Denis Burke (Australian politician)

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Denis Burke
6th Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
In office
8 February 1999 27 August 2001
Deputy Mike Reed
Preceded by Shane Stone
Succeeded by Clare Martin
Constituency Brennan
Personal details
Born (1948-09-22) 22 September 1948 (age 70)
Queensland
NationalityAustralian
Political party Country Liberal Party
Spouse(s)Annette Burke
Cabinet Burke Ministry

Denis Gabriel Burke (born 22 September 1948) was an Australian politician. A former soldier, he served as a Country Liberal Party member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1994 to 2005. He spent two years as Chief Minister after succeeding Shane Stone, but oversaw the CLP's defeat at the 2001 election, ending 27 years of continuous CLP government in the Northern Territory. Burke later served as Opposition Leader from 2001 to 2003 before being toppled, but was re-elected as leader in 2005. He subsequently took the party to its largest-ever defeat at the 2005 election, culminating in the shock loss of his own seat.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

Country Liberal Party Northern Territory political party

The Country Liberal Party (CLP), officially the Country Liberals , is a liberal conservative political party in Australia founded in 1974, which operates solely in the Northern Territory.

Northern Territory Legislative Assembly legislative house of the unicameral legislature of the Northern Territory

The Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory is the only house of the Parliament of the Northern Territory, Australia. The Legislative Assembly has 25 members, each elected for single-member electorates. The voting method changed in February 2016 from full-preferential voting to optional preferential voting. The term of the Legislative Assembly is four years, and elections are on the fourth Saturday in August of the fourth year after the previous election, but can be earlier in the event of a no confidence vote in the Government. The last election for the Legislative Assembly was the 2016 election held on 27 August 2016. The next election is scheduled for 22 August 2020.

Contents

Early life

Burke was born in Townsville, and entered the army as a national serviceman in 1969. [1] In a 25-year career, he rose to become Commanding Officer of the Darwin-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment. [1] His army career included overseas service with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) peacekeeping in the Middle East in 1984–85 (in Beirut, Lebanon and the Sinai peninsula in Egypt). He was a graduate of the Army Command and Staff College and served as an Instructor in Tactics at the United States Armor School, Fort Knox, Kentucky. Upon return to Australia he was selected to be the first Army Instructor at the Royal Australian Navy Staff College at HMAS Penguin.

Townsville City in Queensland, Australia

Townsville is a city on the north-eastern coast of Queensland, Australia. Townsville is Australia's largest urban centre north of the Sunshine Coast, with a population of 173,815 as of the 2016 Australian census. Considered the unofficial capital of North Queensland by locals, Townsville hosts a significant number of governmental, community and major business administrative offices for the northern half of the state. It is in the dry tropics region of Queensland, adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef. The city is also a major industrial centre, home to one of the world's largest zinc refineries, a nickel refinery and many other similar activities. The Port of Townsville is also being expanded to allow much larger cargo ships from Asia and the world's largest passenger ships to visit. It is an increasingly important port due to its proximity to Asia and major trading partners such as China.

National service is a system of either compulsory or voluntary government service, usually military service. Conscription is mandatory national service. The term national service comes from the United Kingdom's National Service Act 1939. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes. Compulsory military service typically requires all male citizens to enroll for one or two years, usually at age 18, while voluntary national service requires only three months of basic military training. The US equivalent is Selective Service. In the United States, voluntary enrollments at the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are also known as national service.

Darwin, Northern Territory City in the Northern Territory, Australia

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia, situated on the Timor Sea. It is the largest city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, with a population of 145,916. It is the smallest, wettest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities, and acts as the Top End's regional centre.

Political rise

In 1994 he left the army and entered politics, winning Country Liberal Party endorsement to contest the Palmerston-based seat of Brennan, at the expense of sitting member and Perron government minister Max Ortmann. [2] Ortmann subsequently contested the seat as an independent, but was easily defeated by Burke. [2]

Palmerston, Northern Territory City in the Northern Territory, Australia

Palmerston is situated near Darwin Harbour and had a population of 33,695 at the 2016 census, making it the second largest city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory. Palmerston is a planned satellite city of Darwin, the capital and largest city in Australia's Northern Territory.

