Labor's mixed messages on fracking


p2444 Sandra NelsonLETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – At a Labor conference last year, the Labor Party made a commitment that it would not support the carrying of unconventional gas, that is gas obtained by fracking onshore shale deposits, in the proposed Tennant Creek to Mt Isa gas pipeline.
Presumably Labor would only support the Northern Gas Pipeline proposal if the gas it would be carrying was excess gas from Central Australia or originated from the Territory’s off-shore deposits at Blacktip Point.
It would be a little uncertain as to how Blacktip Point gas would be transported to Tennant Creek.
With a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in place at the moment, fracking cannot occur until the findings of the Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry that is presently being conducted are handed down. Until the findings are known, it is uncertain as to whether mining companies will be able to proceed with on-shore gas mining in the NT.
In green-lighting the Northern Gas Pipeline project, it appears that the Gunner administration may be either pre-empting the findings of the Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry, or possibly is going to allow miners to engage in the fracking process regardless of the Inquiry’s findings, and despite the concerns of most Territorians.
Minister Ken Vowles has stated that the pipeline project is necessary to generate jobs. Despite the NT facing its biggest budget deficit ever the Gunner administration is determined to spend heavily on job creation at any cost. Huge cuts in GST revenue from Canberra may also be in store for the future.
Katherine’s MLA Sandra Nelson (pictured) achieved a very narrow election win, a mere 16 votes, after the distribution of preferences.
While Sandra campaigned on an anti-fracking platform, it was the huge flow of preferences from a One Territory Party candidate and an Independent candidate, both of whom campaigned on anti-fracking platforms, that turned what had previously been the safest Conservative seat in the Legislative Assembly into a Labor seat.
The Member for Katherine has now informed the media that the pipeline project from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa is good for the Territory because it will underpin development of the Barkly region.
Sandra Nelson is personally strongly opposed to fracking however she will be required to dutifully toe the Labor Party line on the pipeline and fracking issues, regardless of the wishes of her constituents.
If fracked gas is carried in the Northern Gas Pipeline, it will be a matter of the Territory Labor Government reneging on a vital commitment to Territorians. This would not bode well for the future.
Of course if the Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry recommends against fracking and the current ban on the process remains in place, the Federal Government may use the threat of GST cutbacks to force the NT Government to drop the ban or may even itself overrule the ban.
The precedent for Canberra to overrule the NT Government was set with the overruling of the Territory’s euthanasia legislation. This would certainly provide a face saving way out for the Gunner administration, and of course for the Member for Katherine.
Bruce Francais


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