Turf club de­fends project

Sunday Territorian - - NEWS - JU­DITH AISTHORPE ju­dith.aisthorpe@news.com.au

THE Dar­win Turf Club has de­fended the use of tax­pay­ers’ money to build its $12 mil­lion grand­stand.

The club, how­ever, would not com­ment on the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of Chief Min­is­ter Michael Gun­ner’s for­mer chief of staff Alf Leonardi help­ing it

draft a let­ter to min­is­ters ask­ing for cash to fund the project.

In a state­ment re­leased last night, the club said it “can­not com­ment on whether the ad­vice Mr Leonardi pro­vided from within his po­si­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate or not”.

“DTC and its chair­man had no rea­son to doubt the course sug­gested to it by Mr Leonardi to get the sub­mis­sion process go­ing,” the state­ment read.

“Once the let­ters had been sent, DTC man­age­ment were di­rected to Depart­ment of Trade and Busi­ness staff to pro­vide sub­mis­sions, busi­ness plans, and fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion, which we did.”

A Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest from the ABC re­vealed Mr Leonardi helped draft a let­ter which the turf club used parts of to lobby min­is­ters for the grand­stand. Mr Leonardi ex­changed sev­eral emails with club chair­man Brett Dixon in Jan­uary last year — six months be­fore Cabi­net ap­proved the grant. Mr Gun­ner said on Fri­day Mr Leonardi’s ac­tions were “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” and de­nied know­ing any­thing about what he had done be­fore the FOI re­quest was made last month. The club said the project would help “de­liver a real re­turn for the Ter­ri­tory econ­omy” both dur­ing and af­ter con­struc­tion. The club said the project would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the $12 mil­lion grant. It added the project would en­tice peo­ple to the Top End dur­ing the Dar­win Cup Car­ni­val – in­ject­ing mil­lions into the econ­omy. “The project is well un­der­way and the grand­stand is al­ready 75 per cent booked, mainly to vis­i­tors that will spend mil­lions in the com­mu­nity over Cup week,” the state­ment read. The com­pany Mr Dixon part-owns, Jay­tex, won the ten­der to con­struct the grand­stand. No wrong­do­ing was un­cov­ered in an in­de­pen­dent au­dit of the ten­der process.

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