Electoral division of Brennan electoral division of the Northern Territory, Australia

Brennan is an electoral division of the Legislative Assembly in Australia's Northern Territory. It was first created in 1990 as a replacement for the abolished seat of Ludmilla, and derives its name from Harold "Tiger" Brennan, a former member of the Legislative Council and Mayor of Darwin. Brennan includes both rural and urban areas, covering an area of 8 km² and encompassing the Palmerston suburbs of Bakewell, Gunn, Farrar, as well as part of Rosebery. There were 5,204 people enrolled in the electorate as of August 2016.

Marshall Bruce Perron is a former Australian politician, who was a Country Liberal Party member of the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory from the formation of the Assembly in 1974 until his resignation in 1995. For the last 20 years, save for an 11-month break in 1986 and 1987, he served as a cabinet minister or its equivalent. From 1988 to 1995, Perron was the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.

Burke was first promoted to the Cabinet of the Northern Territory the following year, serving as Minister for Water and Power, Work Health and the Minister Responsible for the Territory Insurance Office. He rose through the party, and in June 1996, was appointed Attorney-General and Minister for Health. He was re-elected at the 1997 election, and was once again promoted, taking on several more minor portfolios, as well as being appointed Vice-President of the Executive Council. In early 1998, he was one of two Country Liberal Party parliamentary delegates to the territory's Statehood Convention. In October 1998 he was appointed as the Leader of Government Business, and in December, took on a new set of responsibilities – among them industry, regional development, gaming and defence support. [3]

The Attorney-General of the Northern Territory, in formal contexts also Attorney-General or Attorney General for the Northern Territory, is the primary Law Officer of the Crown in the Northern Territory. The Attorney General serves as the chief legal and constitutional adviser of the Government of the Northern Territory and administers their portfolio through the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice.

Minister for Health (Northern Territory)

The Northern Territory Minister for Health is a Minister of the Crown in the Government of the Northern Territory. The minister administers their portfolio through the Department of Health.

A general election was held in the Northern Territory on Saturday August 30, 1997, and was won by the incumbent Country Liberal Party (CLP).

Chief Minister

In February 1999, CLP Chief Minister Shane Stone resigned, and Burke was soon appointed as his replacement. [1] He also continued on as Attorney-General, and took on several additional portfolios. [1] Burke's term as Chief Minister is probably most remembered for his vehement defence of the territory's mandatory sentencing policy, which required a minimum of 90 days imprisonment after someone had been convicted three times, regardless of how minor the offence. [1] Though it had been introduced by the Stone government, much of the controversy surrounding the laws fell to the new Burke government. [4] The policy was eventually toned down slightly for juveniles after Prime Minister John Howard and federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams intervened. [4] While the policy led to criticism from some prominent organisations, it also created a significant debate about the issue on a national level, [5] and some national polls suggested that a majority of Australians supported the stand. However, Burke's stance was also to lead to some scandal in late 2000, when he demanded the resignation of a magistrate (Alasdair McGregor) who had criticised his mandatory sentencing laws. [5] The comments sparked contempt of court charges and angry criticism from the Chief Justice and the bar. [6]

Shane Stone Australian politician

Shane Leslie Stone is an Australian political figure. From 26 May 1995 to 8 February 1999 he was Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, representing the Country Liberal Party.

Mandatory sentencing requires that offenders serve a predefined term for certain crimes, commonly serious and violent offenses. Judges are bound by law; these sentences are produced through the legislature, not the judicial system. They are instituted to expedite the sentencing process and limit the possibility of irregularity of outcomes due to judicial discretion. Mandatory sentences are typically given to people who are convicted of certain serious and/or violent crimes, and require a prison sentence. Mandatory sentencing laws vary across nations; they are more prevalent in common law jurisdictions because civil law jurisdictions usually prescribe minimum and maximum sentences for every type of crime in explicit laws.

