Alice Springs town council is considering legal action against the Gunner Government on the grounds that it has failed to protect citizens from crime and will explore other towns’ interest for possible joint legal action.
The councilors were divided during Tuesday’s council meeting on the original motion for council to sue the government on its own, but agreed to an amended motion to explore the possibility of joint legal action with other NT towns.
Councillor Eli Melky initiated the discussion, suggesting that the council should take a leap “to ensure that the Northern Territory government exercise its power, due diligence, and obligation to the community and make sure it is cutting crime, supporting police, and putting victims first”.
Some council members including Councillor Jimmy Cocking, Jamie de Brenni, and CEO Robert Jennings rebuffed Mr Melky’s proposal saying that it could be too costly for the council and could damage working relationship with the government.
However, Councillor Marli Banks sided with Mr Melky, saying that she did not believe that “there is any goodwill left between the Northern Territory Government and this council”.
The council and the Gunner Government have long been at odds over the growing crime problem and the government’s proposed site for the national Indigenous art gallery.
Deputy Mayor Jacinta Price instead proposed that councilors go to Darwin and hold discussions with cabinet members.
Investigating possible joint legal action with Tennant Creek and Katherine: Melky
Council did not agree with Mr Melky’s original proposal of initiating a lawsuit against the Gunner Government, but settled on sending Mr Melky to the 2021 general meeting of the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory (LGANT) on April 22 to discuss possible joint legal action with different towns including Katherine and Tennant Creek.
Mr Melky said he was compelled to do something after the Gunner Government released a press statement on Tuesday morning that claimed it was introducing new legislation that would be focused on “cutting crime, supporting our police, putting victims first”.
“By virtue of this media release, it is clear that the NT Government has acknowledged their failure to support police, cut crime and put victims first in the past,” Mr Melky told the NT Independent.
“The NT Government has been slow in addressing the spiralling crime over many years in Alice Springs and across the NT, now we find ourselves at breaking point with increasing pressure on our community safety and economy from the COVID pandemic, as well as gangs of youth roaming the streets unchallenged, breaking into homes, stealing cars and damaging property without fear of the law or of any consequences.”
On Wednesday the government defeated the CLP Opposition’s bail reform legislation, opting instead to introduce its own similar legislation in May. It’s not expected to be enacted until later this year, if it all.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said last week that he intends to visit Alice Springs “soon” but was uncertain on the dates and did not specify if he would meet with council or Mayor Damien Ryan.