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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 979


Senator TAMBLING (7.49 p.m.) —I am pleased to acknowledge that currently there is an election in the Northern Territory. Twenty years ago I was very proud to be one of the members elected as part of a Country Liberal Party team to the first fully elected Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. I give credit to the Whitlam administration in creating that first fully elected legislative assembly. Certainly the result was unexpected to Whitlam as the Country Liberal Party picked up 17 of the 19 seats in that assembly. I only hope that my colleagues pick up a similar proportion of the seats at this year's election.

  It is an exciting election this year. It is one in which we can reflect on 20 years of real, profound and special growth for the Northern Territory. Under the Country Liberal Party rule the territory has chalked up a population increase of 53 per cent. Those with jobs have increased by 54 per cent. Student numbers are up 40 per cent. Exports are 156 per cent higher. The growth in the number of manufacturing establishments is 108 per cent higher. Retail turnover is 184 per cent higher. The value of the mining sector is up 200 per cent. The fishing industry is 387 per cent higher. The value of hotel and motel accommodation takings are up a staggering 1,561 per cent. Horticulture is up 1,862 per cent. Cattle exports through Darwin grew 51 per cent last year alone. These numbers absolutely demonstrate that the territory has set a cracking pace. Tourism, mining, fishing, horticulture, pastoralism and manufacturing industries have all responded to the Country Liberals' call for a fair go. If we look at the social progress in the last 20 years, we see that there has been a similar result. I am glad that my children have grown up under that sort of a climate in the Northern Territory.

  All of us in this federal parliament know very well that there have been very special territory rights that have been hard fought for. The Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act is a very special act of this parliament and, similarly, the Aboriginal land rights act has a special focus and influence—in fact, a constraint—on the Northern Territory and is one in which we have constantly, from the Northern Territory's point of view, agitated for shifting away from the national parliament to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.

  Many of these issues certainly need to be addressed, and this election, therefore, poses that very important point. As the demography of the Northern Territory has changed, and as young people grow and people settle in a community, it is the mining industry, the pastoral industry, the tourist industry, the private sector and also the public service which make a fantastic contribution to what is happening in the Northern Territory.

  The current election campaign is very much a nutshell of a decision about a style of life for both the Aboriginal territorians and for territorians generally; a decision about where they want to go for the next 20 years. It certainly invites us to be very critical and poses major problems for voters this year in addressing the issue.

  From the last decade of Labor's administration in Canberra we are all aware of Labor's hidden agendas. We see the tax on lifestyle and we know the effect it has on people's lives, their urban plans, their jobs and on so many areas that impact on their lives. There are issues on which the Labor Party needs to be challenged. At this stage I have no wish to see any of Labor's priorities or policies transposed into the Northern Territory. They would constrain and hold back the entire development of the Northern Territory.

  We are very well aware that the Australian Labor Party pledges that a Labor Party government in the Northern Territory would impose on business owners new regulations insisting that they operate within clear social guidelines. What does that mean? It would bring in change for public servants by forcing them to obey strict new judicial review procedures for the public service actions. I will return to that point in a moment. The Labor Party would insist that the first and primary objective of all Labor government policies would be to serve the objective of what is called social justice. We get hung up far too much on those words `social justice'. The Labor Party has made a real dichotomy and a mockery of what that really means in the community by hiding behind adjectives rather than measuring them on the social and the economic advantages of any group of people and how they would operate.

  The Northern Territory does not need significant change in the areas of its social or economic agenda. The fact is that the Northern Territory has had such a very special relationship with Asia and will continue to show the way for the entire Australian continent. I recall a discussion at lunchtime today with my colleague Senator O'Chee who talked about the landmark international decisions, arrangements and treaties that have been made between the Northern Territory and Indonesia, our nearest neighbour. These stand as a credit to the Northern Territory. What does the Labor Party do? It confuses the argument by constantly wanting to do special deals on East Timor and disrupt such important issues.

  Probably the main area that worries me most profoundly about Labor Party policies and initiatives for the Northern Territory is what would happen to the very independent, special and proud public service of the Northern Territory. For over a decade in Canberra we have seen evidence of Labor's reputation of jobs for the boys in the Public Service. That should serve as a special warning for territorians. The federal Public Service, in both Canberra and the Northern Territory, is stacked—this has become much more recently accommodated—with political appointees and this is evidence of Labor's heavy-handed approach to the Public Service. I am fearful that if Labor was to win government in the Northern Territory that same heavy hand of Labor would come down on the Northern Territory's own public service.

  I have recently investigated two very special incidents in this parliament. Senator Schacht will recall some questions that were placed on notice concerning the federal Department of Employment, Education and Training the other day with regard to the appointment of the director of the Northern Territory area office. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Mr Snowdon, who happens to be the federal member for the Northern Territory, has very obviously overridden the selection processes. It is alleged that staff selection processes were tampered with in both the Northern Territory and our first cousin at Christmas Island in order to develop a Labor network of mates in the Public Service. It has been alleged to me that in the two specific cases that I have been reviewing these selection processes were manipulated in favour of more politically suitable candidates. At the Senate estimates committee I called that into question in the DEET area.

  In the area of employment, sport and territories, we have seen the appointment of Mr Danny Gillespie as the administrator of Christmas Island without any recourse whatsoever to advertising or the normal processes. Mr Gillespie is well known for his activities in the National Parks and Wildlife Service and, more recently, in the Shoalwater Bay inquiry in Queensland. Obviously Mr Snowdon picked him up without recourse to any area. I question this whole area.

  Today there are thousands of young territorians who have, in the last 20 years, invested their time in university studies and career paths. They should not be threatened by Labor's deliberate policy of recruiting out of work mates from failed Labor regimes in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria or Canberra. At the same time, let me give credit to the majority of very hardworking federal public servants in the Northern Territory. There are a number of them, but I am fearful that this habit of special placement will have an impact on so many young careers in the Northern Territory. Our own public service has a proud and independent record—one that cannot be risked under Labor.

  I am also astounded that the Public Service Union secretary, Janet Crews, accused me in the media last weekend of public service bashing when what she is doing is failing to represent the interests of her Northern Territory members. I suggest that she takes a very close look at the issues that I pursue in this place, such as the waste of taxpayers' money, the DEET housing sale scandal that blew up recently in the face of the Labor government, and any breaches of government recruitment guidelines and ethics, such as those that have now become so transparent by what Mr Snowdon has done. This is a case of the PSU lying doggo as a matter of Labor convenience.

  As I said, this is an important election for the Northern Territory. There are important issues at stake. The most important issue is for young territorians to be confident that in the next 20 years they can enjoy the same social and economic progress as they have enjoyed for the last 20 years.

Senate adjourned at 8.00 p.m.