The NT Government says it did not direct a Katherine school to advise its teachers yesterday not to raise the controversial issue of rental subsidies with its Education Minister.
Minister Selena Uibo visited several schools yesterday on the first working day of school since local teachers discovered their subsidies, worth as much as $24,000 a year, may be lost.
The Government has announced a "review" of the subsidies saying it would save the ailing NT Budget $500,000 a year.
Yesterday a Katherine teacher sent the Katherine Times a copy of an email sent to teachers gagging them from speaking to Ms Uibo.
"Minister Uibo did not nor did the Department of Education advise teachers not to ask questions to either herself, the Federal Member for Lingiari or the Federal Shadow Education Minister during the recent visits to Katherine," a spokesman for Ms Uibo said in a prepared statement this afternoon.
"Minister Uibo would like to reassure all community members including teachers that they are always welcome to approach her to chat and discuss any concerns that they have," he said.
The spokesman said the Territory Government Program Review states that the housing rental arrangements for education department employees in Katherine will be reviewed.
"This review will be conducted through appropriate consultations and with clear plans to ensure relevant change management processes are applied.
"The decision to include the review into the Housing Subsidy in Katherine was a decision made by the Budget Cabinet and is one that provides equity with the Alice Springs and Darwin regions.
"All Department of Education staff were informed of the details of the program review prior to its release via an email from the Chief Executive."
The spokesman said specific communications to staff in Katherine advised they would be individually contacted from this week "to discuss the next steps in the review process".
In denying a gag order came from Ms Uibo's office, the spokesman said teachers are welcome to communicate directly with their principal or email email@example.com with any queries or concerns.
The NT Education Department has questioned the Katherine Times over the leaking of the internal school email to teachers yesterday saying it had not been authorised.
Education Minister Selena Uibo toured two Katherine schools yesterday on the federal election trail with federal deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek and Lingiari MHR Warren Snowdon.
The Katherine Times approached Ms Uibo in person to comment on the rental subsidy controversy but she refused to comment, referring us instead to her office.
Local teachers were outraged to discover over the holidays they were to lose their rental subsidies under the NT Budget's fix.
The NT's deputy Opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro said the move to gag teachers was "deplorable".
The government did not respond to questions on whether Katherine MLA Sandra Nelson had been consulted on the move.