John Howard Australian politician, 25th Prime Minister of Australia

John Winston Howard, is an Australian former politician who served as the 25th Prime Minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007. He is the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister, behind only Sir Robert Menzies, who was in office for over 18 years. He is also the oldest living former Australian Prime Minister, as of 16 May 2019. Howard was leader of the Liberal Party from 1985 to 1989 and from 1995 to 2007.

By the time Burke faced his first election at the 2001 election, the Country Liberal Party had been in power in the Northern Territory for 27 years. He called the election on a minor high, only weeks after the beginning of construction on the Adelaide-Darwin Railway, a major infrastructure project that had been planned for decades. However, his chances suffered a blow when a planned deal concerning gas from the Timor Sea, in which he had played a central role and which would have produced significant employment opportunities in the territory, ran into difficulties and had to be postponed. The deal was finalised shortly after the election. He also caused did himself no favours by not opposing a CLP party decision to preference the far-right-wing One Nation Party – which was considerably unpopular in the territory's large ethnic community – over the left-wing Labor Party in five seats around Katherine. This had the effect of allowing ALP Opposition Leader Clare Martin to claim that the only way to resist One Nation influence was to vote for the ALP. Several weeks later, Burke apologised for the decision, admitting that the tactic had backfired and had cost him a number of votes.

Timor Sea A sea bounded to the north by the island of Timor, to the east by the Arafura Sea, to the south by Australia

The Timor Sea is a relatively shallow sea bounded to the north by the island of Timor, to the east by the Arafura Sea, to the south by Australia.

Australian Labor Party (Northern Territory Branch) Territory branch of the Australian Labor Party

The Australian Labor Party , commonly known as Territory Labor is the Northern Territory branch of the Australian Labor Party. It has been the governing party of the Northern Territory since winning the 2016 election under Michael Gunner. It previously held office from 2001 to 2012.

Katherine, Northern Territory Town in the Northern Territory, Australia

Katherine is a town in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is situated on the Katherine River below the "Top End", 320 kilometres (200 mi) southeast of Darwin. It is the fourth largest settlement in the Territory and is known as the place where "The outback meets the tropics". Katherine had an urban population of approximately 6,300 at the 2016 Census. Katherine is also the closest major town to RAAF Base Tindal located 17 km southeast and provides education, health, local government services and employment opportunities for the families of Defence personnel stationed there. In the 2016 census, the base had a residential population of 857, with only around 20% of the workforce engaged in employment outside of defence, the majority commuting to work in Katherine. Katherine is also the central hub of the great "Savannah Way" which stretches from Cairns in north QLD to Broome in the Kimberley WA.

In addition, the election fell against the backdrop of an ALP resurgence across the nation. In the preceding eighteen months, two Liberal state governments that had been thought highly secure (Victoria and Western Australia) had fallen to the ALP and two incumbent ALP governments had been easily re-elected. There was some speculation that the ALP could win their first NT election as in the sensitive electorate of Darwin's Northern Suburbs the CLP had two retiring incumbents. Most commentators were predicting a close result, but suggesting that the CLP would be returned. However, in a shock result, the ALP achieved majority government by one seat, and Burke, suddenly out of government, became Opposition Leader.

Fall, second coming, final fall and new beginnings

As Opposition Leader, Burke struggled to get the better of Martin. He also presided over a disunited party that found it difficult to come to terms with being in opposition after spending almost its entire history in government. Amidst this environment, speculation soon began that Burke would step aside in favour of rival Terry Mills, who represented the nearby electorate of Blain. Burke was determined to remain leader, however, and fended off several leadership challenges by Mills, with the support of several influential MPs, such as Jodeen Carney. He was also briefly boosted by a victory in the 2003 Katherine by-election, despite a significant swing to Labor. His support began to evaporate, however, when he made comments on radio suggesting that he had tolerated marijuana use in his unit while an army officer, allegedly prompting the Chief of the Defence Forces, Peter Cosgrove, to call him a "goose". While Cosgrove quickly backed away from the comment, it had nevertheless damaged his leadership. The final straw came when Burke refused to allow a conscience vote on the issue of lowering the age of consent for gay males from 18 years to 16. Mills promised Carney, Sue Carter, newcomer Fay Mills and Peter Maley that he would allow a conscience vote if elected leader which set the scene for Mills to launch a successful challenge to Burke's leadership at the next party wing meeting.

