Culture

The Indigenous Affairs Minister Missed Last Night’s ‘Four Corners’ Because He Was Out At Dinner

He only turned on the TV because the Prime Minister told him too.

The Four Corners report into alleged torture of children held in juvenile detention facilities across the NT has sparked a massive public and political backlash. The Prime Minister has announced a royal commission, the NT Chief Minister has sacked the Corrections Minister and there are calls for a wider inquiry into the issue of high Indigenous incarceration rates.

It’s the biggest news story in the country, but one man had no idea what was going on until his boss called him up and told him to watch it. That man is the federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Senator representing the NT, Nigel Scullion.

The Four Corners report included graphic footage showing being tear gassed while held captive while others were stripped naked. One detainee was shackled to mechanical restraints and left for two hours.

At a press conference in Canberra Scullion told the media that he had never seen the footage aired by the ABC before and was out at dinner when Four Corners was broadcast.

“The PM rang me, fairly agitated, and said, ‘Have you seen it?’ And I said, ‘No, mate.’ He said, ‘You better go home and see it. Give me a ring.’” Scullion said.

Scullion said he was not briefed by the NT government regarding ongoing inquiries relating to abuse within the the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

The journalist behind the Four Corners investigation, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, tweeted in response to Scullion’s comments that she had spoken with the minister’s office several hours before the program was due to air. “I spoke with Scullion’s office yesterday at lunchtime and advised he must watch,” Meldrum-Hanna tweeted.

According to Meldrum-Hanna the minister’s office requested an advance copy of the program, but when he didn’t receive one he decided to go out to dinner instead of watching the show, which covered a massive scandal in his portfolio area and within in his electorate of the NT.

The minister’s office has contacted Meldrum-Hanna to advise that Scullion was at a dinner for a “private sensitive matter involving one of my staff and family”.

Scullion was recently described by Australia’s first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives, Linda Burney, as a “failure”.

“My view is that Nigel Scullion has failed as Aboriginal affairs minister. You just look at the funding arrangements and lack of money or the money that’s being lost,” Burney told The Sydney Morning Herald.

The royal commission into NT juvenile detention will start hearing evidence in September and will deliver a report at the beginning of 2017.