Canberra Times: Fyles hits back at trolls and southern gas opponents

August 01, 2023 11:27 AM

Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has taken aim at southern opponents, labelling them ill-informed and ignorant as she defended plans to expand the region's gas industry.

Ms Fyles spruiked the economic benefits of the industry at the National Press Club, calling it too important to ignore and key to the government's plan to double the NT economy by 2030.

"Often, the picture that people down south have of us is incomplete, ill-informed, or just plain ignorant ... it's my job to change that," she said in a speech on Tuesday.

The NT government approved the exploration of the Beetaloo basin in May after a five-year moratorium on natural gas projects, saying submitted plans had met the requirements of an inquiry into fracking.

Of the Pepper inquiry's 135 requirements, three are still outstanding after they were passed on to the federal government, which is yet to declare whether they will be met.

The territory has also green-lit the Middle Arm mineral processing facility on Darwin Harbour despite strong opposition from environmentalists, traditional owners and farmers.

In her speech, Ms Fyles labelled the Middle Arm facility a "sustainable development project", although federal government documents describe Middle Arm as a "key enabler" for gas exports from the Beetaloo basin.

The chief minister clashed with journalists who sought to drill down into the specifics of the expanded gas industry.

Asked three times what percentage of Middle Arm will be used for gas exports, Ms Fyles did not answer.

And pressed by one journalist on Middle Arm's environmental impacts, Ms Fyles responded, "have you read the Pepper inquiry?".

"No ... have you noticed the difference in temperature between Canberra now and when you were here as a student?" the journalist returned, prompting a rebuke from the chief minister.

"Until you've read that report, don't try and stand here and pretend that you know more about what's going on with that industry," she said.

"We cannot decarbonise our world by simply flicking the switch off and going to renewables. That is not reliable, that is not realistic."

Ms Fyles also took a swipe at crossbenchers who are seeking an increase to the Petroleum Resources Rent Tax in federal parliament, accusing them of "breathtaking hypocrisy".

"The teals and the trolls can spread their nonsense about it all they want ... the territory is not for turning," she said.

NT environmental groups said it was Ms Fyles who was guilty of hypocrisy.

"It's outrageous for the chief minister to be shutting down scrutiny by retreating into parochialism and jibes," Environment Centre NT director Kirsty Howey said.

"It's breathtaking hypocrisy, not by 'teals and trolls', but by the chief minister herself."

Ahead of the address, Djingili elder and Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation deputy chair Samuel Janama Sandy said fracking would "destroy our country and poison our waterways".

"We don't see jobs or economic benefits from fracking, the gas companies are only interested in putting cash in their pockets, not creating opportunities for our families," he said in a statement.

Full story.

By Neve Brissenden
Updated August 1 2023 - 5:43pm, first published 5:38pm