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Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles has accused businessman politician Clive Palmer of trying to "purchase" the NT government by signing up three government defectors to his Palmer United Party.
On Sunday, Mr Palmer announced that Alison Anderson, Larisa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu – who quit the governing Country Liberal Party (CLP) last month to become independents – would now serve as PUP members.
With the CLP clinging to a one-seat majority in the Legislative Assembly, this leaves Mr Palmer on the verge of holding the balance of power in the NT as well as in the federal Senate from July.
"He is trying to buy as much government as he can and now he is here trying to purchase the Northern Territory government," Mr Giles said. "My message to Clive is clear: the Northern Territory is not for sale."
Mr Palmer said he had not offered any financial inducements for the three independents to join his party.
"They approached us – they liked our policies on indigenous affairs and the economy," he said. "Other Country Liberal MLAs have approached us about joining the party, too. We'll be targeting the balance of power [in the NT parliament] and the two federal seats as well."
Mr Palmer said he expects at least one government member to defect and join the PUP "within a month". He said he would use his votes to push for a greater focus on indigenous health and a re-examination of federal-Territory relations. He also wants more attention given to remote communities and towns such as Alice Springs.
Ms Anderson, who was originally a Labor politician before defecting to the CLP, will be the PUP's NT leader.
"It is an absolute fantastic time in the Territory's political history that we have a third alternative choice," she said.
Ms Anderson said she and her fellow ex-CLP members had joined the PUP because "it gives us comfort, stability, it gives us a home".
"Clive Palmer is certainly welcome in the NT; we want his wealth of knowledge in the NT," she said.
Asked about Ms Anderson's decision to join the PUP after previously serving as a minister in Labor and CLP governments, Prime Minister Tony Abbott's chief indigenous affairs adviser Warren Mundine said: "You've got to ask questions about her credibility."