NT Independent investigations rattling Territory institutions, politicians and senior public servants

by | Nov 14, 2021 | Opinion | 0 comments

In the past three months alone, the NT Independent has continued to deliver critical public interest journalism and searing investigative articles that have rattled the Territory’s institutions, politicians and senior public servants.

From the NT Indie’s own investigation into the $12 million taxpayer-funded Darwin Turf Club scandal; to Thoroughbred Racing NT board members charging taxpayers thousands of dollars to attend the peak racing body’s board meetings; to issues surrounding COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates; to misconduct allegations against a senior judge; to a prisoner committing an unreported suicide at Darwin’s Holtze prison; to complaints of non-compliance lodged against a gin bar run by senior public servants; to the NT Police’s attrition rates and top brass’s resignations; to allegations of fraud and misconduct at the Batchelor Institute; to a shocking investigation into senior public servants altering scores for procurement contracts – these are just some of the stories we’ve broken in the past quarter.

But there’s much more to expose in the Northern Territory.

As the national judges who awarded the NT Independent two major awards at the recent NT Media Awards said: We’re “clearly dedicated to telling the difficult stories that need to be told”.

Fact-based, independent journalism is needed now more than ever and we need your support to keep going.

A recurring monthly donation has the most impact. All donations are 100 per cent confidential. Here’s the link to donate: https://ntindependent.com.au/donations/

And here are just some of the stories that we’ve exposed over the last few months, with more to come:


Turf Club recordings: Gunner found ‘solution’ to get $12 million grandstand money through Cabinet

EXCLUSIVE: Chief Minister Michael Gunner convinced Cabinet to approve $12 million of taxpayer money for the Darwin Turf Club by taking the decision “out of certain people’s hands”, a Turf Club board member and friend of Mr Gunner’s told the board just days after the grant was approved, recordings from the meeting reveal.

READ full story here.

Female Corrections employee without duress alarm groped by ‘sex pest’ inmate in prison

A convicted sex offender in Holtze Prison attempted to grope and kiss a female civilian Correctional Services employee, who had not been defensively trained and did not have a duress alarm, despite several warnings to the agency of the dangers of the building they were in, sources have told the NT Independent.

READ full story here.

‘Will do my absolute best to put a stop to this’: NT News editor Matt Williams’s Turf Club grandstand scandal pledge

Long-serving NT News editor Matt Williams is the mysterious “senior media figure” identified in the ICAC’s grandstand scandal investigation, sources have confirmed, who allegedly used the Territory’s only daily newspaper to provide favourable media coverage for the Darwin Turf Club and chairman Brett Dixon while the club faced scrutiny over the alleged misuse of public funds.

READ full story here.

Turf Club chair Brett Dixon wrote ‘script’ intended for Katie Woolf in middle of scandal: ICAC report

Darwin Turf Club chairman Brett Dixon wrote a “draft script” for popular radio presenter Katie Woolf three weeks before he was interviewed by her “that included Mr Dixon’s views and response to negative media stories” regarding the controversial $12 million grandstand project, the ICAC report into the scandal has revealed.

The alleged “script” has raised long-simmering concerns over commercial radio station Mix 104.9’s “sponsored segments” with NT Government officials, on the popular 360 program presented by Ms Woolf, that do not appear to identify the station’s commercial interests to listeners.

READ full story here.

‘Funds were diverted from educational resources for personal enrichment’: ICAC finds former remote NT school principal engaged in corrupt conduct

A former Milingimbi school principal used more than half a million dollars intended for the education of Indigenous children to travel and dine out with friends and family, and also hired family members without permission, the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption has found in a new report.

READ full story here.

New NT ICAC starts as questions remain over head public servant’s role in appointment

The Territory’s new Independent Commissioner Against Corruption has started in the job today, as questions continue to linger over head public servant Jodie Ryan’s role on the panel that selected him while connected to ongoing inquiries identified by the outgoing ICAC.

READ full story here.

Gunner cancels meeting with federal minister to defend government over growing grandstand scandal

Chief Minister Michael Gunner cancelled a meeting to discuss federal funding initiatives with newly sworn-in Minister for Northern Australia David Littleproud to defend his government’s approval of the $12 million grandstand grant on a local radio station.

READ full story here.

