Support for a no confidence vote in Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker continues to grow amongst the NT Police rank-and-file, with half of all police regions now confirmed as calling for a vote, while the union representing officers continues to stifle the will of its members.
The NT Independent understands the issue is causing strife within the NT Police Association, including over its perceived lack of action, that has some threatening to withhold their union dues and seeking representation interstate, with others starting to call for a vote of confidence in the NTPA executive itself.
“Members are talking about refusing to pay or go to another association in another state to see if they will represent them and others,” said a source with knowledge of the situation.
“If it was easy, they would do it now. I mean, if another association said ‘hey we will represent you’, all would just jump.”
The NT Independent revealed last week that four of the 12 Territory police regions – or union branches – had called for a Territory-wide no confidence motion on Mr Chalker, including the Casuarina branch.
Instead of answering questions posed by the NT Independent, the NTPA released an internal “member alert” last Friday in which they confirmed that six of the 12 branches have now called for a no confidence motion, including two that also called for a no confidence motion in Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage.
NTPA president Paul McCue also failed to answer questions yesterday, including why he continues to refrain from publicly criticising the commissioner for a number of issues facing frontline police including a record-high attrition rate, low morale and allegations of an “authoritarian” management style with frivolous disciplinary notices being handed out to respected officers.
The alert sent out on Friday said the union would not “engage in debate with opinion on social media” – although it was unclear what exactly that meant – and alleged that public commentary about the regions’ votes of no confidence “being made in the public domain, primarily on social media, is inaccurate and irresponsible”.
Mr McCue declined to explain.
The email to members last week made it clear that Mr McCue and the union would rather discuss other issues concerning police which they outlined, including resourcing pressures on the frontline, the current “consent agreement negotiations” with the government, the support and well-being review and the meeting with new Police Minister Kate Worden last week.
However, at every meeting, including Darwin and Casuarina last week, the no confidence motion has been voted on unanimously from the floor, that while not officially binding, is a clear indication members want the issue dealt with as a priority.
Union representing NT firies has no issue calling for Chalker to resign
Mr McCue did not respond to a question asking why he would not address the no confidence issue directly that his members are calling for as a way to resolve it and mitigate the growing distraction.
He had said in a radio interview earlier this month that the union might address the issue at its upcoming annual conference in August, but gave no assurances, while also claiming that he was not compromised or “exposed” in any way.
A source in police said that while there are currently six regions supporting the no confidence motion, the other six are also supportive.
“It’s trying to get the meetings organised that’s proving difficult,” they said.
“They have all voiced the same concerns. People are just resigned to the fact Chalker has something over McCue.”
Mr McCue seemed to deny that in the radio interview, but did not respond to questions yesterday. He had previously claimed that a vote of no confidence could only occur if evidence of wrongdoing was found against Mr Chalker – a notion that has been widely rejected since.
Mr Chalker also did not respond to questions yesterday, including if he had flown interstate in recent weeks and for what purpose. His office reportedly told other media last week he was infected with COVID-19 to explain his weeks-long absence, but made no official statement.
The NTPA’s refusal to act on the motions of its branches is in stark contrast to the union representing the NT’s firefighters, which called for Mr Chalker to resign as chief executive of the NT Fire and Emergency Service over the weekend for alleged comments he made last month, in which he reportedly called firies “greedy” for working overtime and said he was “coming after” a firefighter who is also a union rep.
The United Workers Union NT alleged he made the comments to a group of 12 NT fire services recruits in late April.
Secretary of United Workers NT Erina Early called Mr Chalker “a bully” and said he “should be ashamed of himself” for the comments. She also said yesterday that a video of the comments exists, but the NT Independent understands it is in the possession of Mr Chalker’s office and has not been released publicly.
“It is time for Chalker to be held accountable for his actions,” Ms Early told the NT Independent.