam Giles, in which he was briefly the Chief Minister-designate. He served as Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries, Minister for Land Resource Management and Minister for Essential Services (2012–2016), Minister for Mines and Energy (2012–2015) and Minister for Public Employment (2015–2016) under both Terry Mills and Giles.

Early life[edit]

Westra van Holthe was born in Rotorua, New Zealand, to a Dutch father and Australian mother. His family moved to Australia and settled in Brisbane, Queensland.[1]

Westra van Holthe moved to the Northern Territory in 1984 to work as a labourer on such projects as the Elizabeth River Bridge and the Arnhem Highway.[2] In 1986, he joined the Northern Territory Police where he served until 2000—when he left the force to run a small business with his wife Jennie—and again from 2002 to 2008.[1] As a police officer, he was stationed at Maranboy, Mataranka and Alice Springs, then at Katherine on his return to the police force.[2]

Political career[edit]

In 2008, Westra van Holthe left the police to pursue a career in politics where he felt he could have a greater influence on law formation and implementation.[2] He was preselected by the Country Liberal Party (CLP) as a candidate for the electorate of Katherine where the sitting member Fay Miller was retiring. He was elected at the Territory election in August 2008 on a swing of over five percent, enough to revert Katherine to its traditional status as a safe CLP seat.

The CLP won government at the 2012 election, with Westra van Holthe picking up a massive 13.8 percent swing. He now sat on a majority of 22.3 percent, making Katherine the safest seat in the Territory. He was appointed as Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries and Minister for Mines and Energy in the first ministry under Chief Minister Terry Mills.

On 6 March 2013, Dave Tollner attempted to challenge Mills for the party leadership, although Mills averted any leadership ballot taking place after a six-hour party room meeting. Tollner was sacked from cabinet, and deputy leader Robyn Lambley resigned.[3] In the ensuing reshuffle, Westra van Holthe became deputy leader of the CLP, and hence Deputy Chief Minister, replacing Lambley, also assuming the portfolios of Trade, Land Resource Management, Public Employment, and Essential Services. Less than a week later, Westra van Holthe was acting Chief Minister whilst Terry Mills was in Japan on a trade visit. Adam Giles made a successful challenge to Mills' leadership, becoming CLP leader and installing Toller as his deputy, although Westra van Holthe retained his other ministries apart from the trade and employment portfolios.

On 2 February 2015, Westra van Holthe challenged Giles for the leadership of the Country Liberal Party in a late night party room meeting. At a 1 am media conference on 3 February, Westra van Holthe announced that the party had voted for him to replace Giles as leader with John Elferink as his deputy, and that his new cabinet would be sworn in on 4 February. The ABC reported that the ballot was nine votes to five in favour of Westra van Holthe.[4] During the press conference Westra van Holthe referred to himself as the "Chief Minister apparent".[5] He also promised a more consultative approach to governing.[6]

Westra van Holthe's plans to be sworn in as Chief Minister later in the day were halted by Giles' refusal to sign a document confirming his resignation. Additionally, there was the possibility that the CLP members who maintained their support for Giles would break party discipline and refuse to support Westra van Holthe on the floor of the legislature, leaving him short of the 13 votes he needed to govern. This raised the prospect of Westra van Holthe not surviving his first parliamentary sitting. A meeting of the CLP's parliamentary wing took place that evening, as the party sought to resolve the internal crisis,[7] with Giles eventually announcing he would remain as CLP leader and Chief Minister, with Westra van Holthe as deputy leader of the CLP and Deputy Chief Minister.[8]

On 14 February 2016, Westra van Holthe resigned from Giles' cabinet[9] after it emerged that he had both a financial and personal involvement with the CT Group, a Vietnamese fruit company seeking to develop a 10,000-hectare dragon fruit orchard in the NT.[10]

Even though the CLP was sinking in the polls ahead of the 27 August 2016 election, there was virtually no hint that Westra van Holthe was in any danger. Katherine had been in CLP hands for its entire existence, dating to when the seat was known as Elsey, and the Katherine area has long been considered CLP heartland. Labor had only come close to winning it twice, both at the high-tide elections of 2001 and 2005. However, in a shock result not foreseen by any commentators, let alone either party, Labor challenger Sandra Nelson led Westra van Holthe by a margin of less than one percent on election night. Westra van Holthe's primary vote almost halved, to only 35.2 percent. It was eventually announced on 9 September that Westra van Holthe had lost by 28 votes.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Key Speakers: Hon Willem Westra van Holthe, Association of Mining and Exploration Companies Convention, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Katherine Rural Review, Northern Territory Government, October/November 2012.
  3. ^ "Mills clings to top job after marathon meeting". ABC News. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  4. ^ Dunlevie, James (3 February 2015). "Adam Giles dumped as NT chief minister in late-night coup, Willem Westra van Holthe elected leader". ABC News. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  5. ^ Walsh, Christopher; Smee, Ben; Staff writers (3 February 2015). "Giles is still the NT chief minister after his challengers failed to muster the numbers to topple him". NT News. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  6. ^ Bardon, Jane. NT Chief Minister Adam Giles rolled in midnight coup. ABC News, 2015-02-03.
  7. ^ "Giles says he can't support Willem Westra van Holthe as chief minister, CLP parliamentary wing meeting to decide". The NT News. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Adam Giles remains NT chief minister". SBS News. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  9. ^ "Willem Westra van Holthe resigns from Northern Territory Cabinet, Deputy Chief Minister position". ABC News. 14 February 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  10. ^ La Canna, Xavier (10 February 2016). "NT Minister Willem Westra van Holthe 'sorry' he considered investing in Vietnam's CT Group". ABC News. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Former chief minister Adam Giles and Labor deputy Lynne Walker confirmed to have lost seats in Northern Territory election". Northern Territory News. 9 September 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Fay Miller
Member for Katherine
2008–2016
Succeeded by
Sandra Nelson
Political offices
Preceded by
Robyn Lambley
Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
2013
Succeeded by
Dave Tollner
Preceded by
Peter Chandler
Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
2015–2016
Succeeded by
Peter Styles
Preceded by
Kon Vatskalis
as Minister for Primary Industry, Fisheries and Resources
Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries
2012–2016
Succeeded by
Gary Higgins
Preceded by
Portfolio re-established
Minister for Mines and Energy
2012–2015
Succeeded by
Dave Tollner
Preceded by
New portfolio
Minister for Land Resource Management
2012–2016
Succeeded by
Gary Higgins
Preceded by
Rob Knight
Minister for Essential Services
2012–2016
Succeeded by
Peter Chandler
Preceded by
John Elferink
Minister for Public Employment
2015–2016
Succeeded by
Peter Styles