Born in Queensland, he entered the Army in 1969, serving for 25 years and rising to Colonel of the Darwin-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment. His army tour of duty led to a stint with the United Nations peacekeeping and Observer forces in the Middle East in 1984-85 (in Beirut, Lebanon and the Sinai peninsula in Egypt).
In 1994 he left the army and entered politics, winning election to the Territory Parliament as an MP from Brennan for the Country Liberal Party (CLP). He held a number of ministerial portfolios in government from 1994 through 2001, and served as Chief Minister from 1999 through 2001, before the CLP's loss in the 2001 elections. Since then he has served as the Leader of the Opposition.