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Why Northern Territory leader Natasha Fyles resigned

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Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has resigned after it was revealed she didn't declare her shares in a mining company.
Natasha Fyles

The Northern Territory leader Natasha Fyles has announced she is resigning as Chief Minister after she failed to disclose her shares in the mining company South32.

The allegations were first raised in a local news outlet, NT Independent. The ABC later confirmed with South32 that Fyles held shares as early as 2015, after she was elected to the NT Parliament.

Who is Natasha Fyles?

Natasha Fyles worked as a primary school teacher before she was elected to the Northern Territory parliament in 2012. She joined the Labor Party at the age of 15.

In May 2022, she replaced Michael Gunner as the NT’s Chief Minister, who quit after steering the territory through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fyles became the second woman to hold the top job in the Northern
Territory.

Shares

Under the NT parliamentary code of conduct, MPs need to divest (remove all investment) from business interests if they could “influence a member improperly in the performance of official functions”.

Earlier this week, Fyles was revealed to have owned shares in the mining company South32. In her latest declaration of interests, Fyles had only listed her shares in three companies — including mining and metals giant BHP.

In a press conference today, Fyles said she only owned shares in South32 after the company de-merged from BHP in 2015.

Fyles said she had not intentionally failed to declare this interest.

“I made a mistake. There is no excuse. I am owning up to it, I accept the consequences, that is the right thing to do.”

What is South32?

South32 holds a majority stake in a high-grade manganese ore mine based on an island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Environmental groups have raised concerns about dust released from the mine, particularly on the health of local First Nations communities.

Earlier this year, Fyle told media that her government would not investigate air pollution risks caused by the mine.

In today’s press conference, Fyles said: “I can assure you that no decision I have ever made has been influenced by that small shareholding.”

Previous controversy

Last month, Fyles sold her shares in energy company Woodside over a perceived conflict of interest.

She was referred to the territory’s anti-corruption body following the revelation.

Opposition

The Territory’s Oppositon Leader Lia Finocchiaro called for the leader of the Northern Territory to step down, saying Natasha Fyles’ actions were a “profound betrayal of public trust”.

Finocchiaro said the Labor Party had failed to take necessary action against Fyles after the Woodside shareholding disclosure issue.

What now?

Fyles will officially resign from her role as Chief Minister on Thursday. The Labor Party hasn’t decided her replacement yet.

The NT’s next election will take place in August 2024. Fyles said she will still run for her electorate of Nightcliff, which comprises the northern tip of Darwin.

Polling shows the Labor Party is currently trailing its main political opponent, the Country Liberal Party.

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