Summary information on parliamentary government, elections and periods in office

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Summary information on Premiers, Government and Periods in Office in the Northern Territory

Parliamentary government in the Northern Territory is structured around the periods in office of first ministers (premiers). A new government is formed whenever a new first minister takes office (see commission), and the first minister is responsible for the choice of ministers and the allocation of departmental responsibilities. For this reason, this website organizes summary information on governments around the periods that first ministers, premiers and prime ministers have held office.

Although 1974 is given in this database as the date for the establishment of representative self-government in the Northern Territory, the necessary legislation to establish full responsible government was not implemented until 1978, even though a representative assembly had been elected for that purpose, and an executive chosen to govern the Territory, in 1974 (see Dean Jeansch in 'Sources', below). Notwithstanding this caveat, in general terms, self-government in the Northern Territory can be dated from 1974.

A parliamentary system of government requires that the first minister, as head of government, maintains the support of a majority of members of the lower house of parliament which, in the case of the Northern Territory, is the Legislative Assembly. The information in the three tables below and the notes which follow, summarizes the information held in the Australian Politics and Elections Database which relates to the duration of periods in office in the Northern Territory from the granting of representative self-government in 1974 (see 'Sources', below), the party support for first ministers, and information on the the number of ministers at the beginning of each first minister’s period in office.

Periods in office

The period in office of a first minister (premier) begins at the date on which he or she first takes office and continues until he or she is replaced by another first minister. This period may include major changes to the ministry as well as minor cabinet shuffles and the addition or resignation of ministers. A period in office can span several elections and several changes to ministries.

The period in office of a first minister ends when the first minister loses or resigns office. But the period can also be ended if there is a substantial change in the party composition of the first minister's parliamentary support: the first minister continues in office but the nature of the parliamentary support changes because of a split in the majority party or the break up of the governing coalition, and the formation of a new party grouping or coalition to support the first minister.

Changes in the extent of parliamentary party support for a first minister—changes from minority government to majority government (or the reverse)—do not affect the period in office of a first minister. But the move from single party support for the first minister to coalition support (or the reverse) does represent a new period in office.

Information on the periods in office of each Northern Territory first minister can be found on the 'Periods in office' pages of this website; summary information is set out in the table and subject headings below:

Party support

Party support in this section refers to the parliamentary support a first minister and government have in the Legislative Assembly to remain in office.

Summary information on party support for first ministers in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is set out in the table below. Table 2 replicates information on the start and end of periods in office listed in Table 1 but adds information on party support in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and at elections during each period in office.

Summary information on ministries

This database has limited information on the composition of ministries and can display only summary details of the first ministry in a period in office (see the 'Periods in office' section above). The first five columns of Table 3 repeat the information in the previous tables, and the following four give information about the number of ministers under various categories.

Sources and references

The summary information on this page has been compiled from records in the Australian Politics and Elections Database at the University of Western Australia. The individual records for each general election and period in office in the Northern Territory -- available through this website -- include sources and references.

For information on the government and politics of the Northern Territory, see Dean Jaensch, 'Northern Territory', in Jeremy Moon and Campbell Sharman (editors), Australian Politics and Government: The Commonwealth, the States and the Territories, pp 224-238 (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0521532051).

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