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Issue #1798      October 11, 2017

Short notice for fracking inquiry

An empty room was all that greeted a fracking inquiry panel when they arrived at Hermannsburg recently. The remote Northern Territory town was one of the places earmarked for community consultations in the NT government’s inquiry into hydraulic fracturing (the controversial mining method of blasting chemicals into rock to fracture it and release gas), but according to Arranta woman Que Kenny, locals were only given two business days’ notice before the consultation was scheduled.

“This lack of notice is crazy in such a remote area,” she said.

“None of the community could make it in such a short time, so I sat down with the inquiry panel when they arrived and had an off the record conversation about the community’s concerns.

“I requested them to reschedule the consultation but they didn’t and inquiry chair Justice Pepper said the next time they would return would be with the draft report.”

Kenny said she felt the lack of notice given to the community was disrespectful and believes the government is rushing through the process.

“This is exactly what the mining companies have been doing to Aboriginal communities for decades,” she said. “The government is steam rolling over our opposition to let the companies get out and start fracking.

“At our last meeting, we had more time to prepare and over 100 people turned up to have their say. Everyone was very clear they do not want fracking to go ahead.

“It’s the same across other communities, where poor notice for the second consultation round has seen a massive drop in turnout from hundreds in some communities to just a handful.”

Kenny said a petition signed by hundreds of Territorians was calling for the Alice Springs, Katherine and Humpty Doo consultations to also be rescheduled after giving less than three days notice and scheduling the meetings during work hours.

Territory Frack-Free Alliance spokesperson Lauren Mellor said a report written after the last round of community consultations said NT communities were anxious and didn’t trust the hydraulic fracturing industry.

“Australian east coast gas prices have tripled in recent years since the three major export terminals came on line, and gas companies have been taking advantage of unrestricted gas exports to artificially restrict supply and drive up domestic prices,” Mellor said.

“The NT government also sponsors onshore gas conferences that government ministers are attending and talking about viability of the gas industry.

“The NT deadline for the consultations report is the end of this year and it feels there’s a push this time for a predetermined outcome.

“The government didn’t like the community response in the first round of consultations and is trying to rush this one.”

Kenny said comments by NT Nationals Senator Nigel Scullion about ending the current NT fracking moratorium were a desperate attempt to fix a gas export crisis of the federal government’s own making.

“Instead of attempting to ride roughshod over the democratic will of Territorians, who voted overwhelmingly for a fracking ban that saw the Gunner government elected, Senator Scullion should instead be trying to convince his federal Liberal colleagues to take real action to fix the gas crisis they helped to create by restricting gas exports and stopping companies price gouging domestic gas customers.”

Koori Mail

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