Chief Minister Michael Gunner has expelled Blain MLA Mark Turner from the Labor parliamentary caucus and said a senior staffer has resigned, following days of growing pressure on Mr Gunner to take action.
The move comes just hours after the NT Independent revealed Mr Turner appeared to have worked with Labor staffers to provide a false statement for the woman with whom he was engaging in an extra-marital affair to deny the sexual relationship hours before he was forced to admit it in public.
Mr Gunner said in Parliament that he had asked Mr Turner to step down as Deputy Speaker and caucus chair earlier on Wednesday, but that the new information resulted in Mr Turner being booted from the party.
“It has since come to our attention today that the Member for Blain continues to act dishonestly about his relationships and interactions with others,” Mr Gunner said.
“We have tried to support the Member for Blain through a difficult personal issue that has caused him and his family pain and embarrassment. He’s not met the standards I’ve set for our team or the standards our team holds itself to.
“For these reasons, I have recommended the Member for Blain be removed from the caucus, my colleagues have agreed.
“The Member for Blain has lost my trust, he’s lost the trust of the caucus.”
Mr Gunner stressed there was “no issue of criminal activity” by Mr Turner and that the affair was “consensual”.
He also said the fifth floor staffer implicated in carrying out an extra-marital affair with the same woman, who describes herself as a “bondage mistress”, has resigned.
“This person categorically rejects any criminal activity,” Mr Gunner said. “The staff member has resigned as he seeks support for personal issues during this distressing time for his family.”
It’s unclear how the sacking of Mr Turner might affect Mr Gunner’s hold on the leadership. Mr Turner is a part of Mr Gunner’s right faction of the Labor Party which will now be without a majority in caucus.
Mr Gunner had rejected taking any action against Mr Turner and the senior staffer all week, or investigating the allegations, telling the Opposition they had not provided a “shred of evidence” of wrongdoing.
The NT Independent revealed on Wednesday that police are investigating the matter. It was later reported the NT Police’s Special References Unit has been investigating since before Christmas.
In Parliament, the CLP Opposition moved a censure motion against the Chief Minister for “covering up” the scandal and for “his failure to fulfill his responsibilities to Territorians to fully investigate or take action on the series of allegations”.
“For this, the Chief Minister needs to resign,” Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said.