The Northern Territory’s chief minister says he doesn’t believe one of his ministers verbally abused backbencher Alison Anderson.
Ms Anderson alleges that during a Country Liberals government meeting on February 17, Central Australia and Tourism Minister Matt Conlan said to her: “Why don’t you do us all a favour, Alison, and f*** off, you c***.”
Chief Minister Adam Giles refused to answer several questions put to him about the alleged incident on Tuesday, saying he would not comment on what went on in party room meetings.
But when asked whether he stood by his claim at the weekend that he didn’t think Mr Conlan made the offensive slur towards Ms Anderson, he said: “I do”.
He would not answer when asked whether he thought she was lying.
“Many parliamentary meetings are very robust (but) I won’t tolerate any bullying, swearing or racial comments in those meetings,” Mr Giles said.
He said he stood by his earlier position that he wasn’t aware the comments had been made, despite Ms Anderson telling ABC radio on Tuesday she immediately told him what was said, and he replied: “We have a full agenda. Let’s get on with business.”
Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie said such abusive language towards a woman was bullying.
“All of us have witnessed Matt Conlan go way beyond the realm of acceptable behaviour and he does it fairly consistently … he does shout, he does bully, he does seek to intimidate,” she told reporters in Darwin.
Ms Anderson has the support of other Country Liberal members. Health Minister Robyn Lambley first raised the alleged incident on Friday night’s 7.30 NT program, saying she no longer felt willing or able to defend Mr Conlan or be part of a cover-up.
Ms Anderson said she had not spoken out earlier because she had been recovering from surgery to her arm, and denied she was trying to destabilise the government.
It follows speculation she and fellow Aboriginal members Larissa Lee and Francis Xavier were planning to leave the Country Liberals and form their own party because they felt their remote bush electorates were being ignored by the government.
“Absolutely not,” she said.
When asked if there was a culture of disrespect towards women in the CLP, Ms Anderson said that was a matter for the party room to clear up.
Ms Lawrie said the government was deeply divided and there were rumours that Mr Giles’ leadership is in danger.
Mr Conlan has been contacted for comment.