Grandstand scandal: This is why the Northern Territory needs independent media

by | Jul 28, 2021 | News, NT Politics, Opinion | 0 comments

When we launched the NT Independent our commitment was to provide you with unfettered access to the stories that mattered to you.

We told you we would focus on exposing corruption – in the government, public service and elsewhere – and that we would be shaking up the media landscape in this town that was long ago compromised by different interests affecting how your stories are told and that led to public interest issues covered up.

Today, the Territory’s paper of record, the NT News, launched an unprecedented attack on your independent media service.

While we might suggest this is because we have been beating them to stories that matter for the last 16 months, it seems it is much more complex than that.

We’ve clearly struck a nerve with the establishment.

For this, we make no apologies.

The NT News, and its long-standing patron Brett Dixon, appear to be suggesting that we colluded with the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption to, well, we’re not sure exactly. Expose corruption?

Our series of investigative reports into the Darwin Turf Club’s handling of a $12 million taxpayer-funded grant revealed serious deficiencies in how public money was being managed that appeared to border on corruption.

You had a right to know about that and it was not being reported anywhere else, until the ICAC report was released late last month.

If the NT News or other media outlets want to know how we did it; it’s simple and involves no magic, nor breaking of laws.

It’s called old-fashioned journalism.

We put our heads down and worked hard, expanded on relationships we had built in the community over the years and earned your trust and the trust of sources who knew the only way they could get vitally important information that you needed to know about was to come to us.

We thank them for that and trust that we’ve fulfilled our obligations to them.

READ: Corruption captured: Darwin Turf Club grandstand scandal investigative series

In the course of our reporting on exposing corruption, we also reported that NT News editor Matt Williams was the “senior media figure” identified in the ICAC’s grandstand report, who used his position to provide favourable media coverage to Dixon while he was under investigation for the misuse of public funds.

This came as no surprise to anyone who read the ICAC’s report.

Williams’s involvement and pledges to Dixon have been backed up with evidence and there appears to be no argument from the establishment on that.

What they want to know is how we knew he irrevocably tarnished the NT News’s reputation.

Herein lies the largest systemic issue the Northern Territory establishment has yet to come to terms with.

Instead of addressing their failures, the establishment hits out at those who shed light into the darkest corners of this Outback Gotham City.

In Estimates hearings last month, police commissioner Jamie Chalker made the startling claim that he had ordered his police force to investigate leaks to the NT Independent that exposed his own department’s failures, including the woeful mismanagement of the NT Police College, the suppression of public reporting of sexual assaults and various other incompetencies.

He yesterday confirmed to the ABC that he has launched yet another investigation, at the behest of Brett Dixon – a man the anti-corruption commission found engaged in corrupt conduct – into how the NT Independent received information that contributed to its reporting.

This latest development is troubling. How does the police commissioner launch an investigation at the request of a man who has been identified as corrupt by an independent anti-corruption body?

There seems to be a consistent theme here around shooting the messenger, rather than dealing with problems, however.

Earlier this week, Chief Minister Michael Gunner dismissed the highly-regarded CommSec State of the States report into the NT’s economy as “garbage” and suggested he bins it every quarter – the same way he binned an internal report into the operations of his office while aware a possible ICAC investigation was afoot.

Throwing problems in the bin doesn’t address the Territory’s systemic failings.

Attacking those who expose the failures of government, police and the media doesn’t address the root causes of that existential malady either.

And if you need any more proof of why our problems are not being addressed properly, look to the NT News – the paper of record for the Northern Territory – that has an ethical obligation to fearlessly report on matters that concern you.

They now want the ICAC’s report into corruption at the Turf Club thrown in the bin because their editor and the man who gave them free tickets to racing events were involved.

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

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

Instead of defending their editor’s actions in the grandstand scandal, News Corp and Brett Dixon, have claimed that the text message that revealed his misdeeds was lacking proper context – that “key words were omitted which … fundamentally undermine the interpretation the ICAC put on the text in the report”.

They chose not to disclose those magic words that apparently exonerate Williams’ and the paper’s years of biased reporting and covering up scandals.

Unless those key words were: “I was only joking, Brett”, the Territory doesn’t have a chance of shaking its systemic cover-up culture.

And that is a joke nobody is laughing at.

 

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