The incestuous nexus enveloping Northern Territory journalism and politics has claimed its second victim, with Walkley Award-winning Australian journalist Paul Toohey quitting the paper following an apparent fall-out with senior colleague Nicolas Rothwell.
Crikey understands that last Friday, Toohey tendered his resignation to The Australian‘s editor Paul Whittaker, claiming the broadsheet’s Darwin bureau had been irretrievably damaged by Rothwell’s de-facto relationship with former NT minister Alison Anderson, who quit last week.
Insiders say Toohey was furious Rothwell had apparently fed a series of exclusive stories to Sydney-based Australian rival Natasha Robinson, pre-empting Anderson’s threats to leave the government. Effectively, Toohey had been sidelined in the midst of the biggest northern political story in years.
This morning, Toohey confirmed to Crikey that he had quit, but refused to comment, claiming he was still an employee of News Limited. It is believed he is seeing out his notice period.
It is understood Robinson is a close friend of Rothwell’s. As previously reported, Crikey understands she left the Territory last year telling editors in Sydney she could no longer work with Toohey. Despite the resignation occurring last week, Toohey’s resignation has not been reported by The Australian, with the story strangely absent from its Media section yesterday.
Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell has previously denied to Crikey there were any problems in the relationship between Toohey and Rothwell.
However, Mitchell had agreed to send Toohey to Jakarta as Indonesian Correspondent, where he would have been well out of Rothwell’s way. It is unclear whether Toohey ever took up the new role. On 20 July, he reported on the Marriot Hotel bombing for the Murdoch broadsheet from Jakarta.
The latest revelation comes after a war within News Limited that has consumed the Territory’s chattering classes.
When Rothwell’s partner Anderson sensationally left the Labor government last week, she claimed the last straw was a “racist” opinion piece by NT News journalist Nigel Adlam. Adlam, it later emerged, is married to Henderson’s press secretary. Anderson promptly sent a fiery resignation letter to an adviser in Opposition leader Terry Mills’ office.
The NT News then revealed that Anderson’s “eloquently worded” resignation was sent from Rothwell’s Bigpond email address.
That, in turn, provoked this article from The Australian‘s former Darwin correspondent Ashleigh Wilson, who detailed the Adlam Henderson connection. But Wilson failed to declare his own conflict — the journalist was in a relationship with senior Labor spinner Nicola Lekias during his time covering politics in the Territory.
Toohey is the well-connected son of former High Court judge John Toohey, while the softly-spoken Rothwell is a veteran foreign correspondent.
Crikey contacted The Australian‘s editor Paul Whittaker, The Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell and News spinner Greg Baxter for comment but they failed to respond before deadline.
Nicolas Rothwell refused to comment to Crikey.
Sources say Toohey is currently in Darwin looking for work.