An instruction manual on how NOT to run a government

Authors Ben Smee and Christopher A Walsh are journalists who work for the Northern Territory News. They introduce Crocs in the Cabinet by saying that it is not a political book, but it is a book about politicians.

Within the pages are stories about the politicians from the Territory that make politicians from everywhere else look pretty tame by comparison. The authors cover the happenings of recent political history, documenting the scandals that saw the Country Liberal Party go from being the dominant political force to being annihilated at the polling booth. 

Territorian politics are unique because of the far-flung location, and the population mix. Many of the residents living away from Darwin are disadvantaged, and suffer overcrowded conditions and social problems as a result of their dependence on welfare payments. The authors inform that one in five people are employed in the public sector if you include the military personnel in the count. Another interesting fact is that for every dollar of GST collected in the Territory, the government receives $5.30 back. The authors allege that the bulk of the money is spent on stadiums and playgrounds in Darwin where the elections are won or lost, and does not make it out into the bush where it could be used to good effect. 

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The offices used by politicians are on the fifth floor of Parliament House. The ministerial suites all open out onto a balcony running around the top floor of the building. From this vantage point, there are magnificent views of Darwin Harbour. Every day, the ministerial press secretaries would meet early to plan the strategy for the day. They would discuss things like what was news in the paper that morning, and which ministers were holding press conferences. An expert was brought in at a cost of $20,000 to advise the staff, mostly comprised of young women, how to create better publicity for the party. They were shocked to be told that their problem was that they ‘hadn’t gotten their leg over a journalist.’

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By 2015, the public was largely disenchanted with the government. Politicians were unwilling to accept the blame themselves and lay it at the feet of their staff. This created a great environment for journalists because disenchanted staff were often willing to leak information to the press. The book is full of tales about the inappropriate behaviour of politicians, some of which are the original article which went to press in the Northern Territory News. One interesting story is about the politician who took her tax payer funded Toyota Prado out cattle duffing. The said politician was found sitting in the car while two young men chopped up the stolen cow where it had been killed. When the matter went to court, it was revealed that an unlicenced seventeen-year-old had driven the vehicle out of town for the job, because the politician was too drunk to drive. At the next election, she received a total of sixty votes, which demonstrates what her constituents thought of her criminal activity.

August 2016 saw the demise of the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory when they were swept from power at the ballot box. It sounds as though the Northern Territory News played a large part in holding politicians accountable throughout their term of government. The authors state that the party has some honourable supporters who were let down by a team who found it impossible to work together for the common good. If you enjoy books about real life characters, then this is a book that will please. If you’re not a Territorian and don’t know who the politicians are, it doesn’t really matter, just hang onto your hat as you take a ride through the political shenanigans of our northern neighbours. 

Crocs in the Cabinet (published by Hachette Australia) is available now from Dymocks. Click here to learn more.