‘No fracking’ a Territory Alliance promise hard to keep


“No fracking in the NT” is a brave promise by the Territory Alliance but one that may be hard to keep if it wins government at next week’s election.

There is a clue in the second sentence of the party’s policy position paper: “Under Territory Alliance there will be no more fracking in the Northern Territory.”

Not any fracking or no more?

This comes next: “Existing exploration licences will not be renewed, and no more production permits will be issued.”

It seems clear this could only happen with legislative changes that would expose the horrendously indebted Territory to massive compensation claims from the oil and gas industry.

Says the Department of Primary Industry and Resources, responding to questions from the Alice Springs News: “When a commercially viable petroleum discovery is made exploration permit holders have a legal right to a production licence.”

There are few production leases: A producing oil and gas field (OL4) at Mereenie west of town; producing gas fields at Palm Valley (west, OL3) and Dingo (south of town, L7); and a gas discovery (RL3) at Ooraminna, also south.

But there are huge areas south and north-east of town under exploration permits (see purple areas on the map).

There are conditions for production licences but they are clearly not insurmountable.

Says the department: “An exploration permit holder must apply for a production licence and undergo assessment including an ‘appropriate person test’ as required under the Petroleum Act.

“A production licence is a form of tenure, it does not solely authorise the holder of the licence to produce petroleum for commercial operations.

“A licence holder must also seek activity approval to drill production wells or undertake production activity under the Petroleum (Environment) Regulations, amongst other approvals.

“A production licence is granted for 21 or 25 years in accordance with the Petroleum Act.”

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has declined to comment but a source speaking on condition of not being named says if a Territory Alliance government rules out fracking as part of the conditions for production, the issue would almost certainly finish up in court: Companies have explored in good faith with Gunner government approvals, after it lifted the moratorium it had campaigned on during the 2016 election.

In NSW the government canceled exploration permits, but faced heavy buy-back costs, says the source.

Meanwhile according to the Australian LNG Monthly lower oil prices are having a significant effect on Australian LNG with extended maintenance, continued cargo deferrals, lower prices and asset write-downs. LNG revenues are down 52% on a year ago.

We have asked Matt Paterson to comment. He is the Territory Alliance candidate for Namatjira, where significant areas are under exploration permits.

Photo at top is part of the cover of the party’s policy position paper.

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Pasco County K9 Helps Deputy Do Sit-Ups for #WorkoutWednesday

A police dog in New Port Richey, Florida, added “personal trainer” to his list of duties as he helped a deputy out with some sit-ups on August 12. Footage shared to Facebook by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office shows K9 Yogi holding down the deputy’s feet as he got his workout done. According to the sheriff’s office, Yogi “makes a great trainer.” Credit: Pasco Sheriff’s Office via Storyful

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Man extradited to Darwin from Queensland over historical child sex offences

Northern Territory Police are today escorting a 46-year-old man to Darwin from Queensland over alleged historical child sex offences.

The Townsville resident was arrested on Monday by Queensland detectives at his home address and charged with four counts of sexual intercourse without consent and four counts of aggravated assault.

The alleged victim is a person who is known to the man.

Detectives from the Townsville Child Protection and Investigation Unit carried out the arrest.

The charges relate to alleged offences in Darwin between 2006 and 2009.

NT detectives from the Sex Crimes Unit have since travelled to Townsville to escort the man to Darwin.

The man is scheduled to appear in Darwin Local Court on Thursday.

The extradition follows a series of renewed investigations into cold cases through Operation Verto.

That operation was formed by NT Police to revisit historical sexual assault court cases where arrest warrants had been issued.

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NT Chief Minister criticised for comments about ‘hard’ coronavirus border restrictions

Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills has criticised NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner for “confusing” comments made during an interview with the ABC yesterday, in which Mr Gunner warned the NT’s hard border controls could remain in place for “at least the next 18 months”.

“If you can, cancel your Christmas holiday plans and stay here in the Northern Territory,” Mr Gunner said on Tuesday.

“We’re working towards at least an 18-month window from today towards the end of next year of how we are resourcing our borders.”

