By ERWIN CHLANDA
Humpty Doo resident Pauline Cass (pictured) gave the Alice Springs News Online a statement about difficulties with making submissions online about the independent inquiry into fracking.
Her account differs substantially from what a spokesman for the Government’s Fracking Taskforce had claimed earlier today.
It appears the Government has added a facility for acknowledging receipt of submissions only yesterday, the last-but-one day of the one month period allowed for submissions on this controversial issue, a major issue in the August 12 election.
The News is still waiting for advice from the Government whether the deadline for submissions – today – will be extended.
When asked to comment Ms Cass emailed: “I rang the NT Government switchboard yesterday as I was concerned I still hadn’t received a confirmation email for my submission to the Fracking Inquiry Terms of Reference which I had submitted a week earlier, nor had the rest of my family.
“The switchboard put me through to the Department of the Chief Minister’s IT guy, Andrew. He was unaware of any issues until I rang.
“We discovered that the website was ‘not capturing submissions’ due to a ‘technical issue’ as an ‘older version of the form’ hadn’t been sending the submissions through.
“He couldn’t answer my questions about the NT Government notifying the public or extending the submission deadline and he put me through to Claire Sprunt.
“She told me yesterday that the ‘tech team’ were looking into it and that an ‘automated response was now activated’ to confirm receipt of submissions.
“I asked her if they would be notifying the public and extending the submission deadline to enable people to resubmit their comments on the Terms of Reference. She said she would need to ask ‘someone higher up’.
“I rang Claire back this morning. She said they will not be notifying the public or extending the deadline as there is no need.
“I explained (again) that as all five submissions from my family through the government website over the past week hadn’t been received, there could be potentially hundreds of submissions missing, with the submitters oblivious to the fact that their comments have not been received.
“The public have a right to know that their comments haven’t been received and they need to be informed to resubmit – by 5pm today.
“We can’t have a fair, open and transparent inquiry if potentially hundreds of Territorians’ comments on the Fracking Inquiry Terms of Reference have been lost and dismissed as unimportant.”
Statement from a spokeswoman of Resources Minister Ken Vowles:
“There have not been any IT troubles preventing submissions from being entered.
“Submissions close tonight (Thursday, October 13) at midnight.”
UPDATE October 16:
A media release entitled “huge response to open and transparent fracking consultation” was issued on behalf of Lauren Moss (pictured), Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, on October 14.
It makes no reference to the issues raised by Pauline Cass and Charmaine Roth in this report.
It says, in part: “The NT Government has received 364 submissions for the Draft Terms of Reference for the inquiry into hydraulic fracturing of onshore unconventional gas reservoirs. Public submissions closed yesterday after being open for a four week period.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA