The NT’s ‘cocaine and intercourse’ imbroglio: the scandal taking crocodiles off the entrance web page | Northern Territory politics
T.The Northern Territory government’s “cocaine sex scandal” that surrounds a Labor member and employee has so far produced no conclusive evidence of cocaine use or even sex, but after being on the front page every day for more than a week NT News has appeared to put pressure on Prime Minister Michael Gunner.
It’s an archetypal story of territorial politics, reminiscent of the 2016 scandal when Liberal party minister and devout Christian Nathan Barrett was forced to resign after it was reported that he was masturbating on a woman on a video of himself in his parliamentary bathroom it wasn’t his wife.
This year’s Imbroglio so far has resulted in a Labor member being expelled from the convention and costing a staff member his or her job, but the questions that go unanswered have made it bigger than the traditional three Cs of the NT message cycle (crocodiles, Cyclones and crime)) combined.
The story first saw the light of day on a Facebook page called Mango Inquirer, run by Shannon Joyce, a staff member and wedding photographer for the disabled with Mustang drivers, which usually contains grainy CCTV footage about suspected criminal activity.
On February 6, she published allegations by a sex worker that an unidentified legislative assembly and a Labor worker attended a cocaine-fueled sex party on the Territory’s election night in August.
The sex worker subsequently told the media that she was “too confused” that night to remember who was involved. However, she confirmed a relationship with an MLA.
The following week, the Sunday Territorian’s bushranger gossip column picked up on the story and sparked a “cocaine sex scandal” involving a “member of the Territory’s political party.”
This led CLP chairwoman Lia Finocchiaro to step into the fight and call on Gunner to deal with “serious allegations against members of his party”, but during the three days of parliamentary sessions she failed to describe or account for the allegations name someone.
Gunner dismissed the claims as internet gossip, but two mornings later the sex worker went on ABC Darwin and commercial talkback radio. Again, she didn’t name the MLA but said he was a “sweet man” who was “considerate and gentle”.
Late that night, Mark Turner, a married ex-cop who was first elected (for the same seat as Barrett) in August, showed up as the MLA in question.
Turner spoke up to make a statement saying he had a close “friendship” with the woman but denied ever having used drugs.
“I accept that there have been aspects of our friendship in the past that were inappropriate because they were too intimate,” he said, but the word “sex” never came out of his lips.
The next day, Turner was booted from the caucus after the sex worker posted text messages to the NT Independent stating that he had tried to persuade her to retract her story and make a statement he had written for her.
When asked about the employee’s cocaine use, the sex worker did not give a direct answer. No evidence of drug use by either man was presented.
The focus now is on what Gunner knew and when. The independent MLA and former CLP Deputy Prime Minister Robyn Lambley and the CLP have called for his resignation.
The Police Special References Unit investigates alleged cocaine use on the colloquial “fifth floor” – the level in parliament where members of government are located.
Mark Turner and the staff member did not respond to a request for comment.