After being toppled as leader, Burke's political career seemed largely over. It had a sudden revival, however, when fourteen months later, Mills abruptly resigned from the leadership, stating he did not feel capable of leading the CLP into the election due that year. Burke nominated for the vacancy in the absence of anyone else, and was unanimously reelected on 7 February 2005. [7]

He was almost immediately faced with readying the CLP for an election that was called four months later. The CLP was roundly defeated, falling to only four seats in the 25-member legislature. In the most shocking result of all, Burke lost his own seat to ALP challenger James Burke (no relation). There was virtually no hint that Burke was in any danger, as it is almost unheard of for a major-party leader at any level in Australia to be defeated in his own seat. Indeed, it had happened only one other time in the Territory's history, when Goff Letts was ousted in his own seat in 1977 despite being Majority Leader (the equivalent of Chief Minister at the time). Additionally, Labor had never come close to winning any seat in Palmerston in the Assembly's history. Robertson Barracks, long a solid base of Army support for the CLP and particularly for Burke, had been redistributed out of the electorate. Even with the loss of the barracks, Burke still held Brennan with a seemingly insurmountable majority of 19 percent, making it the CLP's safest seat. However, James Burke rolled him on a 20-point swing, which came as a shock even to Labor. Burke had promised to resign if he failed to win the election, but his unseating forced the CLP to immediately replace him with Carney.

From 2007 to 2011 Burke worked in the United Arab Emirates as a high level Advisor to the Abu Dhabi Government.

He is married with two children, Sam Burke (a former prosecutor with the Department of Public Prosecutions and now Ministerial Advisor to the Northern Territory Attorney General) and Tom Burke (lawyer at global law firm Linklaters and based in Moscow). He also has two daughters from his first marriage, Lisa and Angela. His second wife, Annette, was elected Mayor of Palmerston in 1998 and resigned in 2007 after winning consecutive elections. The Burkes returned to the Northern Territory in 2012 and reside in Darwin.

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 David Carment (December 1999). "Political Chronicles: January to June 1999, Northern Territory". The Australian Journal of Politics and History. 45 (4): 605. doi:10.1111/1467-8497.00080.
  2. 1 2 Green, Antony (28 June 2005). "Brennan". Northern Territory Election 2005. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  3. David Carment (June 1999). "Political Chronicles: July to December 1998, Northern Territory". The Australian Journal of Politics and History. 45 (2): 300. doi:10.1111/1467-8497.00065.
  4. 1 2 David Carment (December 2000). "Political Chronicles: January to June 2000, Northern Territory". The Australian Journal of Politics and History. 46 (4): 602. doi:10.1111/1467-8497.00113.
  5. 1 2 David Carment (June 2001). "Political Chronicles, Northern Territory". The Australian Journal of Politics and History. 47 (2). doi:10.1111/1467-8497.00230.
  6. Murray McLaughlin (24 July 2001). "Burke guilty of contempt". 7.31 report transcript. ABC TV. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  7. Anne Barker (7 February 2005). "Denis Burke back as CLP leader". PM. ABC Radio. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
Political offices
Preceded by
Shane Stone
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
1999–2001
Succeeded by
Clare Martin
Preceded by
Clare Martin
Opposition Leader of the Northern Territory
2001–2003
Succeeded by
Terry Mills
Preceded by
Terry Mills
Opposition Leader of the Northern Territory
2005
Succeeded by
Jodeen Carney
Preceded by
Max Ortmann
Member for Brennan
1994–2005
Succeeded by
James Burke