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The lies and prevarications of Quiggin et al

We Suspect Silence

June 23, 2018

by empathiser

 

There is a trio of academics charged with the job of reinforcing the StopAdani coalition narrative as it relates to native title. They lie and prevaricate to shape perceptions about the functioning of native title and the place of the struggles of the Traditional Owners in the Galilee Basin; along Adani’s proposed rail corridor; and at Abbot Point.

To prevaricate is to lie using devious means like silence. I will show that Quiggin et al not only prevaricated in their collected writings since June 2016, they also repeated a bare faced lie about a controversial “Self-determined authorisation meeting”.

 

SECTIONS:

The project at the Global Change Institute

Collected writings

Two controversial meetings

The outright lie

An entirely ignored court document

Holding onto the talking point

Who has claim to the name “W&J”?

A gambit makes a talking point

Doing solidarity

Framing out the coal complex

A judgement not to be ignored

 

The project at the Global Change Institute

This trio were first brought together under the banner of the Global Change Flagships Projects through the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. The Wangan Jagalingou Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Family Council and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights are listed as partners in the project called ‘We Are The People From That Land: Centring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Transition to a Sustainable, Low-Carbon Future’ which is funded by impact philanthropist and long term supporter of anti coal campaigns in the Galilee Basin, Graeme Wood. The project effectively frames out all other Traditional Owner groups affected by the development of the Galilee basin coal complex other than the Wangan and Jagalingou people. The Wangan and Jagalingou organisation who partner in this project represent a faction of the Wangan and Jagalingou claim group within the native title system.

Their collected works suggest that Quiggin et al are attending to the issue of native title in connection with the development of a particular coal mine, but what they have actually done is accept the prescribed spotlighting of one Traditional Owner group that is part of a larger claim group that is one of four Traditional Owner groups in the proposed coal complex. All four Traditional Owner groups had to contend with the native title system and may have been unduly pressured with threats of compulsory acquisition during negotiations. Three of the four groups had signed ILUAs over the crucial rail corridor. One of those Traditional Owner groups is embroiled in the controversy over the little reported corporate failure of Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation which was presided over by the treasurer and Townsville director of the North Queensland Land Council.

Rather then presenting any arguments about why only one Traditional Owner group should be spotlighted, the partners in ‘the project’ chose silence. None of the Traditional Owners struggles along the rail corridor and at the proposed port were ever discussed in the collected writings in which Quiggin et al give a voice to ‘the project’ partners. Spotlighting casts all others into shadow. It is a passive strategy that supports the wider narrative of the project funder and other stakeholders like Earth Justice who are allied with Stop Adani coalition leaders the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The Stop Adani narrative holds that we need to stop Adani’s mine and that the Wangan and Jagalingou are the last line of defence against a mining company with the local, state and federal governments, and the native title system on it’s side. The development we are asked to resist is “the mine” and the Traditional Owners we are asked to support are “the W&J”. But when we acknowledge that we are witnessing the development of a coal complex, then economic reality – if we believe that the native title system fails to deliver justice to Traditional Owners – requires that we look without bias at the whole context in it’s diversity. We should be looking at the indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs) that form the milestones that make the coal complex possible. If we did this we would be considering the political economy of the entire proposed developments. Spotlighting frames out reality, creates silences where there ought to be investigation, and raises serious doubts about claims of solidarity with Traditional Owners.

 

Collected writings

Quiggin et al assisted in shaping the StopAdani coalition narrative through their prevarications in a report called ‘Unfinished Business’ which forms the basis of the arguments presented in an article for The Conversation and a 5 part series in New Matilda called ‘Killing Country’. These writings, none of which contain citations, reveal strategic silences, manipulation of language, and outright lies. The prevarications leave members of the public uninformed about the functions of the native title system and create a picture of Indigenous struggles that spotlights one group and one mine amid the development of a complex of mines, rail, and ports.

The collected writings of Quiggin et al were published contemporaneously with writings by members of the Wangan Jagalingou Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Family Council (W&J FC). There are some key differences in how the W&J FC describe significant and controversial events such as the March 2016 ‘self determination’ meeting that is the subject of a legal judgement made in April 2017, and the determination meeting held in April 2016 that is the subject of a forthcoming judgement.

‘We Are The People From That Land: Centring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Transition to a Sustainable, Low-Carbon Future’, project report

‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS: ADANI, THE STATE, AND THE INDIGENOUS RIGHTS STRUGGLE OF THE WANGAN AND JAGALINGOU TRADITIONAL OWNERS COUNCIL’

http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/Unfinished-Business.pdf

Morgan Brigg, John Quiggin, and Kristen Lyons in The Conversation

‘The last line of defence: Indigenous rights and Adani’s land deal’ https://theconversation.com/the-last-line-of-defence-indigenous-rights-and-adanis-land-deal-79561

5 part ‘Killing Country’ series in New Matilda

Part 1. https://newmatilda.com/2017/11/16/adani-carmichael-coal-mine-introduction-special-five-part-series/

