Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has again told the NT Chief Minister to “pull the trigger” on gas mining in an effort to persuade him to lift the current ban on fracking.
Last night, Mr Turnbull used a speech at an expo promoting Northern Australia in Canberra to reiterate a position he made clear during a recent visit to Darwin.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner was among business and political representatives from Northern Australia who were in the audience when the Prime Minister delivered his speech.
“There’s a lot of gas in the North, Michael,” he said.
“Pull the trigger, Gunner. Pull the trigger.
“We need that gas down here … there is not enough supply and we need more of that gas.”
The NT Labor Government put a 12-month moratorium on fracking in September 2016 and will decide whether to lift the ban when the findings of a fracking inquiry are delivered.
Mr Gunner and Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, spoke before the Prime Minister, and used the platform to talk about partnering with the Commonwealth and the potential in the North.
“Half of the nation’s exports come from the north of Australia and we have 5 per cent of the population,” Mr Gunner said.
“Imagine what we could do with more people.
“We are rich in culture, we are rich in land and we are rich in potential and we the NT want to work with you here in Canberra and those across the country to embrace all that we have and all that we can be.”
In his speech, Mr Turnbull said he hoped Mr Gunner decided to allow mining in the vast and untapped gas fields that gas companies have said exist in the NT.
“I hope he is moving sedately but purposely and irreversibly towards opening up that big shoal gas province in the Northern Territory,” Mr Turnbull said.
He said lifting the ban would bring benefits to southern, eastern and northern markets.
“There is a lot of good news associated with shale gas and having more of that available in the Territory and across Australia will be enormously important,” he said.
“While obviously a lot of that will come south and to the east coast and southern markets, there is the opportunity to do a lot with it in the Northern Territory as well.
“Affordable gas has been a driver of jobs. It has been a driver of manufacturing. It actually is a driver of lower emissions too.”
It is not the first time the Northern Territory’s energy policy has been criticised by the Prime Minister.
In a speech at the Country Liberals annual conference in Darwin on Saturday, Mr Turnbull said the Northern Territory was at risk of squandering its “immense” resource opportunities.
“My message to Michael Gunner is: pull the trigger, get on with it,” Mr Turnbull said in that speech.
“The jobs, the investment, the opportunities that come with opening up 180 years of gas that you’re sitting on is endless.”
Like other leaders, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten did not chime into the gas debate, but instead gave advice on the need to develop air, road and tourism infrastructure in the Northern Territory.
“You don’t need lectures from fly-in, fly-out politicians on day trips to the Territory, what you want is long-term commitment,” he said.
“We get that the Territory has got a future but we also understand that the Territory is not looking for a handout, what it says is that it just wants its fair share of faith and passion for the Territory.”