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

Let’s wind back to yesterday. Earlier in the day Chief Minister Terry Mills published an ad in the local NT News. It was pretty much political spin — short on economic detail and long on speculation. As ABC News noted, it was close to being party-political and just a little unusual:

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 the 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.”

Later in the day Lambley fronted the media outside Parliament House, presumably to sell the pitch and lay the groundwork for a triumphant CLP return to power after 10 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 can’t blame Lambley; such tactics are entirely within the political modus operandi — as long as she could pull it off. She couldn’t. It appears she 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 Nine news but have admired the work of their political reporter Amy Davis for some time. Last evening she caught my eye on the telly in my local supermarket at the top of the 6pm  news. What followed were a few truly remarkable seconds as Lambley floundered and — in a theatrical sense at least — died right there on screen …

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey