Joe Biden Will Strength The U.S.-South Korea Alliance, But Is That Best For America?

Editor’s Note: As Election Day rapidly approaches, and with it, a potential change of presidential administration, the Center for the National Interest’s Korean Studies team decided to ask dozens of the world’s top experts a simple question: If Joe Biden wins come November, what do you expect his North Korea policy to look like? The below piece is an answer to that question. Please click here to see even more perspectives on this important topic.

In an era of profound flux in American foreign policy, there’s one realm in which U.S. strategy has shown relative continuity: Washington’s approach to North Korean nuclear weapons. Since North Korea tested its first nuclear device in 2006, Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump adopted broadly similar strategies: deterrence to prevent war, and diplomacy (pursued along with America’s South Korean ally) to slow or reverse Pyongyang’s weapons program. Although American leaders often declared that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are “intolerable,” three consecutive administrations determined that deterrence and diplomacy were the least terrible of various terrible options.

In some key respects, the U.S. strategy has been successful. Deterrence has occasionally wobbled; at times North Korea used violence against the South, and Washington itself contemplated preventive strikes. Yet so far both Pyongyang and Washington have backed away from war. Diplomacy, too, has had some successes. Although American officials have not succeeded in talking Pyongyang into giving up its arsenal, diplomacy at times has led to testing moratoriums, ratcheted down tensions, and delayed North Korea’s technological progress.

A Biden administration—given Biden’s experience with the Obama policy of “strategic patience”—would likely adopt its own version of this policy of deterrence and diplomacy. A Biden policy would feel a lot different from the Trump administration approach; Trump came in with “fire and fury”—elevating the risk of war on the peninsula—and then veered to conciliation via summit diplomacy. Biden, however, would likely steer clear of both extremes of threat and conciliation. Given Biden’s temperament, experience, foreign policy team, and most importantly, because his energies will be focused elsewhere (on managing one of the worst domestic crises in American history), changes to U.S. North Korea policy will likely be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

This may be a mistake. Continuity in U.S. policy toward the Korean peninsula is remarkable given dramatic changes in East Asia, America’s strategic position, and North Korean nuclear capabilities.

Pyongyang has made significant progress in developing long-range delivery systems that could reach the United States. North Korea’s long-range nuclear capabilities are still maturing, but the threat they pose to American cities if war erupts demands that the United States re-evaluate whether an alliance with South Korea continues to advance U.S. interests. The American people deserve to hear from their leaders and from the U.S. foreign policy elite why an alliance that puts American cities in North Korea’s crosshairs is worth the horrific risks.

It’s likely that Pyongyang developed its intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities in great part to weaken the U.S.-ROK alliance. So ending that alliance would be giving North Korea, at least in this domain, exactly what it wants. It’s possible, too, that although Beijing publicly opposes North Korea’s nuclear program, China hoped it would create a wedge between Seoul and Washington. Reevaluating an alliance with a valued partner, to the delight of one’s adversaries, would be a bitter pill indeed.

That said, the facts are what they are. North Korea has, or is on the threshold of attaining, the ability to destroy several American cities. In the event of war—which could break out any time—Pyongyang would have sound strategic reasons to use nuclear weapons. Americans thus need to debate, do the stakes on the Korean peninsula, or the value of an alliance with South Korea, justify risking the survival of the United States? America ran that terrible risk to protect Europe during the Cold War. It’s not clear that running that risk to protect South Korea makes sense today.

Americans may decide that maintaining an alliance and nuclear umbrella with South Korea still makes sense. After all, South Korea is a wealthy, thriving, and creative nation, a valued friend and democratic partner, and a militarily capable ally. And perhaps South Korea—seeking to make itself a more valuable ally—will step up: join (expand) the “Quad,” cooperate with Japan, and thereby partner in the U.S-led effort to manage China’s rise. The American people may thus decide that the partnership with Seoul is so valuable that it justifies accepting real risks of nuclear war. But the current in-between position—that Seoul is not with the United States in its critical regional mission vis-à-vis China, but expects the United States to risk its survival on South Korea’s behalf—would be (and should be) a tough sell to the American people. 