Part 2. https://newmatilda.com/2017/11/22/the-queensland-government-is-the-real-driver-in-adanis-dirty-land-grab/

Part 3. https://newmatilda.com/2017/11/23/traditional-owners-expose-adanis-relentless-pursuit-of-wj-country/

Part 4. https://newmatilda.com/2017/12/24/the-numbers-dont-stack-up-wjs-rights-on-the-chopping-block-for-adanis-non-viable-project/

Part 5. https://newmatilda.com/2018/01/30/native-title-colonialism-racism-adani-and-the-manufacture-of-consent-for-mining/

 

Two controversial meetings

Quiggin et al framed Adani as responsible for manipulation of voting meetings by deemphasising the functioning of certain organisations that perform an essential function within the native title system. These organisations, known as Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs), plan and deliver the voting and decision making meetings that determine if land use agreements get approved. NTRBs perform these functions as representatives of the claim group by liaising with the applicant group, mining companies and other entities who seek to make agreements. They provide legal support, manage apical ancestor lists, handle logistics for authorisation meetings, and certify that authorisation meetings were delivered to the standards set out by the Native Title Act. Their role is absolutely essential to the functioning of the native title system.

A familiar critique of the native title system is offered in the first of the collected writings, ‘Unfinished Business’. I can’t say I disagree. Quiggin et al argue that NTRBs could be seen as “facilitators and enablers” for the “settler-state regime”. This assertion is has some substance and there exist evidence and case studies to support that argument. Those case studies and evidences appear in more often in court documents than in publicly available communications from the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) or any other entity. Those court documents contain the most detailed explanations of the functioning of NTRBs that are available to the public. It is only through analysing how NTRBs serve the interests of mining companies to the detriment of the Traditional Owners in the process of negotiating ILUAs that we can understand how they become facilitators of the coloniser agenda. NTRBs ostensibly act for the Traditional Owner claim group through the applicant groups, registered native title bodies corporate (RNTBCs), common law land holders, and other nominated bodies. It is only through a thorough examination of the processes revealed largely through court documents that any assessment of the appropriateness of the actions of NTRBs can be made.

Quiggin et al discussing NTRBs in ‘Unfinished Business’:

Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs), appointed under the NTA, were established to assist Indigenous people with their claims. NTRBs are ostensibly facilitators of Indigenous access to native title rights, and indeed they do serve that function.
But the extent to which native title facilitates industry access to Indigenous lands also arguably positions NTRBs as facilitators and enablers of a settler-state regime that is ill-disposed to substantive recognition of Indigenous rights on Indigenous terms.

‘Unfinished Business’ is very much an academic piece. In it Quiggin et al identify Queensland South Native Title Services (QSNTS) as the NTRB acting for the W&J people claim group for the April 2016 authorisation meeting. They outline that the W&J FC have some very serious objections to the way QSNTS conducted the April 2016 voting meeting. In this piece the authors summarise the reportage of their project partners the Wangan Jagalingou Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Family Council rather than make explicit arguments about the way QSNTS facilitated negotiation processes under the Native Title Act (NTA). This could be seen as a device to posit particular talking points attaching ownership of those talking points to a partner organisation while distancing the authors from ownership. Here’s an example in relation to QSNTS and the April 2016 meeting:

A large part of the W&J’s grievance and grounds for contestation relate to their claims about the way in which QSNTS oversaw and Adani ran the meeting. The W&J also contrast what they see as QSNTS facilitation of a meeting for Adani’s benefit with QSNTS’s refusal to assist with, and active opposition to, the W&J’s efforts to hold the aforementioned “self-determined” meeting.

Quiggin et al did not make reference to QSNTS or the role of NTRBs in their article in The Conversation or in any of the first four parts of the ‘Killing Country’ series.

 

The outright lie

What started as reportage of a position of project partners the W&J FC became a talking point employed by Quiggin et al for the majority of the ‘Killing Country’. The collected works span roughly 7 months.

Quote – Unfinished Business

W&J describe a “self-determined” meeting held in March 2016 as also confirming, for a third time, they were resolute in rejecting any offer from Adani in exchange for the extinguishment of their native title rights.

Quote – The Conversation. ‘The last line of defence: Indigenous rights and Adani’s land deal’.

While Adani has filed for registration of an Ilua, the W&J calls it a “sham”, asserting that the Wangan and Jagalingou people have rejected a deal with Adani on three separate occasions since 2012.

In Killing country parts 1,2,3 & 5 the assertion was made that the March 2016 ‘self determination meeting was “bona fide”; that it was a ‘claim group’ meeting; that the Adani ILUA was “rejected”; that the meeting was the third such meeting to reject the ILUA.

All such claims hinge on the March 2016 ‘self determination’ meeting adhering to requirements of the of the NTA.

Quote – Killing Country Part 1

What differentiates the Wangan and Jagalingou is that they are the only Traditional Owner group, through the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council (W&J), who have said no – on 3 occasions, at bone fide meetings of the Native Title Claim Group – to an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani.

