15 September 2021
Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt gave $20 million for gas exploration for fracking in the Betaloo Basin in an uncontested grant. The grant was to Empire Energy that donates to both major parties, but seems to prefer the Liberals as they flew Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Liberal fundraiser, Ryan Arrold around the NT site (Guardian 20/8/21).
The Betaloo Basin is in the centre of the Northern Territory, and the grant application was the subject of Court proceedings brought by the Environmental Centre (NT) and the Environmental Defenders Office. It seems that undertakings were given not to give the grants, but they went ahead despite the assurances given to the Court. The Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) said somewhat lamely that they can only do what their clients say. The Resources Minister, Keith Pitt was criticised by the Federal Court judge, Justice John Griffiths, but it seems that this will make no difference either to the outcome or to the Minister’s career. Presumably the idea that he would be charged with contempt of court is fantasy.
We seem to have reached the point of a third world country where the Government gives whatever it likes to its mates and due process is a distant memory.
Labor might be marginally better, but the benchmark has now been set very low. Companies are becoming accustomed to governments bending to their will and will be reluctant to leave the ‘new norm’. The only answer is a Swiss-style democracy with referenda as the main source of power and citizens able to overturn government decisions. We need proportional representation and an end to the two-party duopoly so that all decisions are made on the floor of the parliament, not in back-room deals. This will take a change to the Constitution, but this well overdue in any case, and we might as well do a thorough job of it. The Swiss also have provisions to change their constitution without a fuss.