‘I was following instructions’: Chief Minister’s former chief of staff’s stunning claim to ICAC revealed

Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s former chief of staff Alf Leonardi was only “following instructions” while playing a key role in the Darwin Turf Club grandstand scandal, he told the ICAC as part of the investigation, raising new questions about the Chief Minister’s involvement.

Exactly who had given him the alleged “instructions” was not disclosed in the recent ICAC report, nor whether those instructions applied to soliciting campaign donations from Turf Club chairman Brett Dixon with the promise of increased funding for the racing industry in 2016 or lobbying ministers for the $12 million grandstand project that was eventually awarded to Mr Dixon’s company to build.

READ full story here.

Senior public servant who worked on grandstand proposal still in role despite findings of ‘deceptive’ conduct

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has not taken any action against senior public servant Shaun Drabsch, who the ICAC found engaged in “deceptive” conduct with former Labor powerbroker Alf Leonardi to ensure the $12 million publicly-funded Darwin Turf Club grandstand project was awarded a taxpayer grant.

READ full story here.

‘Labor’s dodgy dollars’: Opposition calls on Gunner to give Dixon donations to charity

Chief Minister Michael Gunner and his Labor government should give the $100,000 in donations received from companies connected to Brett Dixon in 2016 to charity if they are as angry about the grandstand scandal as they claim, the Opposition CLP say.

READ full story here.

Minister confirms Gunner rushed grandstand grant through Cabinet, Drabsch now overseeing ICAC recommendations despite ‘deceptive’ conduct

A second minister has confirmed Chief Minister Michael Gunner rushed the $12 million Darwin Turf Club grandstand grant through Cabinet himself and that the senior public servant who failed to warn Cabinet of the submission’s lack of details is now in charge of implementing the ICAC’s recommendations.

READ full story here.

 Government silent on details of community movements of man with COVID-19

The movements in the community of a man who has now tested positive to COVID-19 “in the last 24 hours” but who arrived in Darwin on Tuesday onboard a yacht from Indonesia have not been provided to the public by the NT Health Department.

READ full story here.

Horse rorts: Dixon and Thoroughbred Racing NT board charged taxpayers $7500 per meeting, plus expenses

Thoroughbred Racing NT chairman Brett Dixon and deputy chair Syd Stirling charged taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to attend the peak racing body’s board meetings – which are arranged to coincide with different racing events across the NT – including costs for accommodation, hospitality and flights, the NT Independent can reveal.

The costs and payouts to the eight-person board totalled more than $204,000 last year alone – nearly double what was paid out four years ago when the Gunner Government first entered into an undisclosed five-year funding agreement with the association.

READ full story here.

‘I’m saying that donations were made’: Fyles raises knowledge of Dixon-linked donations ahead of government funding decisions

Racing Minister Natasha Fyles appears to have been aware of a $100,000 donation to the NT Labor Party made by Darwin Turf Club chairman Brett Dixon’s companies in the lead up to the 2016 NT general election, but says it had nothing to do with the undisclosed five-year funding agreement the government gave the racing industry.

READ full story here.

‘Dodgy $12m grandstand grant tip of the iceberg’: Gunner Govt’s millions to horse racing questioned, possible breaches of funding agreement raised

The Gunner Government appears to have gifted more than $3 million to the NT’s peak horse racing body in its first budget – on top of an estimated $75 million five-year funding agreement – following a pre-election donation from companies owned by Darwin Turf Club chairman Brett Dixon, 2017 budget figures show.

READ full story here.

‘I have been subjected to a witch hunt’: Dixon releases statement on ICAC corruption findings

Darwin Turf Club chairman Brett Dixon has issued another statement to members Monday evening, claiming that he is the victim of a “witch hunt” and is now compelled to tell “the real story”, while also claiming to have filed a Supreme Court action to have the ICAC’s “corrupt conduct” findings against him quashed.

READ full story here.

Former Darwin Turf Club board member appointed to chair another taxpayer-funded board

EXCLUSIVE: A disgraced Darwin Turf Club board member who was forced to resign by Chief Minister Michael Gunner for “improper conduct”, has been appointed chair of another government-funded board that her company has previously had contracts with, the NT Independent can reveal.

Anya Lorimer, who runs Campaign Edge Sprout – a Labor-aligned Darwin marketing firm that publishes vanity periodical Territory Q magazine – was appointed chair of the Activate Darwin board last week, after recently resigning from the DTC board over its botched handling of the $12 million grandstand project that the ICAC found breached the public trust.

READ full story here.

