The Northern Territory’s deputy chief minister has resigned after gay slurs he made against his colleague’s son were made public.
It was revealed on Thursday that last week Dave Tollner attacked gay staffer Joshua Higgins after viewing a draft speech about same-sex marriage, calling him a “pillow biter” and “shirt lifter”.
Mr Higgins reportedly had nothing to do with the speech’s contents. He works for Community Services Minister Bess Price and is the son of backbencher Gary Higgins, the Member for Daly.
He is rumoured to be on stress leave.
Mr Tollner said the comments were made good-naturedly, telling Mix 104.9 on Friday that “people shouldn’t have to watch their Ps and Qs when they’re having a bit of banter with their mates”.
Chief Minister Adam Giles on Thursday stood by his deputy, backing his position that the comments were part of “a conversation between two friends which was reported to have gotten out of hand”, but on Friday accepted Mr Tollner’s resignation from the ministry.
Mr Giles will take on all of Mr Tollner’s seven portfolios of Treasury, Business, Employment and Training, Local Government and Regions, Defence Industries and Community Support, Alcohol Policy, and Corporate and Information Services.
He said there would be a cabinet reshuffle, possibly after the upcoming Casuarina by-election, for which a date has yet to be set.
Speaker Kezia Purick told the ABC on Friday before Mr Tollner’s resignation that she would find it difficult to work with him following his comments.
“The world that David lives in is clearly not the same as mine,” she wrote on Facebook.
“I do not joke about people’s sexual preferences, I do not joke about race, colour or creed and I do not joke about domestic violence with either my family (or) friends.”
Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie said Mr Tollner “had to fall on his sword” because Mr Giles “couldn’t see fit to sack his mate”.
Mr Tollner’s gay nephew said his uncle was “most certainly not” a homophobe.
“He’s perfectly open-minded and comfortable with it,” Dale Kelly said, adding that Mr Tollner’s mother is also in a same-sex relationship.
Attorney-General John Elferink, Education Minister Peter Chandler or Minister for Infrastructure Peter Styles are thought to be frontrunners for the deputy chief minister’s job, the ABC has reported.