Schools, order, justice are the coalface, not resources


p1935-Palm-Valley-2By ERWIN CHLANDA
To get a Labor view on fracking, talk to the recently preselected candidate for Stuart, Scotty McConnell (pictured): He makes it clear that he’s giving mostly his own personal view, with a smattering of his party’s current position, so far as he can make it out, but it is nuanced.
“We need to be clear about any impact on the tourism (including to Palm Valley, pictured) and pastoral industries and Aboriginal people living on country,” he says.
“The welfare of all those comes first. I’m quite concerned about the implication of widespread fracking.”
The use of water is “extraordinary, astronomic” and we need to find out a lot more facts: “It’s very convenient to run a lot of adverts, that we’re using world’s best practice, and so on, but I have yet to be convinced.
“We’ve done some types of fracking and I’m not a rule-in, rule-out person. It depends on science and on location.”
Asked whether Labor would use the power of the Mines Minister to stop fracking by not renewing permits running for five years, Mr McConnell says: “That is an issue for the leadership of party. These are very legitimate questions.”
Mr McConnell says he’s aware the Territory ALP is “developing a policy” and will more clearly define its position about a moratorium. “I have not yet spent a lot of time with party machinery,” he says.
Meanwhile, Labor Leader Michael Gunner has not responded to requests for an interview.
Labor is understood to be favouring a pipeline from Tennant Creek to Mount Isa but have not made it clear where the gas in it will come from if they – assuming they win government – do not consider the lifting of the moratorium justifiable.
p2290-Scotty-McConnell-1Mr McConnell (pictured) says claims are “out of kilter” that onshore oil and gas are key to the Territory’s future economy “and will be paying for our schools and hospitals”.
He says the proposed pipeline is a “short sugar hit” because materials and highly specialised workers and materials will need to come from interstate and overseas to build it.
“I was born in Alice Springs and I was here when the first pipeline was built, from Palm Valley to Alice Springs and Darwin, and the Alice to Darwin railway line,” he says.
“In each case there was a brief spurt of construction activity. Use of the local workforce was very low. It was a FIFO operation with workers living in camps. Sure, they bought the odd meal in town, and a few beers, but when the job was finished they left.”
He says with increasing automation, increasing life cycles of equipment, automated truck and railway transport, the maintenance of a completed pipeline requires very few people.
Rather than focusing on exporting non-renewable resources, promoted by “press releases and pamphlets,” we should be concentrating on “infill – broaden existing industries, existing employment, increase local workforce utilisation,” beginning with the most underemployed in the community, the Indigenous people.
“We’ve got to stop thinking we’re a frontier town. Schools, law and order and justice – that’s the coalface, not selling resources,” says Mr McConnell. “Thinking about future, having a clear and concise direction over a long period of time. The ‘a project a day’ announcements by the current government make no sense.
“We’ve had three Chief Ministers and attempted Chief Ministers since the last election. You can’t govern a place like this. It’s not practical. The timeframes to create meaningful things are simply not there.”
There are a myriad ways of achieving this, says Mr McConnell, all in some way connected with the land and experiencing it: “Doing things outside the built environment, staying fit, having two beers instead of 12.”
As the head of the Aboriginal-owned organisation that owns the Glen Helen Resort, as well as the two Ingkerreke organisations, providing outstation services and engineering, Mr McConnell put mountain biking – long a minor pastime here – on the national map by sponsoring major competitions.
p2290-McConnell-biking“A whole resort was built in north-west Tasmania around mountain biking. They have hundreds of kilometres of groomed trails in Tassie,” he says.
Apart from having an American-born wife, Kathy, his background is almost entirely in the electorate which he is now seeking to represent: He was raised in Willowra and Laramba, schooled at Yuendmu, worked as a Ranger at Arltunga, Palm Valley and Ormiston, and in the Haasts Bluff community near Papunya.
“I know the country and the issues. We need positive messages, not negativism, tearing people down,” he says.
“Terry Mills looked good to me, but we’re now on a very different course. I am worried about the NT. My life is the Territory. I’m  worried where we are going.”
As an admirer of Chief Ministers Marshall Perron (CLP) and Clare Martin (Labor), and a close friend of Alison Anderson (MLA for neighbouring Namatjira –Labor, CLP,  Independent, PUP and most recently Independent again), is he influenced by her?
“I have learned a lot from her but I am not AA. I am white, male and born in 1968. She is a friend and I am inspired by her, but by a lot of other people, too,” says Mr McConnell.
“As far as I know AA hasn’t even made up her mind about running again.
“Who knows, she might even contest Stuart.”
PHOTO: A skilled promoter Mr McConnell interested The Australian to snap this mountain biking pic above (he is bringing up the rear).


