Wednesday, 4 May 2016
Select Committee on Unconventional Gas Mining; Report
I also rise to speak on the tabling of the interim report from the inquiry into unconventional gas mining. This was an extremely important committee and report for the future of the Northern Territory and my constituents. It marks an important collection of research and testimony that will be essential for the way we approach the issue of unconventional gas mining going into the future.
The Northern Territory is a crossroad. The Northern Territory is one of the most pristine environments in the world. Its environment derives millions of tourism dollars for the territory's economy. It is sacred to thousands of Aboriginal Territorians, and the land and sea are used for everything from the live cattle trade to our recreational fishermen. This is why the issue of hydraulic fracturing is such an important issue for all Territorians. This is not just a green issue. It is not just a resource issue. It is an issue that affects all Territorians.
I have heard from hundreds of Territorians about the issue of hydraulic fracturing. Pastoralists, commercial and recreational fishermen, tourism operators, traditional owners, and everyday people are all extremely concerned about the effect, of unconventional gas mining, on the Northern Territory environment. This inquiry was about seeking input from the industry, legal and environmental experts, and the general public about the best way to protect the territory, environment and its industries.
We heard from the Environmental Defenders Office, a legal organisation. They testified and agreed that the current regulation in the Northern Territory is not adequate and does not have the ability to protect the territory's environment against the effects of hydraulic fracturing. The Amateur Fishermen's' Association of the Northern Territory made a submission to the inquiry, displaying extreme concern at the prospect of fracking taking place in the Northern Territory. The CEO said:
AFANT is concerned about the impact of unconventional gas mining including coal seam gas (CSG) and shale gas mining on the groundwater and surface water environment of the NT as any negative environmental consequences may directly translate to irreversible damage of our iconic Top End rivers and valuable fisheries.
The committee also heard from pastoralist Daniel Tapp, who owns Big River Station, near Katherine. He said that the issue of fracking is a life or death issue. He said:
We've got a real strong food industry up here, potentially the food bowl of the north, and this puts it all at risk, whether it's at risk by contamination or simply by depletion. Our aquifers have been stretched to their limits already.
So it is clear that this is a big issue, which is why the Northern Territory Labor Party has committed to an indefinite moratorium on fracking if they are elected later this year. This is a policy I am extremely proud of, and I applaud opposition leader Michael Gunner for adopting this stance.
In closing, I thank Senator Lazarus for chairing this inquiry and I particularly thank the inquiry for coming to Darwin for this hearing. It was valuable for all Territorians to be able to have their say on this issue, particularly in an election year. I also thank those who submitted to the inquiry. It was a terrific opportunity to sit and listen to Territorians voice their concerns. It took place in Darwin only a few weeks ago. I look forward to seeing the final report.