Will frack­ing cause crack­ing in La­bor cau­cus?

NT News - - NEWS - HAY­LEY SORENSEN Po­lit­i­cal re­porter

WHICH­EVER side of the fence they stand on, Ter­ri­to­ri­ans – pun­ters, politi­cians and every­one in be­tween – feel strongly about frack­ing.

There is un­der­stand­able com­mu­nity angst about the NT’s abil­ity to reg­u­late an on­shore gas in­dus­try.

The Mon­tara oil spill and con­tam­i­na­tion from the McArthur River mine have eroded pub­lic trust.

The lack of trust was ac­knowl­edged in the panel’s fi­nal re­port, which quoted a na­tional sur­vey con­ducted by the CSIRO in 2016 and early 2017. The sur­vey found Ter­ri­to­ri­ans per­ceived gov­er­nance ca­pac­ity to be “sig­nif­i­cantly poorer” than res­i­dents of other ju­ris­dic­tions.

That lack of trust ex­tends to the min­ers – Ter­ri­to­ri­ans have far less trust than other Aus­tralians in min­ing com­pa­nies to do the right thing.

In Kather­ine, a town deal­ing with con­tam­i­na­tion of its wa­ter by PFAS chem­i­cals, most res­i­dents are ve­he­mently op­posed to frack­ing.

San­dra Nel­son is the seat’s first La­bor mem­ber. Her elec­tion came on the slimmest of mar­gins. Kather­ine res­i­dents who voted for her and the mora­to­rium will feel be­trayed and will make their un­hap­pi­ness known at the next elec­tion.

Ms Nel­son and Na­matjira MLA Chansey Paech made al­most iden­ti­cal posts to Face­book fea­tur­ing pho­tographs of them­selves stand­ing next to anti-frack­ing pro­test­ers with care­fully worded state­ments sup­port­ing veto rights of Tra­di­tional Own­ers granted through the Com­mon­wealth’s Land Rights Act. Those rights were never threat­ened, and the state­ments don’t go so far as to voice op­po­si­tion to their party’s de­ci­sion, but Ms Nel­son and Mr Paech must hope they will re­duce their cul­pa­bil­ity with their con­stituents.

Chief Min­is­ter Michael Gun­ner wouldn’t com­ment on the in­ter­nal frac­tures within cau­cus, but ac­knowl­edged mem­bers had strong views.

When asked if he be­lieved his Gov­ern­ment would face a voter back­lash, Mr Gun­ner said: “In ev­ery elec­torate in the NT there are peo­ple who be­lieve pas­sion­ately on this is­sue one way or an­other. There comes a point in time though when you have to make a de­ci­sion. Whether it makes me po­lit­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble or not, that can be some­one else’s assess­ment. For me, I al­ways have to go about try­ing to make the best de­ci­sion I can for the Ter­ri­tory. I be­lieve I have done that.”

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