The Gunner Government has been in office for four years and to some, many maybe, they are the governmental equivalent of the Crazy Frog song.
We see them more as It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy or some song by David Hasselhoff that was big in Germany..and maybe Palmerston for awhile.
Anyway, as AC/DC sang, It’s a long way to the top if you wanna be $8.2 billion in the hole.
“Quarantine hotel, motel; Make you wanna cry; Gunner does the hard sell; Know the reason why; Getting old; Getting grey; We’re gettin’ ripped off; They’re overpaid; We’re getting told; Second hand; That’s how the debt goes; Under Gunner’s command.”
The NT Independent has painstakingly curated a list of tunes to sit back and enjoy while you relive some of the head-scratching, no, they-could-not-have-just-done-that moments; the WTF decisions; the brutal murder of common sense; and the super amazing disappearing billions sleight of hand, of the Gunner Government’s four years in office.
Who could forget all the timeless classics, such as $12 million to the Turf Club for an unbudgeted grandstand in the middle of a budget crisis; or the fan-favourite Shade Structure in B minor; and then there’s the aesthetic madness of the genius avante-garde rock opera, Boundless Possible (ignore the accusations of plagiarised lyrics) and crowd favourite Out of Control Juvenile Crime performed by the Territory Youth Choir. Put that one on repeat to enjoy over and over again. It will make you forget your boom box has already been stolen.
But wait, that’s not all. You’ll also get the four CD set Dan Murphy’s Saga. Remember where you were when you first heard the NT Budget Crisis Blues? And who could forget about the genre-crossing compilation of Indigenous music classics packaged together as Remote Housing Bungles?
With this special package you’ll also get all the recent hits by aging classic rock outfit The Faceless Men of the ALP, such as Banning the Free Press with No Legal Authority and Running an Election Campaign that Avoids Any Scrutiny while attempting to make the last four years about the last six months and a deadly global pandemic that hasn’t truly arrived here yet.
Get all your favourite hits in this one collection … there’s no minimum to buy. Cancel anytime.
(Check out Spotify play list the bottom).
Myilly Point Museum
In April 2018, a $50 million museum proposed to be built at Myilly point was scrapped after strong community opposition to the project, with many Territorians believing the money could be spent better elsewhere. And that was before we knew about the Territory’s huge financial problems. A major focus of the museum was to recognise the Stolen Generation with Chief Minister Michael Gunner saying: “When we announced plans for Myilly Point museum, we promised members of the Stolen Generation they would be part of the overall project and that we would recognise their stories and the injustices they endured.” It was never brought up again.
Song: Drop it like it’s Hot, Snoop Dog
Detention Centre Location
The location of the $70 million youth detention centre was a continued pain for the Gunner Government. In 2018, a legal objection to the Berrimah location next to the Northcrest housing estate by developer Halikos Group saw it moved. Later that same year, it was announced the detention centre would be built at Pinelands with little community consultation, however this was also overturned following strong business community opposition. In the end, the detention centre, now estimated at $55 million, has been committed to be built in Holtze next to the adult prison against the recommendations of the royal commission into youth detention. And just before caretaker mode, the Gunner Government announced Halikos Group would build it.
Song: Jailbreak, Thin Lizzy
$10 million for a bottling company on the verge of bankruptcy was the only investment of the Gunner Government’s failed $200 million NT Infrastructure Development Fund. No surprise, the company went bankrupt just months after receiving the cash and Treasurer Nicole Manison thought that was not deserving of referral to the ICAC or the Auditor General. In a twist, Michael Gunner’s current chief of staff Emily Beresford-Cane’s husband Callum Harding was the guy who approved the taxpayer cash for NT Beverages, that had even the slightest bit of due diligence applied to it would have detected the serious financial problems with the company. No consequences for anyone involved.
Song: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel
Denying rivers of cheap grog for the highest drinking jurisdiction in Australia is a fraught move. Only in the NT could a bottle-o become one of the biggest political issues. It’s been long, meandering and complicated and still not resolved. Here is a fraction of the highlights: after the Dan Murphy’s liquor licence application was made in December 2016, the Gunner Government introduced a floor space limit for grog shops. In November 2017, they repealed it. In December 2019, after NTCAT rejected an appeal by the company, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said it was a “massive kick in the guts” for booze-loving Territorians. In one of his strangest utterances of the last four years he followed up with: “I want to see a Dan Murphy’s in Darwin.”
Song: A Pub With No Beer, Slim Dusty
Freedom of Information Releases
Despite a 2016 pre-election pledge to improve the NT Government’s Freedom of Information (FOI) processes and scrap fees, the Gunner Government instead took no action to improve the system that an independent analysis found was the worst in the country, where one in four FOI applications were refused – seven times higher than WA. And to add insult to injury, the fees are also now higher than ever to access public information and the hoops to jump through much more trivial and adversarial.
