I cannot recall, Giles tells the Royal Commission


p2428 NTRC Adam Giles 1By ERWIN CHLANDA
Former Chief Minister Adam Giles (at right) set up the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT, which is expected to cost the taxpayer many millions of dollars, in the belief that the sensational footage on Four Corners was of events less than six months before the program went to air.
“I thought that footage was in the last six months from when it was aired. I didn’t know it was six years ago, when we weren’t even in government,” Mr Giles said as a witness before the commission today, saying he had believed that horrendous treatment of children in detention had occurred “on my watch”.
He rang Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull within 10 hours of the program going to air, and secured his support for the commission.
Mr Giles said today that it wasn’t until he took over as the Minister for Correctional Services from John Elferink that he examined the footage and discovered that some of it had been recorded up to six years earlier.
He began his evidence by answering Counsel Assisting Peter Morrissey (below) dozens of times by saying “I don’t remember”, “I have no recollection”, “I can’t recall the documents”, “I don’t have an opinion” or words to that effect, when questioned on issues ranging from ‘tough love’ policies, boot camps, safe streets, to youth detention, issues of statutory duty of care and the notorious gassing episode.
He gave no replies clarifying the issues of inadequate correctional staff training and poor resources in the old and the new Don Dale facilities, the latter a conversion of the Berrimah prison that was replaced by the new Holtze gaol that will cost the government $1.8b.
Unlike John Elferink yesterday, Mr Giles had not provided a written statement and had not followed in adequate detail the evidence to date before the commission he set up.
p2429 NTRC Morrissey & Elf 450Despite the conditions at Don Dale growing into a public scandal, and several NGOs pushing for a new detention centre for juveniles, Mr Giles could not say how often he communicated with Mr Elferink, who served as the Corrections Minister for most of the CLP term from August 2012, saying “we probably spoke most days, every second day, I can’t recall”.
He could not reply to questions with certainty about a 20% cut in funding apparently ordered. He claimed the budget for corrections had increased during his term as Chief Minister, without giving exact figures.
His recollection of his only visit to Don Dale was that the wooden ceiling may be a problem, and the lack of toilets in the sleeping quarters.
He had no memory of looking into the notorious Behaviour Management Unit and had not read some key reports and studies about the problems, including those by Michael Vita and Colleen Gwynne, the present Children’s Commissioner.
A typical exchange between Mr Giles and Mr Morrissey went like this:
MORRISSEY: Why did you request the briefing [on youth justice matters]?
GILES: I can’t recall.
MORRISSEY: Do you know what the issues were?
GILES: I have no recollection.
MORRISSEY: Was the topic of staff training and staff morale a live one in your mind at that time?
GILES: I cannot recall.
MORRISSEY: Did you go to the Don Dale centre with Mr Elferink in June 2014?
GILES: I know I certainly went there once with him.
MORRISSEY: Did you go to the Behaviour Management Unit?
GILES: I can’t recall. I remember John wanted to show me the wood paneling and the amenities in some of the cells.
MORRISSEY: Is that the thing that stands out in your mind from that trip?
GILES: That’s the number one thing … there was a problem with potential fire.
MORRISSEY: Well, do you remember going to the Behaviour Management Unit?
GILES: I can’t remember.
MORRISSEY: Do you remember going to a unit that had a series of unlit, dark cells?
GILES: I don’t recall.
MORRISSEY: Do you remember going to a unit that stank of urine?
GILES: I don’t recall.
MORRISSEY: With silent children with the lights off inside those cells?
GILES: I don’t recall.
MORRISSEY: Might have happened and you just don’t remember.
p2428 NTRC John LawrenceGILES: I can’t recall it ever happening.
MORRISSEY: Did you go to a high security unit on that occasion?
GILES: I don’t recall. I was escorted around by some staff. I don’t have a recollection of what I saw, where I saw it and any other details.
MORRISSEY: Do you recall any emotional response after seeing any particular children or situation?
GILES: I don’t recall, I’m sorry.
John Lawrence SC (above, above representing ‘AD’, a juvenile) asked Mr Giles: “This is a commission of enquiry that you called when you were the Chief Minister. And you called for it because you were so shocked by the Four Corners program that revealed what was apparently going on in your Department of Corrections. Correct?
GILES: Yeah.
LAWRENCE: Have you been furnished with the material the commission has investigated and produced?
GILES: I’m not sure how to answer that.
LAWRENCE: You must have known you would be involved in the Royal Commission?
GILES: I was hoping to be involved. I want the Royal Commission to successful.
LAWRENCE: Then why haven’t you come today prepared properly to assist? You have a key role, historically, in what they are investigating.
GILES: I would disagree with your question. I am here, fully prepared to answer any question to the best of my recollection and knowledge. I wasn’t the Minister for Corrections except for a couple of weeks at the end of the term.
Despite all of the above, Mr Giles wasn’t without his wins. Felicity Graham, from the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, carefully laid the groundwork for questioning him about neglecting the youth detention facility in his own back yard, which also does not have toilets in the sleeping quarters.
Mr Giles countered that the door to his Braitling electoral office was always open, and no-one from CAALAS had bothered to call in and ask for the problem to be fixed.
And Mr Giles took the opportunity of responding to a question from Commissioner White about outlining what his understanding is of the political priorities for Alice Springs locals: “People in Braitling would like to walk down the local street and not be called a white c… or a black c… and not be assaulted or spat on.
“That was the big issue, particularly in the years from 2008 to 2012, people came up to us with a big law and order perspective. The Northside shops … you see 20 or 30 people hanging around outside, drunk, spitting, fighting.
“The number of times I had to call the police. The context was people wanted to feel safe in their community. Not just white people. Everyone.”
With lawyer Tamzin Lee (below) Mr Giles did not get a free ride.
p2428 NTRC Tamzin Lee 2She pointed out that Mr Giles had told the commission he expected his ministers to be up to speed with their portfolios. He was the Aboriginal Affairs Minister from February 2, 2015.
The Gwynn Report of August 2015 was dealing with how “a number of Indigenous young men have been treated whilst they had been incarcerated. Yet you didn’t read that report”.
GILES: Was it just an Aboriginal report or a youth report?
LEE: It was a report with respect to six Aboriginal young men who had been held in the Behaviour Management Unit during a period from August 2 to 21.


  1. Such a disappointing response from someone who, as Chief Minister of the NT, always maintained that he knew it all! Shameful.

  2. Such a Richard Nixon response.
    Arrogant and contemptuous behaviour that seriously adds to the already poor legacy of the former NT government under his “leadership”.
    No effort at reflection or even trying to remember the incidents in question. No preparation, no submissions, no credibility.
    Similar behaviour to that displayed by him in estimates hearings over travel costs undertaken by former ministers and their minders.
    Long, drawn out, monotonous responses to questions posed in an attempt to not seriously answer them.
    Only airfares were quoted (not associated costs like accommodation, meals, travel allowances or on-ground transport) in an attempt to make the costs cheaper than they actually were. Selective memory serves us all.
    At least John Elferink was able to recall.

  3. Adam Giles will clearly make an excellent ambassador-at-large, which is his new job for Gina Rinehart’s pastoral kingdom.
    He will remember less detail about matters of interest to the police, future Royal commissioners, the new NT ICAC, and/or the Taxation Commissioner, than Alan Bond, Joh, Christopher Skase, Ben Cousins, and Dougie and Dinsdale combined.
    Such a great asset to any ambitious enterprise.

  4. I am not sticking up for any of the inmates at that place, but I do have cause to wonder if “I do not remember or I do not recall” would have been accepted as valid defense in their trials.


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