Natasha Fyles resignation
An emotional Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has called time on her leadership. Image by Glenn Campbell/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Teary NT chief minister resigns over shares scandal

Neve Brissenden December 19, 2023

Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has become the latest leader to fall, resigning just eight months out from the Territory election.

Ms Fyles, 45, held a snap press conference on Tuesday where she confirmed her intention to step down as chief minister and health minister.

She said she had made an oversight and did not declare a share parcel which came about after a BHP demerger. 

Natasha Fyles resignation
 Ms Fyles faced scrutiny over her share holdings before the latest scandal. Image by Glenn Campbell/AAP PHOTOS 

“It was an error on my behalf and I don’t have any excuse for that,” she said.

“It was not deliberate, it was not intentional but it’s unacceptable. For this reason I feel the honourable action is to resign as chief minister.

“I can assure Territorians that no decision I’ve ever made has been influenced by that small shareholding but high standards are expected from people holding high office.”

The former schoolteacher took over from Michael Gunner, who resigned in 2022 after shepherding the NT through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her resignation comes less than 24 hours after it was revealed she holds undisclosed shares in South32, which owns the GEMCO manganese mine in the remote community of Groote Eylandt.

Earlier this year, Ms Fyles said the government would not investigate air pollution levels or health impacts after residents raised concerns over manganese dust in the community.

Nicole Manison at podium with Natasha Fyles
 Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison has put her hand up to replace Natasha Fyles. Image by Amanda Parkinson/AAP PHOTOS 

She has faced growing pressure in the past few months, with the GEMCO revelations the latest in a string of shares scandals.

She was forced to divest shares in Woodside after media and federal politicians called into question potential conflicts of interest, in particular the government’s large-scale expansion of the NT gas industry.

Both scandals were broken by the NT Independent, a small online news source that had been controversially barred from government press conferences.

Ms Fyles was also referred to the NT’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption by an independent backbencher over potential conflicts of interest.

The party is deliberating over Ms Fyles’ replacement, with Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison confirming she would throw her hat in the ring.

“This is a difficult day and I am proud of (Ms Fyles) for putting Territorians first,” Ms Manison said in a statement.

“Over the next few days, I will be asking my colleagues for their support to be chief minister so that I can serve you.”

Ms Manison, from the right faction of NT Labor, will likely face off with the left’s newly-minted Infrastructure Minister Joel Bowden.

Northern Territory Infrastructure Minister Joel Bowden
 Infrastructure Minister Joel Bowden is considered a candidate for the NT’s top job. Image by Neve Brissenden/AAP PHOTOS 

Opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro was scathing about NT Labor, saying it was not a “unified team”.

“We know that no matter who Labor picks, this is going to be led by factional division and infighting,” she said.

“It’s going to take every ounce of their acting skills to be able to come out and pull together and pretend like they’re a happy family.”

Ms Fyles will stay in parliament and contest her seat of Nightcliff at the August 2024 election.

She took no questions after reading her short statement, saying only she was looking forward to spending more time with her children.

Federal Labor member for Solomon Luke Gosling said the chief minister’s resignation was “the only acceptable course of action”.

“The NT government has a huge task ahead of it, they must learn the lessons of previous NT governments and work together, not focusing on themselves but rather on the Territorians they have been elected to serve,” he said.

Ms Fyles is the third state or territory leader to resign in as many months and the fourth to step down this year.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stepped down from politics in early December, following Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews resignation in late September.

Mark McGowan quit as WA’s premier in May.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is now the only state or territory leader who has been in the job for more than two years and whose time in office predates the COVID-19 pandemic.