A Northern Territory MP has been booted from caucus and another staffer has resigned following revelations Labor members were being impacted by an investigation into an alleged cocaine sex scandal.
On Wednesday night, member for Blain Mark Turner revealed he was one of the Labor members impacted by the allegations but strongly denied his involvement in any illegal activities.
He told parliament he had a “friendship” with the woman at the centre of the alleged scandal, adding it was consensual but “inappropriate”.
Since news of the scandal broke, Chief Minister Michael Gunner has resisted repeated calls from the Opposition Leader to investigate the claims, but on Thursday he revealed Mr Turner had been removed from the caucus.
Speaking to parliament, Mr Gunner claimed Mr Turner “continues to act dishonestly about his relationships and interactions with others”.
“Earlier this week I spoke with all members of my team to satisfy myself that the rumours and gossip of criminal activity were unfounded,” the Chief Minister said.
“This included the member for Blain. However, in the course of our discussions earlier this week, I don’t believe that the member for Blain was completely forthcoming with me or his colleagues about the extent of his friendship with the private citizen in question.”
Mr Gunner said the member for Blain finally disclosed the nature of his relationship with the woman involved in the allegations prior to addressing parliament on Wednesday night.
The Chief Minister’s comments came a day after Mr Turner gave an impassioned speech to parliament, saying he felt pressured by Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro to address the “untrue rumours and innuendo”.
He confirmed he had formed a relationship with the woman at the centre of the allegations but said any suggestion he participated in illegal activity was “categorically false”.
“I do not recall the details of every conversation. During this friendship we exchanged general conversation, banter, jokes, and some intimate conversation,” Mr Gunner, a married father-of-five, said.
“I do not condone illegal activity, and I do not participate in it. I accept that there were aspects of our friendship in the past that were not appropriate, because they were too intimate.
“It was not illegal. It was consensual. It was respectful. But not appropriate.”
Mr Gunner said the caucus agreed that Mr Turner be stood down from his positions as deputy speaker and caucus chair.
“The Member for Blain has lost my trust. He has lost the trust of the caucus. He is no longer a member of Labor’s parliamentary team,” he said.
A Labor staffer who was also implicated in the scandal has resigned, however Mr Gunner said they “categorically rejects any criminal activity”.
Text messages between Mr Turner and the woman at the centre of the allegations have reportedly been obtained by police as part of their investigation, according to theNT News.
Messages between the woman and senior fifth floor Labor staffer are also reportedly being investigated.
According to the publication, sexually explicit messages between Mr Turner and the woman suggest the member for Blain knew the woman was a cocaine user.
The woman allegedly spoke about using the drug and there were allegedly several messages where the pair spoke about their sexual desires.
The woman told NT News that Mr Turner had not done any illicit drugs and there was no suggestion he participated in any illegal activities.
Mr Gunner said the issue has caused “pain and embarrassment” for Mr Turner’s family and served as a “distraction” to parliament.
“I believe that personal issues, where there is no issue of criminal activity and no issue of consent, should be dealt with privately, in the family,” he said.
“Right now his priorities should be focusing on his family and focusing on his electorate – and nothing else.”