Mr Mills today criticised the language Mr Gunner used — labelling the comments “incoherent” and confusing”.

“This strong talk of hard border closures, and telling us that we might have to consider 18 months before we can have a normal Christmas — when the fact is we only have one hard border closure and that’s Victoria and I’ve been calling on [Mr Gunner] for some time to address the emerging issue in New South Wales,” Mr Mills said.

“I think it’s important to focus on the things close to hand and not to overcook this.

“You can only deduce that the reason for making such a ridiculous statement is to exacerbate people’s concerns about coronavirus.”

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Border controls will remain for the NT for at least 18 months

The Territory opened its borders on July 17, allowing most Australians to travel freely through the NT upon their arrival.

Anyone who enters the NT from a coronavirus hotspot — which includes the state of Victoria and Greater Sydney — must undergo two weeks of supervised quarantine upon their arrival at a personal cost of $2,500.

Mr Mills, whose new party faces its first NT general election on August 22, is calling on the NT Government to immediately declare all of NSW a coronavirus hotspot and effectively shut off travel from the state.

Comments ‘sent shockwaves’

Hospitality NT chief executive officer Alex Bruce said Mr Gunner’s comments “sent shockwaves” through the hospitality sector yesterday.

“It’s not that there was anything particularly different with regards to the border announcements and the Chief Health Officer’s directions — it was just the blunt kind of language, it wasn’t that clear,” Mr Bruce said.

“For example, people from South Australia are welcome right now and they are safe.”

Mr Bruce said Territorians who worked in the events space were fielding calls from concerned stakeholders yesterday, keen to know if the announcement would change future plans.

During a pandemic, Mr Bruce said 18 months was a “very long time away”.

“It’s a really a long way in the future and we would have liked the eastern seaboard to have calmed down by then,” he said.

33,000 new arrivals since July 17

NT Police’s COVID-19 incident controller Acting Commander Shaun Gill said since the NT’s borders opened on July 17, about 33,000 people had crossed the border into the Northern Territory.

Of that number, Commander Gill said about 20,000 people had arrived by road.

“We’ve had significant entries, it’s been keeping us busy,” Commander Gill.

NT Airport chief executive officer Tony Edmondstone said there were running at about 9 per cent of their usual airport passenger load.

“This time last year we were about 230,000 across the Territory arrivals and departments across the Territory,” he said.

“And this month we are running at about 20,000.”

Commander Gill said said while Australian Federal Police had pulled most of their workers from the NT — reducing the number of AFP officers in the Territory from 102 to 30. but officers were still at all arrival points.

“On the borders, we’ve got approximately 70 people involved in that, across all borders, and that includes airport arrivals,” Commander Gill said.

“We still have AFP assisting us at border arrivals points as well, particularly at the remote areas.”

Commander Gill said 150 COVID-19 infringements had been issued in the NT to date.

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Big national EcoFair audience a winner for Alice


Best guess, how many people would you expect to enjoy a tour of the community garden in Burke Street, on a sunny winter’s Sunday? Fifty? Sixty?

Try 9000, from all around Australia – and rising.

The tragic pandemic has its upsides, and this is one of them: When the Arid Lands Environment Centre got into top gear in March preparing its 12th EcoFair the Coronavirus had struck.

But rather than cancelling the event, as many others were doing, ALEC decided on an online-only function and started a crash program to learn how to do it.

“Extra forms, extra paper work,” says CEO Jimmy Cocking (pictured above, streamed to more than 9000 people): “It’s not just a matter of downloading an app and it’s going to work. We had to do webinars to learn how to use the webinar functions of Zoom, and so on.”

ALEC engaged Costa Georgiadis (pictured below), from the ABC’s Gardening Australia, the regular star of the event, to appear online this time.

But when some COVID restrictions were recently eased the ALEC staff and volunteers embarked on cramming for a second subject: How do you cope with the reams of rules for live events – social distancing, contact tracing, limits on numbers and so on?

