BANG ON: Fireworks are seen over Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory at last year's celebration of Territory Day. It is the only day of the year Territorians can legally detonate crackers.
BANG ON: Fireworks are seen over Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory at last year's celebration of Territory Day. It is the only day of the year Territorians can legally detonate crackers. AAP/Lucy Hughes Jones

You'd be crackers not to join in

LAST weekend I was in Darwin for their annual cracker night. Officially it's called Territory Day, and 2018 marks 40 years of self-government, so this was going to be a big one.

But the real reason I went was because this is the last place left on the mainland where real people can buy and let off fireworks.

On July 1 it looks like almost every shop sells fireworks. This year they were on sale at supermarkets, pop-up shops in the city and there was even a gym that was selling them.

The fun starts with the names of the fireworks. For example, the NT Outlaw, Mindal Mayhem, Kakadu Kaos, Bad Neighbour, Grave Shaker and Territory Thunder, just to mention a few. Stocked-up people wait until just after the amazing sunset they have in the NT for the action to begin.

Before I had even left the hotel to find a place to broadcast my show on Sky News, the loud bangs rang out all over the city. They set off fireworks by the side of the road, in parks and, most beautifully, anywhere near the water.

These aren't little sparklers and fizzers, but bursts of colour they'd be proud of on New Year's Eve or Australia Day. Big, loud and, instead of the usual oohs and ahhs of tourists, you hear laughter, a giant release of pure joy.

Now the night is not without its problems and, yes, a few people get hurt. But as a rule, a couple of hundred thousand people enjoy the moment and seem to revel in the joy of being trusted to make their own fun.

This feeling was commonplace decades ago all over the country, but now it's limited to just one place for one day.

The day after the usual voices complain that the practice is best done away with, but for once, and seemingly just this once, a government says this is a tradition best sticking with for another year.

I strongly encourage you to be there next year. It's a giant celebration of this unique part of our country and a night I'll never forget.

So happy birthday to the Northern Territory and thank you to all those locals who let me let off a few bangs of my own in celebration.

Media boycott not about free press

It's hard to believe that anyone in the media would turn down the chance to cover a story, but that's exactly what parts of the Canberra media are planning to do.

This week the press gallery declared that if the ABC can't go to Nauru for the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum, then no one should go. Nauru won't give the ABC a pass to attend because they think the reporting of the Australian-funded, yet locally run, asylum seeker centres has been unfair.

While I think they have a case, given the scandalous claims they have made about local government officials, there is no way I support a free press being banned. But to respond by saying all free press will choose to ban themselves is ridiculous.

Let's be clear, if anyone but the ABC was banned, no one else would even think of putting this mass ban in place. But because most in Canberra dream of a gig for life in taxpayer-funded media, this is not about free press, it's career insurance.

Thankfully Sky News and the wider News Corporation family won't be going out on strike. We will be there to tell you what happens and to have a look at what's really going on in the detention centres.

Paul Murray is a broadcaster with Sky News who can be seen Sunday to Thursday 9-11pm on Paul Murray LIVE on FOXTEL.



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