  1. Good stuff Labor. Here is a candidate who has a strong resume and is well recognised as a competent doer.
    Don’t stop with the elecorate of Stuart.
    We need more high quality candidates like Scott McConnell in every seat across the Territory – let’s start building their public profiles in the community now.

  2. Good stuff Scotty. I will absolutely vouch for your integrity and I wish you all the best.
    Any voters who can justify to themselves voting for the CLP again really need their heads checked.

  3. An important way to fund schools, law and order and justice happens to be selling resources.
    And the pipeline is not a sugar hit, gas sales to the Eastern States would provide multi million dollar royalties to the NT (not the Feds) for decades.
    At least the Giles Government has a consistent development strategy, like or not we know what they stand for.

  4. Who are you trying to kid Jacob!?
    The Deloitte study shows that the estimated return per Territorian is around $150 PER YEAR.
    That’s bugger all!
    Our electricity price increases and rego costs amount to much more than that!
    And it’s a tragically small amount for all the risk and disruption! Fracking will rip apart the social fabric of the Territory for generations.
    In short FRACKING will ruin the Territory and a gain in one industry will be at the expense of so many others!
    Who the hell voted for fracking?
    Oh wait … all the smart parts of the world have ruled out fracking or have a moratorium in place!

  5. Investing in the research and development of renewable energy resource opportunities is the way to grow Central Australia and the NT.
    A gradual shift away from the fossil fuel industry will facilitate employment into our future.
    Time to stop this gas pipeline nonsense. Protect the environment while we grow our future.
    The social economy is equally as important as a fiscal one. We deserve better.

  6. Charlie W nice try at scaremongering.
    I haven’t noticed the social fabric of the NT being ripped apart over the last decade or more that gas has been extracted to run our local power station etc.
    The NT is awakening as a gas giant, capable of powering the nation.
    The Deloitte study said that the cumulative increase in Gross State Product could reach $22.4 billion in net present value (NPV) terms.
    Think what the NT could do with that Charlie W.
    Then we have a long-term employment boost of 6,300 full time positions in the NT and a cumulative increase in NT Government revenues of $961 million NPV.
    It’s a great time to be a Territorian.

  7. @ Jacob. I never said that there isn’t money in gas IF you are the controller or the beneficiary of the industry.
    Guess what? That counts me and most Territorians out! I and many other Territorians will never participate in such a divisive industry with so much at risk!
    You say increase of 22 billion in GSP. What an obfuscation!
    You might like to argue that it is “all about the flow on effects to the economy” – but I ask you – whose economy?
    So I can’t really think what what the “Territory could do with that amount” because the fact is the profit component of that amount goes mostly straight to big business coffers – mostly from outside the Territory.
    You can spin it anyway you want but the fact remains that when all is said and done each Territorian will see between $150 to $200 per person (at best) in payments going back into government coffers for the betterment of common services.
    You talk about education – if you actually gave a damn about Territory education you would know we just blew the opportunity to gain billions of dollars in Federal Gonski funding because our Chief Minister decided to play politics with the NT funding agreement and didn’t want to support Labor.
    He thought backing Tony “Wrecker” Abbott would pay better dividends. Look how that turned out! Now you have the nerve to tie education funding to fracking; as if people against fracking don’t support the education of our children!
    What a low level CLP and fracking supporters are prepared to stoop to!
    And so back to the real question. What is that $150 to $200 per person going to be spent on?
    I guess if we are lucky we might see a new Sports Voucher or some other CLP vote buying excercise? What do you reckon Jacob?
    Oh and Jacob – one more thing – you are still pushing the false and misleading rubbish that the “gas industry has been here for many years already”.
    That is a different type of gas industry operation and similar arguments as a justification for fracking have been well dismantled in other threads on Alice Springs News Online.
    Don’t get me started on the 6300 full time jobs. Even the industry doesn’t disagree that they’ll be mostly short-term and fly in and fly out.
    As for the big number itself, there are many ways to create jobs by investing in a given industry. That number counts downstream jobs too – so investing in plenty of other industries would create similar job numbers and last for decades longer.
    Do you care to count the numbers of other jobs that’ll be lost once the Territory commits to this type of limited-scope economic future?

