2000 Redistribution of the Northern Territory into two electoral divisions - Final Report - Part 1

Updated: 7 December 2007

21 December 2000
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918
Sections 73 and 74

1.1 Determination made by the Augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory

Pursuant to section 73 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory hereby determines that the boundaries of the Electoral Divisions into which the Northern Territory is to be distributed and the names of those Electoral Divisions are as shown on the maps certified by the members of the augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory and lodged in File Number 2000/985 at the Principle Office of the Australian Electoral Commission in Canberra, being the maps numbered in the following sequence:

  • NT1/2000 Lingiari
  • NT2/2000 Solomon

T R Morling
Chairman
Augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory

21 December 2000

1.2 Reasons for the determination made by the Augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory

Determination

  1. The determination of the augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory (the augmented Commission) is that the boundaries of the Electoral Divisions in the Northern Territory, and the names of those Divisions, shall be as proposed by the Redistribution Committee for the Northern Territory in its Report published in April 2000.

Preliminary Arrangements

  1. Outline maps of the proposed redistribution by the Redistribution Committee for the Northern Territory and a notice inviting objections against the proposal were published in the Northern Territory News, the Centralian Advocate and the Tennant & District Times on 28 April 2000 and the Katherine Times on 3 May 2000. A notice was also published in the Commonwealth Gazette of 28 April 2000.  The maps and report were also published on the Australian Electoral Commission's internet website www.aec.gov.au.

Objections and Comments

  1. At the closing date for receipt of objections, at 6pm on Friday 26 May 2000, 13 objections against the Redistribution Committee's proposal were received from:
    • David Mitchell
    • Cheryl Mallyon
    • Joyce Chin
    • Henry Rainger
    • David Graham
    • Edward Barnes
    • Glenys Goda
    • Senator the Honourable Grant Tambling
    • Alex Nelson
    • Pam Nunn
    • Country Liberal Party (CLP)
    • Caroline Cavanagh
    • Australian Labor Party – NT Branch
  2. At the closing date for receipt of comments regarding the objections, at 6pm on Friday 9 June 2000, four comments on objections against the Redistribution Committee's proposal were received from:
    • David Mitchell
    • David Graham
    • Alex Nelson
    • Australian Labor Party – NT Branch
    • Public Inquiry
  3. The augmented Commission determined that there were significant matters raised in the objections that had not been presented in the suggestions and comments previously lodged with the Redistribution Committee. Therefore, in accordance with Section 72(3) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Act), the augmented Commission decided it was necessary to hold a public inquiry into those objections.
  4. Details of the inquiry were advertised in the Northern Territory News (8 & 12 July 2000), the Centralian Advocate (11 July 2000), the Katherine Times (12 July 2000) and the Tennant & District Times (14 July 2000). The Public Inquiry was also advertised at the Australian Electoral Commission's internet website www.aec.gov.au. In addition, each correspondent with either the Redistribution Committee or the augmented Commission was advised in writing.
  5. Three people attended the inquiry to present arguments. They were, in order of appearance:
    • Charles Taylor: General Secretary of the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party
    • Suzanne Cavanagh: President of the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party
    • Hon Warren Snowdon: Federal Member for the Division of the Northern Territory, Member of the Australian Labor Party

Consideration of the facts and final Determination

  1. Matters raised after the publication of the proposed boundaries generally focussed on the following subject areas:
    • the merit of the ALP proposal for an east/west split of the Northern Territory
    • the worthiness of the proposed/alternative names for the Divisions
    • the appropriateness of the inclusion of the Cocos and Christmas Islands in Northern Territory electorates

