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Unconventional Gas Mining
12/04/2016
Adequacy of Australia's legislative, regulatory and policy framework for unconventional gas mining

ARMSTRONG, Mr David, Managing Director/Owner, Terrabos Consulting

CASS, Miss Pauline, Private capacity

EARLEY, Mr Braedon, Private capacity

FRASER, Mr Mark, Private capacity

QUINLIVIAN, Ms Belinda, Private capacity

RYAN, Mr Tom, Executive Officer, Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association

SILVESTER, Mr Lex, Private capacity

SLOAN, Mr Tristan Robert, Amateur Fishermen's Association of the Northern Territory

SULLIVAN, Mr Bill, Chief Executive Officer, MS Contracting

SULLIVAN, Mr Rohan, Private capacity

TAPP, Mr Daniel, Private capacity

WRIGHT, Mr James, Private capacity

[13:15]

CHAIR: We will start the community roundtable, which we will do in blocks of three. Each person will be given five minutes to make an opening statement to tell us their story or their concerns, then if the committee has any questions, we will ask questions after. Mr Sullivan, you can start.

Mr R Sullivan : I would just like to acknowledge Senator Ludwig; we have had previous dealings. I thought the committee might like to hear an alternative point of view from a cocky. I would like to relate how my experience over the past two or three years as a pastoral lessee in Northern Territory has been impacted by petroleum exploration activities. Our pastoral lease, Birdum Creek near Larrimah, is approximately 180 kays south of Katherine. The property was purchased in 2002 and is owned jointly by myself and my wife and our neighbours to the south. The property is 67,000 hectares and run in two halves.

My submission refers to dealings with exploration activities on the northern half. The exploration company Pangaea was granted exploration permits over the Sturt Plateau district, including Birdum Creek, in January 2013 and started making contact with property owners to formalise access arrangements. Problems developed fairly quickly as pastoralists objected to the lack of input into the proposed access arrangements and a perception of being rushed. These problems were only resolved when the pastoralists negotiated with the company as a group to address the issues of concerns.

Ultimately, there was an agreement with Pangaea. Legal advice was provided by a lawyer of the group's choice but paid for by Pangaea. The agreement reached between Pangaea and the group has formed the basis for a strong, functional working relationship. My assessment of the relationship now is that the majority of pastoralists in the district are either neutral or supportive of the exploration program and, ultimately, development of an oil or gas field should the program prove successful. There is no-one who is actively opposed.

In general, the local pastoralists see the activities with the exploration and potential development as a means of fast-tracking public infrastructure development in the district which would not occur otherwise. Pastoralists do not have rights over minerals or petroleum but do see potential benefits from the building of access roads and water supplies on properties which can revert to the pastoral lessee on completion of the exploration or development program. This may help to compensate for the inevitable disruption to normal pastoral activities.

Water has always been a critical issue on the Sturt Plateau. There are no permanent streams and very few natural waterholes. Underground water is present but not easy to find and there have been many unsuccessful bores drilled. Pastoralists are understandably protective of their underground water supplies and any activity which potentially threatens these is regarded with suspicion. However, during the course of the drilling program on the Sturt Plateau most of the local pastoralists have become familiar with the techniques used to isolate the water-bearing strata from the drill holes to prevent leakage and contamination. The main concern is about the amounts of water potentially used for hydraulic fracturing and the effect of this on stock water supplies.

Pangaea have installed monitoring equipment in bore holes; however, their water usage to date has mainly been for domestic purposes. During the course of their seismic and drilling program, Pangaea have identified and mapped a deeper aquifer, which was previously only poorly known. Water quality in this aquifer is lower than needed for stock or domestic usage but is suitable for use in hydraulic fracturing with treatment. It is now highly likely that no water will be required from the aquifers we draw stock water from. In fact, there may be opportunity for us to source treated water from property use.

Pangaea have also had extensive LIDAR coverage of the area done to assist with the design of the Western Creek Road. An added benefit of this coverage is that Pangaea can now produce a map of ground elevation to plus or minus five centimetres over extensive areas of the Sturt Plateau, including Birdum Creek. This will enable the most efficient placement of dams and excavated tanks to capture run-off water for use in either the drilling or fracking operations or for pastoralists to use for development of dams for stock water.

From my point of view, the main problems in having exploration activity on my property are associated with planning. The placement of planned seismic lines can change, depending on drilling results and vice versa. Having a major seismic program means lots of new gateways need to be installed in fence lines, which is really just another job to do, even though we are compensated for the time and expense. At present, our half of Birdum Creek is relatively undeveloped and requires more fencing of water points. It would be far better from my point of view for Pangaea to get in and conduct their exploration and development activities before we construct more of our own infrastructure. Even with the best will in the world, there will be misunderstandings and communication problems. Rather than deal with this inevitable disruption and drama, it would be far better to get it over and done with. To date we have had over 100 kilometres of seismic lines, one exploration well and three kilometres of gravel road put in on Birdum Creek North. The only issue to arise was when Pangaea's contractors watered the Western Creek road to stop dust and were stopped by the department of infrastructure because they did not have a permit to work in the road corridor.

There is much made about the impact of multiple well pads and other gas infrastructure on pastoral land. My understanding is that horizontal drilling techniques now allow multiple holes to be drilled from one drill pad. These holes can radiate in all directions from the vertical, for up to or exceeding 1.5 kilometres. So potentially a 200 by 200 metre or four hectare drill pad could extract gas from under an area of eight square kilometres, or 800 hectares. Extracted to the rest of Birdum Creek North, which is 360 square kilometres, the whole property could be developed for production with just 45 wells, covering an area of 180 hectares total or 0.5 per cent of the property area. Other infrastructure would include pipelines to connect the wells to a central point and a compression station. But, even if this doubled the area, it would still only be one per cent of the property, and cattle can still graze where the pipelines are laid underground. If the property were to host a conventional oil and gas field then the number of wells required would be vastly increased.

The Kern River oilfield in California has 8,000 wells in an area of 10,000 acres. There is no way that any other land use could coexist with that. This may be an extreme example, but many of the images shown by anti-fracking activists of closely developed gas or oil fields are actually conventional fields. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing allow a much lower density of well pads. From my point of view, if there is to be any sort of mining or patrolling activity on Birdum Creek, I would prefer an unconventional oil or gas field over a conventional field or an open cut mine any day. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Sullivan. Do you support the right of refusal on people's land?

