The CLP Opposition have called on Chief Minister Michael Gunner to release Cabinet documents relating to the approval of $12 million of taxpayer money for the Darwin Turf Club’s grandstand, following the ICAC’s report into the scandal, and to explain which minister took the unscrutinised submission to Cabinet.
CLP spokeswoman for racing Marie-Clare Boothby rejected Mr Gunner’s previous claims that he and his ministers had done nothing wrong and called on him to get rid of “the cloud of corruption” hanging over his government.
“It is unclear in this report whether the ministers received any kind of scrutiny and what their conduct was as part of that Darwin Turf Club $12 million spend,” she said.
“The Chief Minister said he’s happy to cooperate with any ICAC investigations, so … we are asking him to release the Cabinet papers from that meeting and … at the very least, [disclose] which minister it was that brought that recommendation to the Cabinet meeting.”
The NT Independent revealed last week that a friend of Mr Gunner’s who was on the Darwin Turf Club board had told the board days after the funding was approved in June 2019 that Mr Gunner had successfully convinced Cabinet to approve the funds by taking the decision “out of certain people’s hands”.
Local businessman James Herraman, who is also Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison’s brother-in-law, told the board that Mr Gunner needed to be acknowledged for the “smart move”, adding that Mr Gunner had “found the solution to get it through Cabinet … ’cause it was looking like it was going to be an issue”.
Mr Gunner has refused to answer questions about the comments, which were confirmed on recordings of the Turf Club board’s meeting of June 18, 2019.
He also refused to explain who took the grant submission – that the ICAC found had been drafted the day before and did not undergo proper scrutiny – to be approved by Cabinet.
The ICAC’s report into the matter also found that application contained “ill-informed and spurious” claims of economic benefits and that no cost-benefit analysis had been undertaken and no costings to back up the $12 million price tag.
Ms Boothby said Territorians were not going to accept Mr Gunner “sweeping this under the carpet”.
“That was a considerable allocation of taxpayer funds awarded to the Darwin Turf Club at a time when the hospital was cancelling elective surgeries and police and principals [were] expected to sign up for a pay freeze,” she said.
“This government was elected on openness and transparency, they were very clear about that, and we have found that they have been everything but.”