Two NT Labor MPs have recognised a win for the Northern Territory after the federal government guaranteed at least two seats in the lower house of Parliament while acknowledging the NT’s historic under representation.
Labor MP Luke Gosling said the victory was positive for the NT, but still a long way from being ideal.
“Now we’re just as under-represented as we were before, but at least we’re not under-under-represented,” he said in a series of posts to social media.
“The next battle: securing three seats for the NT! Thanks must also go to @barnaby_joyce for going in to bat for regional Australians.”
As the drawn-out battle played out in parliament, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Mr Gosling warned a seat loss could undermine the representation of Indigenous Australians, and “put a number of critical industries at risk”.
A great outcome, I thank the Government for recognizing the importance of keeping up representation for the NT & legislating to protect our minimum two seats. Thanks to @Malarndirri19 @manwiththemo @senator_sam Senator Don Farrell & @MathiasCormann for getting this over the line https://t.co/LVcMdT4acj
— Luke Gosling MP (@lukejgosling) October 16, 2020
Despite being twice the size of Texas, the electoral commission in July ruled the Northern Territory’s seat of Lingiari should be axed due to a dwindling population.
The urban Darwin/Palmerston seat of Solomon held by Mr Gosling was slated to be merged with Lingiari, the second largest seat in Australia by area, held by Labor’s Warren Snowdon.
“We have fought hard on behalf of all Territorians since it first became clear the NT would lose an electorate under the formula the Australian Electoral Commission must use to determine the number of seats in each state and territory,” Ms McCarthy said.
“This is a huge and important win for the nearly 250,000 Territorians living across more than 1.4 million square kilometres, as well as the remote Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.”
The Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann on Friday agreed with a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) recommendation which guaranteed a minimum of two lower house seats for the NT should be legislated.
“Government legislation will be introduced into the Parliament with the intention of having it passed by the end of the year to ensure that both Territories have a two seat minimum representation while avoiding the inequality in the treatment of the territories that is proposed in the Fair Representation Bill,” Mr Cormann said in a statement.
Following months of advocacy, Mr Gosling took to social media to announce the “great outcome” and thank the government for “recognising the importance of keeping up representation for the NT”.
“This whole episode has shown just how important it is that we get more NT representation into the Federal Parliament. 250,000 people and 1/6 of Australia’s landmass deserves more. Statehood has got to be on the table,” he said on social media.
Ms McCarthy said the guarantee was a key feature of a joint-bill introduced in parliament in June with Country Liberal Party Senator Sam McMahon.
“The government’s statement of support for the recommendation means Labor’s campaign will successfully prevent the NT from becoming one vast, under-represented electorate, served by a single lower house MP,” Ms McCarthy said.
“Labor has always been committed to ensuring all Territorians, including around 30 per cent of the population who are First Nations people, continue to have fair representation in our Federal Parliament.
“With JSCEM recommending a guarantee of two lower house MPs for the NT and ACT and the government stating its support for that recommendation, we now look forward to legislation passing the Parliament before the end of this year to protect the Territory’s lower house seats by law.”