Mr R Sullivan : If you have a tenure that allows the right of refusal, yes, I would support that, but we do not have that form of tenure. We have a pastoral lease. The Crown owns the rights to the minerals and timber and things like that, so we do not control that. Similarly, native title also exists on that country. So there are multiple interests in that land.

CHAIR: Do you think it should be implemented though? Do you think that, at the end of the day, a farmer or a landholder should have the right to say no?

Senator LUDWIG: If I could put it this way before you answer that: Santos has stated that they will not enter an agreement unless the landholder agrees. In other words, they have provided that imposition on themselves as a reasonable way of dealing with access, because they recognise, as I understand it, that access can be difficult for some. So, would you agree with the companies providing that imposition on themselves to ensure that, if there were parties who found it too burdensome to have shale gas on their property, they would then not have it?

Mr R Sullivan : I do not think I can speak for a company. My understanding is that, in the United States, that form of tenure does exist in places. If you own a piece of land, you own the mineral rights and the water rights basically to the centre of the earth. There were actually areas of land around Batchelor that were held under that form of title many years ago, and the Commonwealth government compulsorily acquired them. It is nearly that form of tenure that is enjoyed under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, but I could not see that any other privately owned land would ever be offered that. I could not see it happening.

CHAIR: You could not see it, but do you think it is something that we should consider?

Mr R Sullivan : If you like, Mr Chairman, maybe you could get it through the Senate.

CHAIR: Maybe I could. I doubt it, but maybe I could. We will go to the Amateur Fishermen's Association of the Northern Territory. Over to you, Mr Sloan.

Mr Sloan : In terms of the unconventional gas industry, AFANT has serious concerns over the potential risks to the aquifers and also to the associated stream flows of some of the iconic Top End rivers. While we understand that the unconventional gas industry has the potential to greatly benefit the economy of the Northern Territory, we believe it is extremely important to acknowledge that there are significant international and domestic examples of unintended environmental consequences as result of the unconventional gas industry. AFANT believes that there is the potential for the contamination of aquifers and surface water should the integrity of these gas wells be compromised. This includes failures in the containment and safe storage of wastewater laden with chemicals and by-products.

Our main concerns revolve around two things. The first is the regulation of the unconventional gas industry. The major recommendation of the Hawke inquiry in 2014 was that the environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing could be managed subject to the creation of an effective regulatory regime. Despite stringent regulations within Australia and internationally, there appears to be a broad failure of regulatory regimes when it comes to unintended negative environmental consequences. The other issue we have is that, at present in the Northern Territory government, the budget is severely limited in regards to groundwater monitoring. Assessment programs are constrained by a lack of resources—both economic and, obviously, knowledge. What has been identified is that the economy of the Northern Territory has both a social and economic dependency on groundwater. The groundwater environment of the Northern Territory is poorly understood when it comes to, especially, groundwater flows into aquifers and the flow of aquifers into river systems. This basically raises concerns that the Northern Territory government does not have the adequate skill set to monitor the impacts of unconventional gas mining and the possible negative environmental effects.

The other issue we have is in regards to the Northern Territory EPA. AFANT believes that any environmental reform in regards to the regulatory regime around hydraulic fracking is meaningless unless the Northern Territory EPA is a truly independent body with the strength and powers of prosecution and significant penalties for breaches of environmental legislation. The current head of the Northern Territory EPA, Dr William Freeland, has himself described the Northern Territory EPA as a toothless tiger in the media when it comes to environmental prosecutions. AFANT has for some time raised the appointment of an impartial EPA, with funding and staff outside of any Northern Territory government department as our primary concern in the process of environmental reforms for the unconventional gas industry.

CHAIR: Mr Armstrong, over to you.

Mr Armstrong : I am fronting the hearing today pretty much as an information session, so to speak, to let you know my involvement in this industry. I established my Darwin-based consulting, Terrabos Consulting, in 2011. The business was focused on Northern Territory oil and gas exploration, mining, the pastoral industry and Aboriginal economic development. I have over 25 years experience in the pastoral industry across rural and remote Australia, with 14 of these in the Northern Territory. Prior to establishing Terrabos, I worked for five years at the Northern Land Council in rangeland management, which was focused on sustainable pastoral development on Aboriginal land, successfully increasing Aboriginal involvement in the pastoral industry by placing approximately 50,000 head of cattle back on country, plus opening up numerous employment opportunities. I negotiated long-term pastoral lease agreements; implemented infrastructure development programs, weed and feral animal control programs; negotiated multi-use lease agreements encompassing pastoral, exploration and tourism; plus implemented training and employment. This work took me to all corners of the NLC region north of Tennant Creek and gave me enormous insight into Aboriginal culture and decision-making processes and, most importantly, their aspirations. I also developed personal relationships and trust, which does not happen overnight and I do not take lightly.

The 2011 federal government ban on live export to Indonesia knocked my business sideways and made me look at diversification. In 2012 I was engaged by Pangaea Resources to assist them to negotiate pastoral land access, being a local, and help them to navigate the NT environment and introduce them to local businesses, as from the outset the company was committed to engaging local contractors. I have now been involved in negotiating access across for exploration companies and informing pastoralists of oil and gas activities across 56 stations north of Tennant Creek and south of Katherine, plus I have negotiated native title access. To put this into perspective, with an average sized station in the Northern Territory of 3,000 square kilometres, this is two-thirds the size of Victoria.

At the forefront of my role is managing the coexistence exploration companies have with pastoralists and traditional owners. This has given me a solid understanding of the feeling towards oil and gas exploration in the bush. There are concerns, but the main concerns I have come across from pastoralists and traditional owners are about surface impacts the oil and gas industry may have on their business and country and how coexistence will work. Things discussed include protection of assets, weed control and protection of sacred sites.

However, the first thing that nearly all pastoralists ask is: 'Will we get bitumen roads out of this? Will we get power so we can switch off our diesel-guzzling generators? Will we get improved internet, and will we get mobile phone coverage?' Everyday Australians take these things for granted. However, they are close to non-existent in rural and remote NT, and pastoralists are running the world's best practice industry in Third World conditions.

