The Northern Territory’s new chief minister has warned the federal government needs to show more respect to Aboriginal people, accusing Labor of “sucking the life out of communities” in its handling of the intervention program.


The Labor Party seems likely to secure only eight seats in the NT’s 25-seat Legislative Assembly, with one independent re-elected, although all votes in the weekend’s election are yet to be counted.

Country Liberal Party leader Terry Mills is expected to be sworn in as chief minister on Tuesday.

He said a reduction in decision-making power for remote Aboriginal communities had damaged Labor’s brand in the NT and the weekend backlash should be a lesson to the federal government.

When the NT intervention was introduced by the Howard government in 2007 it was an “emergency” measure to deal with a child abuse crisis, Mr Mills said.

“It’s morphed into a monumental process that has sucked the life out of communities, wasted a lot of money and delivered no results,” he told Sky News on Monday.

“Labor seems to care more about the idea of Aboriginal people but not the Aboriginal people themselves.”

Mr Mills said the federal government needed to repair the relationship with indigenous people in the NT.

“It’s not about the program, it’s not about the legislation, it’s not about the money, it’s about the people concerned,” he said.

“That seems to be missing in the thinking and the psyche of Labor.” He said indigenous people need to be empowered.

“We all want the same thing. An Aboriginal family on a community want something good for their kids and want programs that actually work, but they want to be involved in the implementation and shaping of the policies,” he said. “That part of it has been overlooked.”

The intervention in Aboriginal communities, started by John Howard and renamed Stronger Futures after the ALP took it over, has been deeply unpopular in many indigenous communities.

Some Aboriginal leaders have said the laws unfairly branded particular communities as harbouring drunks and pedophiles and unable to manage their own affairs.

Mr Mills said while local issues had been a big factor in the election result the “the carbon tax” had also played a part in Labor’s loss.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan told reporters in Canberra on Monday the territory election was fought on “local issues” and declined to comment on federal implications.