The Senate has passed a motion to establish a parliamentary inquiry into the fracking of Beetaloo Basin.
The decision on Wednesday is a win for Traditional Owners across the Northern Territory, with Gudanji, Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Jingili, Mudburra and Alawa Traditional Owners fighting the expansion of fracking in the Basin since the announcement by the Morrison Government early this year.
Last week, Yanyuwa man Nicholas Fitzpatrick, Gudanji/Garawa man Asman Rory, Yanyuwa/Garrwa woman Joni Wilson and Alawa woman May August travelled to Canberra and met with various Senators.
The Traditional Owners asked the Senators to support their cause and vote for an inquiry into the Morrison Government’s $50 million investment into the gas industry.
Earlier this year Traditional Owners also delivered an open letter to Parliament which has over 35,000 signatures of support. In the letter Traditional Owners reaffirmed their relationship to Country.
“Our connections to Country have been established and proven time and time again by the white man’s law. We hold the Native Title and Land Rights — a system that is meant to protect and enforce our rights. These have been denied to us,” they wrote.
“For years, we have been told lies by the gas and oil corporations. That there would be no damage to the Country or poison in our waters. These companies won’t even answer the most basic of questions — where they plan to drill or how many wells they want to build.”
The Traditional Owners noted the lack of respect shown to them by gas corporations, saying they have failed to “follow proper process in consultation with us, failed to acquire consent, failed to provide transparency in their dealings with us, and have systemically excluded our voices from the decision-making process for activities on our Country”.
The letter also notes their feelings regarding the behaviour of the Federal Government.
“This Federal Government coming in over the top of what little processes we have undermines our land rights as Northern Territory Traditional Owners,” they said.
“The same Government who has never come out to our communities to sit with us or meet with us. They are failing to represent us.”
Supporting Traditional Owners in their fight is GetUp, and GetUp First Nations Justice Campaign Director Larissa Baldwin expressed her pride in the Senate’s decision to hold a parliamentary inquiry.
“This inquiry is a massive victory for Traditional Owners and First Nations communities across the Northern Territory,” she said.
“Ever since the Morrison Government announced its $50 million handout to help the gas industry pillage the Beetaloo Basin, Traditional Owners have united to fight against it. They received support from tens of thousands of people across Australia, and have catapulted this issue into the national spotlight.”
Speaking in the Senate on June 15, Greens Senator for Queensland Larissa Waters reinforced that fracking would be at the disapproval of Traditional Owners.
“The First Nations owners of this part of the Territory do not want fracking on their land,” she said.
“That hasn’t provided any pause to Government because they have provided so much public money. $175 million for roads in and out of the Beetaloo Basin and $1.1 billion of new spending, $16 million of which is for the so-called strategic gas basins, including the Beetaloo, and $50 million for actually drilling.”
Senator Waters said the Government is “essentially bankrolling the whole project.”
Baldwin says the result in the Senate is evidence that people are hearing the calls of Traditional Owners in the Northern Territory.
“Today is proof that their words have had an impact. Now the Morrison Government — and the entire country — will hear from the people who this fracking will affect most: the Traditional Owners and their communities,” she said.
“Today’s vote goes to show: the fight is on.”
By Rachael Knowles