East/West divide

  1. The ALP submitted that the Northern Territory should be divided along east/west lines using the Stuart Highway as, more or less, the divisional boundary. It did not supply a map to illustrate its proposal. Its recommendation was in contrast to the Redistribution Committee's proposed boundaries, which essentially divided the Northern Territory into a Darwin urban electorate and an electorate containing the remainder of the Territory.
  2. The ALP made detailed submissions at every point of the redistribution process up to and including the public hearing. It contended that community of interest could (and should) be interpreted in a broad sense in this redistribution because of a unique set of circumstances that existed in the Northern Territory. Further, it submitted that the proposed boundaries would entrench an undesirable separation of community interests that would be inappropriate in the Northern Territory context.
  3. More specifically, the ALP contended that the proposed boundaries would create an urban/rural divide, institutionalise the Berrimah line, isolate Territorians living outside the Darwin/Palmerston area and provide inequities in member/constituent access. It also contended that the proposed boundaries failed to take account of the complex dependency relationship existing between the Darwin area and every Territorian, the psycho-social relationship that uniquely binds diverse peoples together as Territorians and the difficulty members have in servicing large and remote electorates with widely dispersed populations.
  4. During the objection phase, the ALP submission received support from David Mitchell. Alex Nelson did not support the ALP's suggestion. In his view, the adoption of the ALP proposal would create anomalies in terms of community of interest both in the Northern Territory and in the national context.
  5. Speaking at the public hearing, Mr Taylor noted that the proposed boundaries were similar to the CLP submission and recommended endorsement by the augmented Commission. He claimed that dividing major Northern Territory centres along the Stuart Highway or by some other line was totally inappropriate.
  6. In the absence of maps to support the ALP's submission, the augmented Commission itself prepared some models that would implement the ALP proposal. These were presented for discussion purposes only at the public inquiry. One of the models presented met the numerical parameters of the distribution and Mr Snowdon acknowledged that this particular model almost replicated the ALP's own plan.
  7. The augmented Commission carefully considered the unique circumstances of the Northern Territory but was not persuaded that the concept of community of interest would be better served under the ALP proposal. In its view, the web of relationships that are comprehended in "community of interest" was better served by a Division centred on the Darwin area and another Division covering the rest of the Northern Territory.
  8. Much was made by Mr Snowdon of community of interest links between Aboriginal people living in and near Darwin and their relatives living in more remote areas. The augmented Commission did not doubt that such links exist and are real. Indeed, it accepted that similar links would exist between other classes of people, e.g. those engaged in the tourist industry in Darwin and those also engaged in the tourist industry in places such as Kakadu, Alice Springs and Uluru. It recognised that Darwin itself is heavily dependent upon tourist, commercial, rural and other activities which are carried out in areas remote from Darwin. But this is a phenomenon which is not unique. There are many similar situations in the various States of the Commonwealth where a somewhat similar situation exists.
  9. However, community of interest links between people living within the Darwin area (including Palmerston) are very strong and obvious. People in that area have close and continual social contact, their children attend the same schools, they shop at the same shopping centres, they belong to the same sporting and social bodies, and engage in a variety of communal activities. In the augmented Commission's view, it was impossible to deny that there is a greater community of interest between people living in the Darwin (including Palmerston) area than there is between people living in Darwin and other people residing in areas remote from Darwin. Plainly, there are important community of interest links between people living in the urban areas of Darwin and Palmerston and people living in more remote areas. However, by and large, these links are not as numerous or as close as the links between people who have made their homes in the Darwin and Palmerston areas.
  10. The augmented Commission also recognises that it would be easier for a Member of Parliament to service electors within only half the geographical area of the Territory. The augmented Commission recognises the onerous task which a Member has of effectively servicing the needs of people living within a very large constituency, but this is a task which, to some extent, is faced by a number of Members for other Divisions within the Commonwealth.
  11. For all the above reasons, the augmented Commission did not think it would be appropriate to adopt the proposal for an east/west split of the Northern Territory along the lines of the proposal made by the ALP.

