Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
At 5am, there’s less than half a dozen people working out in a Darwin gym. You’ll recognise the guy in the Territory Eels training gear on the rowing machine. He is Adam Giles, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.
Adam usually starts his day this way before going home to have breakfast with his young family. It gives him energy and time to plan for a long working day ahead. Adam says his parents instilled in him a belief that it is only through hard work that individuals can achieve their dreams. He started working in a bakery when he was just 12, earning the princely sum of $2.50 an hour. Later while still at school he would work there for up to 12 hours a day over the weekend.
Adam is a man on a mission and a man in a hurry. He was just 15 when his father, was tragically killed in a worksite accident. Adam the teenager learnt that there is no time to waste in life.
He studied accounting, went on work in real estate and later moved into Indigenous Affairs. It was his frustration with government’s policy and his passion for the future of the Northern Territory that led him into politics.
Adam refuses to talk about making history by becoming the first Indigenous Australian to lead a Government in this country. He is however passionate about what he calls the economic empowerment of Indigenous Territorians.
“Economic rights are a precondition to a strong society and a confident culture,” he says.
In his first speech to parliament, he said that he is here to make a real difference. Even his most strident detractors will admit he has been successful. Since Territorians chose the Country Liberals’ plan for government in 2012, wages and jobs have risen, while crime and cost of living pressures are down.
The Government’s Economic Development Strategy is attracting major overseas investment which in turn is diversifying the Northern Territory economy and reducing its reliance on funding from Canberra. There are more and more jobs in gas, mining, agriculture, tourism and international education.
So why are pundits writing off the Government’s chances of re-election? It is partly because the Government has looked messy at times, Giles concedes.
“Look, I’m the first to admit we have been better at implementing good policy than we have been at selling it. If you want the best spin, you should vote Labor, but if you want real positive action then choose us,” he advises.
But the real reason the Government is not soaring in the polls, according to the Chief Minister, comes down to one word: change.
“Doing nothing is easy. Change is hard.”
“But doing nothing is the same as going backwards. That is exactly what happened to the Territory under Labor between 2001 and 2012.”
That was never going to be good enough for a Giles-led Government.
He has been even more motivated to implement positive reform for the future of the Northern Territory since the birth of his first son last October.
“It is for Robert and all the other children in the Territory that we make the tough decisions.”
Tough decisions like leasing the Port of Darwin?
“Exactly! We knew it wasn’t going to be popular, but was necessary, as former Labor Chief Minister Paul Henderson agreed, and it is already proving successful.”
“NT exports are worth about $5 billion a year. Without private investment the port would increasingly be a bottleneck stifling our growing economic relationship with our trading partners to the North.”
New Port operators Landbridge already have $25 million of upgrade works under way.
Other developments around the Port, including a multi-user ship lift facility and marine industry park are set to deliver 4500 new jobs for Territorians and a lot of work for local small business.
A further 6000 jobs are on the way if Giles can implement his plan for an onshore gas industry.
“With onshore gas – which is safe shale gas in the NT, not the coal seam gas they have in Queensland – we are proceeding carefully and listening to the community,” Giles says.
“We are developing world’s best practice safety regulations and, unlike the previous Government, we have ruled out drilling anywhere near residential areas or in other areas of high environmental, farming, cultural or tourism value.”
“Given that we are talking about 6000 jobs and up to $23 billion increase in gross state product, the only rational explanation for Labor’s opposition to this huge opportunity is politics.”
“My opponent is worried about losing the Greens preferences he needs to seize power. By contrast, my team puts Territorians first.”
It is ironic, because clean NT gas could replace energy from coal-fired power stations and cut Australia’s greenhouse emissions by far more than the Labor-Greens carbon tax ever would.
One thing Giles and the Labor Party leader agree on is that Territorians will have a choice between two very different futures on 27 August 2016.
“We can take the easy low road back to Labor’s debt and deficits; to welfare dependency; to leniency for criminals; to union corruption and end up with an economy like Venezuela,” Giles warns
“Or we can make the more long-sighted decision and continue on the high road to prosperity; to cutting cost of living pressures; to economic and jobs growth; to building enabling infrastructure; to northern development; to profitable industries; to individual responsibility; to a knowledge Territory; and to a flourishing diversified economy unbridled by debt.”
“I am just asking Territorians to think of what future they want for their children and grandchildren as they decide who they will entrust government with for the next four years,” the Chief Minister concludes