New evidence shows the Scott Morrison’s $260 million payment to NT was not a longstanding policy. A week before the NT’s fracking decision, Morrison had not even received a Treasury briefing on the funding. Morrison first ‘committed’ to the payment three days after the NT’s fracking decision, in a letter to the NT offering the funding and acknowledging the fracking decision.
This was not the only large payment conceived and offered in that fortnight. In the same week that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull conceived and offered unprecedented funds to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a payment that has rightly attracted significant scrutiny.
The haste in allocating substantial public funds raises concerns and leaves a number of questions. Why did it all happen so quickly, in the same fortnight as the fracking decision? Why did it need to? Unanswered, such questions fuel the suggestion that the payments were part of political pressure on the NT.
Attempts to get to the bottom of things using Freedom of Information have been blocked. FOI requests have revealed Treasury has numerous documents referring to both NT fracking and federal funding to the NT. But it has blocked access to all of these documents, including the letter to the NT offering the money.
This briefing note first presents a timeline summarizing events as they are now known. It then presents the context around the NT Government’s fracking moratorium and the pressure they sustained. It then outlines the rushed process around the payments outlined in Treasury’s evidence to Senate Estimates, and the FOI requests that Treasury is now blocking. It concludes with some unanswered questions.