  8. Charlie W, your politics are showing mate and this issue is too important for partisan views.
    The NT will be a major beneficiary of gas development because royalties on land based resources in the Territory go to us rather than the Feds.
    And then we have an estimated $5m to $10m per year for the traditional owners of the land.
    Let’s not forget the benefits to Central Petroleum (CTP), a proud Australian ASX listed company which owns a large share of the gas resources.
    Your super fund probably has some shares in them.
    CTP has a long term commitment to the Territory, hold immense acreage and will develop further projects when they have the funds to do so.
    Keep in mind that gas development will also drive gas prices down and therefore electricity prices will fall.
    It is estimated that the longer term benefits from this reduction alone will save Territorian households an average of more than $200 per year.
    As well, cheap gas will give NT businesses a cost advantage.
    That advantage will lead to the creation of many new jobs in the years to come and help to rid us of the welfare image.
    And finally, gas is a relatively clean fuel.

  9. @ Jacob: Glad my politics are showing! We need more people to stand up for the sensible centre! And fracking sure as hell ain’t that.
    By the way your, economic ineptitude is showing – didn’t you realise that the entire viability of the CLP’s “great fracking future” depends on the market turning around – and that is by no means certain.
    Investing in the market as it sits now (historic lows) is a massive risk and why should we waste our public-asset-sell-off-TIO-cash on such a risky and divisive investment?
    Give me a publicly owned TIO any day! A nice little earner that supported and benefitted ALL TERRITORIANS.
    Now they have sold it off and want to stick the cash into an industry that is going to divide Territorians for generations.
    And just so you know, I typically don’t actually vote for one party over another but I surely will TALK UP LOUD when it’s bloody obvious that Territorians are getting played for complete and utter idiots.
    You can go into bat for the CLP all you like, but I will continue to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and defend my right to do so.
    If fracking is such a great thing let’s see Giles and Co take it to the election and let the people decide!
    Regarding your statement above about cheap gas – what tosh! Don’t you know this whole game is about getting gas to hungry NSW gas consumers cos Queensland is too busy chasing the higher world gas prices?
    You think there is any NT industry that is going to benefit much in the long term that wouldn’t already be well served by the massive INPEX project!?
    More rubbish and spin!
    As for your comment about $5m to $10m going to Aboriginal people … we’ve seen the results of that type of approach for decades.
    Jacob, please go home tonight and have a good hard look at yourself and the way you live your life.

  10. Regarding the timing of the pipeline project, surely the Government can’t spend money or commit to anything unless the world gas prices recover first.
    And if the CLP want to push ahead with such absurd investment risk, it surely must be an opening for a good common-sense policy position for Labor.
    “We reserve the right to withhold a decision on the fracking industry until further details about water impacts are abundantly clear AND the market conditions are actually at a level that may see the necessary government investment achieve some decent return for Territorians.
    “Anything else would be reckless and disrespectful to Territorians. At worst it would be a straight-out transfer of public monies to private beneficiaries.”

  11. Charlie W: You say we just blew the opportunity to gain billions of dollars in Federal Gonski funding because our Chief Minister decided to play politics with the NT funding agreement.
    Can’t you see that we need to move away from a mindset where all funding comes from Canberra?
    We have to grow the NT economy, produce our own revenue and not be beholden to the Federal Government.
    Growing the gas industry is a very good way to do that.
    And the entire viability of gas does not depend on the market turning around.
    The Deloitte report showed that there is huge demand at current prices.
    Most Australian gas reserves have been sold off for export with nothing reserved for the local market.
    So we have high Australian prices while the world prices are low.
    That’s the case with INPEX and why your suggestion that NT industry could source from INPEX is wrong.
    Governments allowed INPEX to export everything and not supply local business.
    That’s the legal agreement and we have to live with it.
    But now we have gas reserves that are not tied to export and can be used to drive the NT and national economy.
    We can catch up with the rest of the world but to do that we need to put scare mongering to one side.

