Last week, Northern Territory Labor leader Paul Henderson was happy to weigh in on the disclosure of a manslaughter conviction in 1996 against an independent candidate in the current election. “I absolutely share some community concerns that somebody could be elected to office without disclosing a very serious and violent past,” he said.
This week his party seems to have a totally different reaction to the news that one of it’s own candidates had been convicted of assault. It threatened legal action to prevent the story being published, only to change their minds when the paper, NT News threatened to publish a blank front page with the word censored across it:
THE Northern Territory Labor leader has denied authorising an attempt by his office to make a newspaper spike a negative story about a Labor candidate's violent past by threatening legal action.It’s a welcome change to see the media taking these authoritarian pricks on.
Chief Minister and Labor leader Paul Henderson’s office only withdrew the threat after The Northern Territory News said it would publish a blank front page with the word “censored” on it.
The scandal is likely to reopen the freedom of speech debate, as federal Labor moves towards imposing government regulation on the press. At a press conference on Tuesday Mr Henderson refused to guarantee similar threats would not be used in the future. Both federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott and former Labor minister Lindsay Tanner have recently spoken out in support of newspapers’ opposition to a government regulator.
Mr Henderson told reporters yesterday that he had been informed of the matter shortly after 8pm on Monday night, and had immediately instructed that the story be allowed to go ahead.
However, the paper says its editor, Matt Cunningham, received a call from Mr Henderson’s deputy chief of staff, Jamie Gallacher, just before 9pm threatening legal action if the story was published, contradicting Mr Henderson’s claims. Mr Gallacher only relented, the NT News says, after Mr Cunningham said the paper would run a blank front page with only the word “CENSORED” on it the following day.
The NT News published a front page picture of Mr Vowles on Tuesday, under the headline ‘Labor candidate’s violent past’. Today, it published another front page headline that read ‘Is that the truth, Hendo?’, in reference to the Chief Minister’s contradictory claims. …