Two Northern Territory police officers have been charged with drug offences and suspended from duty without pay.
Both officers have been charged with drug possession
The two officers have been suspended without pay
NT Police have advised the NT’s ICAC and the NT Ombudsman
A 43-year-old male officer has been charged with possession and supply of a schedule one dangerous drug and is also accused of distributing cocaine to a 28-year-old female colleague.
The officers were based in the Darwin Command and are understood to be Senior Constables.
The man is also charged with stealing and possessing a firearm whilst unlicensed.
NT Police Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage said the firearm offence relates to a police-issued weapon “stolen from a police facility.”
“Any property that doesn’t belong to you shouldn’t be taken, let alone firearms,” he said.
It will be alleged at least one of the supply offences occurred while the officers were on duty.
“I wish to reassure the community it wasn’t police officers distributing drugs to the wider community. It will be alleged that the drug supply was between the two officers,” Deputy Commissioner Smalpage said.
Deputy Commissioner Smalpage did not say where the cocaine had been sourced, but did confirm it was not taken from a police facility.
NT Police officers are now facing the prospect of mandatory drug testing, with NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker to enter discussions with Police Minister Nicole Manison.
“Northern Territory Police officers are not subject to any drug testing,” Deputy Commissioner Smalpage said.
“It is one of those issues that is live at the moment that no doubt we’ll be discussing with the Government… as a measure to identify and help keep our officers safe and keep the community safe.”
Deputy Commissioner Smalpage said the charges were “extremely disappointing” for the Northern Territory Police Force.
“1585 other police officers will be watching this with a degree of frustration and disappointment, as well as I am,” he said.
“I’m extremely disappointed that two of our own engaged in that sort of activity.
“Appropriate steps will be taken, up to and including dismissal from the police force,” he said.
The 43-year-old man has been remanded in custody to appear in court next week.
The female officer has been granted bail and will face the Darwin Local Court on October 13.
When coronavirus was first taking hold in Australia, two paths unfolded before Melbourne-based artist Anna McDermott.
The looming pandemic had begun to play havoc with everyday life; her workplace — an inner-city bar — would soon be shuttered, and she had just moved back in with her parents, so a long period of confinement with them seemed increasingly certain.
The other path would deliver her to a sunny but much less certain future.
“Uni was going online and I had a little meltdown about it all to one of my teachers,” Ms McDermott said as she watched the sun set on Darwin’s leafy Nightcliff foreshore.
“I mentioned that a friend of mine had just moved up to Darwin and she said, ‘Go to Darwin.'”
“I got in just in the nick of time.”
Ms McDermott is what Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has called a “coronavirus refugee”: someone who has crossed the gulf in Australia’s COVID-19 freedoms, swapping life in locked-down southern cities for the coronavirus-free NT.
Sporting organisations, nightclubs and high-risk businesses such as beauty salons reopened their doors in the NT in early June. There have been just four new diagnoses — for a total caseload of 34 — in the months since.
The jurisdiction has now reached a key milestone for a second time: the eradication of coronavirus in clinical terms.
There is no hard data to support the theory that people are fleeing north.
But a government spokeswoman said more than 220 people had listed relocation as their purpose of travel to the NT on border declaration forms since late August.
“We are the safest place in Australia, and the rest of Australia knows it,” a spokesman for Mr Gunner said.
‘We have great weather, great people and no coronavirus.
“It’s publicity you can’t buy.”
An unlikely solution to a shrinking population?
Demographers are already asking whether coronavirus freedoms will become a significant driver of population growth.
The NT’s main revenue source, its share of the GST, is relative to its population.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the largest driver of that change is net interstate migration loss — in other words, more people are relocating interstate than are coming in.
Last year, in a bid to better understand why, Charles Darwin University (CDU) demographers Fiona Shalley and Sigurd Dyrting polled more than 5,000 past and current NT residents in the largest survey of the NT’s population.
The Territory and Me survey found, among other things, that career opportunities lured people both in and out of the NT, but people’s intention to stay increased with age and key life events such as home ownership. Retention also increased after two years.
Then the pandemic hit.
“All of the things that we knew in the past were turned upside down as people were locked down,” Ms Shalley said.
“They couldn’t migrate, they were stuck in place.
“Other things start to influence people’s decisions, like where they’re at in their life, what they value, what amenities are going to be available to them, whether they really are going to move back to be part of their family.
Ms Shalley is also aware of the growing interstate perception the NT is a coronavirus safe haven.
But she said whether that perception was boosting the jurisdiction’s stagnant population remained to be seen.
“Those perceptions are driven by anecdotes, but it’s amazing how perceptions can influence changing behaviours,” she said.
“Whether those people are actually going to stay here, we don’t know. That’s our issue.”
‘They’re unable to return’
One thing that is certain is overseas migration — which demographers say traditionally stabilises the NT’s volatile population — has dried up amid the international travel ban.
Stories of prospective migrants being blocked by the international travel ban have been filtering through Darwin’s migrant networks and landing on the desk of Edwin Joseph, who offers support and referrals as president of the Multicultural Association of the NT.
