Sir – With the issue of hydraulic fracturing being so controversial in the NT there have been calls for the government to hold a referendum to decide whether fracking should be permitted or the process be banned.
Although it is unlikely that the Gunner administration will agree to holding a referendum on fracking, it would be beneficial for the Member for Katherine Sandra Nelson (pictured) if one is held.
Sandra campaigned for the Katherine electorate on an anti-fracking platform against an incumbent candidate who supported fracking. She won the seat after picking up preferences from another candidate who opposed fracking.
Sandra is personally opposed to fracking and very commendably played a major role in the implementation of the present moratorium on fracking.
If no referendum is held, with the present NT Labor administration appearing likely to support fracking, Sandra will have a dilemma on her hands when the matter is decided in Parliament.
If she crosses the floor and votes in accordance with the wishes of her constituents and her own conscience she will be a pariah for the Labor Party. Of course if she toes the party line and votes in support of fracking she will be breaching faith with her constituents.
Sandra has indicated that she may abstain from voting on fracking. This might keep her in good stead with the Labor Party but she would effectively be depriving Katherine residents of a vote on this important issue.
For Sandra to either vote in support of fracking or abstain from voting for her own personal benefit would demonstrate that her loyalty to the Labor Party is greater than her loyalty to her constituents. It would be wise for Sandra to remember that it was not the Labor Party but the people of Katherine who voted her into office.
Assuming that a referendum on fracking is called for followed by a vote in the Legislative Assembly: If it is shown that the majority of Territorians are opposed to fracking, Labor will be compelled to vote to oppose the process. Sandra will then be able to vote in accordance with her own conscience and the wishes of her constituents.
Of course if the referendum demonstrates that there is community support for fracking, Sandra will be quite justified in voting with her party to allow gas mining companies to commence their fracking operations.