Internal split widens as members vote against fracking but keep party secretary
THE split between Northern Territory Labor’s parliamentary wing and its members has widened at this weekend’s party conference as tensions boiled over on fracking.
In an embarrassment for the Gunner Government, delegates voted to support a permanent ban on hydraulic fracturing, just a month after the 18-month moratorium was lifted.
The decision to allow fracking was met with approval from the Territory’s business sector amid a flagging economy.
After an exhaustive and independent inquiry into the shale gas extraction industry, Justice Rachel Pepper also deemed any risks posed by the industry could be mitigated if the government followed her safety recommendations.
Those recommendations were adopted in full by the Labor Government.
But the motion by the members is non-binding on its parliamentary wing.
The successful motion to overturn fracking, while unpopular in some circles, is seen by many as one that safely helps secure the Territory’s economic future amid increasing GST cuts and also a smart long-term decision by the Gunner Government.
Labor secretary Kent Rowe survived a coup led by interstate anti-fracking CFMEU forces.
The Sunday Territorian understands the motion to give him the boot was shut down with a two-thirds majority.
Mr Rowe faced down a similar attempt on his position last June.
One delegate told the Sunday Territorian the fracking motion should put Mr Gunner and his Labor parliamentary colleagues on notice.
Addressing Labor members at the beginning of proceedings, Mr Gunner recognised fracking was a divisive issue within the party. He acknowledged the “passion” of those on both sides of the debate.
“I understand the emotion in this room,” he said.
“But I hope you also understand we have to make our de- cisions based on evidence, on science, on the experts and that we have to honour our promises.
“You many not agree with our decision and I respect that.
“But I ask you to stay involved, stay passionate because there is still a long way to go as we move through the process of creating world’sbest regulations.”
Despite the internal tensions, Mr Gunner received a standing ovation after his address. Members of the CFMEU and ETU kept their seats during the applause.