Three Aboriginal backbenchers who have resigned from the NT government have damaged race relations, the chief minister says.
Alison Anderson, Larissa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu stuffed resignation letters handwritten in pencil on scrap paper under the door of the Country Liberals head office in Darwin on Friday.
Ms Anderson was suspended from the NT government’s parliamentary wing last week by Chief Minister Adam Giles, who has accused the three of holding the NT to ransom.
But the rebel trio says the government has failed to deliver on election promises for the bush, and made a range of demands, including the reinstatement of a ministry for indigenous affairs, which Ms Anderson wanted to head.
They also asked for a cabinet spot for Ms Lee and for Mr Kurrupuwu to head a parliamentary committee, as well as calling for the demotion of government ministers Bess Price and Matt Conlan.
They levelled claims of racism at the government once negotiations broke down, and Mr Giles in turn accused them of trying to drive a wedge between Territorians.
“My biggest concern about what’s been damaged is race relations in the NT,” he told reporters in Alice Springs.
“The majority of Territorians have had a gutful, had enough of Alison Anderson … and the games being played.
“What it’s doing is driving a wedge between black and white Territorians; we’ve never had that divide and I think that’s highly disappointing.”
He acknowledged Mr Xavier and Ms Lee may have damaged their political careers but said the door was open to them – but not Ms Anderson – to return.
If the CLP loses next week’s Blain by-election the NT could go to an early general poll after a mere 18 months.
A hung parliament was in no one’s interest, said Nigel Scullion, Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, who derided the motivations of the three to walk away.
“If they put on the table that they wanted more infrastructure, a larger school, something the CLP could be accused of not delivering, (that’s) a process we could deal with,” Senator Scullion said.
“The door isn’t open to saying, ‘if you don’t give me a job or a pay rise I’m walking away’.”
The Blain by-election would be pivotal, said Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie.
“If his own CLP members walk out saying you can’t trust Adam Giles, then how does he expect Territorians to?” she said.
“This is a deliberate attempt to destabilise in Blain and try to effect change so that Alison Anderson can potentially be the kingmaker,” Mr Giles said.
“I’m very happy to govern in minority if we need to; I will not govern with a gun to my head, I will not put the people … all at ransom on behalf of Alison Anderson and those antics.”
The three will now move to the crossbenches to sit as independents until they can form a new regional party.