People who were approved for visas had been unable to migrate to Australia, he said, while existing holders who were overseas when the ban came in had been left in limbo.
“They have jobs, they have visas, but they’re unable to return because of this pandemic,” Dr Joseph said.
“They’re not granted exemptions.
“What they see as compassionate grounds is not seen by the Government as a compassionate ground.”
The CDU research found attachment to the NT was much stronger among migrants, who were more likely to stay across all stages of their lives.
Dr Joseph said the local economy had lost one of its engines and he was pushing for visa-holders stranded overseas to be given a path back to the NT.
“Migration is a very important population and economic driver, and to retain the population in very regional areas like this, I think temporary visa-holders are very important,” he said.
“If they’ve got work, they should be allowed to return and to work here.”
More opportunities in sunny NT capital
Ms Shalley and her colleagues have this week set out to test whether the “coronavirus refugee” theory is upheld by hard data, launching a follow-up survey focused on how the NT’s reputation may have changed during the pandemic.
When the results begin to roll in over coming months, one focus will be whether people intend to stay.
Ms McDermott said she could see the appeal.
“There’s just a lot more opportunities here,” she said.
“I work in hospitality and I do art. All of that has completely crashed at the moment in Melbourne.”
Her short trip north has stretched on for five-and-a-half months now and — despite moving with next to no possessions — she has no short-term intention to return to Victoria.
“There’s a slower pace here, there’s a greater sense of community,” she said.
“Everyone’s generous and friendly — not that I don’t get that in Melbourne — but it’s a lot stronger here.
Whale experts are concerned a humpback whale swimming upstream in Kakadu’s crocodile-infested East Alligator River could get stuck, after two others left the waterway this week.
The whales were spotted by a member of the public last week, and have been monitored by authorities ever since
An exclusion zone for the public remains in place after one whale continued to head up river
Scientists are concerned about the remaining whale’s welfare, and the risk of it getting stranded
Kakadu National Park staff, alongside local rangers and scientists from the Northern Territory Government, have monitored the whales since they started travelling through the river early last week.
It is the first time the whales have been recorded in Kakadu, which has both thrilled and stunned experts.
Carol Palmer, a marine ecosystems scientist at the NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said scientists could not pinpoint the exact reason the animals had gone up the river.
“It is really unusual for this to happen. It’s just never been recorded before, a 16-metre humpback whale up a river in Kakadu National Park,” she said.
“At this time the whales are heading south to Antarctica to feed during the summer. And we are not sure why these whales took a wrong turn.”
The NT Government and federal authorities have set up a boat exclusion zone from the mouth of the river to about 30 kilometres upstream to protect the whales and unsuspecting boat owners.
Three humpbacks were sighted last week heading up the river but it is believed that two have since headed back out.
Crocs no match for humpback whale
Dr Palmer said that even the largest crocodiles in the river system would be no match for the whale, as long as it did not get stranded.
“The whale looks to be in good condition. As long as that remains the case it’s not something a crocodile would even be capable of attacking. It’s just way out of a crocodile’s world,” she said.
Kakadu National Park country and culture manager Feach Moyle said rangers were enforcing the exclusion zone strictly because the risks to the animal and the public were quite high, especially in narrow stretches of the river.
“It’s not something that boaties will expect heading up the river encountering something that’s probably 40 tonne and 15 metres or so,” Mr Moyle said.
“And the last thing we want is the animal being scared further upriver where it might become stranded on a bank or a sandbar, so we’ll keep the exclusion zone until hopefully, best-case scenario, the whale heads back out towards the ocean,” Mr Moyle said.
Scientists and rangers will continue to monitor the animal.
What investors think the public is thinking is therefore crucial. Whether the costs of the outbreak turn out to be historically large or not, there is a risk that investors’ worries will snowball during this period of uncertainty, leading them to panic-sell and exacerbate any financial damage. “If in the next 20 years [the economy is] only going to be disrupted for three months, that suggests a very small impact on the market,” says Robert J. Shiller, a Nobel Prize–winning economist and the author of Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events. But the situation could be much worse, and when investors think in “grandiose terms,” Shiller told me, that could “trigger other worrying.”
Predicting the emotional reactions of the entire world population to coronavirus would be a bit easier if investors could turn to the market effects of previous pandemics for guidance. But history provides few indications of what might happen to the economy if the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, continue to spread. “This is kind of a new thing,” Shiller said. “It’s too much to ask for the market to get it right.”
The closest analogue is the global influenza outbreak of 1918 and ’19, which killed tens of millions of people. In 1918, the stock market actually did fine—the Dow rose a little. In the years after that, Sylla noted, “the stock market didn’t do much, and while its trend was flat, there were fluctuations within that—some ups and downs, just like we see now.”
But drawing any conclusions from 100 years ago is difficult because, among other reasons, a lot of other stuff was happening then—namely, World War I. Because of that, says John Wald, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Business, “it’s really hard to say whether [the 1918 pandemic] was priced correctly or not correctly” by the market.
