NT Chief Minister accused of being 'in cahoots' with his mum over speaker stoush

NT Chief Minister accused of being 'in cahoots' with his mum over speaker stoush
NT Chief Minister accused of being 'in cahoots' with his mum over speaker stoush

MLA Robyn Lambley said Michael Gunner did not sack the speaker because his mum is employed by her.ABC News: James Purtill

Independent Alice Springs MLA Robyn Lambley has accused Chief Minister Michael Gunner of failing to disclose that his mother works for Speaker Kezia Purick, amid a political fight in which Ms Purick narrowly held on to her job this week.

Key points: Kezia Purick kept her job after her office interfered in setting up a new political party Chief Minister Michael Gunner's mum, Jane Gunner, reports directly to Ms Purick MLA questions favourable treatment, but Mr Gunner denies a conflict of interest

Ms Lambley told ABC radio that Mr Gunner did not sack Ms Purick after her office attempted to interfere in the establishment of a new political party, because his mother is employed by her and that the three of them were "in cahoots".

"It's a very incestuous situation we've got," she said.

"The Chief Minister's mother is working for Kezia Purick, so the plot thickens.

"That's something most people don't know — there's a lot more to this story than meets the eye."

Ms Purick apologised to Parliament earlier this week, after it was revealed her senior assistant Martine Smith contacted the registered holder of the North Australia Party business name and suggested he object to Ms Lambley and fellow independent MLA Terry Mills forming the party.

The Office of the Speaker has strict conventions placed on it to remain impartial.

Ms Purick did not address whether her staffer attempted to interfere on her own in her parliamentary address, but previously stated she was not aware of Ms Smith's actions.

Labor MLAs called for Ms Purick to be sacked for bringing the office of the Speaker and Parliament as a whole into disrepute, but the motion was defeated in a caucus vote on Monday, led by Mr Gunner.

Mr Gunner publicly backed Ms Purick but had called on her to explain her office's actions in Parliament on Tuesday.

Ms Purick declined to offer any explanation of why her most senior staffer interfered, instead offering an apology and explaining that Ms Smith had been "reprimanded" for her actions.

'It's a very questionable and potentially conflicted situation'

Ms Lambley said the decision to back Ms Purick before an explanation was offered was indicative of favourable treatment.

"Mr Gunner's decision not to remove Martine Smith or Kezia Purick from their positions is tied up in a much bigger story," she said.

"I think Territorians need to know what's gone on in this space."

Ms Lambley stated that the undisclosed potential conflict of interest was a breach of the separation of powers of government, because Mr Gunner leads the executive branch and his mother has inside information about the legislative branch and its elected members.

Photo NT Speaker Kezia Purick offered an apology and said her staffer had been "reprimanded"

ABC: Felicity James

Ms Lambley said she was concerned this week when she received an email from Jane Gunner on behalf of Ms Purick relating to parliamentary business.

"She is privy to information about me and other Members of Parliament — it's a very questionable and potentially conflicted situation you've got in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly," Ms Lambley said.

"If you don't have that healthy separation of powers, which we don't have at the moment, you don't have a good, strong, democratic process that is able to fully represent the interests of the people.

"These are the bedrocks of our parliamentary system, of our Westminster system."

According to her title, Mrs Gunner is employed by the Department of Legislative Assembly as the "executive secretary, office of the clerk", which reports directly to Ms Purick.

A spokesman for Mr Gunner said he had never discussed issues relating to other MLAs with his mother and has never been given any confidential information from her.

"The Chief Minister's mother has been secretary to multiple clerks, across multiple governments," the spokesman said.

"No issue of conflict has ever been raised."

But Ms Lambley said not disclosing the perceived conflict of interest eroded trust in Mr Gunner's ability to make unbiased decisions relating to the speaker, and that there was "no recourse for us as members of Parliament" to complain.

"Do we go to the Administrator with this? I really don't know," Ms Lambley said.

"This is a serious workplace issue and a bigger constitutional issue for the NT."

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

PREV US cop who shot her neighbour after accidentally entering his unit is charged with murder
NEXT Fox on games: Marvel gaming crossover