Friday, September 25, 2020

NT Chief Minister accused of ‘scaremongering’ over coronavirus by Country Liberals and Territory Alliance

NT Chief Minister accused of 'scaremongering' over coronavirus by Country Liberals and Territory Alliance

Northern Territory politicians have clashed over the Government’s handling of coronavirus, with the CLP accusing Chief Minister Michael Gunner of scaremongering ahead of next weekend’s election.

In an election debate on commercial radio, the Labor leader repeated his pitch for Territorians to “stay the course” with his Government and declared it a risk to vote for the Country Liberals or Territory Alliance.

Michael Gunner accused the opposition parties of ignoring health advice by lobbying in June for the NT’s borders to be reopened earlier.

“The CLP said to throw open the borders back in June, Terry’s Alliance said the borders were unnecessary,” he said on Mix 104.9 FM.

“The [borders] have been crucial to keeping us safe.”

Country Liberals leader Lia Finocchiaro called for the NT’s borders to reopen to all states in mid-June while Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills said travel should be allowed from Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.

Mr Gunner said keeping the borders closed until mid-July had bought time to prepare for developments like the outbreaks in Victoria, and he accused his opponents of recklessness.

Ms Finocchiaro said the advice of health officials was to manage arrivals from coronavirus hotspots as they are declared.

“We have not ignored anything,” she said.

The Opposition Leader also accused Labor of taking credit for decisions made by the National Cabinet but Mr Gunner said the closure of the NT’s borders in March was his call.

Polls open in the NT

Monday’s leaders’ debate was the first of the campaign and came as early voting centres opened ahead of polling day on Saturday, August 22.

A man holding a baby stands near another man with a vest that reads 'polling officer' on the back
Michael Gunner cast his ballot on Monday as early voting centres opened across the NT.(ABC News: Cameron Gooley)

Mr Mills’ repeated criticism of Labor’s emphasis on the Government’s coronavirus response in its pitch to voters.

The leaders of both opposition parties said they would focus on fast-tracking business approvals if they won government and attacked the Government’s handling of crime and youth justice issues.

Mr Gunner agreed voters would be weighing up multiple issues when deciding their vote but said: “The reality is we are in a public health emergency.

“Whoever you choose on August 22 will have to keep your life safe, keep your job safe, and I think that’s best with me and Labor.”

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