  12. You know what? Sometimes a man must admit when he gets it wrong. And, Ralph, I admit that I was wrong in saying that Queensland gas producers are chasing higher overseas profits and thus pushing up overall gas prices.
    But let us state the BIZARRE truth clearly so everyone understands what is really going on here.
    Dear readers of the Alice Springs News Online, here is what I have learned:
    The sad fact is that the gas industry is dominated by international players and they are simple out to get gas at cheap prices and ship it offshore. Probably because the government of the day is so eager to get some easy fast cash.
    And it seems that barely a thought is given to the value of reserving some resources for local needs!
    And now the Eastern states want Territorians to come to their rescue and give them access to gas at cheap prices because they made the wrong deals? Honestly you can hardly make this stuff up! But, yes, I admit it is true.
    Ralph, as for your other statement about INPEX exporting everything and nothing being reserved for local industry and thus the need to support fracking – that is plainly wrong and misinformation.
    The INPEX production decreases but mostly increases regularly by significant amounts e.g. 5% increases are common.
    If there really was a pressing need for NT gas to “grow local industry”, any government worth its salt would be able to step in and convince INPEX to give a little back to domestic supply needs.
    So anyway, what industries do you have in mind that would need more than a few percent of the INPEX annual production?
    You are just using the “support local industry” argument as another false reason why we need fracking.
    The simple truth is that we don’t need fracking – and the major beneficiaries won’t be your average Territorian.
    Finally, regarding your statement “Deloitte says there is lots of demand at current prices!” Yes of course Ralph – umm that is because gas prices are at all time lows! People like cheap stuff!
    It’s a good reason NOT to be pumping taxpayer monies into gas infrastructure that may not even turn out to be profitable!

  13. Don’t waste your energy, Ralph.
    The great thing about this article and many of the responses, is that it so clearly demonstrates what Territorians with a vision and a passion for the future have to fight against. Small-minded lefties so steeped in the politics of envy and dependency they can’t even begin to grasp the meaning of free enterprise, let alone the mind-blowing prospect of a project completely funded by free enterprise such as the gas pipeline!
    Don’t you just love the comments questioning the viability and the existence of a market while at the very same time in the real world businesses are climbing all over each other to get their hands on the project. LOL.
    Maybe they just forgot to ring Lefty Inc first and ask their opinion (yes, lefties, that is a joke).
    Anyway, further to my comment, if we want a future that doesn’t mean a return to the dark ages, a grovelling subsistence living under a completely Socialist government, then we had better get behind the CLP Government!
    That’s the choice, the NGO king, stifling dependency and envy, or the freedoms and efficiency of free enterprise! Make your choice, conservatives!

  14. Re Brown: the politics of envy? Would that be the 12 TVs you were banging on about last week?
    Good to see as usual your rants still don’t have any factual evidence, a remarkable point of difference in Liberal Party make-up.
    With Abbott stabbed has Australia found a Science Minister or are the Liberals still in denial?
    Digging holes is not the answer, unknown to most in Alice most Australians are in the 21st century.
    Never be shy Steve to publish your “views” in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian etc and show to this country why the NT in your mind is not part of the Flat Earth Society.

  15. Oh Diddums Steve Brown! What’s wrong? You think you are the only one who can get behind their computer screen and type fast on Alice Springs News Online?
    Well guess what: The truth is most of the sensible centre have been preserving their energy while we let you blow your hot air into the atmosphere.
    However the problem with fracking is that it is a threat too great for the silent majority to stay quiet about!
    And the thing is, when the truth and facts about the fracking industry is discussed it really becomes apparent that our Giles-led government is really letting us down!
    The points I have made a really only the tip of the iceberg! No wonder you don’t want to continue the discussion or just roll-out your tired old argumentative tactics.
    Let’s be clear. The CLP and their supporters will not get away with the underhanded tactics they are using to push this fracking future upon Territorians.
    Try as you might to label this as a lefty agenda – the fact is that the loopy left, the nutjob right and the silent majority in between actually have established a lot of common ground on this issue.
    To be honest Steve, I’m a little disappointed you haven’t come onboard for the love-in. We are a welcoming movement and accept all sorts. Farmers, Aboriginal TOs, Alan Jones, ex rugby players, musicians, celebrities, scientists, various church communities – to mention but a few.
    The simple rule is that you respect others how you’d like be respected yourself – and extend that basic thinking to future generations and the earth itself.
    It’s not as hard as you might think, but I appreciate for some that worldview can be challenging.
    P.s.: Your statement that the government and NT taxpayers aren’t paying for this does show that you do seem to have a sense of humour. That is a great start … perhaps we can get you to come over to the goodies side yet?
    Hey Steve, if talking about fracking is a little to uncomfortable, what do you think about the sell-off of the port?
    Was it smart to just grab the cash while we can or should we have held out for a slightly more strategic option with various national interest considerations in the equation?

