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Australia ICAC investigation delays parliamentary probe into NT Labor MLA Mark Turner

10:31  06 may  2021
10:31  06 may  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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A powerful parliamentary committee investigating whether a Northern Territory Labor politician misled the Legislative Assembly has delayed the release of its report by more than six months.

The committee's report into Blain MLA Mark Turner has been put on hold while the anti-corruption watchdog carries out its own probe into the Palmerston-based politician.

In February, the Country Liberal Party opposition successfully moved a motion to refer Mr Turner to the Privileges Committee, which has the power to fine or imprison those found guilty of contempt.

The opposition's motion against Mr Turner related to a statement the former policeman made in parliament about his connection to a "private citizen" which had become the subject of intense media and political scrutiny.

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In his statement, the former policeman described his consensual "friendship" with the woman as one involving the exchange of "general conversation, banter, jokes and some intimate conversation".

"I accept that there were aspects of our friendship in the past that were not appropriate because they were too intimate," Mr Turner said in his statement.

The day after making the address, he was expelled from the Labor caucus after Chief Minister Michael Gunner told parliament Mr Turner had not been transparent about the relationship when asked about it by his colleagues.

Opposition MLA Marie-Clare Boothby subsequently moved a motion to refer Mr Turner to the Privileges Committee, telling parliament it was clear the relationship was "sexual in nature".

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Ms Boothby said her most serious concern was that the Member for Blain had also told the assembly he had the support of the Chief Minister in making his statement.

She said Mr Gunner had later said in media interviews that Mr Turner had made "material changes" to his statement, after Mr Gunner had helped him draft an earlier version of it.

Ms Boothby's motion was accepted by the Labor government, with the Privileges Committee tasked with reporting on the matter by today.

Report delayed until next year

But yesterday, the Leader of Government Business and chair of the committee, Natasha Fyles, successfully moved a motion to delay the report until the first parliamentary sittings next year, although she did not explain why at the time.

In a press conference today, she said the delay related to an ongoing investigation by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, who informed parliament in March that it had launched a probe into a matter involving Mr Turner.

The ICAC has not disclosed the nature of its investigation.

"The Privileges Committee is a very important committee of the parliament," Ms Fyles said.

"But there is another investigation by the ICAC — they have substantial powers and research capabilities.

"So the committee sought an extension from the house and that was granted."

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said the CLP was "taken by surprise" by the government's move to delay the report.

"The Privileges Committee … can conduct its own investigations as the assembly sees fit as separate to other investigative bodies."

Mr Turner declined to comment.

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This is interesting!