House debates

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Petitions

Mills, Mr Terence Kennedy (Terry)

12:19 pm

Photo of Natasha GriggsNatasha Griggs (Solomon, Country Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to pay tribute to my good friend the former Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Terry Mills. As some might be aware, Terry announced last week his retirement from politics to pursue a different interest, and his decision was effective immediately. My husband, Paul, and I have known Terry for many years and consider him a very good friend. He had and still has an enormously high profile around Palmerston, and he was a friendly face at the markets, the local shopping centres and many community events in Palmerston. He was always up for a chat. He shared a joke and liked to discuss issues that were affecting the lives of workers, families and businesses around Palmerston. But it was during the very protracted campaign to have a hospital built in Palmerston that we were fortunate enough to really get to know him particularly well.

It was at one of the very first community meetings at the CMAX cinema that I remember Terry making a compelling case for why a new hospital at Palmerston should be built. We all agreed with him when he outlined a staged model for the proposed hospital. He spoke of a methodology required to obtain Commonwealth funding, and he organised a petition that eventually attracted 15,000 signatures. That was about half the population in Palmerston at the time.

At the time, there was incredible resistance within the Northern Territory government. They were a Labor government, and they really were opposed to the Palmerston Hospital, particularly when Terry announced in 2008, at the election, that the Country Liberals would start work on a hospital straightaway. The Labor government said it was a cruel hoax. We lost the election, but eventually community pressure was such that Labor were forced to come around, and of course they claimed that it was all their idea. They completely misread the community mood and failed to grasp the necessity of adding to the Territory's health infrastructure.

It was with enormous pride that, during the 2013 election campaign, I was able to work with my coalition colleagues to secure an additional $40 million to add to the $70 million already committed to fund the construction of a hospital in Palmerston. Terry's perseverance around this issue was not just a template of how to run a classic grassroots political campaign. The hospital was something that he felt was right and necessary and that the government should absolutely provide. That is why I am delighted to be associated with this very important project for our community.

Terry was a community politician in the classic sense. As much as anything, this was what helped him secure the Territory's top job of Chief Minister. Many people have said that nice people do not really make it in politics. In Terry's case, he was the exception to the rule. In 2008, in the election campaign I spoke of earlier, he took the Country Liberals from four seats to 11 seats, from a political rump on the verge of oblivion to within a heartbeat of power. In the four years leading up to the 2012 election, his team developed a suite of policies that enabled the Country Liberals to present an alternative, credible government. Notwithstanding the internal pressures his leadership sometimes faced, Terry was always positive and confident, and he believed that, if he continued to work hard, engage the community and treat people with respect, the cards would eventually fall his way. The night of the 2012 Territory election was undoubtedly the highlight of his political career, one of the high points in his life: leading the Country Liberals to government after 11 years of hard Labor.

I would like to finish by saying that I wish him and Ros all the very, very best for their life after politics. I would like to thank him and Ros for the support that he has provided me personally and also politically. I thank him for his support and friendship and wish them all the very, very best. On behalf of all Territorians, good luck.

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