  16. Hi Charlie,
    You have made some great points about fracking in the NT and the poor economic returns the average Territorian will likely see.
    However, it is worth providing you and other Alice Springs News readers with some clarification about how the economics are presently working or look set to work.
    At an investment level, there were many pipeline proposals submitted that covered a range of ways, (i.e.financing and routes) that frackers and other gas industry players could get NT gas to eastern markets.
    In some scenarios, the government could be a direct investor in the pipeline and exercise control (and higher rent returns) from the industry.
    Alternatively, as looks likely to be the preferred model, the government will choose a partner that can cover the major capital costs of the pipeline via their own financing. This will mean the private investor will get guaranteed cheap gas prices locked in to ensure a return on their investment and is the basis upon which the industry expanded rapidly in some other Australian states. In the case of the Territory, the CLP government is using its control over Power and Water gas supply contracts to make this happen in a way that pleases industry.
    Others can speculate on the appropriateness and fairness of these special deals that the CLP is providing for the gas industry, but you can expect more details about whether it likely constitutes a “fair deal” for Territorians in coming weeks.
    Most importantly though, whichever way the economics are spun, fracking remains a divisive and rightly contested industry. There is certainly no social license in the NT for this industry!
    People should get themselves informed about the irreparable damage that fracking has done in other parts of the world and focus on the key issue: any damage to our environment and our precious water resources cannot be undone by money.

  17. Yep “center”, all right Charlie W, dead center of the Socialist left who make up somewhere around 1% of our population!
    With those figures Charlie W I wouldn’t be quite so confident I was on the right side of anything! Even the Left!
    The facts are that most people favor a sensible well balanced approach realizing that wealth creation is very necessary part of our survival in the modern world. If we can extract wealth from gas while rigorously monitoring the process to ensure minimal risk then we should do so.
    Gas is a relatively clean fuel, it’s in great demand here and across the world, its production helps to minimize the usage of coal, helping to reduce our total carbon output, all good reasons for intelligent environmentalists to support its use as an interim measure.
    Yes, we should move towards renewables just as quickly as we can sensibly / practically do so. Here in the Centre solar power stations make perfect sense and I have lobbied the Feds on that basis on a number of occasions, so far unfortunately without success.
    However, don’t be disheartened when we’ve sold enough gas we may well be able to afford one!
    Something to look forward to, don’t you think?
    In the meantime Charlie if you’re looking for respect, a little acknowledgement of your argument, try something completely novel, use something factual in it!
    Your previous comments make it apparent that like Jimmy and ALEC, (you’re a member aren’t you, CW?) you are prepared to mislead using fear mongering propaganda that demonstrates such a level of exaggeration and mischievous misinformation that it would indicate one of two things, either blissful ignorance, or a disruptive agenda of some kind that has absolutely nothing to do with the future welfare of Territorians.
    Come to think of it, maybe it means both of those things.
    The Pipeline Project, if and when it goes ahead will be totally funded by free enterprise.
    There is no coal seam fracking proposed in the Territory.
    The fracking that is presently undertaken is at great depth in conventional fields such as the Dingo Field.
    It is not near to, or in any way a threat to our water supply.
    Horizontal fracking is carried out some two km below our aquifers, it’s no different to conventional fracking other than it goes sideways, the objective being that you can cover a large area without the need for as many penetrations of the aquifer so in fact it presents less risk to the aquifer.
    The amount of water being used to construct is much less than figures quoted by extremists. The water can be and often is reused. Extremely saline water not suitable for human consumption that is often located near these bores is also used, further reducing demands on potable water supplies.
    Central Australia does not have a water shortage! We know that we have some 400 years of supply at levels well above current usage! And that equation stands without taking into account recharge!
    Recently new information has come to light, supporting what many of us have argued for decades, that there is recharge! This alters the whole equation again. Answer: Plenty of water! Supply not threatened!
    Fracking poses nothing like the risk to the environment that mining poses yet we accept mining by mitigating the risks as best we can. I suggest we calmly go about doing the same for gas extraction.
    Finally the term “No Social Licence”: This is code for “ALEC and Greens aren’t getting their way” and are looking for a back door method to exert their will over the vast majority of sensible Australians who simply do not accept their viewpoint.
    News Flash: We live in one of the world’s best functioning democracies!
    We elect governments and we kick them out when we don’t like what they do.
    While they are in power they have “social licence” to govern, granted by the people! If you can’t accept that fact I suggest you start looking for some place in the world where they put winging minorities in charge. Best of luck with your search.


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