NT Government controlled by faceless ‘puppet masters’, axed minister Ken Vowles claims
Former Aboriginal Affairs and Resources Minister Ken Vowles was sacked today. (ABC News: Ian Redfern)
Ken Vowles reckons he’s seen more spin in the Territory Government than Shane Warne’s ever put on a cricket ball.
- Ken Vowles says the NT Government has no plan to reduce its mounting debt
- He also says it fails to follow proper process and that advisors “run the show”
- Chief Minister Michael Gunner sacked Mr Vowles for breaching “cabinet confidentiality” today
The Member for Johnston was axed today from the Labor caucus, along with assistant minister Jeff Collins and backbencher Scott McConnell, and promptly let rip on his former colleagues.
During a spectacular press conference, the former Australian youth cricketer told reporters the Territory Labor party had little regard for due process, was preoccupied with political ambition and was controlled by a drove of faceless puppet-masters.
“I’m in a little bit of shock. I’m also deeply disappointed, deeply disappointed with the actions of our Chief Minister and Cabinet,” Mr Vowles said.
“I think the thing that hurts the most, absolutely pains me to my heart, is that my colleagues have booted me out.
“My phone blowing up here is people from my electorate — people who have called saying what a bullshit decision this is.
“I’m a bit shell-shocked but you know what — I’ve faced some very tall, very fast West Indian fast bowlers in my time and they were a lot easier than this.”
Chief Minister Michael Gunner, who has cut short a holiday in New Zealand and is due to return tomorrow, said Mr Vowles was sacked for breaking “Cabinet confidentiality”.
But Mr Vowles believed it was long-time public servant, and Mr Gunner’s chief-of-staff, Alf Leonardi who would have ordered his execution.
“Michael Gunner doesn’t fart without Alf Leonardi saying so,” he said.
“Make no mistake, the bloke running this place is Alf Leonardi. Alf Leonardi would have told Michael Gunner to sack me and that’s what would have happened.
“The faceless men and women in any political party are the true puppet-masters here.”
But he also alleged to have been attacked “personally” for his public statements about the budget by the upper echelons of cabinet — including Mr Gunner, Treasurer Nicole Manison and Attorney-General Natasha Fyles.
He went on to say that those in power were more concerned with their own ambitions than the needs of Territorians.
“It’s interesting I was the first person to be kicked out … I was the person to take on the Chief Minister,” he said.
“And I’m sure there’s a few of them licking their lips right now saying ‘Hey maybe I’ll be the next minister’.”
He said he hoped to remain a member of the Labor Party, but anticipated he would be forced to leave.
‘We’re in crisis’
At the press conference this afternoon, Mr Vowles said the two most critical problems facing the Northern Territory were youth crime and its budget crisis, and his party had dropped the ball on both.
He said it had no plan whatsoever to claw back the Territory’s ballooning debt, particularly as it had ruled out most savings measures.
“I’m telling you now the budget is in crisis. No matter how much spin you put out there, we’re in crisis,” he said.
“People don’t want us talking about ourselves, they want to know our plans for the Territory.
“And right now, there are no plans for the Territory in regards to fiscal management and the opportunity for Territorians to feel that this government is working for them.”
Mr Vowles said the Territory Government needed to revisit every election commitment and policy that would cost taxpayer dollars, prioritising ones that would bring in private investment and those that would have a return on investment.
Some key projects, such as the Alice Springs museum, he believed should be put on the backburner until the fiscal position improved.
In his opinion, the government should enforce a recruitment freeze and departmental chief executives should be held accountable for overspending.
He also believed more effort should be made to include locals in stimulus campaigns, pointing out the recent Boundless Possible campaign — set to give $15,000 for families who relocated to the NT over five years — failed in that regard.
He also alleged the government failed to follow due process when it came to making major funding announcements and that key cabinet decisions tended to be rubber-stamped.
For example, he said the decision to channel $30m towards Tennant Creek, and match an equal commitment from Federal Government was not made through cabinet, but was a decision ministers were told about through a text message.
“There was a text from Michael Gunner saying it was done. Is that a cabinet process, is that a budget process? No,” he said.