The fate of the Northern Territory government will be determined by a by-election next week as three rebel Aboriginal backbenchers have resigned.
Alison Anderson, Larissa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu slipped their resignation letters under the door of the Country Liberal headquarters in Darwin on Friday, the ABC has reported.
A party official confirmed the receipt of the letters.
The government came into power with 16 seats in the NT’s 25-seat Legislative Assembly, but has been one seat down since the end of February sittings when former chief minister Terry Mills resigned from politics.
A by-election for his seat of Blain next weekend may now determine the future of the 18-month-old government, as the ruling CLP now has only 12 seats.
It is understood independent Gerry Wood has agreed to back the government and guarantee supply in order to maintain stability, but if Labor wins the by-election the NT will face an election much sooner than expected.
Ms Anderson was suspended from the NT government’s parliamentary wing last Friday by Chief Minister Adam Giles, who accused her and Ms Lee and Mr Kurrupuwu of making unreasonable demands.
The rebel trio says the government has failed to deliver on election promises for the bush, which put the Country Liberals in power, and last week presented a list of demands, including the reinstatement of a ministry for Indigenous Affairs, which Ms Anderson wanted to head.
They also asked for a cabinet spot for Ms Lee and for Mr Kurrupuwu to head a parliamentary committee, as well as calling for the demotion of at least two of their colleagues, ministers Bess Price and Matt Conlan.
They also levelled claims of racism at the governments once negotiations broke down.
“I’ve just gotten off the phone from the chief minister and I can confirm three resignation letters were pushed under the door, not a conventional method of providing resignation, but I guess this is the Territory,” federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion later told reporters on Friday.
He said two of the letters had dates changed and Ms Anderson’s was rewritten.
Senator Scullion said he was still optimistic about the CLP’s ability to win back Blain, and said a hung parliament was not in anyone’s interests.
He derided the motivations of the three to walk away.
“If they put on the table they wanted more infrastructure, a larger school, something the CLP could be accused of not delivering, that could be a process we could deal with,” he said.
“But when you have on the table, effectively, a suite of asks that are about, ‘I’d like to be in cabinet. I’d like to be a parliamentary secretary, and I’d like to be a minister, and by the way, these are the people you need to sack. We don’t like Bess Price because she doesn’t agree with me’, it’s all a bit hard to deal with.”
He said he supported Ms Anderson as a friend and colleague but admired Mr Giles’ handling of the situation.