Quote – Killing Country Part 2

Despite three separate claim group meetings spanning over four years, where W&J has rejected an ILUA with Adani, an agreement was signed in 2016. Yet the meeting, and the ILUA it posits, is shrouded in controversy, raising serious and as yet unresolved questions about its legitimacy.

Quote – Killing Country Part 3

W&J have said no, on three separate occasions at bone fide meetings of the claim group, to a registered Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani.

Quote – Killing Country Part 5

In addition, and against Wangan and Jagalingou decisions in 2012 and 2014, QSNTS has continued to facilitate Adani’s ongoing efforts to seek agreement, through an ILUA, to the surrender of native title rights in up to 2,750 hectares of land that are necessary for infrastructure critical to the mine. QSNTS declined to in any way facilitate a ‘self-determined’ meeting of the claim group that was run in March 2016 – a meeting that once again rejected an ILUA with Adani, as well as any further dealings with them. They also refused to attend, or share the notice of the most recent claim group meetings in December 2017 – meetings to address the progress of the native title claim. These meetings also revisited, and as it turned out, de-authorised the ILUA that Adani was seeking to have registered.

 

An entirely ignored court document

In ‘Burragubba on behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou People v State of Queensland [2017] FCA 373 (11 April 2017)’  Justice Reeves found that the March 2016 ‘self determination’ meeting was called for a minority of the Wangan and Jagalingou claim group and that the meeting was not a legitimate authorisation meeting.

37. First, as has already been mentioned above, the central purpose of the 19 March meeting, as disclosed by the notice for that meeting, was to address concerns held by a minority of the members of the existing W & J Applicant and those members of the W & J claim group who held the same concerns, relating to the ILUA negotiations with Adani.

and

35. It follows that the notice was not, by its terms, a notice directed to all the members of the W & J claim group notifying them that an authorisation meeting had been convened for that claim group to consider the authority of its authorised applicant for the purposes of ss 66B and 251B of the NTA. That being so, it could not result in a meeting being convened that would be fairly representative of the views of the whole of the W & J claim group concerning the membership of the W & J Applicant. It therefore follows that the replacement applicant is not able to rely upon resolution 12 passed at that meeting for the purposes of establishing condition 3 (s 66B(1)(a)(iii)), or condition 5 (s 66B(1)(b)).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/cth/FCA/2017/373.html?context=1;query=Burragubba;mask_path=#

The entire collected works of Quiggin et al as part of their partnership with the Global Change Institute were published after the April 11, 2017 judgement. Not one of the 7 pieces makes any mention of Justice Reeves’ judgement that the meeting was not a valid claim Wangan and Jagalingou claim group meeting. Any claim that the March 2016 ‘self determination’ meeting was “bona fide” is an assertion that the meeting was seen as satisfying the requirements under the NTA which it certainly did not.

The continued claim to the legitimacy of the March 2016 meeting after the April 2017 judgement served to preserve a talking point that had been presented by the W&J FC in the year preceding the April 2017 judgement. It also served to mask the factional nature of the W&J FC and the meeting they facilitated.

The March 2016 ‘self determination’ meeting was a gambit designed to unseat the NTRB  the was continuing to act for the claim group and seven of the applicant group members.  If given effect under the NTA the actions taken at that meeting would serve to reform the delivery of W&J claim group meetings under the auspices of the W&J FC faction.

Marcia Langton wrote about the Justice Reeves judgement and the factional nature of the W&J FC gambit in July 2017:

Then on May 4, 2016, Adrian Burragubba applied to the court to have four of these people dismissed and replaced with another four people. Justice Reeves dismissed his application on April 11, 2017. His reasons were clear: the notice issued by Burragubba and his minority faction was designed to ensure that only those Wangan and Jagalingou claimants who agreed with him received the notice and the majority of the Wangan and Jagalingou claimants were excluded.

https://www.pressreader.com/australia/the-saturday-paper/20170701/281517931139165

 

Holding onto the talking point

The W&J FC issued a reply to a Warren Mundine piece from shortly after the April 11 judgement. Here the W&J FC authors conflate the W&J claim group with the W&J FC who boycotted the April 2016 claim group meeting. Only by conflating the W&J FC faction with the W&J claim group, and by misrepresenting the established illegitimacy of the March 2016 meeting, is it possible to make the claim that the Adani ILUA was rejected “three times”.

Here’s a quote from the W&J FC reply to Warren Mundine that shows the talking point they retained after the April 2017 judgement and in the lead up to the publication of ‘Unfinished Business’.

The “one individual, holding himself out as representing the group” that Mundine disparages is assumed to be the one person who voted ‘no’ at the Adani meeting. We know that’s a reference to the Councils’ leader, Adrian Burragubba. But he wasn’t even at that meeting; and Mr Burragubba is backed by the family representatives and the W&J claim group who rejected Adani three times before. He is joined in litigation against the mining leases and the dodgy ILUA by other members of the registered claimant. He is also a member of the W&J Applicant and has uncontested rights as a primary Traditional Owner for the land on which Adani wants to build its mine.

http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/mundine-reduces-aboriginal-land-rights-and-first-nations-treaties/

In May 2017 W&J FC authors asserted that they have a mandate to object to Adani on behalf of the W&J claim group.