Biden has castigated the Trump administration for weakening U.S. alliances and has declared his administration would recommit to those relationships. “I’m going to let South Korea and Japan know we’re there for them,” he said. “We are their nuclear umbrella. We’re there for them.” This doesn’t sound like a leader who plans to preside over a major reorientation of American grand strategy and alliances. To be sure, the end of Trump-era erraticism would be a welcome change. But at least in this one realm, it’s unclear whether continuity in the longtime policy is a good thing. A debate is overdue.

Jennifer Lind is an associate professor of government at Dartmouth, and the author of Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics. Follow her on Twitter @profLind.

Daryl Press is an associate professor of government at Dartmouth, and the author of Calculating Credibility: How Leaders Assess Military Threats (Cornell, 2005).

Image: Reuters.

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Territory Alliance ‘came in like a wrecking ball’ in the NT election, CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro says

Country Liberal Party leader Lia Finocchiaro says the NT’s new political party Territory Alliance “came in like a wrecking ball” ahead of Saturday’s election, confusing voters and costing her party votes.

As counting continued on Tuesday, the CLP was sitting on at least four seats, with potential wins in Braitling in Alice Springs and Brennan in Palmerston, compared to Labor’s 13.

The Territory Alliance has not won any seats although Robyn Lambley is still in the race to retain Araluen in Alice Springs.

Six seats remain too close to call.

On election night, CLP senator Sam McMahon said Territory Alliance had “directly handed the Northern Territory another four years of Labor” by choosing to preference the Government above the Opposition in Port Darwin, Drysdale and Braitling.

Ms Finocchiaro said the criticism was “a very fair assessment”.

ABC chief election analyst Antony Green said final preference flow results were yet to be revealed but he considered it a step too far to blame Territory Alliance preferences for the CLP loss.

“You could point to Drysdale and Port Darwin and say, ‘Territory Alliance preferences helped Labor over the line’ [but] I’m not convinced of that,” he said.

“Apart from those seats where they directed preferences to Labor, it’s a bit hard to say the Territory Alliance cost the CLP the election.”

TA ‘complicated’ the election: Green

But Green said having a third party in the race had made things more difficult for the Opposition.

“There were two parties, that did complicate the campaign — it made it harder for the Country Liberals to get its message across with another party in the field,” he said.

The Northern Territory election is the first general election to be held in Australia amid the coronavirus pandemic.(ABC News)

Ms Finocchiaro said voters had been “confused” by the Territory Alliance proposition.

But she said the overall result meant there would now be a “strong opposition” in NT Parliament.

“Territorians deserve a strong opposition, they need that alternative voice,” she said.

“We provide that conservative baseline for people to look towards, we provide that alternative policy position and voice.”

In his first appearance since the Government’s 13-seat majority was declared on Monday, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he was “stoked” to be returned to the NT’s top role.

He flagged an inclination to “back in” the current Cabinet but said he would wait until the final votes were tallied before confirming the new ministry.

At least one ministerial role is open because of the retirement of Barky MLA and Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy.

Mr Gunner said things were looking “very tough” for Dale Wakefield as counting continued in the Alice Springs seat of Braitling.

“Once I know who everybody in the team is, I will then talk to the team and we will look at announcing the new cabinet,” he said.

Yesterday Territory Alliance’s Jeff Collins, who lost his seat of Fong Lim in the election, said he still believed in his party’s vision.

Territory Alliance was formed last year to offer what it called an alternative to the NT’s two major parties however the fledging party crashed at the polls, with leader Terry Mills also losing his seat of Blain.

“It was always going to be difficult being that new third party, what we needed to do was garner votes from those formally welded-on CLP or ALP voters.

“I don’t see how we can continue on with the way the two parties have treated the electorate over the last 20 years and I don’t see how it’s going to change.”

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Northern Territory election: Terry Mills loses seat on devastating night for Territory Alliance

The Territory Alliance leader and long-serving MLA Terry Mills has lost the seat of Blain on a disastrous night for his fledgling party.

