NT elections: some progressive choices among law and order slugfest

Independent candidate for Nightcliff Stuart Blanch.

The August 25 Northern Territory elections have degenerated in to a “law and order” slugfest between the Labor Party and the Country Liberals, but there are still some progressive candidates running who may do well.

Violence has become a central part of the political debate, with 6% of NT residents experiencing violent crime each year — higher than any other state or territory. The Country Liberal Party (CLP) opposition has run a “Labor is soft on crime” campaign, which was boosted on August 5 when CLP Port Darwin candidate John Elferink was attacked in the street during a press conference launching tougher law and order policies.

The CLP has also encouraged businesses to show their support for CCTV cameras with a popular sticker campaign.

The CLP calls for more cops, while the ALP government says 1 in 10 nurses, teachers, firefighters and other public servants would be sacked under CLP plans to reduce the budget deficit. The CLP’s rhetoric very closely resembles that of new Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s government, which has started a slash-and-burn campaign of public service cuts.

But ALP has its own draconian record on law and order. It has spent $500 million on a new prison on Darwin’s outskirts and has built new prisons and courthouses in remote Aboriginal communities. But there is no indication that these are reducing crimes rates.

Blaming the ALP for “waste” ignores that state and territory governments have all had their budgets smashed by the global financial crisis, which ate a big whole in GST revenues.

Progressive candidates are doing their best to raise other issues in the campaign. Frances Bunji Elcoate, the Greens candidate for Karama, held a vigil against homelessness in Darwin on August 8.

“This is Homelessness Week,” Elcoate said, “and I have just been made aware that over 40 people whom I have personally worked with in the last year with the Larrakia Nations Arts in Grass program have died while living rough.

“While growth around us is good for some, the benefits are not reaching everyone. Again we see the marginalised and the vulnerable left out.

“I am sick of seeing long-term residents, elderly and vulnerable people squeezed out — enough is enough. It is time we addressed this imbalance.”

Stuart Blanch, the former director of he Environment Centre NT, is a chance to win the seat of Nightcliff as an independent. He said he wants big solar investments in the suburbs to cut electricity costs.

He told Green Left Weekly: “The plan will generate local jobs in the solar installation, electrical and construction sectors. Neither Territory Labor nor the Country Liberals have committed to large subsidies for rooftop solar panels for Greater Darwin, or to attract global solar companies to tap our abundant solar resources.

“The plan will stimulate a solar boom and be substantially funded by carbon offsets invested locally by resources companies which are enjoying a boom and driving up the Territory’s carbon pollution levels.”

Community gardens advocate Peter Rudge has promoted edible verges in his independent campaign for Nightcliff. He said they can cut food costs and bring the community together.

Anti-nuclear activist Matt Haubrick is standing for the Greens in Fong Lim. He said he is running to raise awareness about the federal government’s Muckaty waste dump plan. The federal government called for a tender for the nuclear dump on August 10.

Haubrick told GLW: “This half-million dollar tender won't shift the weight of dissent mounted up against federal plans to impose their unwanted waste on a conflicted remote community.

“This should be beyond politics: it's a basic question of Territory rights. I welcome all NT politicians to join me in rejecting the latest move, and call upon the federal government to seek a solution that is respectful of both science and community.”

George Pascoe is a Maningrrda Aboriginal man is standing for the Greens in Arafura. Like First Nations candidate for Blaine Daniel Fejo, Pascoe said he is running to protest the major parties’ support for the NT intervention and Stronger Futures laws that legislate away Aboriginal rights for the next decade.

Pascoe told GLW: “I have witnessed a lot of change in our communities over the years, but nothing comes close to the strain placed on our people by Stronger Futures special measures. We need to make sure we work to roll this back. A big vote for the Greens sends a loud message to the old parties that we cannot be taken for granted and it is not acceptable to us.”

Bilingual education advocate Kendall Trudgen has spent most of his life in Arnhem Land. Trudgen is running for the seat of Nhulunbuy. Trudgen’s election statement said: “I am not starry-eyed about the prospects of politics, but feel compelled to stand due to the NT government’s lack of vision when addressing our unique situation in East Arnhem Land.

“This lack of vision, I believe is highlighted by Labor’s Working Futures or ‘Growth Towns’ policy, the Compulsory Teaching in English for the First Four Hours of the School Day policy, and the forced amalgamation of community councils into the East Arnhem Shire Council in 2008.

“It is also exampled when the parties are quibbling over where and when super clinics, water parks and highways are built in Darwin, while regions like ours struggle for doctors, dentists, housing and basic maintenance of roads.”