The W&J Traditional Owner Council, including representatives of 9 of the 12 apical families, has upheld the original decisions of the W&J claim group to reject an ILUA with Adani, and has followed through on the mandate given it to object to Adani’s deal.

http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/federal-resources-minister-senator-matt-canavan-is-misrepresenting-wangan-and-jagalingou-people-again/

This submission by the W&J FC to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in October 2017 shows that they retained their talking point even in the face of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Despite our rejections, Adani persisted, and our people again rejected an ILUA and any further dealings with Adani in March 2016.

 

Who has claim to the name “W&J”?

The group referred to as “W&J” in the collected writings of Quiggin et al is the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council. When I write about this particular entity which is effectively the same entity as the official partner organisation for the Global Change Institute project, I refer to them as W&J FC. It makes common sense that the earliest and most formally composed entity should be referred to with the initials W&J. In this instance the title “W&J” ought to refer to the Wangan and Jagalingou People claim group for the purposes of native title claims and  determinations. The W&J FC can be shown to have splintered off from the original claim group. The use of “W&J” to refer to a faction of the wider claim group serves to create the suggestion that the W&J FC are the active party representing the claim group in native title matters.

Indeed Quiggin et al create confusion by referring to the wider claim group as “W&J” when referring to events that happened before W&J FC was formed.  In Part 1 of Killing Country Quiggin et al made the following statement:

What differentiates the Wangan and Jagalingou is that they are the only Traditional Owner group, through the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council (W&J), who have said no – on 3 occasions, at bone fide meetings of the Native Title Claim Group – to an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani.

This statement clearly delineates the two entities while conferring the assignation W&J onto the group formed after mid 2014 when the claim group rejected a second ILUA.

The W&J first refused an agreement with Adani in 2012 and launched their public campaign in 2015, and since then have sustained a complex legal campaign that is now coming to the pointy end, with an outstanding case to be heard in March 2018.

There is no evidence to show that the W&J FC and associated entities existed in 2012. The above statement to conflate the W&J FC with the W&J claim group through the suggestion that the same entity rejected the same Adani ILUA at bone fide claim group meetings in 2012, 2014, and 2016 which is not the case.

There are numerous examples predating and following the collected writings of Quiggin et al showing journalists, politicians, and corporate spokespeople using “W&J” to refer to the “Wangan and Jagalingou people” or “W&J people” or the “W&J claim group”.

 

A gambit makes a talking point

From a story posted to the W&J FC website announcing the March 2016 meeting as a success.

In a landmark moment of self-determination and a major blow to the Adani Carmichael coal mine, the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people, traditional owners of the proposed mine site in QLD’s Galilee Basin, on the weekend voted for the third time to reject a land deal with Indian giant Adani for its proposed mega-mine.

W&J traditional owners came from all over Queensland to a meeting of the claim group and made it clear they will not be dictated to by a mining giant and manipulated by a complicit Government.

W&J traditional owner and spokesperson, Adrian Burragubba said, “Our people voted unanimously at an authorisation meeting to reject Adani’s repackaged deal, and to condemn them for falsely representing the position of the W&J people. We confirmed that no further negotiations with Adani will take place”.

The vote on Saturday follows two previous decisions of the majority to reject the Carmichael Mine, in 2012 and 2014, and heads off a third attempt by Adani to force a land use deal onto the W&J people.

It’s important to note that the National Native Title Tribunal had not had any time to respond to or process the outcomes of the March 2016 meeting at the time of the above statement.

http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/no/

 

Doing solidarity

Here’s a quote from a speech by Adrian Burragubba at the April 2016 Beyond Coal and Gas Conference.

The second part of our strategy is about the big picture — where we as First Nations people confront the dispossession and injustice that are met by Traditional Owners all across the country every day. It is a long-running political challenge that has been going on since colonisation in 1788.

In the same speech Adrian Burragubba shows that his thinking does not encompass the entire complex or the threat posed to W&J country by proposed rail corridor for which three other Traditonal Owner groups have signed ILUAs. His thinking does not seem to take account of the many other mines that a completed standard gauge rail project could help open upin the Galilee Basin to the North and South of the Carmichael mine site.

If we are successful in stopping this mine, then our country and our culture will be saved from destruction. So this is serious business for us.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/adrian-burragubba-struggle-save-country-adani

The ‘solidarity’ with Traditional Owners exercised by Quiggin et al is entirely contingent on the framed experience of one faction of one Traditional Owner group. While Adrain Burragubba states that he is concerned with the “big picture”, neither he nor any of his non-Indigenous allies have ever discussed or acknowledged the native title based struggles of the other Traditional Owners in the Galilee Basin coal complex area.