With more than 60 per cent of the vote counted, the ABC’s election computer predicts the Country Liberal Party’s Matthew Kerle will narrowly defeat Labor’s Mark Turner to claim the seat.

Mr Mills’s first preference vote is hovering behind both candidates at about 23 per cent.

Within hours of the polls closing, ABC election analyst Antony Green said it would be impossible for Mr Mills to retain the seat.

Mr Mills told ABC News he would not yet formally concede the seat but could “see plainly what appears to be the case”.

He attributed the surprise loss to the difficulty of establishing a new party during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Mills served as the Country Liberal Party member for Blain from 1999 to 2014, a year after he was rolled as Chief Minister.

He was narrowly elected in the seat again as an independent in the 2016 NT election and founded Territory Alliance in 2019, adding sitting MLAs Robyn Lambley and Jeff Collins to the party before taking 21 candidates into the 2020 election.

Handful of votes decide party’s remaining hope

The shock loss of its leader was one of many disappointments for the new party.

It captured 47 per cent of the two-party preferred vote in the Johnston by-election earlier this year and entered the electoral race with its sights set on forming government.

But at the end of a night of counting, Territory Alliance had failed to break the two-party stronghold.

It remains uncertain if any of its three sitting members will be returned.

Mr Collins acknowledged it would be “incredibly difficult” for him to retain his seat of Fong Lim in Darwin.

With nearly 60 per cent of the vote counted, the former Labor MLA is in third place with 353 votes.

The Labor candidate for Fong Lim Mark Monaghan is slightly ahead of CLP rival Kylie Bonanni on the two-party preferred count.

“You live by the sword, you die by the sword,” Mr Collins said.

“The people of Fong Lim have spoken and I’ve accepted their decision.”

The party’s deputy campaign manager, Delia Lawrie, also blamed the coronavirus pandemic for the party’s bruising result.

“You can’t form a party in September and — under a pandemic where people are so scared about how they are going to be kept safe — expect a major change in the political landscape,” she said.

But she insisted the party would not “disappear off the political landscape” and said Araluen MLA Robyn Lambley would likely lead the outfit if she retained her seat.

Two politicians standing in front of parliament house Darwin
Robyn Lambley (left) remains the party’s only hope at parliamentary representation.(ABC News: Christopher Walsh)

With 65 per cent of the vote counted in that seat, Ms Lambley is currently ahead of the CLP’s Damien Ryan by just 13 votes on a two-party preferred count.

“I always knew this would be a very tight context with this CLP candidate,” Ms Lambley said.

“To some extent I foresaw this happening, but not to the extent of 13 votes — that’s a bit of a shock.”

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Territory Alliance leader’s seat in jeopardy amid 2020 election

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Manjhi rocks grand alliance boat, Lalu ‘samdhi’ joins JD(U) | India News

PATNA: In a setback for the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan in Bihar, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi announced on Thursday that his Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) would break away from the opposition alliance and look for an alternative ahead of the assembly polls in the state. Party sources, however, denied its merger with the JD(U).
The party decided to part ways with the Magathbandhan at a meeting of the HAM(S) core group held here on Thursday. Party chief Manjhi, a Mahadalit leader, was also authorized at the meeting to decide the future course of action, including reaching an alliance with another political group.
The development came even as three RJD MLAs, including Chandrika Rai – party chief Lalu Prasad’s relative – joined JD(U) on Thursday.
Chandrika is father of Aishwarya Rai, who is married to Lalu’s elder son and former health minister Tej Pratap. Two other MLAs who joined JD(U) are Jaivardhan Yadav and Faraz Fatmi. On Monday, three RJD MLAs — Maheshwar Prasad Yadav, Prema Choudhary and Ashok Kumar — had joined the JD(U).
Soon after the meeting of HAM(S) members, party spokesperson Danish Rizwan said, “It was decided at the meeting of the core group not to stay any longer with the Mahagathbandhan as it ignored our main demands. The Mahaganthbandhan constituents deliberately ignored our top leaders.”
HAM(S) would decide on allying with another political group in the next few days, he said, denying reports of a merger with JD(U).
Speculation was rife over Manjhi switching over to NDA ever since his relations with the Mahagathbandhan, especially RJD, got strained over its repeated demand for setting up of a coordination committee to decide seat sharing and CM candidate of the Mahagathbandhan.
Manjhi had contested the 2015 assembly election as part of the NDA and got 20 seats to fight from. However, it won only one and forfeited sureties on many of the seats. The JD(U), led by CM Nitish Kumar, was then part of the Mahagathbandhan, which consisted of RJD, JD(U) and Congress. In 2017, Nitish left the Mahagathbandhan and formed the government with the BJP and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
The NDA will get another Mahadalit face ahead of the assembly election if Manjhi joins the alliance.