Perhaps a better parallel is the flu pandemic of 1957 and ’58, which originated in East Asia and killed at least 1 million people, including an estimated 116,000 in the U.S. In the second half of 1957, the Dow fell about 15 percent. “Other things happened over that time period” too, Wald notes, but “at least there was no world war.” More recent outbreaks, such as SARS and MERS, were more contained and didn’t wreak as much global economic havoc.
Although the annual flu season is quite different from a pandemic, it does provide a good amount of data for economists to analyze. When Wald, along with the researchers Brian McTier and Yiuman Tse, examined trading records from 1998 to 2006, they found that in weeks when the flu was more widespread, stock-market returns were lower. They also found that when there was a higher incidence of the flu in the greater New York City area in particular, trading volume decreased, which is usually bad for the market. Here, the idea is that more professional investors might have gotten sick and executed fewer trades—which would not bode well if COVID-19 were to make its way to New York City.
The Northern Territory Government is cutting the number of days Parliament will spend scrutinising the budget during estimates — a decision the CLP says will make it harder to hold the Government to account.
Four days will be dedicated to budget estimates instead of the usual six
The CLP argues the decision will make it harder to scrutinise the NT Government
Labor says the coronavirus pandemic has forced the changes to the schedule
Parliament normally sits for budget estimate hearings at the start of every financial year.
Traditionally the hearings last for six days and provide an opportunity for Opposition and independent MLAs to grill ministers over the Government’s finances.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s newly re-elected Labor Government has slashed this year’s number of days down to four because the pandemic had affected the parliamentary sitting calendar.
“2020, I think we all agree, has not been the year we planned on, traditions have been thrown out the door,” leader of government business, Natasha Fyles, said.
Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said she was concerned the decision would make it harder to hold the Government to account over the NT’s dire economic position.
“Budget estimates is a fundamental part of our democratic process and allows the Opposition to scrutinise how the Government intends to spend Territorians’ money over the next year,” she said.
“We have a lot of questions to ask, we have had a global pandemic since the last time we met for estimates, we have had no budget.”
The NT budget will be handed down in November, but a pre-election fiscal projection highlighted serious issues with the Territory’s finances.
Net debt is expected to blow out to $8.2 billion this financial year, with the deficit more than doubling to $2.3 billion.
The Government has also predicted a $649 million hit to its largest revenue source, the GST, over the next two years.
Ms Fyles said while the number of days for hearings had been reduced, the number of hours would be similar — about 60 hours over the week.
Ms Fyles said there was no need to add further sitting days when politicians could stay back late.
“Estimates has gone through to about 10:00pm in the evening — that is not unusual here in the Northern Territory for the 20-odd years that we’ve had estimates in place — and so we’ll be starting at 8:00 in the morning and going though and making sure there’s the scrutiny,” she said.
Ms Finocchiaro said she was not reassured by the idea of fewer days but longer hours.
“I don’t believe a word of it for a second,” she said.
“Estimates have always been over six days and there’s plenty of time in the sitting calendar to provide that level of scrutiny.”
All eyes will be on Traeger Park in Alice Springs this weekend for an AFL match between Melbourne and St Kilda.
But 80 kilometres down the road in the remote community of Santa Teresa, a remarkable project is nearing completion.
With the support of the Melbourne Football Club, the Melbourne Cricket Club and the MCG, Santa Teresa residents are transforming their once dusty football oval into a lush, green paddock.
The green oasis in the middle of the desert is a sight to behold, but it wasn’t always this way.
It used to be rocky and dusty.
Local players say when you hit the ground it was pretty hard, but now it will be much safer on the grass.
Atyenhenge-Atherre Aboriginal Corporation CEO Susie Low said the whole town was invested in getting the job done in time for next football season.
“You’d think it would be quite boring but they’d just come and watch it. And then seeding was something people got very excited about.”
Matthew Cavanagh is the groundskeeper in charge of the project.
He oversees a complex irrigation system that uses heavily filtered local bore water.
He also makes sure the local brumbies that roam the desert stay off the fresh green grass.
Melbourne Football Club has been visiting Central Australia for more than a decade, and has formed a close bond with the town of Santa Teresa.
CEO Gary Pert said the idea to green the oval came from conversations with people in the community.
“About five years ago we were talking to the community leaders and we said, ‘How can we help?’, and right across the board they said we’ve got an oval that’s clay and gravel, and we have 200 kids playing on it in bare feet.
What followed was consultation with the Northern Territory Government, widespread fundraising and lots of planning.
Now the oval is 80 per cent grassed, and teams are set to start playing on it next year.
“It was a dream, and now we’ve got it, and we’re starting to see this grassed oval where the kids with their bare feet can run and jump on the oval and play the game.”
But greening the grass is not where this revamp ends.
Traditional owners and Santa Teresa residents have used their money to install lights as well.
The four brand new light posts illuminate the entire ground.
Donovan Mulladad, who plays centre for local club Ltyentye Apurte, said that’s making playing at night a whole lot easier.
Ms Low said the mission would be complete when a large delivery from Melbourne arrived with some key infrastructure for the oval.
“The MCG are giving us their goalposts, so we we’ll have the Melbourne goalposts here at the Santa,” she said.
“We think it’s going to be bigger than Melbourne. Watch this space.”