Country Liberals president Ron Kelly (at right) will speak with the Alice Springs News this afternoon about the party’s strategies in the lead-up to next year’s election as Electoral Commissioner Iain Loganathan warns democracy in the NT is in peril because of voter apathy.
Mr Kelly’s approach to transparency contrasts with that of the two-member Parliamentary Opposition whose leader, Gary Higgins, will not discuss issues, while spruiking initiatives for the Top End.
On Wednesday the Opposition Leader’s minder returned a call from the News to discuss a request for an interview with him.
We had flagged that a few days earlier and this was the time to firm up the arrangement.
So claims Mr Higgins but he won’t be interviewed about it.
I explained I wanted to talk to Mr Higgins as the next NT election is just a year away: What is the status quo as he sees it? What will he change if his party regains power?
The minder’s initial answer was a blunt no – Mr Higgins is not available for the next three weeks, and no commitment was offered beyond that.
However, she would deal with written questions the News might care to submit.
As we have explained to her before, and on numerous occasions also to the Michael Gunner propaganda machine, which has developed government by minder into an insidious art form, that we do not engage in journalism by emails backwards and forwards with minders.
We pointed out that most answers beg a further question, and it would take weeks to deal with issues that would take minutes on the phone. We don’t work with hearsay and the Opposition Leader in person needs to be the source.
The minder said she might discuss our request with Mr Higgins but she hasn’t gotten back to us.
What we did get by email yesterday, 26 hours after my phone call, was a media handout from Mr Higgins “regarding the 12 month count down to the Northern Territory election” – exactly what the minder had prevented us from interviewing Mr Higgins about.
What the email did not contain was an offer for the News to probe his assertions and ask further questions.
The release asserted that Labor was elected “promising to be open and transparent … They weren’t and aren’t.”
Where is the openness and transparency of Mr Higgins?
In his media handout he refers to funding for upgrades to Kakadu National Park, a youth justice facility at the Pinelands Industrial Estate, cuts to magpie geese bag limits, a PET scanner and a cyclotron in Darwin, the “$40,000 Boundless rocket expenditure” and the City Deal for Darwin.
Alice Springs specific issues don’t rate a mention.
UPDATE August 26:
Mr Higgins has now offered to make time for an interview with the News. However, as we had already made arrangements to interview party president Ron Kelly, we thanked Mr Higgins and advised we would take up his offer in the near future.