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Issue #1635      April 16, 2014

Accusations fly as trio dump NT CLP

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles has accused the three Aboriginal MPs who resigned from the Country Liberal Party (CLP) last week of playing the “race card”.

NT Aboriginal MPs Larisa Lee, Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu and Alison Anderson with their letters of resignation from the Country Liberal Party. (Photo: Amos Aikman, News Corp)

Arnhem MP Larisa Lee, Arafura MP Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu and Namatjira MP Alison Anderson – who Mr Giles had suspended from the party – ended weeks of speculation and negotiation by slipping their resignation letters under the door of the CLP headquarters in Darwin.

In an extended interview on NITV, Ms Lee said there was “no hope for Aboriginal people in this party”, Ms Anderson related how she and Ms Lee had been called “Iubras” by CLP members, and Mr Kurrupuwu described how he had been constantly disrespected and subjected to racist behaviour.

“If we’re going to walk out of the CLP it’s going to be the proudest moment of our lives because we’re not breast-plated niggers, we’re home-grown traditional people,” Ms Lee said. However, Mr Giles, a Kamilaroi (NSW) man, dismissed the accusations.

“I don’t tolerate racism and call it out when I see it, but those allegations have never been raised with me and I’ve never heard racist comments made,” he told the Koori Mail.

“It’s important to note the sequence of events here. A week ago, Alison Anderson and Larisa Lee demanded to be made ministers in the government and were demanding that some existing ministers, including (Aboriginal woman) Bess Price, should be sacked to make way for them.

“When I refused their demands, their reaction was to pull out the race card. When the chips are down sometimes it’s easier to break the glass and hit the racist button, rather than discuss policy reform.”

Ms Anderson, Ms Lee and Mr Kurrupuwu did not respond to requests for interview.

Relations between Ms Anderson and Mr Giles have been strained since before he rolled Terry Mills for the top NT job. Just over a year ago Ms Anderson, who was one of Mr Mills’ cabinet ministers, nominated Mr Giles for deputy leader, which he refused, leading Ms Anderson to call him a “little boy” and threaten to leave the CLP if Mr Giles was elected leader.

However, a week later she threw her support behind Mr Giles and when he emerged victorious from the leadership spill she was rewarded with the Children and Families, Regional Development, Local Government and Women’s Policy portfolio. Mr Giles also abolished the Indigenous Affairs department, saying Aboriginal needs and programs should be every portfolio’s responsibility.

In September last year Mr Giles reshuffled his ministry, sending Ms Anderson to the backbench and elevating Stuart MP Bess Price.

Ms Anderson was elected to the NT Assembly as a Labor Party member in 2005 but left the cabinet and went to the crossbenches in 2009 after a dispute over Indigenous housing. She sat as an independent for two years before joining the CLP in 2011.

Ructions between the trio and the party began to come to a head three weeks ago, when the three walked out of Parliament before question time.

Ms Anderson told NITV that the reason the trio walked was they were being instructed to ask questions to which they believed the answers were untrue, particularly in regards to government spending in the bush. “We did it because we saw things not working for our people,” she said.

“We decided as a three that we would go in there for prayers, and we would stand up for our people with pride and honour and walk out. Yes, we did ask ... to be made ministers and for a whole department of Indigenous Affairs, and why shouldn’t we? We (Aboriginal people) are 36 percent of the Territory’s population, we got this government elected and we want them to start focusing on the poorest people in the Northern Territory.”

But Mr Giles disputed the accusations that his government wasn’t doing enough for Aboriginal people in the bush, saying they were investing in the infrastructure, roads and bridges that would allow investment by private companies to create jobs.

He pointed to millions of dollars in spending on regional roads, facilitation of economic development talks with regional communities, the ferry service to the Tiwi Islands, the local government reform process, new police stations in Gapuwiyak and Ramingining, improved telecommunications, the $1.7 million Homelands Extra program and the Indigenous education review as evidence of his government’s support of the bush.

“I am committed to breaking the destructive cycle of welfare dependency and want to get people off welfare and into work,” he said. “This process will take time, but we have made an impressive start. We are getting on with the job and won’t be distracted by the political stunts of a handful who are pushing their own personal ambitions, dressed up as policy outrage.”

Koori Mail

Next article – PM Abbott risks being branded a liar

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