Naming of Divisions

  1. The two divisions were named Solomon and Lingiari in the Redistribution Committee's proposal in honour of Vaiben Louis Solomon (1853–1908) and Vincent Lingiari OAM (1908–1988). The selection of the names for the two divisions was the subject of significant debate throughout the redistribution process.
  2. Mr Solomon has been described as the Northern Territory's founding father of federation. He served as both member and mayor of the Palmerston District Council for 17 years and was an active member of the constitutional conventions leading to federation. He was also elected as one of the first Members of the House of Representatives as the member of a South Australian seat that included the Northern Territory.
  3. Mr Lingiari was a member of the Gurindji people from the Victoria River District. He was a stockman and lands right leader who worked for many years to improve conditions for aboriginal people. In 1966, he led the walk-off of his people from Wave Hill Station, which eventually resulted in the establishment of Wattie Creek and a land grant to the Gurindji people. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to the aboriginal people.
  4. Eleven of the thirteen objections to the Redistribution's Committee proposals expressed an opinion on the proposed names. No adverse reaction was received in respect to the name of Lingiari – in fact, three submissions specifically registered their support. However, the name of Solomon was objected to in nine submissions and supported in two submissions. Many of the Solomon objections were brief and generally centred on his alleged anti-Chinese and anti-aboriginal stance on issues of his day.
  5. The Solomon objections later drew criticism from both the ALP and David Graham during the comments on objections phase of the redistribution process. Both submissions asserted that 'political correctness' should not overshadow the merits of the Solomon case, especially in view of many of the current names assigned to Federal Divisions.
  6. At the public inquiry, Mr Taylor and Ms Cavanagh (spokespersons for the CLP and Senator Tambling) and Mr Snowdon MHR made submissions as to the appropriateness of the proposed names for the two Divisions.
  7. Mr Taylor and Ms Cavanagh were critical of Solomon. They submitted that the Divisions should be named after persons of contemporary significance, agreeing with Lingiari but suggesting that the other Division should be named Calder, in honour of Sam Calder OBE.  Sam Calder was the former CLP member elected six times to the House of Representatives and the first member to enjoy full voting rights in the Commonwealth Parliament.
  8. Mr Snowdon MHR, expressed strong support for the name Lingiari and deemed Solomon acceptable.
  9. Other alternative names were raised and discussed at the public hearing, including Kurringal, Palmerston and Darwin. Darwin was opposed by Mr Snowdon and Ms Cavanagh on the grounds that the residents of Palmerston would not support it. Both gave some support to the name of Palmerston (the name of the original settlement) as an alternative. Mr Snowdon also supported Kurringal and any of the other names on a preferred list provided in a previous submission.
  10. The augmented Commission decided to endorse the names as proposed by the Redistribution Committee. It was impressed by the widespread support achieved by the name of Lingiari and noted the opposition to Darwin as the name for the other Division. The augmented Commission was satisfied that Solomon was an appropriate name. It was of the view that Solomon's views on some issues needed to be assessed in the light of the times when they were expressed, and did not outweigh the other considerations which supported the adoption of his name for one of the Divisions. Calder was not considered as he is a living person and thereby excluded under the guidelines formulated and used by Redistribution Committees in response to recommendations from Parliamentary Committees.

Cocos (Keeling) and Christmas Islands

  1. The appropriateness of the inclusion of the Cocos and Christmas Islands was also raised intermittently throughout the redistribution process.
  2. Both the CLP and Senator Tambling opposed the inclusion of these territories in either of the two Divisions. They cited the general lack of links between the Islands and the Northern Territory and made special mention of the absence of direct means of travel, administration arrangements and the application of law. Edward Barnes in his comments on objections supported this view, suggesting that the territories would be more appropriately assigned to Western Australia. On the other hand, throughout the redistribution process, the ALP supported the inclusion of the Islands in the Northern Territory for as long as it is the express wish of the people of Christmas and Cocos Islands.
  3. The augmented Commission also noted the comments on this issue made by spokespersons for Christmas Island during the redistribution process. Dave McLane, Shire President, said in his written comments on suggestions to the Redistribution Committee that the Shire held strong views on the governance of Christmas Island which included greater autonomy for the Island and support for a move towards a Norfolk Island model of government. He contended that islanders were not particularly concerned about being included in a Northern Territory seat but would be opposed to being included in an Australian Capital Territory division.
  4. David Price, CEO Christmas Island, was also interviewed on ABC Top End radio on 4/5/2000. He claimed that Christmas Islanders were missing out on voting for a State representative under current arrangements but, if faced with being allocated to either the ACT or the Northern Territory, would prefer the Northern Territory.
  5. In its deliberations, the augmented Electoral Commission acknowledged the substance of the objector's argument and the less than ideal situation that existed. It was noted, however, that the removal of the Islands was a matter outside the scope of its task of splitting the current Division. Consequently, the islands were both included in its final determination.

Displacement of Electors

  1. The Northern Territory has to date only been one electorate called the Northern Territory. Therefore, all electors have been displaced into the new Divisions of Solomon and Lingiari.

Significance of change to the Redistribution Committee's proposal

  1. As no changes were made to the Redistribution Committee's Proposal, the augmented Electoral Commission determined that no further inquiry was required.
AUGMENTED ELECTORAL COMMISSION FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
Chairman Hon Trevor Morling QC
Members Andy Becker
Dennis Trewin
Bill Shepheard
Garry West
Iain Summers

21 December 2000