Pastoralists are practical, and they know the geology under their feet and have knowledge about drilling, so the topic of fracking comes up, as do the science, engineering and key points that it is not CSG; it is shale, and it is a minimum of 1.5 kilometres deep, and the cement-casing scenario of sealing off an aquifer is explained. I am yet to see someone with an issue. In fact, I have had pastoralists inquire how they would go about fracking a water bore to increase flow. They do ask about water use, but this industry is emerging in an isolated area, so more water will be used in civil construction of roads than fracking, and pastoralists again understand this. Since they will benefit from improved roads, they have not raised concerns with me. Fracking is not the issue. Through education, information and communication, coexistence can grow and flourish, as proven by the relationship between Pangaea Resources and the Sturt Plateau pastoralists, of which Rohan is one. The two industries can build a cohesive business relationship where both parties benefit.

With regard to traditional owners, the main thing I see at consultation meetings and hear from people I know is that they do not want to get left behind. They want the jobs and the business opportunities that have come and will come. I have been involved with Aboriginal training for a number of years. Pangaea Resources ran a training program last year that saw participants come out with a certificate in resource management. This training had one of the highest retention rates I have seen of any training program.

I see the oil and gas industry as a game changer for Aboriginal people in remote parts of the NT. The job opportunities are one part of it, but the potential royalties that will come to traditional owners will give them a real chance of self-determination. As I mentioned, I have assisted TOs in setting up many cattle stations, predominantly third-party whitefella lessees who develop the cattle infrastructure to run a station by holding a lease of approximately 10 years.

The issue here is that TOs want to develop their own business but need finance. They cannot borrow money against their land, so the only option is leasing or government funding. Leasing is great, but it removes them from decision-making and management. Government funding generally dribbles in, with certain outcomes to be met before any more comes. It is also never enough to undertake serious infrastructure development, and it is never granted to purchase cattle. I see a potential income stream that would have unseen economic development opportunities for TOs.

If TOs do not want oil and gas exploration, they have the ability to say no. I respect that—and some have said no. However, they should be afforded a clear opportunity to investigate all aspects of this industry, and have the same educational opportunities that pastoralists are offered, without protest groups applying pressure and using Aboriginal people to push their own agenda. I have seen this happen before and I can see it happening now. I draw your attention to a recent article in the National Indigenous Times 'White FIFO Greens to blame for lost black jobs; Bergmann'. Wayne Bergmann, the former KLC boss, negotiated a $1 billion benefits package for Aboriginal people in the West Kimberley in return for the construction of the James Point gas hub. In this article he stated: 'I still seethe over the role the Greens played in dividing our people and our community and turning Aboriginal family against family. … Perhaps they can stop and have a real look at what is going on before they start their protest.' This deal subsequently fell through. This is a powerful article, and I have it here for you.

The NT is not Queensland, it is not New South Wales, it is not Victoria and it is not America. There are fundamental differences. The main one is that it is shale gas, not CSG, so it is deep. The average size of cattle stations in the NT is 3,000 square kilometres, so a drill pad of 200 metres by 200 metres has negligible impact. The other states have bitumen on roads, mobile phone coverage and decent internet. But the main thing they have is power, and they are not paying from $200 to $600-plus per day to turn a light on or boil a kettle. The positive economic and social impacts of a constant and cheap power source for stations and Aboriginal communities is enormous. I see myself sitting between oil and gas and pastoralists and Aboriginal owners. With respect shown for pastoralists homes and for traditional owners and their country, and with robust regulations and a management of coexistence in place, I see great benefits for the NT.

The four big things that I keep mentioning—roads, power, mobile phone coverage and the internet—will not happen under any government. And nor will they happen with the current industries that are out there—pastoral, some mining and tourism.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Armstrong. Mr Silvester, would you like to make some comments?

Mr Silvester : I have lived in the Northern Territory since 1970. I have spent pretty much all of that time in the law, and my main area of practice has been as a barrister. My main skill, which is what I think I have been best known for and certainly best paid for, has been in testing expert evidence in both civil litigation and inquiries. In other words, I know how to read a report—a report prepared by a valuer, a report such as you have before you or any kind of report—and unpick it and find its weaknesses and all that sort of thing. And that is all I have done. I am not qualified in relation to this entire debate to do anything else. But I have looked at Dr Hawke's report. I have read it completely and several times. It is a very dense report and quite hard to read. I have reached two main conclusions. One is that this report is not independent. The other is that it is so badly infected by bias that very little regard should be had to it.

These are complex legal questions, and I can only really touch on them in the time available. First of all, you will all remember that the main finding of the report was that there was no reason to have a moratorium on fracking in the Northern Territory. The first thing to be said about that is that considering that point was not one of the terms of reference. When you look at it in the context of the whole report, you see it came in later as a statement out of the blue. That, of course, indicates that, in effect, the whole tone of the report is about ensuring that the government can proceed with its fracking program—if I can call it that—virtually immediately.

In fairness to Dr Hawke, he and those who worked with him set out a huge amount of additional inquiry that needs to take place with a lot of planning and that kind of thing. That would take a long time, but the whole tenor of the report is that there is no reason why it should not start immediately. I have looked at the treatment of the individual witnesses by Dr Hawke's inquiry. I think there are some terrible examples of bias. When someone writes an expert report and it gets into court to be relied upon to guide the court in making its ultimate decision, bias is one of the first things that gets that sort of evidence chucked out. If I may, I want to develop what I hope is an easy-to-understand example of the bias that is in this report.

First of all, I take you back a little bit. In Dr Hawke's letter to the Chief Minister of 28 November 2014 presenting the report into hydraulic fracturing and the potential effects on the environment, Dr Hawke writes:

Having regard to the above, and the substantive weight of agreed expert opinion, the Inquiry finds that there is no justification whatsoever for the imposition of a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the NT.

He is the expert running this entire inquiry. He is the man in charge, and what is he doing but venturing where he was not asked to go? That is the first rule of writing an expert report. You follow your terms of reference. You do not just make it up.

It follows from that that, if he is the head of a supposedly independent inquiry with no authority to inquire as to whether or not there should be a moratorium, he is venturing a political opinion about something he never inquired into. He was, in effect, providing a gratuitous endorsement of an immediate commencement of hydraulic fracturing. This sits at stark odds with much of his report, which identifies years of threshold scientific investigation and other essential work before there would be the necessary bureaucratic and management environments in which fracking could take place. In that regard his report is a very valuable tool in understanding the sheer amount of work that would have to be done—the bureaucracies that would have to be created, the issues of reporting and ensuring there was no political interference in these processes. There are years of work in that. That is fairly described in his report, but he has jumped ahead of all of that work to offer those gratuitous remarks. In my view, that is an unwarranted intrusion into the politics which is created by widespread public opposition to fracking. It renders his report completely unreliable, from my perspective—and I am sure that if this went to a court that would be the judge's opinion—and therefore all but useless. Just to use words that barristers sometimes use between each other but probably do not ever say out loud in court: Dr Hawke has unmasked himself as a barracker.

