The Opposition and an independent have accused the Gunner Government of undermining the integrity of Parliament by delaying a parliamentary investigation into Member for Blain Mark Turner and for not referring disgraced former speaker Kezia Purick for investigation after the anti-corruption watchdog’s findings against her last year.
The CLP put forward a motion calling on the Gunner Government to explain why it has delayed the Privileges Committee report into allegations Mr Turner lied to Parliament over his involvement in the so-called “cocaine sex scandal” in February that was supposed to be tabled last week and to provide a detailed plan to the public about how it intends to investigate.
But in a remarkable turn of events, Mr Turner and Ms Purick voted with Labor to defeat the motion and essentially block the Privileges Committee from explaining its actions to the public and why it has not investigated the pair’s alleged breaches of the MLA Code of Conduct.
Leader of Government Business Natasha Fyles last week surprised Parliament when she moved to delay the parliamentary investigation into Mr Turner until next year. She later said the delay was because the ICAC is currently investigating Mr Turner.
But the CLP said there was no legitimate reason to suspend the parliamentary investigation and that the integrity of Parliament was at stake.
“The public rely on us to be here and represent them and be open and transparent,” said Deputy Opposition leader Gerard Maley.
“This committee is a way to keep trust in our government to ensure that the public can keep an eye on what’s going on and keep an eye on the behavior of members, because there’s been no reason for this extension.”
Mr Turner was referred to the Privileges Committee by the CLP in February, which was supported by Labor at the time. Chief Minister Michael Gunner had referred information he had to the ICAC before voting to send Mr Turner to privileges.
Independent MLA Robyn Lambley also lambasted the government over its refusal to deal with Ms Purick’s matter as well, after the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption found that she had acted “corruptly” over her involvement in thwarting the establishment of a third political party in the NT and then lying about her actions to the ICAC.
‘The system’s broken’: Lambley
Ms Purick was referred to the Privileges Committee last July, after she was forced to resign as speaker, but the committee never investigated her due to the prorogation of Parliament for the August election. The government was supposed to refer her during this Legislative Assembly but has not done so in nine months.
Ms Lambley said the government was only protecting its own political interests and had no intention of restoring integrity to Parliament.
“The Privileges Committee is an instrument of government, and they will do whatever it takes to serve their own purposes so don’t hold your breath,” she said.
“The Member for Blain will probably never be found to be in breach of anything or indeed suffer any sort of consequences or penalties … and I would go as far to say that the Member for Goyder will not be subject to a full investigation of the Privileges Committee either.
“I think the people listening to this … should have their minds open to [the fact] a committee that adjudicates the ethical standards and codes of conduct of members of parliament … isn’t working well. The fact that we haven’t had a re-referral of the Member for Goyder for almost 12 months suggests to me that the system’s broken.
“It should be a real concern for Territorians because really, there’s a lot that goes on in this place that Territorians should know about – and they should be at least entitled to the truth.”
Ms Purick and Mr Turner’s votes with Labor saw the motion defeated 14 – 8.