Why the NT is the next Green battleground


The Northern Territory is on the frontline of Australia’s climate crisis, exacerbated by a Territory government unbothered by the devastating impacts of fracking in particular. In the wake of his by-election campaign for the NT seat of Fannie Bay, Jonathan Parry talks about why it’s so important we get Greens representation in the NT – and how you can help.

By Jonathan Parry

Here in the Northern Territory, we punch well above our weight when it comes to our natural and cultural endowments. Stunning landscapes, unique biodiversity, strong connection to First Nations cultures – if you live here or have ever visited, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Putting all that at risk is something else we have in great abundance: unconventional gas reserves. Or, if I’m more accurate, it’s the fossil fuel corporations intent on extracting that gas through fracking – and a Territory Labor Government determined to allow them – who threaten everything that makes the NT so special.

We can do so much better for our Territory. That's why, after former NT chief minister Michael Gunner resigned from his seat of Fannie Bay last month, I decided to put my hand up to run for the Greens at the August 20 by-election.

I couldn’t be prouder of the campaign we ran, and I'm certain this is indicative of huge things to come for the Greens in the Territory.

Turning Fannie Bay Green – almost

The people of Fannie Bay made their discontent with the Territory Government really clear – both on their ballot papers and directly to me when I was out chatting with them. People told me that they’re sick of fossil fuel interests being put ahead of our community. That they’re tired of our fragile ecology being sacrificed to the highest bidder; and dismayed at our broken justice system that criminalises poverty and Bla(c)kness.

Disappointingly, Labor retained the seat – and we know that means our community will just get more of the same: more fossil fuel projects, more environmental degradation, more overpolicing.

But there is a swelling tide of change. Our vote on the weekend was the Greens’ strongest ever result in the electorate. We had a primary vote of 19.4 percent and a swing towards us of just over 9 percent – significant by any standards, but absolutely huge for the NT.

I had so many conversations with residents of Fannie Bay who were voting for the Greens for the first time in their lives, which echoes the sentiments I’ve been hearing from around the country after the federal election. People everywhere are demanding something better, because the major parties simply aren’t working for them. What the Greens are offering is resonating, which gives me so much energy for the work that lies ahead.

A fracking NTmare

One of the issues on the forefront of our campaign was fracking in the NT – because fracking in the NT in turn places us on the forefront of the climate crisis.

In 2018 the NT Labor Government made the decision to lift the moratorium on fracking in the Territory. That has opened up our community to unacceptable risks, like water system contamination, health issues, environmental devastation – and, of course, the eye-watering volume of emissions that would blow our national climate targets if projects like Beetaloo were to go ahead.

Up here, we would experience some of the most severe impacts of climate change. The Australia Institute forecasts that the annual number of days over 35ºC in Darwin will rise from 11 to 308 by 2070 if we don’t get emissions down. That’s not just uncomfortable – that’s a literal death sentence for people, for animals, for waterways, and for our fragile biodiversity and ecosystems. 

What we need is urgent action on climate change, starting with an immediate, total and permanent ban on fracking. The need for Greens to push the Territory Government on these issues is greater than ever, especially because the NT is the only Australian parliament without a sitting Greens member – for now!

Fair pay for fair work

The day before the by-election, teachers from 160 public schools across Darwin and Palmerston walked out of classrooms to protest against the four-year wage freeze – something the NT Government put in place last year for all public servants in the Territory.

The organisers of the protest, the NT branch of the Australian Education Union, invited all candidates running in the Fannie Bay by-election to speak to those in attendance. It speaks volumes about the major parties’ priorities that I was the only person who bothered to show up. 

NT Labor is no longer looking after workers – that much is clear. It’s especially galling in this current economic climate, and when you consider that they’re prioritising the needs of their fossil fuel donors instead.

What lies ahead

While we didn’t get a Green into the Territory parliament this time around, I know it’s just a matter of time before we’ll have the representation we need to hold the major parties to account.

Critically, it’s also a matter of support. We win votes by running effective campaigns, and we run effective campaigns by committing the right resources to the right places. We can look to Queensland to see just how dramatically the political landscape can change when that’s done well – and it could be us next time, because Fannie Bay is the Greens’ most winnable seat in the Territory.

We're going to be building on this result and working with the community on grassroots issues all the way to the next election. Your support for the NT Greens right now will make a huge difference to how that plays out – if you can, please chip in here.

A big part of achieving electoral success in the NT also lies in growing our movement up here, which is why we're currently hiring for the NT Greens' first ever long-term Party Manager. It's such a good gig – full-time all the way through 2025 to build the party through an entire election cycle.

If you already live here, you know how special the Territory is and why we need to fight for it. If you don't – this is a gig worth moving for. As we know, the Territory is at the centre of the national fights for climate, nature and First Nations peoples. That means the Territory is where we can build more power than pretty much anywhere else to help make a real difference.

You don’t need to have been doing Greens work forever to be perfect for this job! If you love people and the planet, and you’re keen on building something for the long run, you can learn the rest. It's a job where you'll have time to grow. Check it out and pass it on!

Jonathan Parry was the Greens’ candidate in the Fannie Bay by-election. He is currently serving as the Australian Greens’ National Secretary.

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