Anyone charged with conducting an inquiry affecting parties with a relevant interest should conduct themselves free of bias. This is because shale gas fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves fundamental risk to the Territory's underground water aquifers. That fundamental risk to the water aquifers flows strongly through his report, because there is so much time in that report spent on how one might deal with it. There are recommendations for whole systems of bureaucracy and everything else to, if you like, make sure this does not happen.

I think the issue is whether your inquiry will support our right as citizens to sufficient supplies of clean, fresh water for all purposes—our fundamental right now and indefinitely into the future. Only if that threshold can be reached should the question arise as to whether we are going to permit this deep underground fracking—and this is squarely conceded in Dr Hawke's report—which should not be allowed to happen. I will not go into bias, but I cannot really resist explaining a little bit about the way the bias just jumps off the pages. Have you got a few minutes?

CHAIR: We are running out of time.

Mr Silvester : Say no and I will leave it.

CHAIR: If you could condense it a little further, that would be great.

Mr Silvester : All right. This is what is in the executive summary of the report:

CSG exploitation has attracted the ire and attention of the Lock the Gate movement and kindred spirits, and the high profile of this issue has led to public concern about 'fracking' in any form.

Then two paragraphs later it says:

Nevertheless, fracking and the unconventional gas industry have served as a proxy in the eastern States and the NT for a more deeply held opposition to fossil fuels per se. This ideological position has been fanned by documentaries—

And he refers to a couple of documentaries there. Going back to the use of those two words 'per se' in 'a more deeply held opposition to fossil fuels per se', just consider for a moment what that means. It was in italics in the report for emphasis. 'Per se' means in and of itself, which translates to a statement by Dr Hawke to the effect that any opposition to fracking can be dismissed as for its own sake—that is, without any possible substance and without having to delve more deeply into the evidence of those who oppose hydraulic fracturing. What he said at the commencement of this report, in the executive summary, was that all negative concerns expressed by witnesses to the inquiry were to be disregarded as having an ideological position which has been fanned by documentaries.

In other words, all concerns expressed about fracking were to be disregarded because they were ideological. That is a classic case of bias. If that was in a report about the value of a high-rise building, or something, it would be thrown out by the judge before he even looked at it.

I think I will probably leave it there. I have prepared, for your assistance, a detailed examination of Dr Hawke's report, as seen by a barrister who has spent much of his life pulling apart other people's expert reports—about which, of course, there is a lot of law. Sometimes you lose and sometimes you win; when you win, you win when you are in court.

The other main thing that bothers me is Dr Hawke's prescription that the whole of the effort, that needs to go into making fracturing safe, as it were, is to be covered by a subcommittee of cabinet and all the work that is done is reported to that cabinet. I do not mean to reflect upon any particular government but I, for one, would find it very hard to have something of this importance, in effect, ruled by a subcommittee of cabinet. Not least because members tend to go in and out of cabinet a lot—that kind of thing. It is not appropriate for something of this thing—

In this report I see a deliberate attempt to give the government a reason and a narrative that will allow them to virtually start fracturing in the Northern Territory from tomorrow. It is too difficult; it is too dangerous; and it is too stupid for anyone to allow that happen. Thank you.

Ms Quinlivian : I have a very short piece to say. I have lived in the Territory for 17 years. When I first moved up here I worked as a tour guide; travelling thousands and thousands of kilometres on our roads. I would like to talk about the traffic related environmental impacts of onshore gas processes.

I refer to an article—I have a copy for you—from the school of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University in the UK, investigating the traffic related environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. This is a relatively new opposition to fracking. It has come up as people talk about the environmental impacts around aquifers but I think this is relevant to the NT in particular with our road infrastructure.

Table 1 of this article shows the volume of truck visits over the lifetime of a well; 70 per cent or greater of that volume of trucks is associated with the fracking and flow back processes. From 30 to 60 days prior to fracking, a huge amount of water comes in—up to 600 trucks visits from the high water use well—shale gas well. Then 42 to 56 days prior to fracking we have the removal of flow back fluids which is estimated in this article as being 50 per cent of the truck visits. So there are 600 truck visits for a high water use well and 300 truck visits on a exit with the flow back fluids. This is for a single well; however, we are now seeing with multiple well pads—up to six well pads—that amount of truck volume can be up to 3,600 truck visits per pad of a six-well pad.

The increase in heavy-duty vehicle activity comes with an increase in roadway damage. A 2014 study in the USA on shale gas shows estimated road reconstruction costs associated with one single well range from $13,000 to $23,000 per well. Despite negotiations with drilling companies to rebuild smaller roads that are visibly damaged, the researchers' conservative estimate of uncompensated roadway damage amounts to $5,000 to $10,000 per well. Although this is a relatively small figure, the increasingly large number of wells substantially raise that figure.

In Pennsylvania, in 2011, there were more than 1,700 horizontal wells and the state wide consumptive road costs for that year were between $8.5 million and $39 million. I think this is relevant to the NT in particular. The infrastructure up here is such that in many areas there is but one road in and one road out. We have one road that leads to Darwin. There is one road that leads to Borroloola. There is one road that leads to many of the pastoral places up here. With the increased volume of heavy-duty traffic there is also an increase in road traffic accidents, which puts an increased demand on emergency services.

In the event of accidents resulting in road closures, of which there is evidence, we definitely need to have measures in place to deal with community severance. I think that this has not been looked into from the point of view of the Northern Territory. We definitely need more looking into this as an issue up here. In other parts of Queensland or in America if there were an accident you could divert traffic and go around but, up here, we just have these big long one-way roads. I think it is relevant.

Miss Cass : I really appreciate the opportunity to speak to the inquiry today. Unconventional gas mining is a multibillion industry. It has the potential to make some people extremely wealthy, but the people in the corporations that are going to be made wealthy do not live in the gas fields. They are not impacted by the consequences of their industry. Hydraulic fracturing for gas has catastrophic potential for the Northern Territory.

It is opposed by the majority of the people. Just last weekMix FM had an over-the-radio poll. It was an online poll and 89 per cent of people that listened to the radio were against fracking—89 per cent is a very large percentage of people against it. The majority of the people—the local citizens, the farmers, the Indigenous, the ordinary families, people like me—we are the ones that will be impacted by fracking. Make no mistake, we are going to be impacted. Over 90 per cent of the Northern Territory is, currently, under application for gas exploration. That means that if it all goes through we will have major impacts. As a result, you cannot blame some people for becoming emotive when their homes, their lifestyles and their livelihoods are threatened. Fracking is a very real threat to the people, the places and the activities we love. These are things which money cannot replace.

