Public Accounts Committee sheds members in surprise Northern Territory government motion

The Northern Territory opposition has accused Labor of further “eroding” parliamentary scrutiny after it downsized the committee tasked with examining government spending.

The NT government yesterday voted to shrink the Public Accounts Committee from seven members to five.

Leader of Government Business Natasha Fyles introduced the motion without notice on a day in which the government came under sustained questioning over its standards of transparency and staff behaviour.

She also removed Blain MLA Mark Turner from several parliamentary committees following his expulsion from the Labor caucus last week.

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said the government was making another attempt to avoid accountability after it last year scrapped the Legislation Scrutiny Committee — a mechanism it introduced after winning government on a platform of openness and transparency in 2016.

“This is an absolute disgrace,” Ms Finocchiaro said.

“Not only have we not been notified by the government of their intention to further cut scrutiny and erode the ability of opposition and independent members to engage in the scrutiny of government, but we see us ambushed by stealth.”

It means the Public Accounts Committee — which was comprised of four government MLAs, two opposition MLAs and one independent — will now have three government MLAs and two non-government MLAs.

Ms Fyles defended the move as a “straightforward and procedural” motion.

“It is tradition for the government to have majority on the Public Accounts Committee, that is all this motion is about,” Ms Fyles said.

“All we have is a government desperate at every single turn to do anything it can to stop anyone from shining a light on what it is they’re doing,” Ms Finocchiaro said.

“This government will turn a blind eye to anything and everything it can that gets in the way of it ruling with impunity.”

The Public Accounts Committee was recently asked to investigate a government deal that saw a Darwin business walk away with money and land in an attempt to solve a “particularly tricky” zoning issue.

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