The NT News: Give us proper answers on ‘toxic factory'

April 16, 2024 2:01 PM

Southern Senators against Middle Arm say there is “no social license” for the industrial hub, hitting back at the NT Chief Minister's comments they cannot “truly understand” the NT context.

More than a hundred people gathered to protest Middle Arm ahead of the second day of public hearings into the proposed development being held in Darwin on Thursday.

Federal Senators Sarah Hanson-Young, Dorinda Cox, Lidia Thorpe and David Pocock were in town for the senate committee hearings and attended the protest at the Esplanade.

Ms Hanson-Young, Chair of the committee, said she looked forward to getting some “proper answers” about the project she described as “nothing more than a factory of toxic air (and) toxic water”.

“I understand that the Chief Minister's a bit upset today that I keep referring to this as a gas hub, as a project that is going to make climate change worse, it is going to destroy the environment and is damaging to people's health,” she said. “Well, I stand by those criticisms, because that is what the local community have expressed to me as your concerns.”

Ms Hanson-Young will meet with federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek on Friday and said she would raise community concerns with both Middle Arm and land clearing at Lee Point.

“I will be telling her that there's no social licence for Middle Arm in Darwin,” she said.

Asked about an industry poll showing majority support for gas in the NT, Greens Northern Australia spokeswoman Ms Cox said it “depends on who you ask and what spin you're putting on gas being a transition fuel”.

She said arguments about economic benefit to the Territory would hold more weight if the petroleum resource rent tax “worked effectively”.

“We get a very, very minimal amount for the billions of dollars that these companies - in particular fossil fuel companies - are making in their profit margins. This is not to the benefit of the Australian public.”

Mr Pocock said his electorate, the ACT, had similar challenges raising revenue but that governments needed “a bit of vision and imagination” for “an economy of the future”.

“If there's going to be a $1.5 billion investment, let's invest in things that aren't going to cause more trouble,” he said.

Also speaking at the protest was Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation chair, Samuel Janama Sandy, who said “we do not want fracking on our land”. “All that public money have been spent on them, why? They could have spent on something else, like better education, better health.”

Chief Minister Eva Lawler fronted the hearings on Thursday, calling on the southern Senators to put “petty politics” and “preconceptions” about Middle Arm aside. “There were a number of Senators from interstate that were there, and I can assure Territorians that they left their manners behind,” Ms Lawler said at a press conference following her appearance before the committee.

“They also came with preconceived ideas about the Northern Territory, I had hoped that they would come with an open mind around the Middle Arm project, but they didn't. This project is a project that we know will benefit Territorians long into the future.”

She said the government was undertaking all necessary environmental impact assessments, consulting with Larrakia people, and would not do anything to jeopardise the health of Territorians.

Independent Senator David Pocock speaking at a protest against Middle Arm. Picture: Fia Walsh

Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation chair, Samuel Janama Sandy, speaking at the Middle Arm protest. 

By Fia Walsh, The NT News, Friday, 12 April 2024