Taxpayer funded advertising is designed to manipulate the public into accepting unconventional gas extraction. It touts onshore natural gas as being a clean energy. While the gas itself may be cleaner to use than coal, the land clearing infrastructure, the water usage, the chemicals required, the waste water produced and the gasses leaked while mining onshore gas debunk this claim.

Horizontal hydraulic fracturing for gas is a relatively new technique. It has only been happening for a couple of decades at most. It is a very clever technique but, most importantly, it is a dangerous one. And the dangers are real. International and national scientific and anecdotal evidence proves this. Fracking has destroyed aquifers and rivers through contamination and over extraction. It has caused seismic activity. It has caused air pollution, leading to health issues and acid rain. It does contribute to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases. It does impinge on lifestyles and livelihoods—our lifestyles and livelihoods—and this is a fact.

Numerous reports list these risks, including the report of the Independent Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory, the Hawke report. The Hawke report states that these risks can be managed by regulation. I believe this to be false. While regulation and mitigation might offer some protection, accidents do occur. Human error, mechanical failure, unforeseen circumstances, wastewater ponds flooding, trucks of fracking fluid crashing, wells leaking and wellheads catching fire can happen and have happened. The repercussions of these can be catastrophic for the affected area and its inhabitants.

Once a water body is contaminated there is no way to decontaminate it. It is lost as a water source. Clean water is critical for economic growth. It is critical for public health and for national security. We need our aquifers, our lakes and our rivers to survive. They provide water for households, irrigation for crops and water for livestock. They support our crocodile industry. Our pristine waterways attract over 1½ million tourists and fishermen to the territory every year. Our agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, real estate and tourism industries will be destroyed if the water is accidentally polluted, and accidents do happen.

These industries are also impacted by the resources and infrastructure required by the gas industry. Employees leave their local jobs to work for the mining companies. Real estate prices skyrocket and then plummet with the various stages of mining. That means that locals cannot afford to rent in their own home towns and when the prices plummet people who have bought lose out big time.

Frack pads and production water ponds required large areas of land. Some production water ponds are over five square kilometres in area. That is a lot of land full of poisoned water. Pipelines and access roads will bisect properties, acting as unintended fences for livestock. These pipelines and roads also require land clearing, which will deter tourists who come to see the untamed wilderness of the outback, not a gas field with heavy truck traffic or polluted hot springs.

Risking these local industries, the revenue that they generate and the jobs that they provide so that the gas industry can make billions is not justified. The risks are too great. Then there is the impact to our environment. Increased traffic on our roads will lead to more wildlife becoming roadkill. Land clearing, access roads and pipelines act as barriers isolating native populations and affecting biodiversity. Pollution in waterways poisons fish and all aquatic life as well as the animals that drink the water. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, accelerating the climate change that we are already experiencing. This is not acceptable.

Principal 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development states:

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

The precautionary principle must be implemented in the case of unconventional gas mining. It is international law and we are signatories to that. It is also in the EPBC Act and the sustainable development, which are Commonwealth laws. That is a pretty big principle. These risks are unacceptable and too great to allow franking to occur in Australia. Just because we can do something does not mean that we should. We can live without gas, but we cannot live without clean air and water. Unconventional gas mining needs to be banned. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Miss Cass, and thank you for your time. Would you like to table that?

Miss Cass : Yes, please.

Senator PERIS: Mr Silvester, to be clear, you have obviously been through the report with a fine-tooth comb and, from what I understand, you said we should give very little regard to the report and that it was quite influenced.

Mr Silvester : Yes, it is, just in the context of deciding that there is no reason to have a moratorium. Of course, the converse of that is that, if there is no reason to have a moratorium, franking can go ahead straightaway. That is what a moratorium is, isn't it? It has a beginning and an end. So, if you do not have moratorium, out with the shovels, boys.

Senator PERIS: We heard from a number of other witnesses how the department is both the promoter and the regulator. The report says that risk can be managed through regulation, but, if you have a regulator who is also doing the promoting, is there some sort of conflict of interest?

Mr Silvester : In fairness, the proposal is to have—apart from it all being oversighted by a subcommittee of cabinet—a regulatory body and an overriding body that is there to secure the honesty and, if you like, the probity of the processes which are adopted. Dr Hawke's report clearly contemplates, as you would expect, a bureaucracy to be developed which is capable of running fracturing in 50 years or so, but the primacy has to be directed at the science and the proper responses to the science and not to the political will of this Chief Minister or that Chief Minister as time goes by. Do you see what I mean?

CHAIR: Thank you again for giving us your time.

Mr Tapp : I am a pastoralist in the Northern Territory. I had a bit of a spiel this morning, so I will not go back over that. There are a couple of things I would like to bring to your attention. There have been discussions with the Northern Land Council on consent issues with traditional owners. I have been asked by TOs to attend meetings with them to help digest what they have been talking about, and I do not believe that the NLC is working in favour of the traditional owners. There is very much bullying and ignoring of the cries of TOs that do not want fracking on the land. This is evident from the TOs that spoke before.

Another concern I have got is that fracking is not localised. Whether you had the right to say no or not, fracking on my land is going to affect people thousands of kilometres away, if aquifer contamination or depletion occurs, because aquifers are thousands of square kilometres in size. It is not just a local issue.

Another issue I have got is with mandatory/voluntary land access agreements. They have been endorsed by the Cattlemen's Association and the government on landholders. How do you put mandatory and voluntary in the same sentence? Basically, we have got no right to say no and, even if we did have the right to say no, the land that is at risk is too far for one person to have the right to say yes or no.

I have spoken before to pastoralists about the frack-free community studies we have been doing—where 95 per cent of the people in the communities do not want fracking in their communities. Of the pastoralists I have spoken to—probably 50 to 60 per cent of the pastoralists in the Northern Territory—very few of them want fracking, but they cannot do anything about it because of the mandatory/voluntary agreements, so they are basically just sitting on their hands.

