Dear Dr Hawke,
Thank you for the opportunity to briefly inform your inquiry into this important issue. I conclude that your inquiry remains incomplete without the proponent's own submission shouldering their burden of proof.
In the meantime, this submission strongly rejects unconventional mining, including shale gas mining, and particularly the unproven methods of hydraulic fracturing our 'fracking'.
As a health research officer in the Northern Territory, with an agricultural family heritage, I am writing to you with a very deep and genuine concern for the future health of our people; and the land, water, air, plants and animals on which we all depend.
Despite endless and predictable reassurance from the industry, unconventional gas extraction and associated 'fracking' techniques are not safe nor free of inherent and systemic risks. These inherent risks are now well documented, and are the subject of ongoing university research world-wide (1). Moreover, as recently as two months ago, Santos (the "leading ... company in the Northern Territory" (2)), were revealed to have directly contaminated ground water reservoirs (aquifers) in NSW with inevitable waste fluids (including uranium) produced by the practice of hydraulic fracturing (3). The main-stream discourse (4) now accepts inherent pollution cause by 'fracking' as a normal and expected part of unconventional gas mining.
I am especially concerned about the threat of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional mining in the Amadeus Basin (5) and I call upon the NT government to fund further independent scientific research assessing the impacts of hydraulic fracturing. This research should draw on both international and domestic experiences, with a specific concluding reference to our unique Northern Territory situation. Furthermore, in the context of our dangerously changing climate due to fossil fuel extraction, I remind the NT Government, of their moral obligation to cease all taxpayer funded subsidies/incentives relating to such mining companies.
As the Commissioner, you are no doubt aware of the Precautionary Principle and how it informs industry regulation (6). I am referring you to the Precautionary Principle in general terms, although specifically I note that this principle "shifts the burden of proof from the general public to the initiator of that public health or environmental risk" (7). In this light, I would therefore consider your inquiry incomplete and inadequate, were it to not contain a transparent submission from the proponents (the proposed gas mining companies) which proves beyond a reasonable doubt, that hydraulic fracturing does not present a risk. As yet I am not aware of any such proof, and would be happy to have you refer me to such a document, with sufficient opportunity for public scrutiny. Until then, I support community calls for a full moratorium on all hydraulic fracking activities until all risks are assessed independently, and safety can be proven.
I trust this submission adds to the overwhelming concerns shared throughout various sectors of our Northern Territory and Australian communities. I consent to publicly displaying my submission and name, and I would gladly support any aspect of my submission with further references as requested by the Commissioner.