The Northern Territory government is under increasing pressure to explain why an infrastructure fund gave $10.5 million in taxpayers money to a bottled water company that went broke.
Independent MP and former NT Treasurer Robyn Lambley threatened in parliament on Wednesday to take the matter to the NT Independent Commission against Corruption unless Treasurer Nicole Manison launched an investigation.
The government was accused in an opposition motion in parliament on Wednesday of not recognising it must act over a "financial crisis" with a report late last year showing it was borrowing over $1.5 billion this year, or $4 million a day more than its income to meet wages and other costs.
The NT's net debt was projected to increase tenfold from $3 billion in 2017-18 to $35.7 billion by 2029-30.
Opposition Leader Gary Higgins questioned why the Infrastructure Development Fund handed over the taxpayer funds in 2018 when the company NT Beverages had posted a $6.5 million loss in 2017 and "was $13.9 million short of working capital to keep going".
It has since gone into voluntary administration while the IDF was disbanded last year with NT Beverages its only investment.
The NT's most powerful public servant, chief minister's department CEO Jodie Ryan was on the board of the IDF.
Ms Ryan has blamed fund manager Infrastructure Capital Group (ICG) for the investment decision, which Mr Higgins said in parliament had also received $1.5 million from the government.
Former Labor deputy chief minister Marion Scrymgour said Ms Ryan should resign on Wednesday.
The other directors included big business names, such as chair and ICG director Les Fallick, former Future Fund managing director Mark Burgess, former Macquarie Bank boss Bill Moss and James Paspaley, the head of the pearling giant Paspaley.
"How is it that over $10 million in taxpayers money was invested in an insolvent company," Mr Higgins said in parliament.
The treasurer conceded the IDF had failed but said her Labor government was merely following through on the previous CLP government's original vision for it, which included that it made independent decisions.
"It raises some very big questions with regards to some of those decisions that were made there (by IDF about NT Beverage)," she said.
"Independent decisions were made by that board, very prominent people sat on that board."
However Ms Manison and NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner have so far refused to investigate or try to recoup the $10 million-plus.
Mr Lambley said that refusal to investigate "did not pass the pub test" with voters.
"If the government refuses to undertake a full investigation and ... recover the more than $10 million granted to NT Beverages through the IDF then I would be compelled to refer this matter to the NT Independent Commission Against Corruption," she said.
Australian Associated Press