NT Chief Minister's desperate bid to push gas fracking

Issue 
A rally against fracking in 2012. Photo Zebedee Parkes/Green Left

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles announced a new policy on Facebookfor the Territory election in August on May 14. The policy, called “Knowledge Territory”, promises $500 education vouchers if the Territory receives royalty payments from onshore gas fracking.

The ALP has announced it will declare a moratorium on fracking if it wins the election and this is Giles' latest attempt to sell the Country Liberal Party's position of supporting gas fracking across the Territory.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles announced a new policy on Facebookfor the Territory election in August on May 14. The policy, called “Knowledge Territory”, promises $500 education vouchers if the Territory receives royalty payments from onshore gas fracking.

The ALP has announced it will declare a moratorium on fracking if it wins the election and this is Giles' latest attempt to sell the Country Liberal Party's position of supporting gas fracking across the Territory.

If Giles thought the policy would be popular, the comments on his page give a different story. It is described as “blackmail”, “a con”, “a bribe”, “a vote catching carrot” and “holding our children's education to ransom”.

In the policy, an annual $500 "Knowledge Territory" voucher would be provided to students. The value of the voucher depends on the amount of royalties received from the flow of petroleum products. Giles said when royalties increase to $15 million the voucher will increase to $1000 a year and when royalties increase to $22.5 million the voucher will remain at $1000 a year paid at the start of the year and a $500 bonus paid in December each year to completing students.

The vouchers will be available for students undertaking a Certificate III, Certificate IV, Diploma, Advanced Diploma VET qualification, an apprenticeship or traineeship, or a higher education degree.

But the example of less-than-expected royalties flowing in Queensland from onshore gas and a lack of any commercially-proven onshore shale gas reserves in the NT, puts the voucher package on shaky ground.

Lock the Gate Alliance NT spokesperson Naomi Hogan said: "Refusing to provide basic educational support unless Territorians back fracking is nothing short of blackmail.

“Expecting big royalties from fracked gas in the NT is a delusion. We only have to look across the border to Queensland, where royalties from the 6000 unconventional gas wells drilled there have only delivered a quarter of the royalty funds expected.”

This was reported in The Courier Mail last year, when it said: “The promise of a flood of royalty revenue from the coal seam gas boom is evaporating, with the Queensland Government slashing forecast revenue by about $400 million from last year's estimates.”

Despite the already low royalty rates, gas companies that are planning to frack in the Territory, such as Origin are currently appealing Queensland government royalty decisions, trying to reduce the royalty amount they pay even further.

Hogan said: "Any meagre royalty payments from fracking companies in the NT are likely to be needed for repairing the damage the industry is known to cause to roads and public infrastructure, to clean up the pollution and legacy issues from thousands of fracked wells, and to deal with the negative social impacts of Fly in Fly out mining camps on regional and remote communities.”

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