In a clear sign of growing division within the CLP, three Aboriginal backbenchers walked out of parliament during question time on Thursday in an unprecedented move following two weeks of turmoil.
MPs Alison Anderson, Francis Xavier and Larissa Lee have denied that they are planning to leave the CLP to start a new party or to sit as independents, but have complained the voices of indigenous people are not being heard by the government.
They say the government has not kept its election promises to the bush, and are under great pressure from their electorates to deliver.
Disappointing 3 members left the chamber, stunts are not acceptable.
— Kezia Purick (@NTSpeaker) March 27, 2014
READ MORE: NT government denies party split
In #BREAKING #NEWS : 3 Bush Members walk out of question time in NT #parliament throwing the #CLP govt into chaos. @dannynitv reports @ 5:30
— NITV National News (@NITVNews) March 27, 2014
Although backroom talks have taken place over the last fortnight, it’s not known what the trio has been asking for, and Thursday’s walk-out is a sign those talks have broken down.
An incident last month when Minister for Central Australia Matt Conlan told Ms Anderson to “f*** off, you c***” highlighted the division within the party.
Chief Minister Adam Giles has refused to discipline Mr Conlan over the incident, despite last week being forced to vote with the opposition on a motion to do so when he realised the three bush members were intending to cross the floor.
The government is “absolutely” worried they could bring it down, said Gerry Wood, the only independent in the 25-seat parliament of the NT.
“When you start being arrogant, you lose the people,” he told reporters.
Mr Wood helped the previous Labor government retain power when Ms Anderson, then an ALP member, left the government in the lurch to sit as an independent before joining the CLP.
He said the trio needed to be clear about their intentions.
“They either need to be working with the CLP, or they need to get out and be independents or form their own party, but it makes it difficult for parliament to run if you have this instability,” he said.
If they were angry about broken promises in the bush, they had a committee system available for them and did not need to bring the parliament down, Mr Wood said.
“If they’re right and the government is wrong, the committee can come out and make a recommendation – there are systems for people, especially backbenchers, to use to check the government is doing the right thing.”
He said it was likely the CLP had over-promised in order to win the 2012 Territory election.
“Maybe the promises were a bit too outlandish to win the election, or they weren’t realistic, or people don’t realise these promises can’t happen overnight,” Mr Wood said.
“Maybe the CLP has itself to blame there, if they promised things they couldn’t really deliver and that won them seats. If they haven’t done what they promised, well, maybe it’s come home to roost.”
The three bush members have so far declined to comment.