Today should be one of the proudest days in fledgling Country Liberal Party Government Deputy Chief Minister and NT Treasurer Robyn Lambley’s short political career.

After the pomp and ceremony of the largely ceremonial opening day of the first session of the new CLP Government she will take her seat for the first time as a Minister and face … utter humiliation. As we say in the Top End “bigas shame-job.”

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Lets wind back a few hours to yesterday. Earlier in the day Chief Minister Terry Mills published this ad in the local NT News.

The ad is pretty much political spin – short on economic detail and long on speculation. As the local ABC News noted, the CLP’s ads were close to being party-political ads and were just a little unusual:

The Chief Minister Terry Mills has taken out another taxpayer-funded advertisement in the NT News outlining the Government’s fiscal position … A similar Government ad in the NT News last week has been the subject of a Labor complaint and investigation by the Auditor General.

Robyn Lambley defended the use of the ads, saying that the CLP government:

… wanted to explain the budget situation itself to avoid confusion. “By placing our own advertisement and paying for it, we can word it the way we like in a very clear fashion so the people of the Northern Territory get it correctly given to them rather than relying on journalists and their interpretation,” she said.

Later in the day Robyn Lambley fronted the media outside NT Parliament House, presumably to sell the pitch in the ad and lay the groundwork for a triumphal CLP return to power after ten years of local rule by Labor.

For some reason it just didn’t work out that way and Lambley was caught out selling a pup that was little more than a shameless political beat-up.

You cannot blame Lambley for that, such tactics are entirely within the political modus operandi – as long as she could pull it off.

She couldn’t. It appears that Lambley was very poorly briefed for her few minutes before the cameras, because she made a terrible mess of it. Some staffers in her office might be looking for new jobs today.

I don’t usually watch the local Channel 9 New but have admired the work of their local political reporter Amy Davis from afar for some time.

Last evening she caught my eye on the telly in my local supermarket at the top of the 6pm local news. What followed were a few truly remarkable seconds as Lambley floundered and – in a theatrical sense at least – died right there on screen.

You can see Amy Davis’s news report here.

The piece opened with the following exchange between local Channel 9 presenter Jonathan Uptin and Amy Davis:

Uptin: Amy, what reason has the government given for skipping the usual media announcements and going straight to these ads?

Davis: Well, Jonno the reason the media was given, why they were essentially being side-stepped in the process was that the government wanted to get the announcement out in their own words and avoid media scrutiny that could change [those] words before the public saw it. So it is an interesting step seeing that the government has always said it would be open and accountable.

This move really challenges that claim.

Now the Treasurer Robyn Lambley, when she was asked for proof that the deficit was in fact much worse, out to a billion dollars, well she told media that they would have to wait until the end of the year, December in fact, when the mini-budget is released. So for the public, well they are just going to have to take the Government’s word for it. For now at least.

Uptin: Amy, you mentioned Robyn Lambley there. I understand it was a tough news conference for her today?

Davis: Yes, it certainly was Jonno. There were several times this afternoon when the Deputy Chief Minister simply couldn’t answer question or as you are about to see, simply refused to do so.

Lambley: I really don’t know … uhhh … I’ve got a lot of homework to do haven’t I. Unh, I’m from Alice Springs, there is a lot I don’t know about Darwin.

Davis: You can’t help but feel sorry for her but as the Deputy Chief Minister and Treasurer you have to be able to answer the tough questions and for whatever reason today, Robyn Lambley simply couldn’t, or refused to do that.

Last evening Channel 9 Darwin posted a grab ofthe Davis piece on their Facebook page where it attracted the following comments from CLP President Tim Cross:

Tim Cross: Pretty low brow reporting a dummy spit because you didn’t get to spin it in your words. I wonder is it possible to see the most embarrassing of Amy Davis’s cock ups reported in the same way? Is this sort of reporting contributing to the woeful financial position that Ch 9 find themselves in? I would suggest CH9 that you think long and hard over the phrase “Heaven has no rage like love turned to hatred, nor hell a fury like a Woman scorned”

Tim Cross: Not at all Ian, it was a very lowbrow reporting effort, throwing up outakes as bona fide reporting is not what news reporting is about

Those comments prompted the following response from Channel 9:

Nine News Darwin: Tim Cross. It was a news conference. Do you expect us to edit out all the stuff-ups made by a senior minister in a news conference? That would be biased reporting. If someone from the other side did the same, we’d run that too. Do you think the press gallery in Canberra would gently edit around the Deputy Leader’s bumbles?

As Terry Mills said in his taxpayer funded ad yesterday:

I believe that a good and competent government should be honest and accountable. They are the minimum expectations of our community.



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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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