They took it all on board, and implemented it in an efficient but friendly manner from Friday to Sunday. And the town was rewarded with a superb three-day program that could be consumed ‘in real life’ or online.

This climaxed in the Sunday garden tour that gave the town some national exposure that only a lot of money could buy: Local garden guru Geoff Miers, untiring community garden worker Bruce Simmons and Mr Cocking – the roving cameraman, producer, on-the-run editor for the one hour and 45 minutes show – became online stars across the nation, on the Costa Georgiadis Official Facebook site.

Now the fair could be enjoyed via Zoom, Facebook Live, streamed, on an 8CCC live broadcast and Facebook.

Although some COVID attendance restrictions had to be applied, locals got a first-hand experience of Alice at its best, with a dozen or so members at the garden providing food including wood-fired pizzas.

Pictured (from left): Community garden helper Peter Ammizboll, Geoff Miers and Jimmy Cocking holding the computer used in the Zoom session, with Costa Georgiadis on the screen.

The “Hemp Territory – green opportunities for the NT” session yielded similar opportunities and savings.

Presenters from Queensland, Tasmania, NSW and Darwin joined in: The cost of bringing them to Alice Springs in the flesh would have been thousands of dollars.

“This year was about producing content, producing knowledge that could be shared, and that continues to be shared,” says Mr Cocking.

“The value to have something for posterity, rather than just having the moment, building the knowledge system and sharing it, is in the content that will be online in perpetuity.”

The fair gets financial support from the Federal and NT governments and the Town Council.

The garden started in 2010 and has now 50 plots. People can also use the community plot while Food for Alice sells produce from the garden.

The garden program was under the motto “growing food in Alice” which raised the question: Do we have enough water?

Mr Cocking, speaking to the News after the fair, says we’re not using it very productively, on lawns, and there are a lot of leaks.

Should the town effluent  – now dealt with in sewerage ponds that send water pumped from the Alice Springs aquifers via evaporation to far-away places – be recycled?

“Of course,” says Mr Cocking.

How much more food could the town produce with water from recycled sewage?

There are no numbers about that but “there needs to be investment so we’re not wasting it”.

He says the Alice Water Smart program was funded for two years. It “informed” the Darwin Living Smart program which the NT Government-owned Power Water Corporation has funded for the last seven years.

“It needs to be government funded and Power Water needs to be working in that space,” says Mr Cocking.

“They are doing it in other parts, there are water conservation programs happening in communities but not in Alice Springs where Water Smart generated all this knowledge but it hasn’t been followed up.

“It’s not up to small, unfunded community groups to do this off their own bat. This is a societal issue.”

Mr Cocking says he may have more leverage now as the newly appointed deputy mayor but “demand management is a Territory issue.

“What the pandemic is showing all of us is how reliant we are on things being transported to us, whether it’s internet shopping – “look at the lines at the post office” – but for food as well.

The town used to be largely self reliant on locally grown food: “The people involved in this garden are seeing the writing on the wall.”

Mr Cocking says there are negotiations about setting up a second community garden in the grounds of the Middle School in Gillen.

The Water Advisory Committee will be reconvening and there is a review of the water allocation plan coming up in the next 12 months, says Mr Cocking.

There had been lobbying to get rid of the cap on extraction, supported by the Town Council at the time, “which ultimately has led to there being no investment in water conservation work since.

“It’s been de-prioritised. No longer is there a statutory plan to reduce water use, to conserve water.”

The land councils are calling for a safe public water drinking act.

“Ultimately we are mining our water so unless we come up with some magical way of making water there is no simple fix.

“That’s the challenge of a hydrogen driven economy that is using a lot of water.”

A documentary included in the retrospective of works by film maker David Nixon, who  passed away earlier this year, dealt with the Ten Deserts program initiated by ALEC with a $21m donation from the BHP Foundation.

Mr Cocking says it is a time-limited project to support or deal with Indigenous land management, to help set up protected areas, fire management, “rangers coming together which is building cohesion and trust,” feral camels, inappropriate fire regimes.

One current project is producing an animated series on buffel grass in Pitjantjatjara language.

