Top Quotes of Garry Higgins’ Speech in the New Parliament

File Photo – Pic : ABC

One of my proudest moments occurred in this Chamber almost four years ago to the day when I delivered my first speech on behalf of the constituents of Daly.

I took the opportunity on that occasion to thank my family, particularly my wife Rhonda, for their support and the people who helped with the campaign in which I was elected.

I was a bit of an anomaly in that I had been preselected by the party several years before the campaign which gave me the opportunity to build on the already strong relations I had developed in Daly through living and working in the electorate over more than a decade.

Election night 2012 was a tremendous night … a night full of promise and hope that pointed to a new direction for the Northern Territory that put the focus on rural and regional infrastructure and a redirection of resources.

In Government, the Country Liberals set out to redress this imbalance … and to a fair extent I believe we were successful.

But for all the good, positive initiatives we implemented … there was a leak … or a spat, or a leadership challenge that became the talking point.

A lot of words have been written in the past — and will continue to be in the future — about the events of the past four years.

There is no clearer indication of that than the make-up of the numbers now in this House.

To do that I want to start by not only acknowledging the mistakes of the past, but by offering an unequivocal, unreserved apology to Territorians for much of our performance in Government between August 2012 and August 2016.

Where there should have been consultation, there was belligerence.

Where there should have been communication, there was spin.

Where there should have been respect, there was defiance.

Where there should have been loyalty, there was division and disunity.

For that, I am sorry.

Just two seats out of 25 … this was a lesson in how not to run a Government.

As a member of the Cabinet I acknowledge my role in what happened and for that, too, I apologise.

In my defence I can say that my focus was not on undermining the leadership or on scoring cheap points with journalists or one-upping colleagues.

My focus has been and always will be but on trying to deliver for my electorate and the Northern Territory.

While there has been much discussion from the non-Government benches about the role of independents in this place … I want to state very firmly that I believe the Country Liberals remain the only viable opposition to the Government.

For my part as Opposition Leader, I acknowledge the mandate this Government received on the 27th of August and that the public has given them the green-light to implement the program and policies they took to the election.

It goes without saying that it is the number one priority of everybody in this Chamber to resolve these issues.

In Government we introduced measures to reduce the availability of alcohol through the Temporary Beat Locations and also to reduce the demand for alcohol through Alcohol Mandatory Treatment.

Alcohol Mandatory Treatment has had its critics and has had implementation problems but providing a health-based service designed to help some of our worst drinkers overcome their addictions and provide pathways to healthier lives can only be a good thing, can’t it?

The Daly electorate surrounds Darwin city and extends to the south and west of the Top End. It extends to the Fitzmaurice River in the south incorporating Pine Creek and includes the towns of Adelaide River, Batchelor, Berry Springs, Dundee Beach and Wadeye in the east.

Key elements of the agreement included 13,000 hectares of Territory freehold in the Cox Peninsula, the withdrawal of claims over a number of land parcels in the Top End, ongoing public access to the intertidal zone and beaches within the land claim area and the granting of the old Retta Dixon House site as Crown Lease in perpetuity.

It is telling, I think, that this long-awaited, significant agreement was reached when conservative governments in Darwin and Canberra were in office.

I hope the new Government doesn’t take its eye off the ball when it comes to development across regional and remote Northern Territory and that Daly continues to get its fair share of spending going forward.

I want of course to start with my wife Rhonda, who I love beyond words and remains by far the best partnership I ever formed.

I was very fortunate to have been able to assemble staff that are capable, knowledgeable and skilful while also being good humoured and calm under pressure. To Brynne, Renita, John, Sean, Annelise, David and my Chief of Staff Mike I say thankyou.

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