CANBERRA, AAP – Federal Labor MPs have spoken at odds over plans to develop the Beetaloo Basin gas field in the Northern Territory.
The basin is one of five gas fields the Commonwealth plans to open up to support exports and manufacturing.
It sits over the Cambrian Limestone Aquifer which has some of the best fresh water in a region that is dependent on groundwater, like much of the NT.
The Morrison government is tipping in $50 million for companies who want to drill into the basin, which it expects will drive $150 million of private investment.
The Labor caucus on Tuesday voted not to support a motion being promoted by independent MP Zali Steggall to disallow the funding.
Ms Steggall argues the funding is an irresponsible use of public money at a time when the rest of the world is phasing out fossil fuels.
She was backed during the caucus debate by Victorian Labor MPs Libby Coker and Ged Kearney, who argued their voters do not support hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and Labor should take a strong stance against non-conventional gas development.
However, Labor resources spokeswoman Madeleine King said Ms Steggall’s motion should be opposed.
It is understood former leader Bill Shorten, Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon and NT MP Warren Snowdon also spoke against Ms Steggall’s motion, citing the need for gas as a transition fuel to renewables and arguing not all Indigenous groups in the NT were opposed to fracking.
One MP also raised the point that the NT Labor government had been re-elected last year on the back of its support for gas development.
Ms Steggall’s motion is being seconded by another independent, Helen Haines.