My last concern is: if there is a failure with water contamination or depletion, how do you fix it? There is no amount of money—whether you have got $100 or $100 billion, you just cannot physically fix a broken aquifer, or a well, for that matter. If it has cracked and leaked down there, you plug it off—no worries; plug it—then the gas leaks out somewhere else. What leads me to think that there are going to be failures is (1) evidence on the ground and (2) our governments and mining companies will not give us a guarantee that it will not happen—therefore, if they cannot give you a guarantee, I believe it is inevitable.

Mr Wright : I recently got a little bit involved with fracking, because I was witness to a presentation very recently. My background is 37 years of underground mining. What I heard and what I saw made me do a bit more research. It, personally, scares me. Most of what is being said in a lot of this stuff—if you can get past some of the secrecy—is so misleading for the public. When you get pictures like this one in the paper, you know—this looks like a marble cake to me. If underground looked like that, I guess they could have a lot more control over fracking, the structures and all the rest of it, but, unfortunately, it does not look like that at all.

The real underground looks like a zigzag of a crossword puzzle and is nothing like this structure here. Faults, shears and everything like that that come from underground are going to be what cause you problems. Your aquifers are all offset. There is no such thing as a great big line of a natural aquifer—there is in some areas, but it does not go far. Then you will end up with a structural fault that will separate that—then you will end up with water down here and water up here. The whole thing is all over the place.

I have been in most Australian mines. I have travelled in different mines throughout the world. I have been in the deepest mine in the world, which is Western Deep in South Africa. I have heard comments like, 'Well, I only know the underground part of it. Let me tell you, I know the underground part of it for the first two kilometres fairly substantially, and there is nowhere I have been where I can see a marble cake like this, where all the layers are nice and level and we could actually do something predictable. It does not happen.

On the '60 years' of fracking: if you are talking about gas extraction, yes it has been happening for 60 years; but for fracking like we are talking about now, which is horizontal—and if you say 'horizontal' they will challenge that and say, 'No, we're talking about deviation'—the first horizontal fracking became available after trials from 1982 to 1986. That was when they first started doing what they called at the time 'navigational drilling', where they could actually guide a pilot hole on a blind drill, 300 millimetres in diameter, to several hundred feet deep. That gave them the ability to turn the bit and do what they now call horizontal drilling.

When they talk about horizontal drilling now, when they say they are drilling down five kilometres, they drill down 1½ kilometres or two kilometres and turn the drill. People think they are only going to go out one or two kilometres. But they can go out five, six, eight or 10 kilometres and in any direction they like. If you think they are just going to go down on one pad and drill six wells, they are not. They are going to go down and drill another pad over here in five years time and drill back the other way and intersect everything in between. It is not just one lot; it will just keep on happening.

The risk of ground contamination is huge. Once you start putting this fracture down there—15,000 PSI, at 265 litres per second, with 2½ kilograms of chemical—you are putting a lot of pressure on the ground down there and you are going to create seismic activity. If you are doing it in what they call the octopus, you are going to create a huge area of unstable ground. You have got the faults and shears that come through here—not like this marble cake. With these faults and shears, as soon as they start to de-water the hole and take the pressure off, the gas is released and out it goes to the easiest access—and it is not always up the hole. On the seismic activities in there, I have seen holes and displacements of ground that has moved half a metre or a metre. Do you think a steel collared pipe is going to stop that? I guarantee you it will not. Seismic activity in Indonesia a few months ago rattled windows in Darwin. If that happened underground here, do you think you could stop that? You cannot—and nor can they.

The secrecy and the misleading information make it even more dangerous. No proof of contamination for any water throughout the world? Sure. You drill a hole five kilometres deep. Who is going to get down there to prove it? Once the gas comes out of that hole, what proof have you got? How can you prove it? You cannot drill another hole down alongside it; you cannot go down there. They are saying their hole is perfect. We do not know. How do we know that every hole they drill has all this casing in it? We do not know.

I heard that, when they were drilling a hole out on the Sturt plateau last year, they went through a void, broke a drill and lost a bit. They tried for several days to pressurise that hole—unsuccessfully. This is just hearsay. I have been in the mining industry for 37 years, and you hear some things and people talk about you once you start letting them know that you know the language. In the Northern Territory area, you are basically looking at limestone and sandstone. All the river systems that run down in through Queensland—the O'Shannessy and the Gregory—all start around a place called Gallipoli, which is at the base of sandstone cliffs and the limestone from the Barkly Tablelands in the Northern Territory. If you contaminate that, you are contaminating all the rivers right through the Gulf of Carpentaria and beyond—that is, if it does not kill all the stuff up here in the meantime, which I believe it will.

Who will monitor it? Is there a set of regulations that can control it? I do not believe so. And then you are going to put these miners out there on their own. What, are they going to regulate themselves? Take all the policeman off the road, we all have licences and we are going to do the right thing. Bullshit. We are not. They are going to break the law. What are they going to do with all this water they bring out of the holes? They have to keep de-watering to keep the pressure off to let the gas come out. What is going to happen with all that water? Are they going to track it back to a safe place? No. They are going to put it out on the ground; they are going to contaminate it again.

If there is damage to any of the aquifers, it takes years and years and years for that water to get into the Great Artesian Basin. The water we are pumping out of the Great Artesian Basin has been there for hundreds of thousands of years; it has taken that long to build up. If you de-water an aquifer, it is not going to fill up again in six months; it is going to take years and years and years. All the contaminated fluid that is on top of the ground will leach back through there to fill those aquifers. You are not going to find contamination in these waterways for years and years and years to come.

Another issue is employment. They keep saying that there is employment here for 6,300 people. Eighteen months ago they put 7,000 people off in Queensland. Do you think they are going to employ new people here? Because of the secrecy surrounding the industry, they are going to put the same people back in there again. The mining industry worldwide is so small. I used to say to people, 'See you again.' They would say, 'Yes, righto.' I said, 'Well, you stay in mining, I'll find you somewhere.' That is pretty much how it was. It is so small. These guys are not going to employ new people; they are going to put people on that they know.

Mr Ryan : I would like to table apologies for the NTCA President, Tom Stockwell, and CEO, Tracey Hayes, who were both unable to attend today. The NTCA acknowledges the right of the Commonwealth to access the energy resources that we have here in the Territory. In light of that, it is also important to acknowledge the fact that the pastoral industry has been here for many, many generations prior to the resources sector and it will be here for many generations once it has gone. So, in the context of this committee, I think it is important to note that the NTCA supports the establishment of a robust regulatory regime that protects our water, our pastures and our livelihoods not just during the exploration and extraction process but also long into the future—50, 100, 200 years after the wells are abandoned.

