Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s much-hyped trip to Alice Springs that lasted less than 12 hours is the latest example of “disrespect” and “neglect” of the people of Central Australia by the Gunner Government, the CLP Opposition says.
Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said Mr Gunner’s trip – which saw him fly in and out yesterday – was “simply to tick a box” and criticised him for not meeting with the public to hear their frustrations over crime in town.
“Michael Gunner was in town for less than 12 hours – he didn’t even bother to stay the night,” Ms Finocchairo said.
“In fact, through Opposition questioning in the February parliamentary sittings, the Chief Minister admitted he had only spent three nights in Alice Springs since the August 2020 election.”
Mr Gunner has faced criticism for his handling of crime in the Central Australian town, which made national headlines after A Current Affair broadcast a piece on the out-of-control crime in town that was viewed by millions of Australians.
Last month, after the report aired, Mr Gunner said he would take a trip to Alice Springs but was non-committal on meeting with Mayor Damien Ryan or other community leaders about the crime problem. He told ABC Radio at the time that he would be meeting with community groups and would doorknock the community if he had time.
It appears he did not have the time. His office declined to comment on who he met with while on the one-day trip.
Last month, Alice Springs town council passed a motion to explore legal action against the Gunner Government for failing to protect citizens and not reducing crime rates.
CLP Member for Braitling Josh Burgoyne said the one-day trip was further proof that Mr Gunner does not care about the region.
“We need real leadership, not a seagull Chief Minister who flies in, dumps on everyone and flies out again,” he said.
“When former Labor Chief Minister Clare Martin was booed and heckled during a public meeting in Alice Springs, Michael Gunner was her advisor. Clearly the current Chief Minister is afraid of facing the same scrutiny from the people of Alice Springs and being called out for his successive failures. At least Clare Martin had the guts to front the crowd.”
Mr Gunner has come under repeated fire from the Alice Springs community, including on local social media page Action for Alice, with administrator and local businessman Darren Clark previously saying Mr Gunner was unaware of how bad the crime problem in Alice Springs is despite claiming to have been “on patrol” with public servants on previous trips to town.
A photo of Mr Gunner on a plane flying back to Darwin was posted to the Facebook page last night, attracting a lot of critical comments from residents who say the Chief Minister has let them down by not meeting with the community.
Last month, the NT Police pledged “more boots on the ground” in Alice Springs by diverting officers to the town after a spate of assaults saw citizens hospitalised after unprovoked attacks.
Mr Gunner’s office did not respond to questions about the nature of his quick trip to Alice Springs.