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Territory Alliance turns down NT Treasury offer to get election promise costings assessed

Territory Alliance — one of two major parties vying to topple Labor in the Northern Territory election — says it will not be putting its election promise costings forward to the NT Treasury for assessment.

Party leader Terry Mills previously supported the idea, but blamed “scarce resources” for the recent about-face.

He said he would prefer to focus on “getting our policies right”.

“Aside from not having the dozen or so government paid staff the CLP has and the scores that Labor has, it’s a bit hard to take seriously the offer from Treasury when we haven’t been provided with a 20/21 Budget,” Mr Mills said.

“Now for a party that didn’t exist 12 months ago, of course it would be ideal if we were able to present all of our costings to Treasury, however, if government is not able to live up to its own budget, nor provided a budget in fact, I think that is the deeper concern,” he said.

“But everything we have said is framed on the need for a fiscal stimulus for the Northern Territory, we can’t cut our way out of this, this is not the time for austerity measures.”

The NT Government has delayed the release of its budget until months after Saturday’s election, citing uncertainties related to the coronavirus crisis.

A financial update released late last month predicted the territory’s net debt would balloon from $6.9 billion to $8.2 billion this financial year.

On the same day Mr Mills promised Territory Alliance would get its election commitments assessed.

“Yes of course we will, I think it’s important because the essential part of this is to make sure that Territorians can trust those that they elect to lead them through this very challenging path ahead,” Mr Mills said on July 29.

CLP misses initial deadline

An NT Treasury spokeswoman said the department wrote to all major parties offering to assess their election commitment costings.

All parties were initially expected to respond to Treasury’s offer by last Friday, but that was extended after the Country Liberals missed the deadline.

Country Liberals leader Lia Finocchiaro said on Monday the party had not received the offer from Treasury, but the party later confirmed there had been a mix-up.

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro has been a vocal critic of Territory Labor’s financial management.(ABC News: Callum McLaughlin)

“I’ve only been made aware in the last couple of days that we received the letter,” Ms Finocchiaro said on Wednesday morning.

“Of course we will prepare all of that information and submit it to Treasury.”

The CLP had until Wednesday afternoon to submit its figures.

It was Ms Finocchiaro who initially pushed for clarity about the costings process from the chief executive of the Chief Minister’s Department, Jodie Ryan, at a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee in late July.

“The Under-Treasurer will write to the leader of all three parties so the Labor Party, the Country Liberal Party and Territory Alliance and ask if you would like to provide him with a list of your election commitments and costings,” Ms Ryan said at the time.

Labor said it did not need to get its commitments separately costed because they were all contained in last month’s financial update.

“Our election commitment costings are already out,” a spokeswoman for Treasurer Nicole Mansion said.

Treasury said it would use “all endeavours” to publish its assessment of the party costings on Thursday, two days before final polling on Saturday.

More than 42 per cent of NT voters had cast their ballots through early, remote and postal voting by the end of Wednesday.

