NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has resigned. Here’s who could replace her

NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has resigned. Here’s who could replace her
  • PublishedDecember 20, 2023

Natasha Fyles, after rising to the Northern Territory’s highest office 18 months ago, has resigned as chief minister.

Sources within Labor have told the ABC Treasurer Eva Lawler is emerging as a contender for the leadership.

Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison has openly declared her ambitions for the position, while Attorney-General Chansey Paech is also considering his options.

Ms Fyles’ resignation came after a series of integrity issues over the past month — based on personal shareholdings and perceived conflicts of interests —  culminated in her decision to step down.

More broadly, Ms Fyles was facing mounting pressure from the NT opposition over crime rates and fierce criticism of the government’s major expansion of the Northern Territory’s on-shore gas industry.

Natasha Fyles during a press conference announcing her resignation.
Natasha Fyles during her resignation speech on Tuesday.(ABC News: Ian Redfearn)

How did we get here?

Ultimately it was the story that broke on Monday that Ms Fyles had an undisclosed shareholding in a company that owns a Northern Territory mine she had made decisions about that led to her resignation.

“I also hold myself to high standards,” Ms Fyles said in her resignation speech.

“It is clear that I have failed to meet the standards that are set for us, and the standards that I set for myself.

“I’m not going to make any excuses for that, so for this reason I believe the honourable course of action is to resign as chief minister.”

Who might replace her?

Shortly after Ms Fyles resigned, Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison put her hand up to be the next chief minister.

Ms Manison, a close ally of Ms Fyles, entered parliament in 2013 as the Member for Wanguri.

Excluding Ms Fyles, Ms Manison is the longest-serving MLA in the NT government, and has held a range of ministerial portfolios including treasurer, police, infrastructure and defence.

Currently, she most notably holds the portfolios of mining, industry and trade, and renewables and energy.

In announcing her tilt to become chief minister, Ms Manison said she would be a sure pair of hands to get the government back on track.

“More than ever, we need experienced and proven leadership that focuses on the things that matter most to Territorians,” she said.

“I believe I can offer that.”

She said jobs, cost of living and public safety would be her focus if she got the job.

Treasurer Eva Lawler is another contender for the leadership, though has not announced her official bid.

Ms Lawler currently holds the education and development portfolios, and previously served as infrastructure minister.

NT Treasurer Eva Lawler standing outside NT Parliament House, looking serious.
NT Treasurer Eva Lawler also holds the education and development portfolios.(ABC News: Eva Lawler)

Chansey Paech, the attorney-general and Aboriginal affairs minister, said he would be “keeping his options open”.

“[I] will let you all know my decision when I’ve carefully considered the best interests of Territorians and the territory,” he said on Tuesday.

Member for Namatjira Chansey Paech in NT Parliament on Wednesday May 3, 2017.
Chansey Paech is considering running for the top job.(ABC News: Andie Smith)

Mr Paech, the Member for Gwoja, a vast electorate in Central Australia, came into parliament in 2016.

Former AFL player and Tourism Minister Joel Bowden is, according to sources, being backed by the party’s Left faction.

A man in a suit and tie sitting at a table inside parliamentary chambers and smiling widely.
Johnston MLA Joel Bowden is the NT government’s newest cabinet member.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Mr Bowden, the former secretary of Unions NT, first entered parliament in 2020 after winning the Johnston by-election.

After sitting on the backbench for nearly four years, Mr Bowden was promoted to minister for infrastructure, planning and logistics and minister for tourism in a recent cabinet reshuffle.

What happens next?

If the leadership is contested unopposed, a new chief minister will likely be sworn in at Government House this week.

But if no leader can be chosen unanimously by the Labor caucus, the leadership contest will go to a rank-and-file membership ballot.

Whoever takes the reigns will be the Labor government’s third chief minister since it was re-elected to government in 2020 — and the 13th chief minister in territory history.


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