The revamped Territory government has reaffirmed NT Labor’s commitment to developing the Beetaloo Basin gas resource.
New Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said developing the Beetaloo fields was a priority for the Labor government.
The strong showing by Greens and climate-focused independent candidates at the weekend’s federal election has brought Beetaloo back into sharp political focus.
While the federal ALP supported the Coalition government’s push to develop Beetaloo, Greens leader Adam Bandt stated there should be no new gas fields developed in Australia. “We’ll be saying very clearly we need action on coal and gas,” Mr Bandt said.
“That has got to be the priority and in particular you can’t be opening up new gas and coal mines. “You can’t put the fire out by pouring petrol on to it.”
It remains unclear to what extent that core belief will drive Greens negotiations over the passage of legislation through the Senate with the new Labor government.
The Coalition invested tens of millions of dollars to assist gas exploration at Beetaloo and both the Territory’s major political parties have committed to the project, which could attract thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
The project is a key part of the Northern Territory government’s push to develop a $40bn economy by 2040.
“I said last week our policy positions have not changed,” Ms Fyles said. “The one thing that the Northern Territory needs is stability.
“My government will be about delivering for all Territorians. We have to get these key economic projects out of the ground. We have an opportunity to diversify our economy away from the boom and bust cycle that has plagued us for too long, but equally deal with those social challenges.”
Deputy Chief Minister and Mining and Industry Minister Nicole Manison agrees. “We’ve been working closely with Labor when they were in opposition and they understand how critically important the development of the Beetaloo is, and the gas industry,” Ms Manison said.
“We’ve seen (that) with the uncertainty because of the war in Ukraine, the issues around energy prices and getting the energy that Australia needs. “And it’s important also to recognise that ... gas is an important fuel of transition, because we aren’t going to go to renewable energy overnight.”
Environment Centre NT co-director Kirsty Howey predicted the Beetaloo would not be developed. “The new Chief Minister needs to come to terms with the fact that Beetaloo is just a bust, there won’t be a boom,” Dr Howey said.
“Fracking the Beetaloo Basin is economic madness, with taxpayers footing the bill with billions of dollars in subsidies to prop up a dying industry and a high risk of stranded assets as the renewables industry leaves the gas industry in its wake.
“Clean water and healthy country will underpin thousands more jobs than the Beetaloo ever will.”
A spokesman for Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said federal Labor’s position “hasn’t changed”.
Previously Senator McCarthy opposed Commonwealth grants to fund gas exploration in the Beetaloo.