‘It’s disgraceful’: Government kills motion to refer Chief Minister for investigation over ban on free press

by | Feb 25, 2021 | News | 6 comments

A move to refer Chief Minister Michael Gunner for investigation for “unfair and unethical” conduct by banning the NT Independent was shut down by the Gunner Government before debate could begin this afternoon.

Independent MLA Robyn Lambley made the motion that would have seen Mr Gunner sent to the Privileges Committee for breaching the Legislative Assembly Members Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards Act for his ongoing and illegal ban on the free press.

The NT Independent has been banned since it started last March from attending government press conferences and receiving information from the apolitical NT public service.

Ms Lambley said Mr Gunner’s ban showed he had no respect for the Rule of Law, basic democratic principles and had failed to show “fairness and integrity” by choosing which media outlets cover his government. She also said he was putting his own interests ahead of the best interests of Territorians.

“The Chief Minister by refusing to allow the NT Independent to cover government press conferences and events and instructing the public service not to respond to media requests from the Independent is not consistent with the democratic principles, enshrined in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly,” she said.

“The Chief Minister and his government are in breach of clauses 10 and 11 of the Code of Conduct.”

But Leader of Government Business Natasha Fyles used the Labor government’s numbers to quash debate before Ms Lambley had finished reading her motion and then defeated the motion 12 to 10, with independent MLA and former speaker Kezia Purick abstaining from the vote.

The motion came two months after the Australian Senate passed a unanimous motion calling on Mr Gunner to lift the ban on the NT Independent, that was supported by the federal ALP.

Ms Lambley told the NT Independent she wasn’t surprised the Gunner Government shut down debate around freedom of the press, adding that it was consistent with their policy to stifle public debate, ultimately impugning the reputation of the NT Parliament.

“This was debated in full in Canberra and had the full support of Parliament,” she said. “In the Territory this is what happens; zero debate, shut it down … it’s disgraceful,” she said.

NT MLAs’ are obligated under the Code of Conduct to foster freedom of reporting and the independence of the public service.

The MEAA, constitutional law experts, the Alliance for Journalists Freedom, the ABC’s Media Watch program and others have all called for the ban on the NT Independent to be lifted and for the Gunner Government to respect basic democratic principles.

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