Revealed: Here’s the full ‘spurious’ submission the Gunner Government doesn’t want you to see

The NT Independent has obtained the full Darwin Turf Club submission Chief Minister Michael Gunner relied on to convince Cabinet to approve $12 million of taxpayer money for the grandstand, less than a day after receiving the document that the ICAC called “ill-informed and spurious”.

The document is 14 pages in total, but only six pages of actual “figures” and contradictory claims.

READ full story here.

‘Chairman’s friend’: Police commissioner Chalker received gifts of hospitality from Brett Dixon, Turf Club

EXCLUSIVE: NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker, who internal Darwin Turf Club records show was invited to racing events as the “chairman’s friend”, has confirmed police resources are being used to investigate the NT Independent based on allegations made by former chairman Brett Dixon.

Mr Chalker was on the chairman’s invite list for the 2019 Darwin Cup and other racing events that year, which involved the use of government email addresses as well as what appears to be Mr Chalker’s private email account.

READ full story here.


 Police Superintendent stops COVID-19 fines at ‘freedom’ rally claiming non-existent permit: Source

NT Police officers wanted to fine Darwin ‘freedom’ protesters for not wearing masks or social distancing but their Superintendent stopped them, saying they were protected by a permit issued by the Northern Land Council, a permit the organisation says did not and could not exist, a well-placed source has told the NT Independent.

READ full story here.

‘Sickening attack’: Father of teen nearly killed in unprovoked shopping centre assault calls for action

The father of a 14-year-old boy who had his skull fractured and was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after an unprovoked and “sickening attack” at Casuarina shopping centre over the weekend, says the government needs to take immediate action to keep the public safe from young offenders.

READ full story here.

Taxi driver forced into quarantine says NT Health did not tell him passenger had COVID-19

A taxi driver has said he was forced into Howard Springs quarantine and missed two weeks of work after the Northern Territory Government engaged him to drive a man infected with the Delta strain of COVID-19 to the facility without telling him of the man’s infected status, and also allowed him to take regular passengers until his shift finished.

READ full story here.

‘How dare you’: Gunner scolded for politicising pandemic to win votes again

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.

READ full story here.

Senior Gunner Government adviser hit by car, recovering from head injury

Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s former communications adviser and “best mate” was knocked unconscious and suffered a reported head injury after being struck by a car in Darwin on Sunday night, sources confirmed to the NT Independent.

Cameron Angus, 31, was reportedly hit by the car around 7:40pm on East Point Road at the pedestrian crossing between Gregory Street and Leichardt Terrace on his way to a drinking festival.

READ full story here.

Misconduct allegations against Justice Stephen Southwood revealed

Serious misconduct allegations against NT Supreme Court Justice Stephen Southwood should result in his “removal as a judge”, says a prominent Darwin lawyer who has filed a formal complaint with the Attorney General.

READ full story here.


Aboriginal prisoner hanged himself while in custody at Darwin’s Holtze prison: Corrections sources

The 31-year-old male prisoner who was found dead in his cell at Darwin’s Holtze prison on Monday is believed to have hanged himself with a bed sheet off his bunk, sources have told the NT Independent.

READ full story here.

New NT COVID plan to see mandatory vaccine for most workers, ‘freedom pass’ touted

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has announced his five-point plan for how the Territory will respond to COVID-19 once 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated, which will see non-vaccinated Territorians restricted from the same freedoms vaccinated people will enjoy, with workers in many fields including hospitality and retail forced to get the jab.

Mr Gunner made the announcement after pressure from industry groups that called for a plan rather than more lockdowns across the NT.

READ full story here.

Deputy police commissioner apologises for ‘murder’ comment, calls for resignation mount

Deputy Police Commissioner Murray Smalpage has issued an apology after “inadvertently” recording himself suggesting that a group of police officers should be called a “murder” and live-streaming it to Facebook.

READ full story here.

Complaint lodged against Willing Distillery and Bar run by senior public servants

Two senior public servants involved in a new gin distillery and bar appear to have breached their liquor licence by failing to obtain the necessary building permits and safety approvals, according to public records and a formal complaint filed with the NT Government.

READ full story here.

Gunner says taxpayer-funded home security upgrades due to ‘stalking scenario’, not ‘normal crime’ fears

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has told Parliament he was forced to charge taxpayers for security upgrades at his home because he is the victim of a “stalking-type scenario”, not because of “a normal crime situation”.