Song: Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
In early 2017, the Gunner Government appointed a steering committee and threw in $50 million to get the National Aboriginal Art Gallery out of the ground. More than three years later, heading to the election, the soil has still not broken. The Gunner Government went head to head with the Alice Springs Town Council over the period disputing different locations before advising they will compulsory acquire land from the council at the Anzac Hill precinct site, despite objections from traditional owners.
Song: This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie
Turf Club Grandstand
Way back in 2019, the Gunner Government awarded $12 million of unbudgeted taxpayer funds directly to the Darwin Turf Club to build a grandstand. In a twist, the turf club awarded the contract to build it to chairman Brett Dixon’s construction company Jaytex. A probity report found that all conflicts of interest were handled appropriately. And that was verified by the head of the Department of Business, who recommended the grant to cabinet and then was put in charge of investigating the probity around the deal. All good.
Song: Wild Horses, The Rolling Stones
Days before Christmas 2018, Treasurer Nicole Manison announced the NT Government was in a financial crisis with a forecasted debt of $35.7 billion by 2029-30. It was revealed then that the Gunner Government was spending more than $1 million per day on interest with debt increasing at a rate of $4 million per day. They came into power with a debt of $1.7 billion and are heading to the election with a record $8.2 billion debt forecasted for the end of the year, which will most likely be much, much more because they stopped reporting the actual financials earlier this year and refused to put up a Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook.
Song: Money, Pink Floyd
Music Cards for Criminals
Also in December 2018, it was revealed the Gunner Government would spend almost $800,000 for prisoners to download music for a five year period. Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said: “The Music Solution is an award-winning program that makes up part of Corrections’ reintegration framework”. The program drew considerable criticism from the opposition and independents, but the tunes keep pumping at the big house.
Song: Jailhouse Rock, Elvis Presley
In August 2019, Michael Gunner appointed his brother-in-law Ryan Neve to be his deputy chief of staff after an office rejig that saw his long time chief of staff and boss Alf Leonardi sacked. Then there’s all the family of friends who have fifth-floor jobs based on who they know, not what they know that was revealed in a leaked phone list. Gunner also came under fire in December 2018, when independent Alice Springs MLA Robyn Lambley accused him of failing to disclose that his mother worked for Speaker Kezia Purick, who was later found by the ICAC to have acted corruptly in interfering with the establishment of a political party, but who Gunner did not send to the Privileges Committee.
Song: We are Family, Sister Sledge
Executive pay freeze
In April 2019, the Government Government announced a plan to save $25 million over three years by freezing the salaries of 600 executives and 25 politicians. The move was part of the budget repair plan, however that required the executives to sign up to the deal, of which only 58 per cent had signed up five months later. And the annual pay rises continue for all 21,000-plus NT public servants.
Song: Get a Haircut, George Thorogood
Remember when Adam Giles, that great wizard of politics, sipped on his beer last election night and said that ‘disunity is death’ in politics? Well, Michael Gunner remembered. It wasn’t why the CLP lost so badly last time around, but at the first sign that he had some free-thinkers in his caucus and cabinet who called him and his Treasurer out on their poor handling of the NT’s finances, Gunner flew all the way back from a holiday in New Zealand (that he left for on the day he made Nicole Manison announce the financial crisis) to sack Ken Vowles, Scott McConnell and Jeff Collins. Instead of working with them or even addressing their concerns, they were kicked out of caucus and all eventually ended up leaving the Labor party. And we’re still in a financial crisis with no end in sight.
Song: We Gotta Get Out of This Place, The Animals
In this dirty old part of the city/Where the sun refused to shine/People tell me there ain’t no use in tryin’ …
Hiding politician travel costs
In late 2017, the Gunner Government scrapped mandatory reporting rules that forced all NT politicians to disclose where they travelled and how much it cost taxpayers. While the Remuneration Tribunal recommended it, the government was under no obligation to approve it, but did anyway. It later emerged taxpayers paid former Labor party president Syd Stirling and former under-treasurer Michael Martin an average $318 an hour to recommend less transparency in government. $27,000 of taxpayer money well spent to cover up the spending of hundreds of thousands more on secret travel.
Song: On the Road Again, Willie Nelson
How sweet is it to have your application for a $12 million grant written by the Chief Minister’s chief of staff himself? That’s what happened for the Darwin Turf Club as Gunner’s former chief of staff Alf Leonardi wrote the application for the club to the Department of Business who later recommended cabinet approve the funding. Gunner said it made him feel like an “idiot” because he claimed he was not aware. He rejected calls to resign over the issue just six months ago, but this being the Northern Territory, he’s now in line to be re-elected to run the place for another four years.