The NTCA believes the regulatory regime should be based, firstly, on mandatory land access agreements. If I could correct Mr Tapp on a point that he made. They are actually mandatory land access agreements, which the NTCA fought very hard for for over 20 years to have implemented, prior to which the only acknowledgement of a pastoralist's right was a registered letter in the mail. So those are mandatory land access agreements. We believe they are the first step in ensuring pastoralists' rights are acknowledged. Having said that, we think there is a long way to go. Mandatory land access agreements between explorers, miners and pastoral lessees that recognise pastoralists' long-term custodianship and stewardship of the land and water that must be crossed and drilled through to access shale oil and gas deposits are essential. It is incumbent on the oil and gas sector to understand the short- and long-term needs of the pastoralists and to seek to add to the lease district and community rather than impose their operations as a right, as it were.

The NTCA supports the establishment of a regional royalty system for industry, community and landholders to distribute benefits to the primary land users and the pastoral industry. The NTCA supports the establishment of a system of adequate bonds in perpetuity to fully secure the rehabilitation expenses and rectification of negative impacts of the petroleum activity. We also support baseline monitoring data and maximum safeguards for water integrity below and above the ground through appropriate legislation and regulation. The Northern Territory government and the oil and gas industry need to prove to us in practical terms how safety for water in particular will be assured, how we can see they are assured and monitored and, if something does go wrong, how it is detected and remedied in a timely manner.

Water required for mining activities should ideally not be drawn from the same aquifers that pastoralists' operations rely on. Well integrity is absolutely key not only for the life of the exploration on a mining time frame but following cessation of production—and, like I said earlier, not just at the end of a mine's life or a well's life but long into the future. Thank you.

Mr B Sullivan : Rohan Sullivan and I are not related, so we are not doubling up. I am 73 years old this year, and I have been in the Northern Territory since about 1967. My son was born here in the old Darwin hospital. There is a park in Darwin named after my uncle. I consider myself to be a Territorian, a real Territorian, not like some of the Hogan's heroes who fly in here representing the Wilderness Society, who masquerade as Territorians and are here to save the planet from the multinationals. The other thing I would like to point out is that we are talking about shale gas, not CSG. We know nothing about CSG and I do not really want to know anything about CSG.

I am here today primarily representing myself, which is MS Contracting. We are a major contractor in oil and gas exploration. We have probably provided 80 per cent of the construction services to the oil and gas exploration industry in the Northern Territory over the last four years. Last year we provided construction of the camps, the catering, the men and every other thing on all except two exploration holes that were drilled in the Northern Territory. The year before was similar and the year before that we did 100 per cent of the holes that were drilled. We do not drill; we are not drillers. We will not go into that part of the expertise. We do fully support the exploration production of shale gas under the proper regulatory regimes.

I have seen many booms and busts, mostly caused by politicians who have no idea of the real world and are led around by the nose by a noisy minority. In the Northern Territory we have seen federal politicians of all shades for over 100 years. There is evidence of that everywhere. They all, in one way or another, pay lip service to the great dream of developing the North. After more than 100 years of politicians they still have not learnt that private enterprise is the only way that development will happen anywhere. Development will occur by enterprising Australians who are getting out and having a crack by risking their own capital to back their judgement.

I am primarily a cattleman. Most of my life has been spent in the cattle industry and most of it here in the Northern Territory. That has been through either managing someone else's property or running my own. At present I run a few cattle on a couple of small blocks. My son owns Flying Fox Station on the Roper River. The Roper runs right through it. I own MS Contracting and I am supposed to be semiretired, but I am sitting here today talking to people who are going to fix a problem that does not really exist in the first place.

We are in the oil and gas industry because of the live cattle export ban fiasco that sent us, and nearly every other cattle business, broke. I am sure that Senator Ludwig has fond memories of that, but we do not. We nearly went out the back door. We had to diversify or perish. We have now outlayed millions of dollars, most of which we borrowed. We mortgaged our houses, our properties and everything we had to go into the oil and gas exploration industry. We went in in good faith and we are still in there in good faith.

Now the politicians from the Northern Territory are at it again and want to place a moratorium on fracking, which means a moratorium on the entire exploration industry. No-one is going to export the gas if they cannot frack. It would be totally unrealistic for anybody to be granted a licence by a government to do a certain thing on land that is owned by a government and then, halfway through, have the rules changed. The licence was given by government, which was the Northern Territory Labor government when they were in power. They issued the licence, they issued the permits and now they are saying that they need to review the science. Why didn't they do that before? Why didn't they put the regulations in place before they started? Why didn't they just say, 'No, it's not going to happen'? We cannot have it both ways.

My son and I are fourth and fifth generation cattlemen and horsemen. That is all we have ever done. We are only new into the oil and gas game. We are part of an industry, the cattle industry, that leads the world in what is cutting-edge, world's best practice, large-scale, rangeland cattle breeding. We are the only large-scale cattle breeding country in the world that is disease free, thanks to the B-tech program in the eighties and nineties. I will not go into it, but I had quite a lot to do with that B-tech program.

The cattle people across Northern Australia live in what can only be described as Third World conditions. We do not have government services that people who live in cities take for granted and demand as their right. We have no mobile phone coverage, poor internet, if any, no garbage collection and we supply our own power, water and sewerage. Most cattle stations are hours away from the most basic health care let alone a hospital or a school. Recently there was a huge outcry around the country when the Telstra mobile network was out for a few hours. We do not have one. When you get 100 kay out of Darwin that is it. Children on cattle stations contend with an internet that cannot download their school lessons.

Last year I was in Uganda, a Third World country of 34 million people, where the average monthly wage for a construction worker is A$34. There is nowhere in that country that does not have mobile phone and internet coverage. Nowhere. Tracking gorillas up the side of a mountain on the Rwanda border, you can talk on your mobile phone. Here, we get Adelaide River, zilch. Says a lot for Australia, I am afraid.

Pastoralists pay more per day to generate their own power than the average household pays per month. Our cost at Flying Fox Station is around $250 a day to run our own power. When we are fully staffed it can run up to $600 a day. We pump our own water from bores and rivers on our properties. We, our families, staff and livestock all drink and rely on that water. Does anyone really think we are stupid enough to contaminate that water that is our lifeblood? We have been in this cattle game all our lives. We are bigger environmentalists than anyone in the Green movement. Without water and without our pastures we have got nothing. There is no way in the world that we are going to contaminate it.

