The Gunner Labor Government is wasting taxpayer money sending the MLA they kicked out of caucus last year to London at taxpayer expense to take part in a parliamentary junket, the Opposition CLP says.
Member for Blain Mark Turner was ousted from caucus by Chief Minister Michael Gunner last year, after it was revealed Mr Turner had potentially misled Parliament about an extra-marital affair he was having with a local sex worker.
But now the government has nominated Mr Turner as one of two NT Parliament representatives to take part in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s “Westminster seminar” in London in March.
The CPA aims to “promote knowledge and understanding about parliamentary democracy, especially good governance, transparency and accountability” through events.
CLP Deputy Opposition Leader Gerard Maley said the CPA had issued invitations to attend the event “virtually”, but the Gunner Government determined that Mr Turner and Member for Fong Lim Mark Monaghan need to attend in person at taxpayer expense. Incidentally, both men were born in the UK.
“If Labor had any interest in saving taxpayer’s dollars they would attend the conference via the internet, not look to fly two Gunner Government members over to England on this junket,” he said.
“Businesses are struggling and the Territory debt levels are out of control yet the Gunner Government think it’s okay to jet off to London. This is a slap in the face to all Territorians.
“Surely they can attend via the internet, save some money and not send two members, one of which being the disgraced ‘cocaine sex scandal’ Member for Blain, Mark Turner.
“Just 11 months ago Michael Gunner sacked Mr Turner from caucus, demoting him to the back-bench and said that the MLA had “lost my trust”. Does the Labor Government now trust him again and are they looking to re-instate him into caucus?”
Mr Turner is not listed as being on any parliamentary committees on Parliament’s website.
Mr Gunner’s office was contacted for comment about the junket but did not respond.
In February of last year, Mr Turner revealed himself to be the MLA at the centre of the alleged cocaine sex scandal that occurred on election night 2020, after he revealed in Parliament that he was the MLA identified by a local sex worker on radio as carrying out an extra-marital affair with her.
Mr Turner was kicked out of the Labor caucus in the days that followed, after media reports revealed explicit text messages that showed he had left key details of his extra-marital affair and his mistress’s alleged drug use out of his speech to Parliament. There were no suggestions Mr Turner took any illicit substances.
Mr Gunner said at the time that Mr Turner had lost the trust of the Labor caucus by making “material changes to the statement that took out some very important denials”.
He was later referred to the Privileges Committee for lying to Parliament by the CLP in a motion that was fully supported by Labor.
However, in a report released by the Privileges Committee last November, chair Natasha Fyles said the committee “decided to discontinue its inquiry” and that the “allegations do not warrant further consideration”.
The committee did not call witnesses and did not examine any evidence into the allegations of misleading Parliament.
The lack of an investigation followed the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Michael Riches informing the committee in a letter that he had also dropped the investigation into Mr Turner’s conduct.