“ALEC was part of starting this. We came up with the name Ten Deserts. I personally helped pulling all these partners together between 2013 and 2016.”

The Nixon documentary showed early efforts to protect bilbies (like the one at right), and a national gathering in the hugely remote Kiwirrkurra community, across the WA border.

More recently, during aerial fire fighting “one of the elders in the helicopter could see bilby tracks and so they were bilby tracking from helicopters,” says Mr Cocking.

Where will Ten Deserts go from here?

“There is always a challenge of getting something to scale without losing the intent,” says Mr Cocking.

“You get something bigger and you create a bureaucracy, all these different levels. A this point Ten Deserts is largely focussed on rangers and supporting land management. But ALEC advocates within that space for a lot more action on climate change.”

That includes issues of housing “on country” where people are “happier, healthier, connected to country, connecting the kids to country and keeping culture strong [but also ensuring] that people are living sustainably out there, have sustainable livelihoods.”

That final point seems be very much to be a work still in progress – but time may be running out: “In 20 years’ time it may be too hot out here for a lot of that stuff.”

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Trump Campaign Signs Stolen From Yards in Maryland Neigborhood

The Harford County Sheriff said several campaign signs were stolen from front yards in Bel Air, Maryland, on August 8, with an affected property owner able to provide doorbell footage of one instance. Nest video released by police shows a suspect crossing a lawn to remove a Trump-Pence sign. He makes an offensive gesture to the camera at one point, and then throws a stand behind him as he goes. “We all have differences of opinion. Let’s respect those opinions and not step into somebody else’s yard to commit a crime by stealing a campaign sign. It’s a violation of free speech and downright disrespectful of your neighbors,” the sheriff’s office said. Credit: Harford County Sheriff’s Office via Storyful

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Jury to begin deliberations in rape trial of former NT Police assistant commissioner Peter Bravos

Jurors have been told they should find former NT Police assistant commissioner Peter Bravos guilty of rape, as closing addresses in the trial wrap up.

Mr Bravos pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and has been on trial in the Darwin Supreme Court since July 27.

The charges relate to alleged events after a boozy emergency services ball in November 2004.

In his closing address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Nick Papas urged them to convict Mr Bravos on the two charges and accept the evidence of the complainant.

“If you accept [the complainant’s] account, you can be satisfied she wasn’t consenting to sexual intercourse,” he said.

“If you accept her evidence, you’ll be able to draw a clear inference that he knew she wasn’t consenting, that she made it clear she didn’t want to have sex.”

The court was closed early in the trial while the complainant’s pre-recorded evidence was played to the jury, but parts of her evidence were read to the court during closing addresses.

“She says she wanted to call a taxi when she realised the wife and kids weren’t there,” Mr Papas said.

“She says that when they were in the pool, she refused the suggestion to go swimming naked, she says she stopped him from trying to kiss her.”

It is now 16 years since the alleged event, and Mr Papas told the jury “the passage of time” could impact people’s memories, as he pointed out several inconsistencies in the evidence presented over the past two weeks.

“I say you’d probably be surprised if after all these years, and bearing in mind it was a boozy night, people did have the same memory,” he said.

“You might doubt evidence that fits in exactly if people are recounting an event that occurred in 2004 after a night in drink.”

About 30 witnesses were called to give evidence throughout the trial.

Mr Bravos did not take the stand himself, but a 2016 interview he gave during an internal inquiry into the allegations was played to the court.

The court heard he did not dispute the fact he had sex with the complainant, but maintained it was “most definitely” consensual.

In his closing address, defence barrister John Lawrence brought up earlier evidence from a witness who said she and the alleged victim discussed the size of Mr Bravos’s “member”.

“That would make you think, I guess, that’s not the kind of thing women would talk about if it were rape,” he told the jury.

Mr Lawrence argued a 2015 report to the then Public Interest Disclosure Commission, alleging Mr Bravos had sexually assaulted the alleged victim, was made in order to prevent Mr Bravos from being promoted.

The court heard the report was made without the knowledge of the alleged victim.

