Political dispute escalates over the Dan Murphy’s NT store

25 August, 2017 by Andy Young

Controversy is mounting in the Northern Territory in relation to the Dan Murphy’s store which was proposed as part of the Darwin airport expansion.

The questions are mounting after Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he was not aware of the plans for Endeavour Drinks Group (EDG) to build an 1800-square metre store until a few days before his Government pushed through with plans to restrict the floor size of bottleshops in the Territory.

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Last year EDG submitted plans to build an 1800-square metre store as part of a new $40m commercial development close to Darwin Airport. However the Territory’s Government introduced a law in December last year that limited the floor size of bottleshops to 400-square metres.

The controversy is mounting because the Government is saying it had no idea of EDG’s plans until a few days before it introduced the law, but EDG’s General Manager of Corporate Services has disputed that claim, saying he met with Gunner’s Chief of Staff Alf Leonardi in October to discuss the issue.

Leonardi said the meeting was not serious enough for him to warrant taking notes, however Tremble has said he does have detailed notes from the meeting, which he has retained.

Tremble said he met with Leonardi at 11am on October 26 in order to discuss the Dan Murphy’s licence.

“Mr Leonardi advised me that the Government would have no problem with a BWS store in a ‘greenfield’ supermarket development but would vigorously oppose any application for a Dan Murphy’s at the new Airport development,” Tremble said. “I recall the discussion clearly as I found Mr Leonardi’s description of our Dan Murphy’s business as the ‘Bunnings for drunks’ very offensive, as I had travelled to the Northern Territory as a representative of a business with an exemplary responsible service record and seeking to make a substantial investment in the Territory economy.

“After at least two years of concept discussions with regulators this was the first negative reaction we had received to our plans to open a Dan Murphy’s in Darwin.”

Gunner has told the NT Parliament that he has ‘nothing to hide’ adding he believed Leonardi’s claim that there was no discussion about alcohol in the meeting with Tremble.

“If we had been advised, I would have been advised. It was not a secret meeting – there’s absolutely no reason not to pass that on. We were not advised in that meeting of Dan Murphy’s coming to town,” Gunner said.

However, Tremble has hit back disputing Leonardi’s claim that the meeting did not involve discussions about Dan Murphy’s coming to Darwin.

“I would like to be clear and state unequivocally for the record that I refute that version of the events,” Tremble said. “The main purpose of my trip to the Territory was to raise the bringing of a Dan Murphy’s to Darwin in my meetings with Mr Mark Wood and with Ms Cindy Bravos and Ms Sally Ozolins from the Regulator, and with Mr Alf Leonardi from the Chief Minister’s office. We confirm that the Chief Minister was not in the meeting so any information he was provided about the meeting would need to have come from Mr Leonardi.

“I have contemporaneous notes of the meeting that verify that I raised Dan Murphy’s Darwin with Mr Leonardi, and my colleague has corroborating notes from my telephone conversation with him in which I relayed my meeting with Mr Leonardi.

“​Because we believe that it is in the interests of all Territorians to have transparency over this matter, we are prepared to make ourselves and the notes available to any inquiry or investigation.”

EDG has started legal action against the NT Government over the floor space ruling, but earlier this month the group announced that it would be suspending that action after the Government made a move to change its ruling.