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Manjhi’s HAM quits Grand Alliance in Bihar ahead of polls | India News

PATNA: Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) on Thursday quit the Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) but preferred to remain mum on future tie-up with any party or grouping.
“HAM will no longer be a constituent of the grand alliance. The party has decided to leave mahagathbandhan,” party spokesman Danish Rizwan told reporters here.
The decision to walk out of the five parties opposition coalition in Bihar was taken at the party’s “core committee” meeting convened at Manjhi’s residence here, Rizwan said.
The development comes months before the state is expected to go to polls in October-November.
The party, however, did not announce whether it would merge with any other party or become part of some other alliance.
The party has authorised its president to decide the future course of action that included decision to join any alliance or formation, Rizwan said, adding whatever decision he takes will be acceptable to all.
Apart from HAM, the mahagathbandhan in Bihar comprises RJD, Congress, Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and Bollywood set designer Mukesh Sahni headed Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP).
Asked if HAM would merge with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), Rizwan rejected the idea and asserted that “there is no question of merging with any other party.”
Holding RJD responsible for its failure to form a coordination committee within the grand alliance for its better functioning, the HAM leader said, “leaders who do not listen to the constituent partners, will they listen to the people after coming to power?”
His barb was apparently directed at Lalu Prasad’s headed RJD, which has declared Tejashwi Prasad Yadav as its chief ministerial candidate.
“Our leader Jitan Ram Manjhi ji has categorically stated that there is no point in continuing with the alliance which does not follow democratic norms and listen to its partners,” Rizwan said.
Even Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said during a virtual meeting of his party in the state recently that a coordination committee would be formed within a week, but nothing happened, he added.
Even though the idea of a coordination committee was supported by Kushwaha and the VIP party president, but the RJD leadership did not bother to take any action in this regard, he said.
Manjhi had quit the NDA in February 2018 and joined the grand alliance. The party had unsuccessfully contested three Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general election with the opposition grouping.
Earlier, Manjhi had quit the JD(U) in 2015 after being forced to step down as the chief minister to make way for the return of Nitish Kumar. He later formed HAM and joined NDA.
After Nitish Kumar returned to NDA in July 2017, Manjhi broke ranks with the ruling alliance and became part of the opposition formation.

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Country Liberals election comeback under threat in Katherine from coronavirus and Territory Alliance

Katherine small business owner Jocelyn Dunning is hoping for a change of government.

Her trucking operation shifts freight from Darwin and Katherine to remote communities.

She is tired of waiting for upgrades to the remote dirt roads her trucks rattle along every day and thinks Labor has neglected the region while pouring cash into the capital.

“Just look at the money that’s been spent on Garramilla Boulevard — how many millions did that cost for a waste of a piece of road?” she asked.

She thinks property crime in Katherine is another unsolved problem and does not believe the government’s plans will fix it.

But it’s not a Country Liberals comeback she is hoping for when Territorians go to the polls this month.

She’s interested in new party Territory Alliance and thinks they have “some great policies”.

Government’s handling of coronavirus an issue

Before the last election, the Country Liberals had won every poll in Katherine since the seat was created three decades ago.

They lost it in a 13 per cent swing in the party’s Territory-wide wipe-out in 2016.

But Labor’s Sandra Nelson only won with the help of preferences and is now retiring after one term in office.

With a margin of just 1.6 per cent, Katherine is one of the key seats the Country Liberals have been hoping to reclaim in their attempted comeback from near-annihilation.

But they were not counting on the emergence of the Territory Alliance or the COVID-19 curveball.

Government subsidies and vouchers have helped keep the doors open at Annabel Curtain’s tourism business.(ABC News: Jane Bardon)

Labor’s handling of the pandemic has won praise from many, including tourism business owner Annabel Curtain.

The border closures and travel restrictions would have shut down her outback experience shows that normally attract interstate and international visitors.

But subsidies from both the federal and NT governments and Labor’s tourism voucher scheme are helping her hang on.

“We received support through the Small Business Survival and Revival funds, and the operational boosts, which have been amazing,” Ms Curtain said.

Labor’s Kate Ganley only entered the race in June after a long search for a replacement for Sandra Nelson.

But the former HR consultant and electorate officer is hoping the government’s management of the health crisis and immediate economic impacts will help her keep the seat.

Even the town’s mayor, Fay Miller, who held the seat for the Country Liberals, thinks Labor’s COVID management — as well as a divided conservative vote — has improved the government’s chances.

