North, in­land ‘need own po­lit­i­cal bloc’

The Weekend Australian - - OUTLOOK CONFERENCE 2018 - AMOS AIKMAN NORTHERN CORRESPONDENT

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.

Mills

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