Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
New chief minister to hit ‘ground running’

Natasha Fyles is the Northern Territory’s new chief minister following Michael Gunner’s surprise resignation, becoming the second woman to lead the NT.

May 13, 2022

A former school teacher is the Northern Territory’s new chief minister following Michael Gunner’s surprise resignation.

Former health minister Natasha Fyles, 43, was elected by Labor’s 14-member caucus on Friday following days of behind-the-scenes wrangling between the party’s left and right factions.

“I’m a territory girl through and through. I’ve put my hand up to serve because I love this place. I want to work every day to make it better,” she told reporters.

“I will hit the ground running. I’ve proven to Territorians that I can work incredibly hard and I can balance the commitments that I have with a family.”

Ms Fyles said the caucus unanimously supported her following passionate and respectful discussions.

She was sworn in by the territory’s administrator on Friday afternoon.

Cabinet will remain the same for the next week of parliamentary sittings with Ms Fyles adding Mr Gunner’s portfolios, including treasury, to the health ministry.

A new leadership team and cabinet will be selected the week after, with changes expected.

Ms Fyles, from the left faction, entered parliament in 2012. She is the second woman to be appointed chief minister after Labor’s Clare Martin in 2001, and the third to lead Territory Labor.

The mother of two is just the second of the NT’s 12 chief ministers to be born in the territory since the Legislative Assembly’s first election in 1974.

The change of leadership from right-aligned Mr Gunner to the left is likely to lead to policy adjustments, concerning social and environmental issues.

“We do need to make changes. We need to keep making sure we keep delivering on those economic opportunities that we have,” Ms Fyles said.

“But I won’t be neglecting those social challenges we have here in the territory. The crime and anti-social behaviour, it’s a big job and we know we have to change … housing, education, absolutely that will be a key focus.”

Asked if the government’s pro-gas fracking stance would remain, Ms Fyles said her focus would be ensuring a recent inquiry’s recommendations into the gas industry and environment were implemented and upheld.

Political economist Rolf Gerritsen said the NT government’s debt woes would make it difficult to expand the delivery of social policies.

“There’s not much room for a territory government to move,” he said.

Opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro said Ms Fyles was a “different clown in the same ridiculous Labor circus”.

“Territorians will continue to suffer under a Labor government with no vision and no plan for the future,” she said.

“(They) will continue driving the Territory’s economy into the ground and racking up $9 billion of debt that will take generations of Territorians to pay back.”

Mr Gunner’s right faction-aligned deputy, Nicole Manison, was expected to be selected for the chief minister’s job, with Ms Fyles as her likely deputy.

She took to social media to congratulate her “dear friend” Ms Fyles, saying: “She will do a great job leading our team”.

“I am incredibly proud of her,” she said in show of party unity.

Mr Gunner, 46, stood down on Tuesday moments after handing down the NT budget, saying his head and heart were no longer in the job.

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