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Speaker Kezia Purick set to be removed after ICAC probe

DISGRACED Speaker Kezia Purick is set to be removed from the role when parliament resumes today, after an explosive investigation by NT's peak anti-corruption body found she had engaged in corrupt conduct.

After a nine-month investigation, the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) yesterday ruled Ms Purick had engaged in a "series of acts" that amounted to corrupt conduct because each was a "serious breach of public trust".

The independent Goyder MLA could also face criminal charges over her actions dating back to late 2018 and during the investigation, with the ICAC's findings now in the hands of NT's Director of Public Prosecutions.

 

Speaker of the House Kezia Purick. Picture: Justin Kennedy
Speaker of the House Kezia Purick. Picture: Justin Kennedy


The ICAC findings come four months after the NT News first asked questions about the investigation into Ms Purick in February.

In a 67-page report, ICAC Commissioner Ken Fleming QC found Ms Purick had engaged in corrupt conduct, backing up his ruling in part with a series of damning texts and emails she had sent.

Ms Purick's corrupt conduct, according to ICAC, included acting contrary to her impartiality as Speaker by intervening in the attempted creation of a political party, acting dishonestly by releasing an untrue statement about her involvement in the matter and using her position and resources as Speaker to do so.

She also failed to uphold the law by not reporting a suspected breach of the ICAC Act to ICAC, a move Mr Fleming said amounted to insolent behaviour.

Ms Purick then lied to the ICAC, on three occasions, while under oath.

In a response to the ICAC 11 days ago, her lawyers indicated they will fight the findings, arguing the alleged conduct "falls so far short of corrupt conduct that it is doubtful whether it could even be regarded as improper conduct under the ICAC Act".

 

Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ken Fleming QC poses for a photo in front of Parliament House in Darwin in 2018. Picture: Keri Megelus
Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ken Fleming QC poses for a photo in front of Parliament House in Darwin in 2018. Picture: Keri Megelus

However, Chief Minister Michael Gunner, in a snap press conference mere hours after receiving the report for the first time, called on Ms Purick to resign and indicated that Deputy Speaker and Namatjira MLA Chansey Paech would fill in as Speaker when parliament resumes today.

Ms Purick, outside her Coolalinga office yesterday, said there were "some legal issues" she could not talk about until she received legal advice.

ICAC's investigation was sparked by a complaint made by Territory Alliance heads Terry Mills and Robyn Lambley.

The investigation dates back to incidents in October 2018 when then independent MLA Mr Mills was looking to start a new political party in the NT.

Ms Purick attempted to interfere by scheming, with the assistance of electorate officer Martine Smith, to register the 'North Australia Party' name in the NT before Mr Mills could.

But it was how she responded when media got wind of the incident in November 2018 that undid her in the eyes of ICAC.

 

The exterior of Kezia Purick’s electorate office in Coolalinga.
The exterior of Kezia Purick’s electorate office in Coolalinga.

Effectively, Ms Purick said the interference had been undertaken solely by Ms Smith and she had nothing to do with it.

Mr Fleming found this to be false and said in his report he had been left "in no doubt" that Ms Purick "used her power and influence over Ms Smith to achieve her ends".

" … the degree to which Ms Purick was prepared to mislead was carefully calculated," he said.

"I find from that evidence that Ms Purick had made an assessment of how much the press knew. She then crafted the message around what the press knew, not the true facts, and she blamed Ms Smith for the episode."

According to Mr Fleming, Ms Purick also lied to the ICAC amid the investigation including denying the media statement made in November 2018 was untrue, denying she had told people to delete messages regarding said statement and denying she had told an unnamed male MLA to delete their communications despite evidence to the contrary.

Ms Purick has not indicated if she still intends to recontest the seat of Goyder.

Originally published as Speaker Kezia Purick set to be removed after ICAC probe


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