By 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.
Mr 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.
“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).
Schools, order, justice are the coalface, not resources
By ERWIN CHLANDA