THE Morrison Government thumbed up a $50 million grant for a drilling program in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin on August 25, 2021.
Just a day before the decision, the Senate released an interim report on the inquiry into oil and gas exploration in the Beetaloo.
The Environment and Communications References Committee Report prescribed a list of recommendations for greater unity among stakeholders, including Traditional Owners.
Recommendation four in the interim report states prior and informed consent from Traditional Owners and Native Title holders of the region should be granted to Government before the subsidy is greenlighted.
The decision to give the drilling project go-ahead, without this consent, is a slap in the face for Traditional Owners.
GetUp Australia’s First Nations justice campaign director, Larissa Baldwin, thinks the government is “turn[ing] their backs on Traditional Owners.”
“Despite clear and consistent opposition of Traditional Owners… Labour and Coalition have teamed up yet again to put gas industry profits ahead of Aboriginal communities” she said.
The federal government plans to boost a $200 million ‘gas led recovery’ with this additional $50 million subsidy for gas exploration.
The recovery aims to heighten economic growth following pandemic-induced recessions by generating cheaper energy and creating more jobs.
Director of research at the Australian Institute, Rod Campbell is not convinced the scheme will fulfil these expectations.
“The gas industry employs less than one person per million dollars spent, while investment in health and education employs over ten,” he said.
“Analysis for the NT Government’s Fracking Inquiry found that fracking in the territory would create between zero and 500 jobs – with zero being the most likely outcome.”
Fracking is the abrasive gas exploration process that will occur in the Beetaloo Basin.
This is where high-pressure liquid is forced into subterranean rocks until ‘fractures’ are formed, which enable oil and gas extractions.
Yanyuwa and Garrwa Traditional Owner, Joni Wilson is worried about the effects of this invasive procedure.
“Country is important to me because it’s my life, it’s a part of my body, soul and spirit,” she said.
“Without our land and our water, we are nothing, we are nobody.”
GetUp Australia, mustered over 10,000 members to call local Labour MP’s and Senators, urging them to listen to concerns like Ms Wilson’s.
While the efforts fell short, Ms Baldwin is far from ready to give up.
“It disappointing to be reminded there is no genuine opposition to an untrustworthy federal government,” she said.
“Traditional Owners in the NT will not stop this fight until the country is protected for good.
“We will continue holding Canberra to account, and demanding politicians finally start treating Traditional Owners with the respect and dignity they deserve.”