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Reinforcing False Narratives in the Galilee Basin Coal Complex: A Double Book Review

July 30, 2018

By Michael Swifte, WKOG Collective

 

 

On the 5th of November 2012 I emailed Ben Pennings for the first time. I felt I had received an education in thinking on environmental issues through his Facebook page Generation Alpha which was light-years ahead in quality of content compared to that put out by the environmental NGOs that were prominent at the time. A month later we organised a Zombie attack on my former employer, the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. A year later we were shareholder activists at the AGM of the Galilee Basin rail frontrunner Aurizon. We pitched legally vetted questions about activists blocking trains on the vast Aurizon networks. Months later Ben and I were both part of the founding Galilee Blockade group. My focus was capacity building for long term blockading while broadcasting the capacity we were building. I brought in a former military capability specialist turned anti-fracking and holistic agriculture campaigner. Some of our members joined in on a tour of the Galilee Basin with the recently arrived 350 dot org. Our members pitched our plans by a camp fire in the bush, and if my memory of the events conveyed to me by Galilee Blockade members serves me correctly, our plans were roundly dismissed. There were other plans afoot.

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‘The Coal Truth: The fight to stop Adani, defeat the big polluters and reclaim our democracy’ by David Ritter, with chapters by Adrian Burragubba, John Quiggin, Geoff Cousins and others. UWA Publishing

The first thing you should know about Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter is that he’s a highly regarded and widely cited native title lawyer. Having acted for Traditional Owners in the Pilbara region, and authored articles and books on the subject, he ought to be very familiar with the Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) who become prominent players when it comes to the pointy end of negotiations over Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs). He ought to be able to comprehend the likely state of play for all the Traditional Owners affected by the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex better than most people. And yet, on the subject of native title rights, Ritter effectively hands the mic to one representative of a faction of only one of the Traditional Owner communities who’ve negotiated with Adani.

When you shine a spotlight on one individual, group, or faction you cast all others into darkness. Spotlighting is my name for what the StopAdani coalition do to Traditional Owners. Invisiblisation of certain inconvenient Traditional Owners is the net effect of spotlighting.  I am left with questions about those Traditional Owner groups who are left in the shadows. It seems to me, for the sake of justice and proper investigation of the political economy of a coal complex, that the diversity of Traditional Owners should be considered. I’ve been left with these questions:

How can one representative’s position represent all Traditional Owners?

Are not the peoples worth mentioning?

Were they not also threatened with compulsory acquisition?

I believe that the testimony of Juru elder Carol Prior is entirely worthy of inclusion in any history of this ‘war over coal’.

In his introductory chapter Ritter recalls an email conversation with Robert Manne in which he highlights the importance of “truth-telling” in social movements. Reading this made me think of the suggestion embedded in the book’s title and prompted me to ask myself “Does this book contain the ‘whole truth’?”. My answer to that question is a resounding “No!”.

If Ritter was telling the whole truth he would have been very clear about the name of the rail project that was in line for Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) funding and likely the subject of Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) considerations. Greenpeace AP cleverly avoided naming the rail project in their ‘OffTrack’ report from December 2016 in which they substituted the actual project name, the ‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project’ which appears on 3 crucial ILUAs, for the fictional project name listed on the Adani Australia website, the ‘Carmichael Rail Project’.

If Ritter was telling the whole truth he would have stated that the Rockefeller Family Fund, Graeme Wood Foundation, and Bob Burton (with his extensive networks) helped John Hepburn get the ‘Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom’ plan and funding together. It’s not surprising that Ritter does not mention Hepburn’s Sunrise Project and it’s relationship with John Podesta, the Climateworks Foundation and the Sandler Foundation as revealed by Wikileaks in the Podesta emails. I encourage you to have a look at the phalanx of impact philanthropists who were also recipients of Hepburns update emails. They come across as very much like venture capitalists, but instead of their objective being profits, they seem to be more concerned with shaping the discourse and the institutional underpinnings of resistance.

If Ritter et al were telling the whole truth (half the book is filled with essays by ‘leaders’ like John Quiggin, Will Steffen, and Geoff Cousins) they would have lamented that the majority of the Stop Adani coalition/alliance members ignored content and reportage of direct actions on their social media accounts. Direct actions by Frontline Action on Coal occurred in the Galilee and Bowen basins, and on Juru lands near Abbot Point starting in September 2017. Each of these actions materially slowed work being done by Adani and it’s contractors. In October 2017 I had an email conversation with 350 dot org dot au CEO Blair Palese about the sorry situation of direct actions involving arrests that were receiving little to no amplification from the institutions that existed to further the aims of those protesters. Palese explained to me that the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission had been investigating 350 AU and other organisations, and it was identified that sharing certain content could compromise campaign efforts. The saddest example of this is rather feeble explanation was when, 6 hours into the first ever direct action against Adani in the Galilee Basin, Missy Higgins announced her new role as ‘StopAdani ambassador’. I urged her through Twitter to make her first act as an ambassador to celebrate the efforts of activists in physically stopping machinery. Sadly there was no sharing of direct action content or coverage from the new ambassador. I’ve come to believe that the StopAdani coalition/alliance members value the brands and institutions they maintain so much that they are not prepared to compromise them in order to share the whole truth of direct actions.

