NT Chief Minister delivers Press Club address on gas, minerals industry

August 15, 2023 11:43 AM

The Chief Minister has used her first speech at the National Press Club to take aim at interstate opposition to fracking and Middle Arm. Here’s how it landed.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has used her first speech at the National Press Club speech to hit out at “Teals and trolls” campaigning against her government’s gas and petrochemical projects.

Ms Fyles took particular aim at interstate opponents to fracking and the Middle Armprecinct, however a peak NT environment body and Beetaloo traditional owners say objection to the projects is being led by Territorians.

“The Teals and the trolls can spread their nonsense about it all they want, but they should know it’s going to take a lot more than a couple of Tweets for us to back down,” Ms Fyles said.

“It’s bad enough to get lectures from people living on Sydney’s northern beaches, or in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, about what jobs Territorians can or can’t have.

Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Natasha Fyles addressed the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“But bagging out a development that supports zero and lower emissions energy from places overwhelmingly powered by coal and oil?

“The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

“This is part of the same simplistic and misleading scare campaign we see about the role of natural gas in the Territory, mostly led by people living thousands of kilometres away from us.”

Ms Fyles said gas was a “critical” part of the Territory story and the country’s energy security as Australia transitioned away from fossil fuels.

She also said her government had “listened to the voices of traditional owners” as it forged ahead with Beetaloo fracking, however not all agree.

Djingili Elder, native title holder and Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation deputy chair Samuel Janama Sandy said Beetaloo Basin traditional owners did not want fracking on their sacred land.

Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation deputy chair Samuel Sandy said traditional owners are opposed to fracking in the Beetaloo Basin.

“It will destroy our country and poison our waterways for our children and grandchildren,” he said.
“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.

“Our communities need power from the sun and for the government to build options which protect our country and leave a positive legacy.”

Most questions from the press pack were about fracking and the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct.

One turned into a fiery exchange after the journalist asked Ms Fyles whether fracking would not go ahead as it was unclear whether the NT government had shored up the commonwealth’s support in offsetting emissions.

“We’ve undertaken detailed work, we have (the Pepper Inquiry’s) 135 recommendations,” Ms Fyles said.

“We’ve acquitted our responsibilities, (the commonwealth government) is working on theirs, but it was acknowledged in that most recent ministerial council meeting for the energy and Climate Change ministers around that recommendation in terms of carbon capture and storage.

“Until you’ve read that (Pepper Inquiry) report, don’t try to stand here and pretend that you know more about what’s going on with that industry.”

Environment Centre NT Kirsty Howey said opposition to Beetaloo Basin fracking and the Middle Arm precinct was being led by Territorians.

Environment Centre NT executive director Kirsty Howey said Ms Fyles herself displayed “breathtaking hypocrisy”.

“These climate-wrecking projects are funded to the tune of $1.9bn by the Australian taxpayer,” she said.

“It’s entirely appropriate for politicians and concerned citizens from inside and outside the Northern Territory to be concerned, and it’s outrageous for the Chief Minister to be shutting down scrutiny by retreating into parochialism and jibes.

“Opposition to Middle Arm and fracking the Beetaloo Basin is being led by her government’s constituents in the Northern Territory, including traditional owners and local communities who are overwhelmingly opposed to new fossil fuel developments that will wreck our climate and health.”

‘Too important to ignore’: Chief’s call to Australia

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles is expected to hit back at southern opponents to the Territory’s potentially multibillion-dollar gas industry during a speech in Canberra this week.

Natasha Fyles will address the National Press Club on Tuesday, a day ahead of the Facing North conference at Parliament House.

Both events will be used to share “the Territory story”, which the government is pitching as one of a diverse economy powered in part by the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct.

“Middle Arm isn’t just about creating jobs,” Ms Fyles's speech reads.

“It’s about the kind of economy and the kind of jobs we’re creating.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles will address the National Press Club on Tuesday. Picture: Pema Tamang Pakhrin

“We know our economic future needs to be built on diversifying our economy, so growth and jobs are coming from more industries.

“And we know our economic future needs to be powered by renewable and low-remissions energy.”
Ms Fyles is also expected to take aim at the stereotypes some Australians hold of their northern neighbours.

“Often, the picture that people down south have of us is incomplete, ill-informed, or just plain ignorant,” she will say.

“That’s not your fault – it’s just the way it is, and it’s up to people like me to try and change that.

“I want to tell you what we’re doing up north, and why you need to know about it.

“Because now, more than ever, the Northern Territory is too important to ignore.”

The Territory’s critical minerals industry and its potential to unlock $7bn in capital investment and 8000 jobs will be another feature of the speech, as well as subsea fibre links and agriculture.

“Critical minerals are key to the net zero transition at home and abroad – and the Territoryholds that key,” Ms Fyles will say.

“The economy we are building is all about unlocking this potential and unleashing new sources of sustainable growth.”

Full story. 

By Annabel Bowles
1 August 2023