A woman carrying a sandwich board sign that says 'Door knocking now, Jo Hersey'
Jo Hersey says the Country Liberals have “fresh, grassroots” candidates running in the election.(ABC News: Jane Bardon)

Could the CLP stage a come-back in Katherine?

The Country Liberals candidate is local hairdressing business owner Jo Hersey.

Her task is to win back voters who dumped the party at the last election, when the primary vote in Katherine halved.

Jo Hersey thinks the Country Liberals have shaken off the reputational damage done by scandals in the party’s last term in office.

“I don’t think we need to be focussing on the past. We have fresh, grassroots people coming into the election in August,” she said.

She thinks community concern about the economy, government debt and crime will return Katherine to the Country Liberals.

The opposition says its $4 million commitment to upgrade the Katherine Museum will help boost tourism and it has promised a feasibility study into a bike path to Katherine Gorge.

Kate Ganley talks up Labor’s tourism spending in the region including at Nitmiluk National Park, increased funding for youth diversion and the construction of new public housing.

Labor and the Country Liberals are united on the key issue that sets the Territory Alliance apart — plans to frack in the Beetaloo Basin, for which Katherine would be the frontline service hub.

The NT town of Katherine, seen from the air
Labor holds Katherine on a margin of just 1.6 per cent.(Getty Images: Manfred Gottschalk)

Fracking and infrastructure emerge as key issues

Territory Alliance candidate Melanie Usher says the party’s promise to ban fracking is being well-received even among conservative voters.

Ms Usher counts herself as a conservative and her recruitment to Territory Alliance was the talk of the town in June.

A long-term Country Liberals member and staffer to federal senator Sam McMahon, she jumped ship after missing out on Country Liberals pre-selection.

She said the decision to sign up with ex-Country Liberals chief minister Terry Mills came on the urging of “just an incredible number” of Katherine voters and a sense that her old party was “taking Katherine for granted, as a given”.

The new party has promised more money for Katherine than the other two outfits combined — the high school would be among the first prioritised in a school infrastructure program funded by $100 million in borrowings.

Katherine mayor and Country Liberals stalwart Fay Miller says she is ready to work with whoever wins government.

But she voices concern about a potential split in the conservative vote.

“I am a conservative voter and people know that, but I have to say, Labor has stuck together through thick and thin, and the conservatives still manage to haggle,” she said.

A preference swap is now locked in between the Country Liberals and Territory Alliance and neither party has ruled out a coalition to form government.

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Transport Hall of Fame would get money from a Territory Alliance government


A Territory Alliance government would give a grant of $750,000 to the National Road Transport Hall of Fame which the Gunner Government put into statutory management last year, giving administrative issues as the reason and saying the Hall would need to rely on its own resources.

The statutory manager, Adelaide law firm Rosey Batt and Associates, is involved in protracted legal action with Liz Martin (pictured), the hall’s former manager and driving force.

The Alice Springs News has been unable to obtain, from the lawyers and the NT Government, financial information about the hall’s current management.

We have learned that at the time of the take-over the hall had $300,000 in the bank.

The government told the News in August last year the Associations Act provides “that the expenses of and incidental to the conduct of the affairs of an association by a statutory manager are payable from the association’s funds”.

In December the government said: “Ms Batt’s fees are confidential, as is the current bank balance of the Road Transport Historical Society.

“The Northern Territory Government has not contributed any public funds to the Association in the period since Ms Batt was appointed statutory manager.”

The hall had operated during decades of growth under mostly volunteer management, and gained national recognition.

The potential grant from the Territory Alliance “towards preserving [the hall and] ensuring this iconic and major attraction does not close and compliance building issues can be fixed” was announced by the party’s candidate for Braitling, Dale McIver, who also outlined other key proposals for the tourism industry of Central Australia which is gearing up for a crucial strategy meeting this week.

A commitment of $5m will build the Kwatja water park for children, which the Gunner Government has planned (for in or near the CBD) but “not delivered,” says Ms McIver, the former CEO of Tourism Central Australia.