The phrase “Centring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights” appears in the name of the project for which Quiggin et al are the collective voice. This suggests that the experiences of all the Traditional Owners in the Galilee Basin coal complex ought to be considered. The failure of Quiggin et al to explicitly acknowledge the other Traditional Owners in the Galilee Basin coal complex demonstrates that no actual “centring” is taking place.

As far as I’m concerned solidarity with Traditional Owners requires consideration of the whole political economy. That means looking at the experiences of all the Traditonal Owners involved and consideration given to the effects of the threat of compulsory acquisition on the negotiating position of Traditional Owner groups who also negotiated with Adani. I’m left with the question of what can be expected of someone like Adrian Burragubba? Is it enough that his struggle and the struggles of his people and his family council may reveal the failures of the native title system in the context of mining developments and the manipulations of the local, state, and federal governments?

Personally, I think Adrian Burragubba and the W&J FC have been captured by interests with a desire to keep the narrative about native title in the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex simple, one group fighting valiantly to stop a mine. This places the W&J FC at risk of completely missing the opportunity of stopping the rail line which will deliver a potential flood of mines that will swamp their country in the future. Those interests who’ve captured the W&J FC do not fight to win the battle against the coal industry, rather, they fight to achieve attention metrics and further the interests of their funders who are largely based in the US. They are more concerned with ‘the narrative’ then they are about effective strategy.   There is no strategy to stop the rail line.

 

Framing out the coal complex

The “last line of defence” refrain from The Conversation article by Quiggin et al serves to frame the Carmichael mine project, and thereby the Traditonal Owners seen to be offering resistance to that project, as the primary means by which Adani poses a threat. By framing the Carmichael mine as the crucial project to stop, those who employ the “last line of defence” refrain further obscure the means of export – the North Galilee Basin Rail Project – that makes the Carmichael mine and all the other proposed mines in the Galilee Basin possible.

A quote from Part 4 of ‘Killing Country’

The Adani mine-rail-port project is not commercially viable, even under the most optimistic assumptions. That Adani has failed to achieve final close reflects the dubious economics on which this project is based.

While much remains obscure, it is clear that any public funds advanced to the project – a project that does not have the consent of the Traditional Owners – will be at high risk of loss.

https://newmatilda.com/2017/12/24/the-numbers-dont-stack-up-wjs-rights-on-the-chopping-block-for-adanis-non-viable-project/

The “Adani mine-rail-port project” does indeed – under the native title system – have the consent of the four Traditional Owner groups at the port, along the rail corridor, and at the mine site. In the above quote Quiggin et al conflate the coal complex with the mine while conflating the W&J FC with “the Traditional Owners”. This conflation reveals a fundamental failure to reflect the political and economic reality of the coal industry that their allies claim to be resisting. This can only lead to entrenched failure.

Quiggin et al appear to not be motivated by the desire to faithfully describe the relationship between multiple Traditional Owner groups and the leading proponent of a coal complex spanning a vast area. Though they acknowledge that the native title system offers weak ‘rights to negotiate’ and limited agency to exercise ‘rights and interests’, they resile from acknowledging the struggles of the majority of Traditional Owner groups who have negotiated with Adani under the same threat of compulsory acquisition.

As the voice of a project with partners involved in climate change campaigning, human rights law, environmental law, and the protection of sacred country, Quiggin et al were delivered talking points and framings that compelled them to direct their writing and perhaps their own thinking away from the ethical application of social and economic analysis. They focused their investigations and analysis on a deliberately isolated component project of a much larger development through their remit to make their analysis support the talking points of a faction of a single Traditional Owner group.

 

A judgement not to be ignored

Justice Reeves will provide his judgement on the very serious objections about how the April 2016 claim group meeting was run in the near future. The judgement will be controversial no matter who it favours. It will reveal detail about the function of Queensland South Native Title Services as the Native Title Representative Body for the Wangan and Jagalingou People claim group.

The W&J FC present many many legitimate questions for which the answers would be highly enlightening to many students and academics in the fields of law, anthropology, and political economy. In their March 2018 statement following Justice Reeves holding over his judgement regarding the April 2016 claim group meeting the W&J FC rightly point out that all members of the applicant group were notified by the Coordinator General of an intention to compulsorily acquire “all” W&J native title.

They ignore the claim that those individuals who engineered the deal with Adani say they were coerced by the Coordinator General by a threat of losing all native title rights.

http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/palaszczuk-whitewashes-our-rights-for-adani/

The March 2018 statement discussed above is the only publication I could find in which the W&J FC go into any detail about the functions of the QSNTS while actually naming them. I would argue that the W&J FC deliberately framed Adani as the active agent in manipulating the April 2016 claim group meeting by avoiding mention of the role and functions of the Queensland South Native Title Service in delivering authorisation meetings. The forthcoming judgement by Justice Reeves will show the depth of involvement of QSNTS in delivering the April 2016 claim group meeting and reveal Adrian Burragubba’s and the W&J FC’s Adani blaming as a misrepresentation of the functioning of the native title system in the delivery of authorisation meetings.

