North, inland ‘need own political bloc’
The future of northern and inland Australia depends on the region’s politicians acting as a bloc to garner more influence and attention from Canberra, former Northern Territory chief minister Terry Mills has declared.
Mr Mills told The Weekend Australian yesterday of his plan for a new North Australia party, which he hoped could hold the balance of power at a forthcoming federal election.
The idea was apparently inspired by Tony Abbott, who Mr Mills says recently remarked that Robert Menzies had begun the Liberal Party by joining a coalition of similar interests and advised Mr Mills to try something similar.
“The absence of political focus and influence right across the region is the key problem affecting northern and inland Australia,” Mr Mills said.
“We want to bring enough people together that we can actually affect the thinking in places like Sydney and Canberra.”
He was further spurred into action by a recent trip to Canberra, during which he says he was approached by members of Katter’s Australian Party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, among others.
Nationals MPs including Western Australia’s Jacqui Boydell and Brendon Grylls were apparently intrigued when he floated his plans with them.
Mr Mills said he had also spoken to wealthy Queenslander Geoff Cox, who had discussed plans for a rural alliance.
Mr Cox is believed to be a backer of outspoken Coalition MP George Christensen.
While declining to join an established political group, Mr Mills would like to work with any political or other organisation interested in supporting sustained social and economic progress across northern and inland areas of the continent.
“This alliance must be independent of the Coalition and aim to succeed at the 2019 election by either winning the balance of power or, at the very least, forming a strong, co-ordinated northern voice to maximise the region’s influence,” he said.
“The key to this is forming strategic alliances to support northern development — and that includes, importantly, Aboriginal Australians.”
Mr Mills, who rebuilt the Country Liberal Party from two MPs, won government in the NT from Labor in 2012 but was ousted in a partyroom coup just seven months later.
He remains the only conservative leader in the NT to have won from opposition.