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Eva Lawler chosen to replace Natasha Fyles as NT chief minister

NT Treasurer Eva Lawler has been chosen to replace Natasha Fyles as chief minister.

NT Treasurer Eva Lawler has been chosen to replace Natasha Fyles as chief minister. Photo: AAP

Northern Territory Treasurer Eva Lawler will be the next chief minister after Natasha Fyles was ousted over integrity issues.

Lawler released a statement late on Wednesday confirming she would be the next NT leader going into the 2024 territory election.

Attorney-General Chansey Paech will be her deputy, formally pushing Infrastructure Minister Joel Bowden and former deputy Nicole Manison out of the race.

“This afternoon the territory Labor Caucus met, unanimously deciding that the Member for Drysdale Eva Lawler will be Chief Minister,” the statement reads.

Manison, who was the only candidate to officially nominate, has been moved to the backbench.

“We thank Nicole for her hard work over the last seven years in cabinet, and the work that she has put into growing the Territory’s jobs and economy,” the statement said.

Manison took to Facebook to confirm she would continue as the member for Wanguri.

“Despite receiving very strong support to run as Chief, I have decided to support Eva,” she said.

“I know Eva has one of the proudest histories going as a Territorian and I know she will be an amazing new Chief.”

Manison’s latest nomination marks the second unsuccessful bid for the top job after she was beaten by Fyles last year.

She said she was looking forward to putting her family first and “needs to make way for the next generation of leaders”.

Fyles was spectacularly brought down as leader on Tuesday after revelations she held undisclosed shares in a remote manganese mine, while also refusing to investigate its potential health impacts.

She departs after 18 months in office.

Both Bowden and Manison were said to be scrambling earlier on Wednesday, after it was reported Lawler could have made a deal with left-aligned Paech.

Throughout Lawler’s tenure she has held the education, environment and infrastructure portfolios.

The former teacher first entered the NT legislative assembly in 2016, elected in the seat of Drysdale in Palmerston in Darwin’s outskirts.

Paech holds the Indigenous Affairs portfolio and also entered parliament in 2016 in the seat of Namatjira.

The former Alice Springs councillor is the only openly gay male MP in NT parliament.

Fyles’ manganese shares scandal was the latest in a string of integrity issues facing the chief minister and health minister.

“It was an error on my behalf and I don’t have any excuse for that,” she said when announcing her resignation.

“It was not deliberate, it was not intentional but it’s unacceptable.

The NT Independent revealed Fyles held undisclosed shares in South 32, which owns the GEMCO manganese mine in the remote community of Groote Eylandt.

Earlier in 2023, Fyles said the government would not investigate air pollution levels or health impacts after residents raised concerns over manganese dust in the community.

In November she was forced to divest shares in Woodside after media and federal politicians called into question potential conflicts of interest, in particular the government’s large-scale expansion of the NT gas industry.

Fyles is the third state or territory leader in Australia to resign in as many months and the fourth to step down in 2023.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk bowed out of politics in early December, following Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ resignation in late September.

Mark McGowan quit as WA Premier in May.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is the nation’s only leader whose time in office pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic.

-AAP

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