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Tuesday, 2 June 1987
Page: 3840

Mr EVERINGHAM(10.50) —In my period in this Parliament I have watched the Hawke Government treat my electorate of the Northern Territory not with national reconciliation and reconstruction, not even with consensus, conciliation and consultation, but with confrontation and contempt. If this treatment had been merely political point scoring, if it had been simply the cynical use of power to punish an electorate that would not and will not vote Labor, that would be bad enough; but it has been more than that. The actions of the Government have hurt Territory families, undermined Territory business, victimised Territory students, created community disharmony and dashed the hopes and aspirations of people who believe and continue to believe in the future of the Northern Territory. This is no exaggeration.

Let me quote to this House what the former Labor leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and Australian Labor Party Senate candidate, Bob Collins, said about this Government's treatment of the Territory in April 1985:

The Deputy Leader, and I, have acknowledged . . . the absolutely appalling, inexcusable behaviour of the Federal Government. . . . the Prime Minister of Australia has an obligation . . . in respect of the non-stop, vitriolic attacks on the Northern Territory . . . to make it clear that there is no question of the Northern Territory being singled out for particular attention by the Federal Government.

That statement was made in mid-1985. Let us look at the list of dashed hopes, broken promises and deliberate victimisations that have continued since then. There was the broken promise of the railway; the breaches of faith on the Darwin and Alice Springs airports; the decision, without consultation, to hand over Ayers Rock to a few, against the wishes of the majority; the savage funding cuts of successive years-this year the cut is 10.1 per cent; the breach of commitment on superannuation for public servants; the decision to tear up Commonwealth-Territory agreements on the electricity subsidy; the continued discrimination that prevents Territory uranium mines from going ahead while mines in Labor States can proceed; the obstruction of the Territory's legitimate desire to establish its own university college; the victimisation of Territory university college students who, by ministerial decree, are not eligible for the same entitlements as other Australian students; the extension, again without consultation, to create the world's largest political park-Kakadu-with an area twice the size of Israel; the broken promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) to spend $70m or more on tourist facilities in that park; and the failure to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act to prevent claims on stock routes and other public purpose areas.

In almost every area of endeavour the Territory's people have received from this Government only obstruction, confrontation, and what has been plainly political victimisation. I quote again the former Labor leader in the Territory.

I suggest, with all due respect to the Federal Labor Government, that if it is foolish enough to single out the Territory, and demonstrate afterwards that the Territory was singled out . . . it will cost a great deal of electoral support-not just in the Northern Territory but elsewhere as well.

So much for the Prime Minister's much vaunted reconciliation. Well, that time has now come and it will cost this Government. It is conventional political wisdom to see the Northern Territory as a marginal seat, but I can tell honourable members that after four years of Hawke government it is no longer marginal. The Country-Liberal Party candidate will win by a substantial majority and my successor is a man who will fight for the Northern Territory. The difference is that he will be on the Government benches-part of the Liberal-National coalition government. I sat in this chamber at the first national summit and I believed the Prime Minister. Now I realise that he is no better than any other cheap political huckster.