Independent Member for Stuart Scott McConnell has called for the Administrator’s residence to be converted into an RSL and the position made “honorary”, following revelations of massive expenses on travel and electricity billed to taxpayers.
The NT Independent revealed yesterday that Administrator Vicki O’Halloran had charged taxpayers nearly $100,000 for trips to London and Honolulu in a little under two years and that Government House, her official residence, was running a $100,000 annual power bill in the middle of the NT Government’s financial crisis, where public servants are being asked to make cost savings.
Mr McConnell told ABC Radio on Thursday that it was time for a reassessment of the ongoing expenses of the Administrator position.
“The Territory cannot afford this largesse – it’s not about the current incumbent in the role, we just simply can’t afford it,” he said.
“I think the Administrator’s residence, that sits there in that beautiful location next to Parliament House, I think that would be appropriate to be repurposed as the new RSL.
“I think that we look at reducing costs to the Territory … that the Administrator role should see it being an honorary role that we call on when we need it. We don’t need that expensive residence.”
Mr McConnell added that the days of paying the Administrator – the Queen’s indirect representative to the NT – a large salary, travel expenses, and covering the costs of a private chef and driver services were well and truly over.
Total costs for the position were not made available, but according to figures released by the government, Ms O’Halloran charged taxpayers $17,350 for a trip to London last year under the pretence of celebrating an assistant being honoured that also included bringing her “official secretary” and photographer Craig Kitchen at a further cost of $10,747.
Then there were two jaunts to Hawaii in 2018 and 2019 that cost taxpayers a combined $64,682 for the official reason of being “invited” by the Chief Minister to attend US Veterans Day services.
Mr McConnell said the trips were unjustifiable.
“It doesn’t set a good example when we’re asking our public sector to make significant savings and it doesn’t set a good example to Territorians when we clearly have to tighten our belts ourselves,” he said.
Mr McConnell suggested any special functions hosted by the Administrator could instead be held at Parliament House by the government or Speaker and called on the Gunner Government to take cost savings measures by streamlining the position.
“The decision (to change the position and save costs) can be made by efficient people in government,” Mr McConnell said. “They don’t need another committee, they don’t need to employ other outside experts, the don’t need to call anyone team anything, they just need to get on with it and start saving some money for the Territory.”
Ms O’Halloran did not respond to questions from the NT Independent around whether she had been looking at finding cost savings in the middle of the Territory’s financial crisis. She also declined to explain what Territorians received for her trips to Hawaii in the middle of the build-up.