Mr Lawrence told the jury much of the trial was about “gossip”.

“Gossip, hearsay, tittle tattle, hallway gossip, dangerous gossip,” he said.

The alleged victim ultimately made a criminal complaint about the alleged rape in 2017.

The court heard the complainant decided to come forward 13 years after the alleged event because she had learned of a “black book” of sexual conquests circulating among some police officers, which placed the odds of one of them sleeping with her at 70-1.

Mr Papas conceded the crown could not prove the existence of such a book, but said the complainant believed it did exist.

The jury is expected to begin deliberations tomorrow.

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Inhumane slaughter of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs footage prompts new live export probe

Footage allegedly showing several Australian cattle being restrained with ropes and inhumanely slaughtered in two export-approved Indonesian abattoirs has prompted a new Federal Government investigation.

Animals Australia filed a complaint to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) last Friday and provided the footage as evidence of the alleged animal welfare breaches in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

The images were gathered during the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice, in late July and early August, according to Animals Australia.

In a statement to the ABC, Animals Australia CEO Glenys Oogjes said it was “deeply disturbing” the slaughter practices exposed in 2011 were still being used in 2020 despite the existence of Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).

ESCAS was set up by DAWE in the wake of the 2011 live export cattle ban to Indonesia.

“It is very clear that until regulatory sanctions for breaches of ESCAS incur licence suspensions, this system will not effectively protect animals from brutal treatment.”

Animals Australia declined to release the images or videos to the ABC.

Exporter suspends trade

Some live cattle exporters have seen the footage, and one company has already suspended trade with the facilities involved, according to the Australian Live Exporters’ Council (ALEC).

ALEC’s chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton said the images were “distressing” and showed what appeared to be Australian cattle restrained with ropes and having their throats cut without prior stunning.

Mark Harvey-Sutton in a checked shirt with plants behind.
Mark Harvey-Sutton says the industry was taking swift action to trace the cattle involved in the alleged breach.(ABC Rural: Daniel Fitzgerald)

“In this situation it seems to have been done perhaps by inexperienced staff, but certainly outside the normal controls that are in place in Indonesia,” he said.

Several videos and “a large number” of photos, taken between July 30 and August 5, show 10 cattle in the facilities, according to Mr Harvey-Sutton.

He said exporters were taking swift action to identify the cattle, however the removal of ear tags had delayed tracing efforts.

He went on to defend the ESCAS system and said the “unfortunate” situation was an exception.

A spokesperson for DAWE said all live cattle exporters to Indonesia had been contacted for further information.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on this matter while it is under investigation,” the spokesperson said.

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Time is right to plant tomatoes: Geoff Miers

Welcome to Geoff Miers to our pages. For decades he’s been more than a business owner and expert on gardening. He’s an institution and a local character, very ably assisted by his charming wife Kay. His weekly articles had appeared for more than 34 years in the Centralian Advocate, ending with its “disappearance,” as he puts is. Geoff can also be heard on the local ABC Territory Radio on Saturday mornings at 8.30am. Yesterday he starred at the EcoFair’s Community Garden Gurus Tour (pictured) with Bruce Simmons and – on Zoom operated by Jimmy Cocking – Costa Georgiadis, of the ABC’s Gardening Australia. Geoff was explaining how to grow tomatoes starting from scratch and shared a method he’d developed for keeping out subterraneous intruders.

Erwin Chlanda, Editor


By Geoff Miers

Tomatoes are a very high yielding crop for the home garden and there are so many varieties available today however it is important to follow a few simple rules to ensure you are successful.

Planting tomatoes now will guarantee high yields provided adequate soil preparation is undertaken and protection is given as maybe required against any late frosts that may retard early Spring growth.

Remember most tomato varieties rarely set fruit when temperatures climb over 36 degrees. By planting now the tomato plants will have matured enough to flower and set fruit prior to the days becoming hot.

Temperatures over 36 degrees are a common occurrence once late Spring or Summer arrives. The secret is to have well developed plants flowering before high temperatures become the norm.

