Chief Minister Michael Gunner has insulted frontline pandemic workers and should “apologise immediately” for once again politicising the global COVID-19 pandemic to win votes, says the union representing the Territory’s police officers.
Mr Gunner issued a statement through official government channels and on his Facebook page on Thursday to announce he had met with the NT Administrator to arrange a date for the Daly by-election to replace outgoing CLP MLA Ian Sloan.
But Mr Gunner also used the opportunity to take a political swipe at the Opposition in the official by-election announcement, positioning his party as the only party that could keep Territorians safe from COVID-19.
“All elections offer a choice for Territorians,” Mr Gunner wrote.
“This by-election is no different, and the choice is clear – a Territory Labor Government who will protect the people of the Daly from the COVID pandemic, or a CLP who would open up our borders and give our vaccines to Sydney.”
His comments were swiftly rebuked by the NT Police Association in a scathing Facebook post last night.
“What a complete insult to those apolitical hard working government and non-government employees out there actually keeping us safe,” the statement said.
“To politicise COVID is completely outrageous, how dare you? Are we all not in this together?”
The statement went on to say that “it is our police, our health workers and every other frontline worker in between who works 24/7 to keep us safe” and that all the Chief Minister was doing was updating the public on health advice provided by professionals.
“The CHO (Chief Health Officer) issues directions based on national and local health advice, the Territory Controller makes that happen, and the CM speaks into a microphone to update us,” the statement said.
“Chief Minister, you need to apologise immediately and stop leveraging a worldwide pandemic for another vote in government.
“Shame on you.”
But Mr Gunner doubled down on Facebook this morning, saying he will “not be bullied or silenced by a union on how we protect Territorians from COVID” and accusing the NTPA of politicising COVID.
“I will continue to call out the CLP when they make these political decisions on COVID and gamble with the lives of Territorians,” he said, without acknowledging that the CLP does not make decisions around pandemic operations.
“And I will also call out unions like the NTPA who politicise COVID. The NTPA choosing to support the CLP’s decision to open our borders and give away our vaccines is a failure to protect every serving officer and the union should apologise to them.”
NTPA president Paul McCue told Mix 104.9 that he was not supporting the CLP, but rather the frontline police and health workers who are actually protecting Territorians.
He said it was “outrageous” that Mr Gunner and his Labor team were taking credit for protecting Territorians.
Mr Gunner was also criticised in the lead up to last year’s general election for politicising the COVID-19 pandemic in campaign advertisements.
Many political analysts suggested the pandemic was the leading cause of Mr Gunner’s widely disliked Labor Government winning another term in office.
Before the pandemic hit, polls showed Mr Gunner to be as deeply unpopular with voters as previous chief minister Adam Giles.