Gunner not the best Chief Minister we can have: McConnell

2483 Scott McConnell OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA

 

“With due respect, Michael Gunner has proved that he is not the best Chief Minister we can have.”

 

That is the blunt message of Scott McConnell (pictured), Member for the Central Australian seat of Stuart, and one of the three Labor Caucus members sacked by Mr Gunner last week.

 

“I am openly asking Michael Gunner to reflect about his ability to lead the government,” Mr McConnell said in an interview with the Alice Springs News Online today.

 

The final straw for the government’s long time critic was Mr Gunner’s handling of the announcement  of the Territory’s catastrophic financial situation.

 

The release of this “very important document” occurred “around lunchtime” of Friday, December 14, says Mr McConnell, “not long before Christmas.

 

“Typically when documents are released on a Friday it is to avoid scrutiny and that doesn’t look too good when you are a government that says it is all about transparency.”

 

Mr McConnell says even though he was still available the Chief Minster did not appear with his Treasurer.

 

“Media requested interviews, from the Leader, Michael Gunner, only to discover that he had already or was about to depart on leave.

 

“That demonstrated a failure to support his Treasurer.

 

“It was a seminal and very important document. He should have been present when it was released and it should not have been released on a Friday afternoon just before Christmas.

 

“There were legitimate questions that the community deserves to have answered.

 

“It was his error of judgement alone, and it is not appropriate for him to expect other Labor members to now carry the can for him.”

 

Mr McConnell says the following day a confidential email chain was circulating between the 18 Caucus members where “cogent and important points were made, including about a road forward”, with Minister Ken Vowles and Caucus members Jeff Collins as prominent participants.

 

Both were subsequently sacked by Mr Gunner.

 

Mr McConnell says it was clear the emails were “deliberately leaked” to the Murdoch NT News.

 

“The commentary going around was that it was “strategically leaked by a staffer on the Fifth Floor – that’s is the allegation that’s being put around at the moment.”

 

The Fifth Floor is where the government minders have their offices.

 

“Regardless of how the document became public knowledge the concerns expressed in it were very legitimate,” says Mr McConnell.

 

He says there was no criticism, in fact it contains “suggestions to re-allocate workloads so that the Treasurer might be able to commit more time to working on the issues.”

 

However, it is now clear that any commentary is interpreted as undermining the Chief Minister.

 

He called an emergency caucus meeting “and without any due process or natural justice” the three people were expelled for the remainder of the term.

 

“It is abhorrent. It is unjust,” says Mr McConnell. None of the statements by the three expelled members were “unreasonable, anything that isn’t a legitimate part of going forward.

 

“We think that he has probably overstepped his authority and we are checking on that as well.”

 

He says avenues for an appeal may be available through the Labor Party in the Territory and Federally, and there may also be legal options, “but I am reaching out here to the court of public opinion, so to speak”.

 

Mr McConnell says he will continue to represent Stuart as a “loyal member of the Labor Party” for the remainder of the term.

 

He makes it clear that financial issues had “not been discussed with me at any length at any time. I don’t know much more than what is on the public record.

 

“We need a competent government and a competent leadership to take us through these issues and that is not by expelling people who are expressing concerns.

 

“A lot of these things should be much more in the public domain.”

 

Has he asked for the information?

 

“The leadership team has the responsibility to keep people duly informed. They are the ones who are making those decisions.

 

Mr McConnell had first expressed concerns over the Gunner leadership style nearly two years ago, in an interview with the Alice Springs News Online on January 18, 2017.

 

“The response to that was trying to undermine me with my Caucus colleagues, saying my statements were undermining Ministers. They were deliberately misrepresenting me to undermine me.”

 

Caucus members do not get informed, he says: “They have excluded us. I got special treatment because I was outspoken … to try and strengthen the team, to try and generate some of these discussions.

 

It did not happen “and now look at the situation we’re in.

 

“I suspect I was regularly denied the opportunity to find out things for quite some time which is why I have been referring to my Parliamentary office as Campdog Corner.

 

“I feel I haven’t been included in a lot of things. I have never had a detailed briefing about the financial position of the NT.”

 

Mr McConnell could not answer questions we put to Ms Manison on December 16, about the loans, including the amount, interest rate, period, from whom they were obtained and what is the collateral. Ms Manison has not given us a reply.

 

Says Mr McConnell: “If someone asks questions about the direction we are going in, is Michael Gunner’s response going to be to sack them? I don’t know where to go from here.”

 

 

 

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4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Eli Melky
    Posted December 29, 2018 at 9:49 am

    The ALP have successfully surpassed previous CLP government successes.
    That is to say they are now well on track to be a one term administration.
    Whoever thought it was a good idea to attack three members of your caucus should have their advisors badge suspended.
    The challenge remains who will stand up for Territorians?
    If we must have a political party, surely we can come up with better than the previously sacked CLP.

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  2. Laughing
    Posted December 28, 2018 at 8:36 am

    James, it would be a fair argument to say that this mob got voted in because the CLP was unpopular. Many a joke was passed around the day after the election of frantic googling to find out what you actually do when in government. Unfortunately this isn’t funny anymore.

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  3. James T Smerk
    Posted December 27, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Unfortunately people are voted in because they are popular, familiar or the people are sick of the alternative and by what they promise and say. There is nothing to say they can’t change their minds and do whatever they want once they are in, they aren’t held accountable for prior promises. These people aren’t voted in based on their ability to lead or manage which is what is wrong with our system.
    It’s easy to get the vote nowadays, just say you will be hard on crime, that’s what people want to hear. I’m sure there are people out there who wouldn’t care if we were running into debt as long as they could feel safe in their homes. Which is what the Chief Minister is ultimately responsible for, but hey nothing happens to them if they don’t fulfil this obligation to the community.

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  4. Hal Duell
    Posted December 25, 2018 at 6:57 am

    Where to from here? Too easy. Lose Gunner or lose government. No guarantee you won’t anyway, but with Gunner at the helm, you’ve got Buckley’s.

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