READ full story here.

Senior public servants’ liquor licence mysteriously altered after alleged breaches made public

A liquor licence granted to a distillery and bar run by two senior public servants has been altered to remove a condition it was alleged to have breached, the day after the matter was made public, the NT Independent can reveal.

READ full story here.


 NT Police officers leaving in record numbers citing poor management as reason

More Territory cops are seeking a job outside the NT than ever before, according to the NT Police Association’s 2021 member survey, with officers citing management issues as their reason for leaving.

READ full story here.

Chief Minister’s office knew about fraud and misconduct allegations at Batchelor Institute in 2019: Internal report

A report that outlined credible allegations of ongoing fraud and misconduct at Batchelor Institute was given to Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s office in late 2019 – after it was requested by a senior ministerial advisor – but it appears the office took no further action, the NT Independent can reveal.

READ full story here.

Another NT Police Assistant Commissioner resigns amid turmoil in force

NT Police assistant commissioner Dr Narelle Beer has resigned – making her the third of the Territory’s top brass to resign this year – citing alleged bullying, sources said, adding that she felt “used” by the executive over the charging of Constable Zach Rolfe in 2019.

READ full story here.

Sixth change in NT Police College leadership in less than two years

The troubled NT Police College has a new boss with Commander Hege Burns becoming the sixth change in the top role since November 2019, following the findings of an external audit that showed the college had failed national standards, sources have told the NT Independent.

NT Police media manager Rob Cross did not issue a media release about her promotion but the NT Police executive appeared to give the information as an exclusive announcement to the NT News on September 24, saying only that she had been made a commander, not what role she would be operating in.

READ full story here.

Chief Minister’s Dept exec investigated by ICAC had access to sensitive ICAC records, names of complainants

A senior public servant who was investigated by the corruption watchdog for unsatisfactory conduct over allegations she manipulated a procurement contract had access to the ICAC Inspector’s email account and sensitive documents before she was investigated, the NT Independent can reveal.

READ full story here.

Two most senior CDU executive roles axed by new VC

Charles Darwin University vice-chancellor Professor Scott Bowman has dismissed the two most senior executives at the university in what he says is a move to make the institution more “agile and flatter”.

READ full story here.

Sun Cable’s Singapore power retailer folds

The multi-billion-dollar Sun Cable project to power Darwin and Singapore from a massive solar farm in Tennant Creek has suffered a blow after a Singapore-based independent electricity retailer, that earlier pledged to be a buyer of the solar energy, exited the retail electricity market – along with four other retailers.

READ full story here.

 ICAC’s investigation into NTG procurement scandal called into question

A scathing report by the NT’s Buy Local Advocate has raised serious questions about the ICAC’s investigation into improper conduct allegations against two Department of Chief Minister senior executives accused of manipulating a major procurement contract.

The confidential 2019 report that was never publicly released – but recently obtained by the NT Independent – found that DCM deputy chief executive Maria Mohr and director of governance Kerryn Batten’s actions on a procurement assessment panel to hire a recruitment agency were “not defensible” and that their breaches of government processes failed to reflect “fair dealing” or “best value for Territory”.

READ full story here.


 NT Health investigations identify nepotism and procurement conflicts of interest ‘concerns’: CEO

NT Health Department chief executive officer Dr Frank Daly has told staff internal investigations have identified “key areas of concern” to do with nepotism and conflicts of interests in procurement, but the department has refused to say what led to the investigations or what has happened as a result of them.

READ full story here.

Procurement scandal in Chief Minister’s department will not be reinvestigated: ICAC

The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption has ruled out reinvestigating improper conduct allegations against two senior Chief Minister’s department executives over the manipulation of a procurement contract, despite the NT Independent revealing an internal government report that raised questions about the ICAC’s previous findings.

READ full story here.

Man allegedly sets partner on fire, pouring petrol under toilet door, killing her: Sources

A man allegedly poured petrol under the door of a toilet after his wife had locked herself in during a domestic dispute, before setting her alight causing burns which killed her, sources have told the NT Independent.

READ full story here.

‘She is a sex worker, she should not be judged for this’: Gunner’s deleted post on COVID source case revealed

A post on Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s Facebook page that identified the woman at the centre of the Greater Darwin region COVID-19 lockout as a “sex worker”, was later altered to remove the reference to the woman’s alleged occupation.

READ full story here.


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