The shale oil and gas industry does not pay royalties or any other money to pastoralists, but the infrastructure that will come with the oil and gas exploration will be of great benefit. Pangaea Resources, our client, was proposing to bitumen 80 kilometres of the Western Creek Road at a cost approaching $100 million, giving all-weather access to a dozen or more family owned properties, as well as their own producing gas field. The 10-kilometre duplication of Tiger Brennan Drive between Darwin and Palmerston cost $103 million, so the city people do not have to sit for 15 minutes in a traffic jam. We go five months without being able to drive on a road. You are starting to get the picture. This is about economics.

We are the people that produce the food for Australia and the rest of the world—I am talking about industry wide, not just us. A producing gas field on the Sturt Plateau, for instance, where we have been working, would have a state-of-the-art internet and mobile phone network into which all the pastoralists and all their contractors and other people could tap. Large producing gas fields also have medical facilities for their staff which could be used by locals in an emergency. Most people are five and six hours away from their closest medical centre of any sort, let alone a hospital.

The proposed moratorium by the Northern Territory opposition has taken away the certainty required by Pangaea to invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the next two years, so all of the above benefits are merely a lost opportunity.

MS Contracting, which is our company, has lost a $12 million dollar exploration contract this year, as well as, the full reconstruction of the Western Creek Road over the next four years. That is 50 jobs this year that we are not putting on, so there are 50 families around Darwin that do not have a job at the moment. Instead of sitting here I should be starting to oversee, right now, 70-odd people out in the field on road construction and other construction.

CHAIR: Mr Sullivan, we will ask you to wrap up there. I am sorry. We have run out of time.

Mr B Sullivan : Maybe you should have wrapped some of the others up a bit earlier.

CHAIR: I am going to have to ask you to finish.

Mr B Sullivan : If I was anti I would be fine.

CHAIR: No, that is not true at all.

Mr B Sullivan : It is true.

CHAIR: It is not true at all.

Mr Fraser : Good afternoon. At short notice, I actually work for an upstream oilfield service company, so I guess I represent the industry in some ways, but I do not have a go ahead from my employers to speak on behalf of the company, so I will speak on behalf of myself.

I started in the oil and gas industry in the very early eighties in Queensland. I also come from a small farm, so I have a farming background. I understand Queensland. I understand drought. I understand water. Also, I understand a lot, over 30-plus years in the oil and gas industry, of what goes on—the goods, the bads, both sides of those things.

This whole discussion about fracking in general is getting heavily polluted with topics that are totally unrelated to what is at the core. We hear things about mining; it is not mining as in open-cut mining. It is not coal. For the purpose of the Northern Territory, it is not coal seam gas because we do not do coal seam gas here, and personally, in my own view, I am not that comfortable with coal seam gas. Shale is a different story, and we probably do not have enough time today to talk about the nitty-gritty of the differences in those things.

There is also a lot of stuff out there about certain toxic chemicals. The word 'chemicals' itself sounds very bad. Things that you put in your swimming pool are things that you would not drink, yet are they toxic or are they not? I think there is some room for people to throw some chemicals into the debate, make them sound more toxic than they really are, include toxic chemicals from other countries—say, America, where they are using BTEX, which is a group that has carcinogens; we do not use that in Australia—and try and bring these other debates into Australia.

I have worked with a number of people from around the world and I have worked overseas, and I have seen the behaviours and practices of other countries and cultures. I have to say, the Americans are cowboys and we should not take lessons from what is happening in America as being indicative of how things will be in Australia. We should look more carefully, isolate those arguments and say, 'Stop talking about this place in America. Stop talking about the way Americans behave with their land and the way the operators do things and look at how we do things in Australia. Don't talk about chemicals that aren't used in our country. Don't talk about, for instance, CSG, which is not being done in the Territory.'

I want to talk very briefly about what we do. Our company specialises in the well integrity side of things. We manufacture, repair, modify and inspect the casing which goes in the well and protects the well. The things that I see that are different between offshore behaviour and onshore behaviour are probably the money that is spent and the different levels of things. You go from the Rolls Royce down to the Morris Minor. I would not like to see some of the cheap coal seam practices being done in the Northern Territory—that is a given. I would like to see the shale in the Northern Territory being done more like it is done offshore. In offshore mining, they do fracking. Fracking has been around a long time. Unlike someone was saying before, I was making bent subs for directional drilling in about 1982 or 1983. Directional drilling has been around a long time; fracking was being done back then. It is not that new. I would say that using vertical fracking gives you more propagation up vertically into other aquifers than going horizontally down through a seam that is trapped between impermeable layers. If anything, going horizontal is probably better than going vertical, but then it comes down to what you do with the well bores. What are the technologies and what is being used?

CHAIR: I am going to have to wrap you up. I am really sorry.

Mr Fraser : Can I say one thing?

CHAIR: Yes.

Mr Fraser : One thing I see on the outer casings at the surface is that some of them are just taking plain casing and welding it onto the rig, whereas we manufacture the connectors that go together with seals, and they are all welded to an API standard. There is a lot of casing which is made in proper API mills. In coal seam gas operations in Queensland, you are seeing cheap Chinese stuff. When you put the pressure in to fracture, you need good-quality casing in there to protect it from any kind of rupturing. So I would say there is an argument to go into the science on that side better.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Earley : I have been in the territory for 48 years. I was born here and I will die here. I was raised on the Roper River on a cattle station. About three years ago, the then minister for mines told me and a group of other ministers—not that I was a minister—that the terms of reference for the Hawke report had been viewed by a gas company prior to Dr Hawke receiving the terms of reference. Growing up on the Roper River, I am very closely associated with the people from Jilkminggan. I concur with what other people have said here today that the Northern Land Council is selective with regard to its representation, and I think that that should be reviewed at a federal level. I think you should be reviewing the terms of reference for the Hawke report, given that it was not peer reviewed and given that it was compromised prior to Dr Hawke receiving it. I think that the fracking industry is scurrilous and questionable in a lot of its activities, so much so that I have gone out and started a political party. If we get into power, we will ban fracking in the Northern Territory.

CHAIR: I remind people that we will still look at submissions. I know the date for submissions has closed, but, if you want to put submissions in, we will still look at them and publish them if we feel that they are necessary. I thank all witnesses for their evidence today. Answers to questions taken on notice should be provided by close of business on Tuesday, 19 April. That concludes today's proceedings. I thank the staff from Hansard and broadcasting for their assistance today.

Committee adjourned at 14:39