+++

Further Reading:

If we focused more on the political economy of the Galilee Basin coal complex we might see less aversive racism toward Traditional Owners

The Adani court case nobody is talking about

Aboriginal Autonomy and the Galilee Basin Coal Complex

 

The Climate Movement: Australia’s Patrons of Climate Change Activism

"Then there’s the revolving door. Some who opposed the CPRS when they worked for environmental groups now work in parliament for the Greens, where cheering for the CEF is expected. Meanwhile, like the carbon lobby, big-brand environmental groups recruit former political staffers and senior bureaucrats. Radicals have been replaced by ‘realists’ who know that if they collaborate with the powers that be – often former colleagues – they can secure incremental wins without threatening the system." …

The Nation Reviewed

By Guy Pearse

September 2011

With Tony Abbott up in the polls, both sides saying they’ll stand or fall on climate policy, and some believing effective ‘climate action’ and the fate of ‘progressive politics’ this decade are at stake, much of the environmental movement has decided it must cheer for Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Clean Energy Future (CEF) carbon-pricing package. As Abbott and an emboldened carbon lobby paint Gillard’s plan as economic Armageddon, environmentalists are cheering as if the clean energy revolution has begun.

Image Caption: Aided by Purves Environmental Fund, sculptor Mark Coreth rides his life-sized ice polar bear in Sydney, 3 June 2011. © Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Image Caption: Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

It’s a far cry from 2009 when the environmental movement split over the so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Climate Institute went one way – backing the CPRS in exchange for Labor adopting a highly conditional 25% emission-reduction target for 2020. The Greens, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Wilderness Society, Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and GetUp!, among others, went another way, knowing the conditions attached to the 25% target meant it wouldn’t happen. Now environmentalists are cheering almost as one, not just for ‘climate action’ but for Gillard’s plan.

The Greens, as co-authors, declare “the old, polluting ways will have to change and a new, exciting era is set to begin”; the ACF calls the plan an “important step to start Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy”; the Climate Institute calls it a “vital step towards lower pollution and clean energy in Australia”; the WWF says it “will finally create a financial incentive to change old habits and old technologies”. Even Greenpeace calls it “the fundamental first step in our journey towards a clean energy future”.

Everyone is emphasising that ‘first step’ bit, as if using the same talking points. Under the “Say Yes” banner, the message that ticking the carbon price box equals a clean energy future is being amplified. At one “Say Yes” rally, GetUp! boss Simon Sheikh declared: “Now is a moment of celebration” and “We’re ready to power our economy with 100% renewable energy. We say yes!” The banners proclaim: “Say yes to cutting carbon pollution” and “Unlock clean energy”. One GetUp! video affirms: “get rid of our reliance on fossil fuel”. It’s implied that the government’s plan will achieve these things.

But will it? The Greens say the CEF package is superior to the CPRS: the official 2050 emissions reduction target was 60% – now it’s 80%; the CPRS allowed unlimited use of imported carbon credits, allowing Australia to outsource almost all its obligations – now imported credits aren’t allowed until 2015 and then only for 50% of polluter liabilities; there’s a new Clean Energy Finance Corporation with $10 billion to spend and a Carbon Farming Initiative to encourage farmers to store more carbon in vegetation and soils. The Greens have sought to make backsliding harder by institutionalising what they can. So, for instance, governments will have to publicly explain if they choose not to accept emission cap recommendations from the proposed Climate Change Authority.

It’s better than the CPRS, but here’s the curious thing – most of the flaws of the CPRS remain in the CEF. Big polluters are again excused from paying for 66–94.5% of their emissions, notwithstanding Gillard’s claim that “big polluters will pay for every tonne of carbon pollution they put into our atmosphere”. There’s the same inadequate 5% unconditional emissions reduction target for 2020; same hypothetical 25% target; still no carbon price at the bowser; billions of dollars going to emission-intensive power generators; $1.3 billion to coal producers whose exports are Australia’s largest contribution to climate change; and handouts to householders still mean most Australians won’t notice a carbon price. It’s another huge money-go-round that intercepts the price signal a carbon tax is intended to send industry and consumers to drive a shift to lower-emission behaviour. The pledge to pay owners of 2 gigawatts of the most emission-intensive coal-fired generation to exit the industry is an admission pricing carbon this way won’t achieve even that.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the emission projections are familiar. Treasurer Wayne Swan and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet say the agreed package would “closely match” Treasury projections released earlier this year. They envisage Australia’s domestic emissions (excluding carbon credit imports) to “increase around 10% from 2010 to the late 2020s”. With the 50% limit on credit imports ending in 2020, we’d rely mainly on outsourcing emission cuts to meet our targets well into the 2030s. Even by 2050, domestic emissions are barely below 2000 levels! Meanwhile, even with the carbon price, and well before 2050, coal-industry output doubles.

