The Gunner Government has confused Territorians with mixed messaging about when the borders will reopen and by providing conflicting figures of how many people have crossed the borders while they remain closed, critics say.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Michael Gunner continued to avoid providing a firm date for when his government will officially reopen the Territory’s borders to the rest of the country.
Mr Gunner confused some at a press conference by suggesting a 60-day notice for reopening the borders would be too long a notice to give, which was implied by some as meaning he will reopen the borders in 60 days.
“I think if I gave 60 days notice I’d be keeping the borders shut longer than I need to,” he said. “So, I’m thinking that through at the moment.”
But he did not offer a firm date, repeating that the borders will open only “when it is safe” and not providing details around what that means or when it might be determined.
“I’m taking advice from the Chief Health Officer and others about what kind of notice we can give,” he said.
“I want the borders to open as soon as possible, too. I was going to wait until it is safe to do so.”
He did not elaborate on who the “others” are he is taking advice from.
NT tourism representatives, the business community and the hospitality industry have all said they want to see the borders open soon, with adequate notice given to provide certainty to industry and allow them time to prepare.
Those sentiments have been echoed by federal leaders who say there is no health reason for states and territories to keep borders closed currently.
“Now that the Chief Minister is leading without National Cabinet, the messaging is unclear and confusing.”Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills
Meanwhile, the Department of Chief Minister has confirmed more than 18,000 people have entered the Northern Territory since the borders were officially shut in what they are calling “discrete crossings”.
It’s unclear what the new bureaucratic term means exactly, but 11,000 of those “discrete crossings” were exempted from undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine period – refuting a previous figure of 8000 provided by Health Minister Natasha Fyles.
The discrepancy of the figures was not explained.
The ‘discrete crossings’ figures have also raised questions over how tightly the borders have been closed.
Once praised for delivering clear messages during the height of the pandemic, the Gunner Government was now confusing Territorians, Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills said.
“Now that the Chief Minister is leading without the support of National Cabinet, the messaging is increasingly unclear and confusing,” Mr Mills said. “The economic rebuild requires clarity and strong and coherent leadership – things haven’t gotten hard yet.”
Mr Gunner also announced on Tuesday that his Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission will now be co-chaired by former ALP chief minister Paul Henderson and Darwin-born international businessman Andrew Liveris, the former Dow Chemical CEO.
The eight member commission will be tasked with developing a plan to create jobs and attract private investment to the NT post-coronavirus pandemic. It replaces Team NT, which was established in early 2018 to do the same thing.
“We are determined to turn this once-in-a-century crisis into a once-in-a-century opportunity to bring more jobs and more investment to the Territory,” Mr Gunner said.
The commission will deliver an interim report by the end of July with the full economic recovery plan not being delivered until after the Territory general election.