EXCLUSIVE: The senior adviser to the Chief Minister who resigned last week over his role in the sex scandal engulfing the Gunner Government is Territory Labor powerbroker Kent Rowe – who ran the NT Labor Party for the better part of the last decade – and who sent a picture of his penis to a local “bondage mistress”, messages reveal.
Mr Rowe was credited with leading the Gunner Government’s successful re-election campaign last August, which resulted in a high-ranking job in Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s inner sanctum as one of four top advisers.
Mr Gunner – who has so far refrained from naming Mr Rowe publicly – said yesterday he had forced the Labor heavyweight’s resignation last week for failing to “adequately and honestly inform us of the nature of a relationship”.
Facebook messages obtained by the NT Independent show Mr Rowe was intimately involved with the same woman Blain MLA Mark Turner admitted to having an affair with last week in Parliament, before Mr Turner was sacked from caucus by Mr Gunner.
Mr Rowe was forced to resign on the same day.
“They were not honest with us about the nature of their relationship and the exchange of information that they had – there [was] no disclosure,” Mr Gunner told Mix 104.9 about the affair and sackings yesterday.
“And even when they were given the opportunity to disclose, they disclosed poorly.”
Mr Rowe’s resignation hits close to home for Mr Gunner, who has been forced to defend his handling of the scandal in recent days amid claims by the Opposition that he and Labor operatives attempted to cover up the scandal.
Mr Rowe is a high-profile member of Mr Gunner’s right faction of Territory Labor and a personal friend. He was rolled as Labor’s secretary and campaign director in 2018, after more than five years in the position, following the left faction’s power play led by the CFMEU to install Anthony Brereton as secretary.
However, senior Labor Party sources have confirmed Mr Rowe continued to play a significant role in the party’s operations since resigning as secretary, including quietly leading the party’s 2020 re-election campaign while working for a private advertising firm.
Facebook messages started night after 2020 Election
Facebook messages obtained by the NT Independent began the night after the August election and continued until late October. They contain exchanges of lewd photos and sexual messages, as well as discussions about Mr Rowe’s penchant for painting portraits of dead dogs.
On August 24, 2020 Mr Rowe sent a message to the woman with whom he was carrying out a consensual extra-marital affair at 4:16 am.
“Hey mate great night,” Mr Rowe wrote.
“Hey I had so much fun,” the woman responded, adding that she enjoyed their recent sexual encounter.
In other messages dated September 23, Mr Rowe shared a picture of a portrait of a deceased dog he told the woman he painted for his sister-in-law. The woman said it was “cool” and asked if he could do a portrait of her friend’s recently deceased dog.
The woman asked if he would hold an exhibition of his paintings at some point.
“I will come to that,” she wrote.
“You cum (sic) to a lot of things that I do,” Mr Rowe wrote back.
“I do a lot of weed,” the woman later responded.
“I started like a week ago. Ha,” Mr Rowe said.
He then added that “weed makes me mental”.
“Yeah, just really not my thing,” he wrote.
The woman then proposes turning the Smith Street mall into a “decriminalised zone” filled with marijuana cafes.
“That would be cool, I think that it should be TBH,” Mr Rowe responded.
In another September 23, 2020 message, Mr Rowe engages in explicit sexual comments with the woman, telling her “I’m on the couch with my hands full” late at night from his family home. The woman then sent a topless pic, which Mr Rowe responded to with a picture of his penis, demanding to see her “wet p***y”.
Two days later, Mr Rowe sent a picture of the finished painting of the woman’s friend’s deceased dog that was warmly received.
“I like painting dogs and sharing the love,” Mr Rowe wrote.
The NT Independent informed Mr Gunner’s office of the nature of the messages, including excerpts of comments, on February 15, but did not receive a response. Mr Rowe also declined to comment.
One of the questions Mr Gunner declined to answer was whether Mr Rowe had compromised his senior position by sending the lewd photos of himself to the woman or whether he left himself exposed to potential blackmail. He was also asked if he condones that conduct by his most senior staffers.
Mr Gunner said yesterday that after receiving the detailed questions from the NT Independent, his chief of staff Emily Beresford-Cane and deputy chief of staff Chris Grace called Mr Rowe and Mr Turner into a meeting to discuss the messages.
Mr Grace is a close friend of Mr Rowe’s. The two made up half of Mr Gunner’s inner circle of trusted advisers that includes Ms Beresford-Cane and Mr Gunner’s brother-in-law Ryan Neve.
Gunner says denials accepted until further information revealed, did not seek to confirm messages
According to Mr Gunner, he and his team believed the men’s claims that the messages were untrue but that those claims were discounted last Thursday after the NT Independent revealed Mr Turner had attempted to get the woman to issue a false media statement denying their affair after earlier disclosing it on local radio.
It appeared that Mr Turner was seeking advice from Labor operatives on how to manage the false statement after suggesting to the woman that he needed to “check” with someone as to when he needed the statement.
Mr Gunner denied anyone in Labor was helping Mr Turner convince the woman to lie.
He said yesterday that Mr Rowe was forced to resign for not being upfront about his relationship with the woman, but said he had not seen the messages the NT Independent questioned him about. At no time did Mr Gunner’s office ask the NT Independent for copies of the messages.
“I do genuinely believe that you shouldn’t be having affairs,” he said on Mix 104.9. “That, I think, we can all agree on that point. And you should, if asked about it, you should be honest with me so I know what I’m dealing with – as a staff member, be upfront.
“I haven’t seen those … messages but what we made clear to that former staff member, is that we expect honesty, and we weren’t receiving honesty.”