For all Gillard’s hype that a carbon price will “turbo-charge” clean energy, projections show almost no increase in renewable energy deployment prior to 2020 beyond what’s required to achieve the existing 20% renewable electricity target. With coal exports doubling and coal seam gas exports growing faster, renewables would by 2020 still account for less than 2% of energy produced in Australia.

In truth, there’s much less difference between the two major parties than either side makes out: both have a 5% target; both price carbon – Labor through a carbon tax and emissions trading, the Coalition by effectively running a national tender process for emission reduction; both cosset fossil-fuel addiction – the Coalition mainly by paying farmers to increase carbon storage in soils, Labor by importing carbon credits.

Ask people in the movement why everyone’s cheering for a plan you’d expect them to stomach under sufferance and the responses all begin the same way: “This is strictly off the record.” Most cite partisan bias, driven more by Pavlovian habit than ideology. While relations with the Coalition have usually been acrimonious, Labor has delivered various groups their biggest wins and political influence. A former insider of the Climate Institute tells me its unofficial mission when established was to “get rid of John Howard”. Post-Howard the CEO is said to have defined its new role as being Labor’s “mine-sweeper”. A “Say Yes” campaign insider recently told me: “People are so desperate to get something rather than nothing that we’re all running cover for Labor; so, rather than getting a better scheme from them or the other side, it’s all about helping Gillard sell the scheme.”

Another reason cited for the cheering is the increasing tendency of environmental groups to focus on incremental wins. Rather than asking ‘What needs to be done?’, they’re asking ‘What’s possible soon, given the lie of the land?’ Rapid transitions to renewables and away from fossil-fuel exports are considered unthinkable, given the grip that coal companies and unions have on both major parties. Settling for much less ambitious goals and overstating their significance is easier.

Then there’s the revolving door. Some who opposed the CPRS when they worked for environmental groups now work in parliament for the Greens, where cheering for the CEF is expected. Meanwhile, like the carbon lobby, big-brand environmental groups recruit former political staffers and senior bureaucrats. Radicals have been replaced by ‘realists’ who know that if they collaborate with the powers that be – often former colleagues – they can secure incremental wins without threatening the system.

Most ‘suit-wearing’ greenies also sport a neo-liberal faith in markets, with many building careers promoting the idea that emissions trading is the solution to climate change. Thus, campaigners at groups such as the WWF, the ACF and the Climate Institute turn ‘think global, act local’ on its head, believing a global carbon trade is paramount, not local action. To a worldview that cares not where emissions are cut but that cuts are made globally, at least cost, importing carbon credits en masse and ignoring coal exports fits perfectly. Never mind that a lower carbon price makes renewables deployment here less viable. Ross Garnaut’s starring role on the national stage as a carbon-price Pied Piper from the neo-liberal establishment encapsulates the dominant mindset.

Lastly, there’s the widespread desire to fill the tent. Many said ‘never again’ after the suspension of the CPRS in 2009. The Mittagong Forum, which was founded a decade earlier in the Southern Highlands, NSW, and intended to keep the environment movement singing from a similar song sheet, was torn apart. The acrimony within the ACF was intense – irate members resigned. I’m told that the Climate Institute’s board ordered an internal review of strategy. Since then, the groups that did a backroom deal with then Prime Minister Rudd have been on a charm offensive – encouraging a much broader group to come on board. Frustrated campaigners explain that the more groups involved, the faster the race to the bottom. One tells me: “If you’ve got ACF, WWF and the Climate Institute in the tent, you can’t talk about export coal; can’t talk down ‘clean coal’ or importing carbon credits or carbon farming.” As the carbon price becomes the issue upon which Labor stands or falls and the Greens’ forward momentum depends, the tent is filling up with unions, celebrities and GetUp!, among others.

This partly explains the cheering, but it’s hard not to wonder if something else is also going on here. Money explains the behaviour of many campaigning against Gillard, as those in her corner are quick to highlight; the proudly sceptical and coal-friendly Institute of Public Affairs, for example, has admitted they rarely take a position different from the “dozen energy firms” who contribute funds to them, because “otherwise they’d stop funding us”. Should we expect different from those funding big-brand green groups? It might seem like a diverse range of groups are all concluding independently that Gillard’s carbon price equals clean energy future, but they’re largely funded through two wealthy farmers: Robert Purves and Mark Wootton.

Robert Purves is the former chair and major shareholder of health group DCA; Mark Wootton is married to Eve Kantor, Rupert Murdoch’s niece. Through the Purves Environmental Fund (PEF) and the Poola Foundation respectively, they bankroll most of Australia’s best known environment groups, including many of those behind the “Say Yes” show.

The Poola Foundation, established in 1995, has for years been the ACF’s principal donor. The ACF’s building was gifted by a Poola-linked company in 2009, providing a permanent rental income stream. A donation of $10 million from the estate of Eve Kantor’s late brother (administered by Wootton and Eve Kantor) established the Climate Institute in 2005, with another $4 million invested since. Climate change “couldn’t be left to the environment movement”, says Wootton. Through the Climate Institute, the Poola Foundation provides office space to support the AYCC, and it is the largest contributor to the Australia Institute think tank. It originally funded the Mittagong Forum and provided resources and personnel to establish the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network to co-ordinate environmental philanthropy.

