Speaker knocks back NT independents’ bid

Australia

The chances of three independent MPs seizing opposition status from the Country Liberal Party have suffered a blow after the Speaker refused their request.

Independents and former Country Liberals Terry Mills and Robyn Lambley, who were once the NT chief minister and deputy, persuaded one of the three other NT independents, Nhulunbuy MLA Yingiya Guyula, to join them.

The so-called “Alliance” now outnumbers the CLP, which was left with just two MPs out of the NT’s 25-member legislative assembly when the scandal-plagued Giles government lost government in 2016.

Speaker and Independent Kezia Purick can legally change who is the official opposition but has declined the trio’s request after being presented with a document formalising their coalition.

It is doubtful that a 25-member parliament including 18 Labor MPs would vote for an arguably stronger opposition.

NT Solicitor-General Sonia Brownhill provided legal advice late last year that if it was not clear who was stronger the decision would be up to the Speaker.

It could now be left up to parliament, which will sit next week for the first time in 2019.

Ms Lambley accused Ms Purick of obstructing them.

“We’ve formulated policy and a way to work together, we’ve ticked all the boxes that are required,” she told reporters.

“Her response was this is not my responsibility.”

Mr Mills said fiscal management was its principal key policy objective, with the Labor Gunner government under pressure over the struggling NT economy and budget crisis in which it is borrowing to cover expenses including public servants’ wages.

Opposition leader Gary Higgins said the CLP would not be “be distracted by a hypothetical debate and we’re not involved in any squabbling”.

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