The Country Liberal Party has reclaimed opposition status in the Northern Territory Parliament in a surprise vote that has infuriated new party Territory Alliance.
- Territory Alliance questioned the legality of the move
- The change came about in a secret ballot
- Territory Alliance’s opposition status lasted less than a week
Territory Alliance last week said it had been granted opposition status by the NT Legislative Assembly after independent Robyn Lambley joined the party giving it three members compared to the CLP’s two.
But less than a week later opposition status has switched back to the CLP.
On Tuesday night CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro put forward the motion to decide which party would form the opposition, catching Territory Alliance, the Labor Government and the Speaker of the Northern Territory Parliament on the hop.
“I move that this assembly agrees that the party or group that is the official opposition remains unclear, declares therefore that the office of the Leader of the Opposition is vacant, conducts a ballot pursuant to chapter 21 of the standing orders to fill this vacancy,” she began, rapidly outlining a secret ballot to be conducted immediately.
Labor’s Attorney-General Natasha Fyles agreed to hold the vote and indicated Labor would not take part.
The CLP then won the secret ballot five votes to three, undoing a week’s worth of arrangements made by Territory Alliance’s three members to move into new parliamentary offices, take up new shadow portfolios, and play a leading role in Question Time.
Territory Alliance challenges legality of vote
As the ballot was being conducted all three Territory Alliance members voiced their furious objections to Speaker Kezia Purick, saying the ballot was illegal and unconstitutional.
Territory Alliance Deputy Leader Robyn Lambley called for a halt to the vote pending legal advice.
“What I would propose is that this process be suspended until we get legal advice from the solicitor-general of the Northern Territory around this whole matter,” she told the Speaker.
“We have already sought legal advice during this term of Parliament, we have based every decision of opposition status on that advice that we received from the solicitor-general three years ago.
“What we are doing is in contravention of the advice given by her three years ago.”
But Ms Purick told Parliament the vote had been conducted in compliance with standing orders.
“The solicitor-general cannot give advice to the assembly, she or he gives it to the Government. If you have concerns you could take it to the Supreme Court,” she said.
Ms Lambley sought clarification as the Speaker read out the vote tally.
“What does that actually mean?” Ms Lambley asked.
“It means that the will of this assembly has deemed that the Member for Spillet [Ms Finocchiaro] and her team are the Opposition,” the Speaker replied.
Independent put off by Territory Alliance tactics
Independent Gerry Wood told Territory Alliance he had no love for the Country Liberals but he had voted for them to return to opposition.
Mr Wood said at a time the Northern Territory should be focussing on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Territory Alliance had been concentrating on its status in the parliamentary chamber.
“There were other issues that you’ve got together to do this, when we were supposed to be dealing with coronavirus, so I’m telling you now, that’s why I supported this motion,” Mr Wood said.
“I listened to the Member for Araluen [Ms Lambley] speak two weeks ago when she said she really had no time for the Territory Alliance.”