Of all vegetables the tomato is the most popular vegetable variety that finds its way into home gardens. A high yielding tomato plant brings so much joy to the home gardener with each plant capable of producing up to 10 kilograms of produce in a season.

A good patch of tomatoes will provide fresh produce daily plus providing surplus that you can dry, preserve or covert into tomato sauce or other tomato related products.

Propagating tomato plants from seed should be given immediate priority to ensure plants have time to germinate, grow, mature and flower before hot weather arrives.

Planting seed is the most economical way, tomato seed will germinate easily if the instructions are followed and there are numerous tomato varieties that can only be grown from seed as particular varieties are not generally grown commercially and sold as seedlings.

Alternatively, particularly if you are impatient and want an instant garden then purchase a punnet of seedlings, this will give you 4 to 6 plants. With seedlings you are guaranteed instant plants and can carefully plan out your garden.

Tomato seedlings planted at this time of the year may need some protection for a couple of weeks if frosts are expected. Check the weather forecast regularly and if frosts are forecast place a frost protector sheet or cardboard boxes over plants on nights when frosts are predicted. This will provide ample protection.

Alternatively cut out a piece of cardboard 40 x 40 cms and bend it so it is curved and place this square of cardboard halfway around the seedling on the eastern side of the plant. This cardboard will slow down the thawing process if a frost has occurred preventing the plants cell structures from bursting and on cold days it will also have a warming effect promoting early plant growth.

Alternatively you may choose to purchase a premium potting mix and plant your seedlings into pots that can be moved around and even brought inside nightly until the frosts have passed. Remember on average August can have up to nine frosts and September three frosts.

Tomatoes grow well in light and heavy soils provided the soil has good drainage, plenty of organic content to improve the soil structure and or course adequate water and food.

Phosphorus and calcium are most important nutrients as a lack of them at seedling stage will reduce yields and can result in Bloom-end rot. How often have you grown tomatoes only to see the fruits spoiled by a rot at the base of the fruit?

In preparing a bed for tomatoes blend into the soil a good organic fertiliser and a mix of well rotted compost or other organic content. A thin line of super phosphate/calcium placed 10 centimetres below where plants are to be grown will work towards eliminating blossom-end rot.

With adequate base fertiliser being applied prior to planting no further fertiliser should be required until the first flowers appear when a dose of potash weekly for four weeks should be applied to guarantee good flowering, fruit set and quality fruit.

Some gardeners however like to apply potash at seedling planting stage and again as plants flower.

Alternatively some gardeners like to apply every four weeks specific tomato food as plants grow. A tablespoon of tomato food applied and watered in well every 4 weeks will certainly produce results however you must be consistent with your application. Forget and your tomato plants will suffer.

Remember when planting tall growing tomato varieties you need to provide a stake up to 2 metres high at planting stage allowing you to train up and tie the vine to the stake. For bush varieties staking is largely unnecessary. Put your stakes in position either prior to planting or immediately after planting, this way you will not damage any new roots produced by the tomato plants.

Today there are so many varieties of tomato to choose from. Grosse Lisse is traditionally the most popular tall growing staking variety, Roma is a great bush tomato and the ever popular Cherry, Tiny Tim or Tommy Toe all little cherry tomatoes are proven high yielding varieties.

Cherry tomatoes also largely are unattractive to fruit fly a great advantage as against the larger varieties.

Apollo Improved is an ideal early maturing variety that generally guarantees very high yields. Over the past two years it has not been uncommon for people to tell me they have experienced yields of up to 15kgs per plant.

Burnley Bounty is also a good cold tolerant early planting variety, capable of being planted right throughout the winter months.

Mighty Red is a high yielding staking variety, an alternative to Grosse Lisse, and is an excellent variety for arid zone climates, and, of course you have a wide range of heritage species, a popular variety being Black Russian. Most people who experiment with Black Russian continue to grow them for life.

Consult with your local nursery they should have many varieties available over the next few weeks.

Tomatoes planted now will provide you with much joy, produce high yields and save disappointment when planting later in the season when temperatures are high and yields are guaranteed to be low.  

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