UPDATED: Speaker Kezia Purick has resigned as Speaker of the Northern Territory Tuesday morning following findings from the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption that she engaged in “corrupt conduct”.
But she indicated later in Parliament during debate that she will recontest her seat of Goyder at the Territory election on August 22.
“Next session of Parliament, I’ll be back,” she said.
Ms Purick earlier said she did “not accept the findings” of the ICAC but was resigning as speaker anyway.
“My decision to resign at this time is to protect the integrity of the Office of the Speaker and the processes of the Legislative Assembly,” she said.
“While I consider my response to the report I wish to make it clear that I do not accept the findings in the report. And I believe I have not been provided natural justice of procedural fairness.”
But Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ken Fleming rejected Ms Purick’s claims that he failed to provide natural justice in a statement.
“The ICAC … granted several extensions of time to allow Ms Purick’s lawyers to respond to material provided to them, including adverse material given to the ICAC under examination,” the statement said.
“Ms Purick’s response annexed to the Investigation Report has not denied any of the facts in the messages or emails, or any other facts, which were set out in the draft report and the relevant exhibit references given to her on 14 May 2020.”
On Monday, the ICAC found that Ms Purick engaged in “corrupt conduct”, repeatedly lied to investigators and breached the public trust about her involvement in interfering in the establishment of the North Australia Party, which Terry Mills had looked at forming in 2018.
She had told Parliament in November 2018 that she was not involved and that her executive assistant Martine Smith had acted without her knowledge. The ICAC found that was not true.
Text messages show Ms Purick actively worked with Ms Smith and another unnamed MLA to interfere in the establishment of the party and commissioner Ken Fleming found she used the resources of the Speaker’s office to carry out her plan.
He also found she used her “power and influence” over Ms Smith to “achieve her ends”.
“The power imbalance between the Speaker and her executive officer is patently evident,” he wrote.
Lawyers for Ms Purick stated in the report that they felt the ICAC’s findings were “so far short of corrupt conduct that it is doubtful whether it could even be regarded as improper conduct under the ICAC Act”.
“The activities … happened in the heat of political battle between Mr Mills and Ms Purick as Speaker,” they wrote. “At worst, the conduct under investigation may be regarded as the pursuit of a political opportunity (point scoring) by Ms Purick…”
Ms Purick said in Parliament that Mr Fleming’s findings were outside his mandate.
“Ken Fleming has made his findings which I believe are beyond his powers to make,” she said.
Ms Purick will now most likely be sent to Parliament’s Privileges Committee to determine possible discipline measures for her conduct outside of possible legal charges, but that has not been confirmed.
She also thanked her staff during her last speech as Speaker.
“I say sincere thanks to my staff who’ve worked with me as my role as Speaker and supported me and I know they believe what is right and true,” she said.
She was replaced as Speaker by Labor MLA Chansey Paech.
The ICAC report did not amount to a finding of a criminal offence being committed, however the decision to prosecute is now with the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine if charges will be laid.