Will fracking cause cracking in Labor caucus?
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.”