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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Page: 1374

Senator PERIS (Northern Territory) (17:33): I rise to speak on this motion on coal seam gas mining. Coal seam gas mining, or fracking, is an issue of great importance across the whole country and certainly it is of great concern to Territorians as well. The first thing to say about coal seam gas in the Territory is: what is the rush? We have massive conventional gas reserves, both onshore and offshore, that are still being explored and understood. In the Northern Territory just recently—in fact, last weekend—the Northern Territory Labor Party, with the full consent of the members, supported a moratorium on all coal seam gas and fracking activities in the Northern Territory pending an independent, science based investigation into the processes, including all climatic circumstances, and across varied geological sites.

NT Labor also supports a comprehensive, independently developed program of public education concerning all fracking and coal seam gas processes. We want to know what it is and how it could benefit Territorians as a whole. A number of local councils in the Territory, including Katherine Town Council, have made public statements against coal seam gas and fracking. This is not a Green dominated council, by any means. It simply indicates the real level of concern that people have about coal seam gas.

In the Territory, The Country Liberal government have made a real point of acting without listening to the community, and they are currently paying a heavy political price for their arrogance. The CLP are all for coal seam gas mining, regardless of what the science says or whether or not it is the right way to go. The Country Liberals cannot be trusted on this issue, particularly when they cannot even trust each other. The Country Liberals would happily sell the Territory down the drain, without even publicly discussing the issues, and all the while engaging in a potentially damaging process without any independent scientific evidence to support their decisions.

There are many questions. What will coal seam gas mining do for us? Will it give us an improved standard of living? Will our power bills be cheaper? Will we be a healthier nation? Will CSG make us richer as a nation overall? Or will it kill off the country by polluting our waterways, killing our wildlife and negatively impacting on our health and wellbeing?

I am aware that some Aboriginal groups in the Northern Territory are interested in exploring the benefits of coal seam gas as a possible option for their future economic development. I acknowledge this and I accept it. I would say to my country men and women: let us first understand what it is, what it would do for the community and what impact it would have on country and our nation as a whole. We need to understand the potential long-term effects and impacts that fracking and coal seam gas mining will have and we need to make sure we are happy with our understanding before we move any further ahead. We must all remember: our country, our land, is our greatest cultural as well as economic asset.

Today we have seen the Intergenerational report released by the government. It contains a great number of challenges for Australia. But the biggest challenge as far as I am concerned is the condition of this country as we pass it to our children and our grandchildren. Most of all, I want my grandchildren to grow up in an Australia that prides itself on taking care of its citizens and taking care of our precious environment, not just rushing headlong into important and potentially environmentally damaging decisions like fracking and coal seam gas without proper scientific evidence to support our decisions. Let's have a proper process and get the evidence, good and bad, on the table and have a decent and honest discussion with the nation.