‘Dark cloud’: Fyles must release documents that Gunner refused to give ICAC, CLP says

by | Aug 2, 2022 | News, NT Politics | 0 comments

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles must immediately hand over the secret Cabinet documents former chief minister Michael Gunner did not want the ICAC to see in order to remove the “dark cloud” of suspicion hanging over the Labor Government, the CLP Opposition has demanded.

It was revealed on Friday that Mr Gunner flatly rejected a request by the NT’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Michael Riches to release documents related to a “serious allegation” that a public official had misled Cabinet by allegedly falsifying a Cabinet submission.

Mr Riches disclosed in a report to Parliament that he had requested Mr Gunner handover submissions “relevant to the matter” as part of his investigation and that he permit “persons with knowledge of the submission to speak to me about it”.

However, Mr Gunner ultimately refused both requests.

The report was tabled on Thursday night, the day after Mr Gunner resigned from Parliament as the Member for Fannie Bay.

It is widely known that agency reports are provided to the government before being tabled, which means Ms Fyles would have been aware of the specific contents of the report earlier in the week, and the issue itself for more than a month.

Mr Riches did not specify what the alleged “edited” and “misleading” Cabinet submission related to.

He said he did not “criticise” the former chief minister for not granting access to the documents because of Section 79(2) of the ICAC Act which deals with Cabinet confidentiality.
There are also parliamentary conventions around Cabinet confidentiality, but there are precedents of other governments waiving the confidentiality or privilege conventions in certain cases.
On Tuesday, the CLP pointed to the Queensland Labor Government’s recent pledge to release Cabinet documents after 30 days instead of 30 years to improve integrity around government decisions, calling on Ms Fyles make the same commitment.

Fyles knew about the allegedly ‘misleading’ Cabinet submission for at least a month but has not provided documents to ICAC

It is unclear why Mr Gunner did not release the documents to the ICAC if they may have proven that his Cabinet was misled by a “public officer”.

“Instead of working with the ICAC to uncover the facts of the alleged fraud, they chose to block him, causing the investigation to be closed,” said CLP Deputy Leader Gerard Maley.

“The Natasha Fyles Labor Government has the ability to now release this information so that a full investigation can be initiated—which they have failed to do.

“This is simply one more incident in a long line of incidents that have decreased the credibility of the Labor Government, which came to government on a platform of integrity, transparency and responsibility.”

Ms Fyles’ office did not respond to the NT Independent’s questions.

Ms Fyles would have been aware of the allegedly falsified Cabinet document as late as Estimates hearings in June, when Mr Riches first publicly indicated that documents related to a “serious allegation” had not been handed over. He did not mention Mr Gunner at the time.

However, his report tabled last week indicated it was Mr Gunner who blocked access to the documents.

Despite being aware of this for a month, Ms Fyles did not take any steps to provide the documents in question to the ICAC for investigation, according to the report.

Mr Riches mentions Ms Fyles specifically in the report, stating that “in more recent times” the current Chief Minister provided “material in respect of a different matter that appeared to be captured by Section 79(2)”.

“The Chief Minister determined not to press a claim of privilege in respect of the material, thus allowing me to read and consider it,” he wrote.

But she did not provide the information that Mr Gunner had suppressed.

Ms Fyles’ office refused to say why she would hand over some documents to the ICAC on one matter but not others, and why she is continuing to suppress the documents Mr Gunner did not want released.

 

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