Song: Tear Stained Letter, Johnny Cash
The Gunner Government faced some flack for changing legislation to legalise brothels and allow sex workers to work from their homes earlier this year. Some were concerned about tricks being turned in traditional family areas, but the government said it was for the protection of sex workers and plowed ahead without considering objections. While sex workers applauded the decision, Independent MLA Gerry Wood was later publicly rebuked by Attorney General Natasha Fyles for voicing opposition to the Bill and disagreeing with the government.
Song: Roxanne, The Police
June Mills’ tirade at the Chief Minister
It was a quiet day at a boring press conference in Karama for Michael Gunner as he attempted to promote his government’s achievements when Indigenous elder and Larrakia woman June Mills took the opportunity to give the NT’s leader a piece of her mind for his handling of Indigenous affairs and his decision to overturn his previous fracking ban. “Are you insane?” she asked at one point. “Was that a yes? That nodding of the head, was that a yes? Come on Chief.” Gunner just stood there next to his car silent, either unable or unaware of how to defuse the situation as Ms Mills verbally slapped him around better than the Opposition could on their best day in Parliament.
Song: Smack my Bitch Up, Prodigy
Banning the free press
Back in June, Gunner fled from the NT Independent after its reporters were discovered at a press conference at Stokes Hill Wharf waiting to ask questions about his trip to China and secret agreements signed. Gunner quickly changed the presser to the safe confines of the bunker of Parliament House where’s he’s hidden almost exclusively since and banned the NT Independent from entering. The whole shameful affair made Media Watch, with Paul Barry calling Gunner’s banning of the NT Independent “crazy” and recommended getting it “sorted”. That has not happened yet, despite this paper’s best efforts.
Song: Band on the Run, Wings
Don Dale Breakouts
The little rascals were at it again in 2015, 2018 and 2019, rioting at the Don Dale youth detention facility. To be honest, we’ve lost count of how many riots there’s been and how much damage to the facility has been caused over the last four years. But we’re sure the next review will solve it all.
Song: Fire Water Burn, Bloodhound Gang
Pets in rentals
Based on little to no public consultation – and against its own Parliamentary committee’s recommendation – the Gunner Government moved to pass pet rental laws that presumed the right of a tenant to keep a pet in a rental property. Property owners who object would have to go through the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to ban a pet. The legislation was passed earlier this year, but later stalled until after the election. At the time, Gunner copied a Facebook post from his mentor Dan Andrews almost verbatim to announce his new laws, adding the line “this one’s for you, Blue”.
Song: Who Let the Dogs Out, Baha Men
The Baha Men had it all figured out. Pictured here chilling on a Darwin beach not worried at all about their investment properties.
The Shade Structure
The $2.7 million Cavenagh St shade structure has become an icon of Darwin, and a possible eighth wonder of the world, because, unlike the government it is open and transparent; even though it is not meant to be.The wood and metal structure was supposed to be covered in a vine and shading a small part of the street as early as October 2019. As of now, it has only reached the top of the structure, not spread across the canopy. One nurseryman told the media it was a Boundless Impossible expectation for the vines to cover the structure.
Song: Blister in the sun, Violent Femmes
Youth crime in some sections of the community is considered the most important election issue. After the Royal Commission into youth detention in 2016 the Gunner Government promised to use rehabilitation to fix high crime and indigenous incarceration rates through support and diversion and building a new youth prison. But there is a beating of drums – pardon the pun – from the CLP and Facebook commenters to be “tough on crime”. The issue is nowhere near being decreased or managed.
Song: Smells like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
The Gunner Government unveiled a $1.5 million brand designed to change the impression that Territorians are drunks and crooks, and to attract an extra 2.8 million people to live here. They are going to need to spend a heap more cash and provide something better than a grating slogan with jarring grammar to make that happen. It turned out the company that designed the brand kind of lifted it from a Dubai campaign – ‘Beyond Possible’ – with the same distinctive typeface. So at least it fit into the spirit of the NT – let’s do it half arsed and rip it off someone else. There were 18,000 people who left the NT last financial year, signalling the lowest population since March 2016.
Song: Been caught stealing, Jane’s Addiction
Boundless Possible Sticker on Rocket
Oh yeah, there once was a rocket launched into space from Queensland in November 2018 which the Gunner Government paid to have Boundless Possible plastered on the side. The government didn’t say how much they paid – but it its believed to be at least $40,000 – nor if the slogan made more sense to Martians than it does to Earthlings. If they had taken the only copy of that slogan into space and left it there it might have been worth a lot of money.
Song: Rocket Man, Elton John
2020 Election campaign
In a campaign for the ages, Michael Gunner and his team decided on an unusual strategy: they wouldn’t campaign, suggest solutions to problems or defend their last four years in office. Instead, they continue to politicise the COVID-19 pandemic, telling people they are the only ones who can keep Territorians safe from the virus. No need to explain any of the hits mentioned above and no scrutiny applied by anyone. There is a new songbook in town and it only contains one song. Scary thing is it may have worked?
Song: Keep on Rocking in the Free World, Neil Young