The resource industry could receive millions of dollars in additional taxpayer-funded subsidies from the federal government as gas exploration nears a tipping point in the Beetaloo Basin.
- Northwest Territories Infrastructure Strategy 2022-2030 Reveals Government Wants Federal Funding For Infrastructure In The Beetaloo Basin
- He suggests that public funds would be used for wastewater treatment infrastructure, gas compression and airports
- The Beetaloo projects have been listed on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list
Late last month, the Northern Territory Government unveiled a list of proposals it had submitted to Infrastructure Australia, an independent statutory body which advises governments and industry on how best to use public funds to achieve positive outcomes for communities.
The list included road improvements, new housing to alleviate overcrowding, and recreational fishing infrastructure.
He also proposed that the infrastructure necessary for oil and gas companies to achieve production in the Beetaloo be prioritized for public funding. This proposal has now been added to Infrastructure Australia’s list of national priorities.
Industry backers have said the Beetaloo Basin will be vital to bolstering Australia’s energy security.
Cassandra Schmidt, director of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), said an expanded industry could also boost local manufacturing or fuel a new hydrogen industry.
It is estimated that there is enough shale gas to supply Australia for 200-300 years and demand has increased since Russia invaded Ukraine.
But environmental groups and Indigenous custodians said they were furious with the decision, which came just months after a series of grants were successfully challenged in court.
Hannah Ekin, from the Center for the Arid Lands Environment, said these were the kinds of things private companies should fund themselves.
“It’s kind of like I want to start a food truck in Alice Springs and the government says someone should fund my stove or the air vents I need to be up to standard,” he said. she declared.
Taxpayer-funded grants of $50 million have already been paid to gas companies in the Beetaloo and $217 million have been spent on improving roads for their trucks.
Infrastructure grants could help address wastewater challenges
An early-stage proposal for the Beetaloo Basin infrastructure has already been added to Infrastructure Australia’s National Priority Investment List. The Government of the Northern Territories has worked towards the second stage by presenting a case for potential investment options.
Potential projects included pipelines, waste and sewage treatment facilities – which the industry cited as one of its biggest challenges – as well as improvements to roads and an airfield.
Gudanji-Wambaya man Johnny Wilson, who lives less than 20 kilometers from frack pits in the Beetaloo and chairs the Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, said federal funding could be put to better use in the territory.
Wilson said investing in housing would reduce chronic overcrowding and heat stress in remote communities and infrastructure to accelerate the transition to renewable energy would help ease cost of living pressures.
“Instead, they live in overcrowded houses as it gets hotter and hotter.”
“We don’t have good housing, we don’t have drinking water.
“I have to fill three jerry cans [of diesel] every three days at $120 so I can have electricity.”
It has been estimated that a hydraulic fracturing industry could create up to 6,000 jobs over the next two decades, but Wilson had a different view.
“The government talks about the jobs these gas companies are going to create but there is nothing,” he said. “There are no jobs here in the communities or in the bush where I am.”
“I see these people driving by every day and there’s not one traditional Native or Territorian owner on this work…they’re all from the highway.”
Infrastructure Australia “very influential”
The Beetaloo Basin infrastructure that the state government has prioritized in its infrastructure plan is still at the proposal stage.
But Mark Ogge of the Australia Institute said projects are now much more likely to be funded.
“Infrastructure Australia is very influential in what is funded by Australian governments,” he said.
“And the current government has not ruled out subsidies offered by the previous government in the run-up to the election.”
He said that in addition to the threat of increased emissions from fracking in the Beetaloo which could jeopardize Australia’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, subsidizing the gas industry would offer a minimum economic return.
“There is no justification for Australian taxpayers subsidizing the gas industry,” he said.
“We get very little in return, they pay very little tax, very little royalty, and they have a significant negative impact on other industries that exist.”
Land Development Minister Eva Lawler said the projects included in the Northwest Territories Infrastructure Strategy 2022-2030 underpin the government’s vision to grow the economy and support “the good -being and the quality of life of all Territorians”.
She said planning ahead was crucial for the government to achieve its goal of “a sustainable and diversified $40 billion economy by 2030”.
“For example, the Northern Territory Government is jointly funding current improvements to the Carpentaria Highway with the Australian Government.
“The Carpentaria motorway upgrade benefits many territorial and regional businesses, not just the Beetaloo.
“However, without the Beetaloo, it would have been difficult to secure the necessary funding to upgrade this highway.”