Robert Purves is more prolific, particularly since establishing the PEF in 2004. He has given millions of dollars to the WWF, is the primary sponsor of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and supports the core global team running Earth Hour. A polar bear made of ice that paraded through Sydney streets in June was also Purves-funded. Few people realise that Purves substantially funded the writing and extensive promotion of Tim Flannery’s book The Weather Makers. The AYCC credits core funding provided by Purves, their only ‘gold supporter’, for their exponential growth in 2010. Purves has also funded Sustainable Business Australia, The Climate Group, the Climate Action Network Australia, the Copenhagen Climate Council and Clean Up Australia. He funds the Total Environment Centre and its Green Capital program, which hosted one of Julia Gillard’s first speeches after the release of the CEF package. Purves funds Terrestrial Carbon Group and the Bio-CCS Group, which push all manner of cheap carbon-credit generating alternatives to switching away from fossil fuels to help Australia meet emissions targets: carbon farming, forest protection abroad, growing algae with CO2 from coal-fired power stations. Through Sustainable Business Australia (SBA) he also co-hosts Carbon Expos for those keen to profit from trading such credits.

Wootton and Purves are hardly the only philanthropists assisting green causes. Wotif.com founder Graeme Wood’s record-breaking $1.6 million contribution to the Greens prior to the 2010 federal election drew plenty of attention. What sets Wootton and Purves apart is their ubiquity – especially on the issue of climate change – and their hands-on approach: Purves is a former president and current board member of WWF (Australia), a former board member of WWF (International), the chair of SBA, a governor of AYCC and the only non-scientist member of the Wentworth Group. Similarly, Mark Wootton chairs the Climate Institute board and, until recently, sat on the boards of both the ACF and the Australia Institute.

Moreover, both men appear to advocate the ‘carbon price as panacea’ approach championed by Rudd and now Gillard. “It’s all about putting a price on carbon,” says Purves; it’s a “conservative, market-based solution”, says Wootton. As far as I can tell, neither has publicly opposed continued coal export expansion, cast doubt over ‘clean coal’ or opposed the large-scale use of imported carbon credits. While both back renewable energy, they’re also strong advocates of bio-sequestration options that help avoid a switch away from fossil fuels. The organisations they fund take similar views; a coterie of corporations deeply enmeshed in vast new coal- and gas-mining projects, or simply poised to gain from the carbon credit opportunities promoted by Wootton and Purves, now co-fund the same organisations.

This is not to parallel the friendly takeover of environmentalism in the past decade with the self-interested clout exerted by those funding Australia’s carbon lobby. Wootton and Purves might gain from generating carbon credits on their farms, but by all reports their philanthropy is driven by genuine altruism rather than vested interest. However, they embody much of what movement insiders cite as problematic – neo-liberal minded corporate greenies chasing incremental results based on ‘what’s possible’. So perhaps it’s inevitable that, as more groups come to rely heavily on the same patronage, the environment movement’s centre of gravity has shifted.

If more people knew to what they were saying ‘yes’, and to whom, it’s hard not to wonder whether there’d be a lot less cheering. Now, as in 2009, the Poola Foundation and Purves-backed entities are teaming up with Labor to establish a minimalist carbon price deal that allows Australia’s contribution to climate change to keep increasing during the most crucial of decades and beyond. Naturally, Labor and its unions are geeing up the “Say Yes” crowd. The ACTU is again in the thick of the action and, having received a

$1.12 million donation from Australia’s largest coal union in 2010, GetUp! is cheering too. There’s been a cumulative cost of up to $5 million for the omnipresent ‘independent’ commentary produced by the Garnaut Climate Change Review from 2007–11. A $12 million advertising campaign is up and running and soon the government will distribute grants of “up to $250,000 for organisations to engage with the public on the opportunities of a clean energy future”. It’s a new strategy, but the same people and money taming environmentalists into backing yet another ineffective policy.

After a decade of false starts, Gillard’s plan shows beyond doubt that the only carbon price Australia will adopt is one that largely defeats the purpose of a carbon price. The Turnbull-backed CPRS was probably the best deal negotiable between the two major parties, just as the Gillard plan is probably the best the Greens could expect from a partnership with Labor. Pricing carbon this way does not equal a clean energy future, but that will take years to dawn on many in the cheer squad. Meanwhile, perhaps the best that can be said of the Gillard package is that passing it makes room for issues that the current debate has kept off the table. With the carbon price box finally ticked, the massive expansion in Australia’s fossil-fuel emission exports will become harder to ignore. When we finally confront that issue we’ll be getting serious as a nation about a Clean Energy Future.

http://www.themonthly.com.au/australia-s-patrons-climate-change-activism-climate-movement-guy-pearse-3786

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