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Midnight coup in the NT

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The Northern Territory’s chief minister apparent Willem Westra van Holthe has promised to consult more with the public after he was elected leader in a late-night leadership coup.

At a press conference hastily called in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Mr Westra van Holthe characterised himself as “honest” and “hardworking” and said he wanted to get the best result he could for Territorians.

“As a government I acknowledge we could have done things better in the past,” he told reporters.

“Under my leadership, this government will be more consultative with Territorians and engage with them before we make important and crucial decisions on the future of the Territory.”

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Mr Westra van Holthe thanked Chief Minister Adam Giles for his two years of service in the role, and said Mr Giles had confirmed he would sign a letter of resignation from the position.

“Discontent with the direction of government I suppose has been around for some time amongst a number of my colleagues,” he said.

“Tonight (Monday) was not a particularly special night other than the fact that a number of my colleagues came together and formed a view collectively that I should be the new chief minister of the NT.”

He said he would outline in more detail on Wednesday his plan for the NT, and a new cabinet would be sworn in.

The former Minister for Primary industry and Fisheries, and Mines and Energy, has lived in the NT for over 30 years and worked as a police officer before entering politics, stationed mostly in his hometown of Katherine.

“I’m an honest, hardworking man who wants to (get) the best results I can for the Territory and for Territorians,” he said.

Convincing the public the government will be able to provide stability may be difficult, as Mr Westra van Holthe becomes the third chief minister for the Country Liberal Party’s government in the two and a half years since it gained power.

Mr Giles rolled his predecessor Terry Mills six months after winning the election, while he was on a trade trip to Japan.

Mr Westra van Holthe served as deputy leader for one week in March before that coup.

Attorney-General John Elferink, as his new deputy, becomes the fifth deputy for the CLP since August 2012.

Dissatisfaction has been mounting for some time with Mr Giles’ leadership, with many voters displeased with the way the sale of the Territory Insurance Office was handled late last year.

He has been characterised as arrogant, and his close friendship with former deputy and Treasurer Dave Tollner was seen as problematic.

Mr Tollner was forced by his colleagues to resign in August after making a homophobic slur to a gay staffer, and Mr Giles refused to accept his resignation.

He was also criticised for taking leave as a scandal engulfed the former Police Commissioner John McRoberts, who is being investigated to determine whether he interfered in an investigation into former NT CrimeStoppers chair Xana Kamitsis, who is facing fraud charges, and with whom he had a relationship.

The ABC reported that numbers were being counted in the wing last week for a leadership challenge.

On Monday afternoon, Education Minister Robyn Lambley appeared to foreshadow the coup.

“”Adam Giles has my support but it is a time of reflection,” she told reporters.

“I think what we’ve all taken away from the Queensland election is that nothing can be taken for granted and perception is everything.”

It remains to be seen how damaging this third change of leaders will be for the CLP’s tilt at a second term at the NT general election next year.


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