The awkwardly located Visitor Information Centre will be repositioned where “large vehicle parking, public toilets and ample room for information displays and staff” will be available. TA is committing $500,000 to this purpose.

The same amounts will go into bilingual signage providing connection to “local culture and language” and into upgrades of Anzac Hill / Untyeyettwele.

“We want to make Alice an RV friendly town,” says Ms McIver.

“With over 50% of travellers arriving via road – pre-COVID – it is important that we provide the appropriate amenities.

“This will be done in collaboration with the Alice Springs Town Council.”

Installation of fast charge points for electric vehicles are also planned.

A major $300m will go to NT tourism operators, including $150m quarantined for regional businesses outside of Darwin.

“We will provide a tourism investment fund to assist in the upgrading and modernisation of existing facilities and expand the tourism voucher scheme to include interstate travellers.”

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Territory Alliance flags return of forced alcohol rehab program ahead of NT election

New political party Territory Alliance has drawn criticism from the drug and alcohol rehabilitation sector for the second time in the Northern Territory election campaign, after flagging the potential return of forced treatment for people with alcohol addiction.

Leader Terry Mills says a Territory Alliance government would “unpack” the possible return of the controversial Alcohol Mandatory Treatment program, saying Labor’s alcohol reforms lacked focus on individuals with drinking problems.

Under the former Country Liberals government program, anyone taken into protective custody for intoxication three times in two months could be forced into rehabilitation for up to 12 weeks.

“We’ve been down this pathway before,” Peter Burnheim, executive officer with the Association of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies NT (AADANT) said.

“The evaluation found that the treatment program had failed to achieve its aims and that it had been quite an expensive experiment.

A Country Liberal Party spokesman said the Opposition would review the policy and consider “additional measures to support problem drinkers” if elected.

A 2017 evaluation found the mandatory treatment program was not producing sustained health benefits and was failing to reach people with the most severe alcohol problems.

The initiative was axed after the last election, when the Labor Government embarked on its Riley review of alcohol policy and reinstated the Banned Drinker Register (BDR) as well as introducing a floor price on alcohol.

‘Gradual shift’ in policy ahead

In a reversal of a previous alcohol policy position, Mr Mills said he would keep the BDR in place if Territory Alliance was successful at next weekend’s election.

Mr Mills said “lessons had been learned” since he abolished a previous version of the BDR when he became chief minister in the incoming Country Liberals government in 2012.

But he said the policy would eventually be re-examined as resources were shifted away from population-wide measures to reduce alcohol-related harm.

“I think it’s important that we move in a gradual manner, with the community with us, to change the focus and the resourcing and the response to those who actually have a problem with alcohol.”

Mr Mills’ deputy Robyn Lambley said the party would roll out a “modified version” of the mandatory alcohol treatment program if elected, citing concerns about the expense of the program amid the constrained NT budget situation.

She also said the party would review the operation of the Liquor Commission licensing body created on the recommendation of the Riley review.

But AADANT also disputed Ms Lambley’s claim on ABC Radio Alice Springs that there had been “a distinct and dramatic cut in alcohol rehabilitation services” during Labor’s term in office.

“This is inaccurate — since 2017, there has been an increase in funding for AOD treatment services through the delivery of Commonwealth funding through the Northern Territory [Primary Health Network],” the organisation said in a statement.

The peak body’s comments follow its criticism of the Territory Alliance policy on ice addiction released earlier this month, which consists of a proposal for a new dedicated methamphetamine rehab facility in greater Darwin.

AADANT said the party had not discussed the proposal with the sector prior to making the election promise and said there was no call for an additional, separate rehabilitation facility.

Mr Burnheim said he was urging election contenders to consult on their policy proposals and keep the major alcohol reforms in place until evaluations were complete.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has written to all parties running in the election lobbying them to maintain the floor price, which is an Australian first and yet to be fully evaluated.

Country Liberals leader Lia Finocchiaro has said she would review the BDR if the opposition wins government, and repeal the floor price.

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