OPINION: With the turmoil surrounding us today I’ve been reflecting on my 30 years in the Territory. Why did I bring my young family to settle in the Top End in 1989?
Our family are like many who came for a job and never left or called in for a holiday and stayed, others departed then returned while many others had the good fortune of being born here.
But why did I come? For me the Territory captured my imagination. I had heard of the first Chief Minister Paul Everingham and his team that brought a community together and inspired a nation where ‘punching above their weight’ and a ‘can do spirit’ were not just slogans.
While Prime Minister Paul Keating was talking about Australia needing to understand its future lay in understanding our place in an Asian neighborhood, the then NT Chief Minister was a regular visitor to Jakarta and signed an MOU with an Indonesian President.
There was something exciting about the Territory and I wanted my family to be part of this story.
Wet season build-ups, high living costs, family down south or our own children and friends choosing to go south after their great NT start; all these sometimes cause us to wonder about the cost.
Then came the economic downturn in Darwin, not only were businesses going to the wall, people were struggling to find work, housing prices were dropping, and the value of many homes became lower than the mortgage; heart breaking stuff for young families in particular.
Crime was on the rise and regardless of how the government spins the crime rate, most have either suffered or know someone close to them who has.
All of this has tested us and our love for the NT, however I know I am not alone. There are enough of us who remain deeply committed to the Territory and have a positive view of the future of this unique part of Australia.
And beneath all this the Territory still bursts with potential, the opportunities though for some appear dormant are waiting for the return of that famous can-do spirit.
My view is that the government should do only what it needs to do. But right now, the government is all over our living rooms with what it needs to do to prevent community transmission and deaths from the deadly pandemic we’ve come to know as COVID-19.
As much as I want to see the back of this Gunner Government as soon as possible, having an election in the middle of this is nothing short of arrogant stupidity.Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills
Thankfully it is not the politicians that are running the show when it comes to handling COVID-19, it is the health professionals, and they I do trust. We are undertaking all that is asked of us on social distancing, staying home and keeping our most vulnerable safe. Noting that so much of this tears at the very fabric of what makes this such a wonderful place, significantly more so than anywhere else in our nation.
Knowing the level of pre-existing medical conditions in remote communities, if COVID-19 were to take hold could condemn thousands to die.
Something my conscience won’t accept, and I do hold concerns about whether the government is moving quickly enough to get on-ground medical infrastructure in place out there where it hopefully would not be needed. But we need to be able to respond swiftly if COVID 19 gets a hold in the bush.
As we watch unprepared countries like Italy, Spain, the USA and their hundreds and thousands of people each day dying, with overwhelmed medical systems, unable to cope, I hope our government is doing more rather than less to be ready. I hope so.
The fact is we will be living with managing this virus for six to 12 months as the medical professionals work their backsides off to get us a vaccine. We also know they are most concerned about what winter will bring.
So as many will know I have called for the election to be held off until after winter (yes the cold weather rolls in across the Territory), as I strongly believe that the risk of taking people into communities for voting, into aged care facilities or hospitals or queueing up to vote is an unnecessary risk versus holding off a vote for a couple of months. My point about trusting the health professionals versus the politicians. That decision sits with politicians.
So many Territorians are really hurting financially. Many were before this pandemic started and now it is so much worse. As again the government must do everything it can to help.
The next government will have a lot of heavy lifting to do in the early stages to get things moving againTerry Mills
The federal government is certainly doing the heavy lifting and thankfully they have seen the stupidity of having people in queues outside of Centrelink versus just giving support straight to employers, Job Keepers and job seekers. I do agree with the federal Opposition though, in that support should have been extended to casuals beyond those that have been engaged for 12 months or more. I also do believe and have said repeatedly that the Territory Government needs to do more to reduce as many costs as they can to households and businesses over this period like cutting the power bills.
Sadly, households have been missed on this one, and those of us that have solar also got an additional shock of reduced feed-in tariffs.
As much as I want to see the back of this Gunner Government as soon as possible, having an election in the middle of this is nothing short of arrogant stupidity. It is reprehensibly irresponsible. I will keep fighting for this stupidity to end.
I think about working on what happens next. How do we get out of this economic mess created by whole sectors and industries being shut down with some likely to be impacted for far longer than the next six months?
The current government, thankfully, are not the proprietors of all good ideas, if that were the case we really would be buggered.
What I want to say to Territorians is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know for many it mightn’t seem so, but there is. We, that is I and Territory Alliance members of Parliament, have already started engaging with businesses and NGOs and peak bodies to map out a plan forward. We will have more to say on that as we get it into shape. We know others will also have ideas and know we will do our bit to get the best ideas on the table, whether they are ours or someone else’s. It’s about what’s best for the Territory.
What I can say is that no matter what the plan is, the next government will have a lot of heavy lifting to do in the early stages to get things moving again, to support sector shifts while those sectors like tourism take longer to rebuild. We will have to have government and the sectors working lock-step together to rebuild the Territory so we can increase freedom and opportunity and begin the heroic decade-long project of rebuilding and lifting the Territory to where it should be within the Australian Commonwealth.
Be safe, continue to do what has been asked of you by the health professionals and hold onto what makes us so very special up here, because it is our job, your political leaders, to put our shoulder to the wheel to give you back control of your lives and get us all back to doing the things that make us love the Territory so much.
After all of this, after 30 years, I am very satisfied and happy to call the Territory our home and the best is yet to come.
–Terry Mills is the leader of the Territory Alliance.