The Northern Territory News’ campaign against Senator Scullion has not just targeted the Senator – it has questioned the worth of all journalists working in other media outlets in the Territory.
In an article published today, the NT News accused the Senator of “hand-picking interviews instead of facing tough questions” – with the implication being only the NT News can ask tough questions.
This is an insult to all Territory journalists working outside of the NT News.
Senator Scullion spoke to the ABC and Channel 9 yesterday, and Territory FM today. None of the interviews could be characterised as being soft, with each of the journalists asking probing questions.
The Senator has spoken to the NT News before and will again – but not while it is continuing its campaign. The Senator, like all Territorians, has had a longstanding policy of not giving in to bullies – and he will not be bullied by the NT News.
The paper’s GST campaign has been torpedoed by figures from the federal Treasury that show the NT Government has not lost $2 billion in GST revenue. The GST distribution for 2017-18 resulted in a $269 million reduction. No decisions have been made for 2018-19 and beyond.
The Senator’s office provided statements to the NT News about the GST funding last Friday and Saturday. As such, the paper’s reports asserting the Senator has gone missing in action are incorrect.
In the interests of transparency, the NT News asked Senator Scullion four questions today about “travel expenses”. Here are the questions – and answers.
Q: Why did the senator fly from Brisbane to Lismore at a cost of $2600 when he could have driven there in a bit over two hours?
A: The use of charter planes to travel significant distances (almost three hours) is within parliamentary entitlements and is a practice conducted by Ministers of many governments – Labor and Coalition, Federal and Northern Territory.
As there were no commercial flights, the Minister required a charter plane to travel from Brisbane to Lismore on 29 May 2016 for portfolio business.
The information on these flights has been available for many months and it is right to question why the NT News is now asking about a standard practice of Government representatives.
Q: The senator spent five nights in Brisbane between May 26 and June 17. What work was he conducting in Brisbane?
A: On each of those four (not five) nights in Brisbane, the Minister was required to be based in South East Queensland for meetings with Indigenous stakeholders and communities including:
• Meetings with the Queensland Government to discuss matters impacting on Indigenous Australians
• A visit with the Prime Minister to Gilimbaa to announce a $115 million Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package
• Meeting with Indigenous elders and the Cathy Freeman Foundation in Gladstone
• Meeting with Woorabinda Shire Council and a visit to Woorabinda State School to discuss school attendance issues
• A visit to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Independent School in Brisbane
• Visit to the Create Foundation to announce the Government’s investment in domestic violence support
• Meeting with the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council and visit to the Cherbourg State School to discuss the Government’s investment in education and student scholarships.
The Senator, as the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, is responsible for working with Indigenous people and communities across Australia and is required to travel to many parts of the country as part of this work.
The Senator is proud of his engagement with Indigenous Australians across Australia and has visited almost 200 communities on more than 300 occasions. This is a part of the Coalition’s commitment to doing things in partnership with Indigenous Australians – and the Senator will not support an approach to his job where he works from Canberra and listens to bureaucrats rather than real people in communities.
Q: Why does the senator choose to fly business class when it comes at such expense to taxpayers (as an example, $2200 to fly one way between Darwin and Melbourne)?
A: In common with all federal parliamentarians, including the Territory’s Labor representatives, Senator Scullion is able to fly business class so he can continue working while flying and conducting the business of representing his constituents.
Q: Do you believe Territorians would be happy to pay the senator $273 a night to stay in his own home in Turner?
A: This is part of the salary package for all federal parliamentarians, established by the independent Remuneration Tribunal.
In other circumstances, Senator Scullion would have been happy to provide the NT News with the answers to these questions.