In­ter­nal split widens as mem­bers vote against frack­ing but keep party sec­re­tary

Sunday Territorian - - FRONT PAGE - HAY­LEY SORENSEN Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter hay­

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.

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