Northern Territory should reunify with SA, Vickie Chapman tells parliament in farewell speech

South Australia and the Northern Territory may have parted ways more than 110 years ago but a former attorney-general is urging the jurisdictions to let bygones be bygones and formally re-embrace like “Germany after the Berlin Wall came down”.

Outgoing SA Liberal MP Vickie Chapman used her valedictory speech in state parliament to float the idea for reunification between the state and the territory, suggesting such a move would be of mutual benefit.

“It has long been my view, often to the chagrin of my colleagues, that we should explore the reunification of the Northern Territory with South Australia,” Ms Chapman told SA parliament.

“We gave it away in 1907, the Commonwealth accepted it in 1910.

“Reunification was achieved in Germany after the Berlin Wall came down, so surely we can do it — before Queensland jumps in.”

A photo from 1989 showing a huge crowd of people standing on the Berlin Wall, helping people below get up
Ms Chapman invoked the moment of German reunification in 1989, when the Berlin Wall was torn down. (Wikimedia Commons: Sue Ream)

The term “Northern Territory” once referred to the “Northern Territory of South Australia” and the landmass was formally annexed by its southern neighbour in the 1860s, before being ceded to the fledgling Commonwealth almost 50 years later.

“The Northern Territory has resources and is strategically placed to the north of Australia with security infrastructure,” Ms Chapman continued.

“It has water, liquid gas, gold and a youthful population.

“South Australia can provide opportunities for their statehood, employment, higher education and a commercial base that will assist Territorians, not to mention our nation-leading growth in the cyber defence and space sectors.”

SA Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman at a parliamentary committee.
Ms Chapman used her valedictory speech to refloat the idea of reunification.(ABC News)

Ms Chapman, who served as attorney-general and deputy premier from March 2018 to November 2021, announced her decision to quit parliament shortly after the Liberals’ election defeat in March this year, triggering an upcoming by-election in her inner Adelaide seat of Bragg.

Colleagues from both sides of the political divide paid tribute to the Liberal moderate faction stalwart, including former premier Steven Marshall, who spoke of a “leadership partnership” the like of which “the Liberal Party has never seen before”.

“I’ve quipped in this place before that the relationship that I’ve had with the Member for Bragg is twice the length of my marriage,” he said.

“I can’t tell you the number of occasions she saved my bacon, sitting in the chair now occupied by the Premier.”

SA Environment Minister Susan Close.
Deputy Premier Susan Close praised her predecessor’s “progressive politics”.(ABC News)

Deputy Premier Susan Close recalled the moment when, after her own maiden speech a decade ago, Ms Chapman had approached her and another new Labor MP.

“The Member for Bragg came over and was at pains to say she welcomed us as women in this chamber and if we had any issues that we were to go to her, that she was there for us as much as any other female member — and we’ve never forgotten that,” she told parliament.

Labor minister Tom Koutsantonis described Ms Chapman as “a formidable opponent” who was both “strong and determined” in her pursuit of political outcomes.

“I think of someone who has been probably been the most determined opponent we’ve ever faced in the 20 years I’ve been here,” he said.

“She’s someone who should probably have led her party but never did. I often wonder what would have happened if she had led her party, whether things would have been different.”

Young MP reflects on witness protection

While Ms Chapman was drawing the curtain down on her 20-year career as an MP, there were also maiden speeches, including from new Legislative Council member Laura Curran.

The 26-year-old Liberal MP spoke of the time her family had spent in witness protection because of her father’s work, before her family moved to the Middle East.

“I spent my adolescent years growing up in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia — at the time, a nation of great societal limitations, particularly for women,” she said.

“As a woman living in that place, I was not allowed to drive a car, let alone put my hand up for public office.”

SA state Liberal MP Laura Curran.
Laura Curran reflected on her time in Saudi Arabia, as well as the experience of witness protection.(Facebook)

Ms Curran said her father’s work for NSW Police had forced the family into witness protection when a “threat was identified against my family”.

“When I was five years old, my father had been working undercover for the New South Wales Police, infiltrating bikie gangs, murder suspects and other criminal organisations,” she told parliament.

“One of my earliest memories as a child is of officers evacuating us from our home, being taken by a convoy of police cars in the middle of the night and being shuffled from safe house to safe house.”

Ms Curran said that becoming only the 23rd female member — out of a total of more than 270 — in the history of the Legislative Council was both an honour and an opportunity.

“I hope that across our great state that young girls and women will look upon our parliament as we continue to see more women elected, and feel inspired,” she said.