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‘Adani and the War Over Coal’ by Quentin Beresford. NewSouth Publishing

Quentin Beresford is in the unique position of being the supervisor for the only published academic investigation that covers ILUA negotiations with Adani relating to the Galilee Basin coal complex. An honours thesis by Kate Arnautovic was drafted in early 2017 shortly before Justice Reeves determined that the March 2016 “self-determined” meeting facilitated by the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council (W&J FC) was not properly constituted as a legitimate authorisation meeting under the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA). Arnautovic’s thesis focussed on the history of negotiations between Adani and the Wangan and Jagalingou People of which the W&J FC are a faction. I can only guess at why the Arnautovic thesis focusses on only one Traditional Owner group in the development of a coal complex.

Beresford ought to be familiar with Principle 1 of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) –  Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (GERAIS) which is about “recognition of diversity and uniqueness of peoples”. Beresford was co-supervisor on a 2015 doctoral thesis on ‘ethical research in Indigenous contexts’ which covered the various sets of ethical guidelines available including those developed by AIATSIS. But no guidelines provide detail about the ethics of ignoring Indigenous communities in selecting research subjects and framing research questions. The question that Beresford must ask himself is:

“Would the Juru, Birri, Jannga, and Wangan and Jagalingou peoples benefit from academic research into native title negotiations with Adani across the entire coal complex area?”

The collected works of John Quiggin, Kristen Lyons and Morgan Brigg were written in partnership with the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council in a project hosted by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland called ‘We Are The People From That Land: Centring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Transition to a Sustainable, Low-Carbon Future’. These collected works were written by academics and published on progressive online platforms, but they contain no references or citations. Instead they rely on published and unpublished testimony from members of the W&J FC . The scope and framing of these works did not include all Traditional Owner groups who negotiated with Adani. Here too the mine and the Traditional Owners of the proposed mine location were the focus. The fact that Adani have all of the necessary rail corridor ILUAs in place was somehow contextually insignificant.

Each of the seven pieces of writing that make the collected works of Quiggin et al were published after Justice Reeves’ April 2017 judgement regarding the March 2016 “self-determined” meeting. But the existence of Justice Reeves determination was never acknowledged, and hence evidence of the factional split was masked off from view. Quiggin et al were in the partnership to give a voice and legitimacy to a narrative position supported by Graeme Wood and the networks built and maintained by John Hepburn and the Sunrise Project. In their first piece ‘Unfinished Business’ they paraphrased their W&J FC partners, but by the end of their New Matilda series called ‘Killing Country’ the authors had fashioned a talking point that the poorly constituted “self determined” meeting was “bona fide”. The Federal Court, and more specifically, Justice Reeves is the final arbiter of what, under the NTA, can be deemed to be “bona fide”. Any claim about the legitimacy of a native title authorisation meeting, no matter how righteous, must satisfy the requirements of the NTA. The false claims made about the March 2016 meeting after April 2017 only serve to misinform the public and can only exist because Quiggin et al, the W&J FC, David Ritter, Anthony Esposito, Tony McCoy and Quentin Beresford remain silent when they ought to provide a position.

Marcia Langton has provided the most important criticism of the W&J FC alliances and messaging. In a piece titled ‘Adani, native title and risky strategies’ published in The Saturday Paper in July 2017 Langton lays her arguments at the feet of Tony McAvoy and to a lesser extent Adrian Burragubba. McAvoy is the nephew of Burragubba; a W&J man; Australia’s first and most highly established Indigenous silk; and a native title lawyer of high regard. McAvoy didn’t author a reply to Langton preferring to let journalist Joshua Robertson share his very general dismissals of her arguments, namely: that there were indeed other Traditional Owners who have negotiated with Adani; that the McGlade amendments weren’t about the W&J Adani ILUA; and that Graeme Wood and the Sunrise Project had provided substantial financial support to establish the W&J FC. Beresford does not mention Marcia Langton or Warren Mundine. Langton’s name does not appear in the index, nor does her The Saturday Paper piece appear in the bibliography. Beresford dedicates 5 words to Langton and Mundine, “criticism from some Aboriginal spokespeople” without ever mentioning their names”.

Beresford attends to accusations that the Sunrise Project provided funding to the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council in 2014, but only in the context of so called ‘conservative” media. While Hepburn has admitted that some “logistical support” was provided to the W&J FC, the true nature of that support has never been forthcoming. Beresford paraphrases Hepburn’s argument that it ought not be shocking or surprising that a Clinton senior advisor was being briefed on developments in the campaign. This argument ignores the significance of the collected impact philanthropies represented in the list of email recipients and the crucial role played by John Podesta and the Clinton Foundation in the politics and business of climate change. Beresford argues that Hillary Clinton has a commitment to “implementing the Paris agreement”, but if you look at Podesta’s efforts with the Climateworks Foundation, The Clinton Foundation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Obama’s ‘Clean Power Plan’, and the Democrat’s support for the suite of new carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) bills, you will see a pattern of support for continued fossil fuel use. Hepburn’s emails to Podesta and others are a lot more significant than Beresford suggests. Hepburn indicated that he was prepared to go to extreme lengths to hide knowledge of the funding of his organisation and the relationship it had with the spotlighted Traditional Owner faction for the StopAdani coalition/alliance.

The most important piece of infrastructure in the Galilee Basin coal complex is the rail line, the means of export for up to a dozen mines. The rail project in question is mentioned only twice in Beresford’s book and does not appear in the index. The North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) is listed with the Queensland Department of State Development (DSD). No link appears in the bibliography which contains no more than a handful of references that name or make reference to primary source documents that confirm that the NGBR is Adani’s preferred rail project.

The NGBR was named in 2016 when the Queensland Minister for State Development Anthony Lynham announced that the ‘combined project’ was now a “critical infrastructure” project and it was named when the Queensland premier issued her veto letter to Adani stopping the controversial Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) concessional loan. As Lissa Schindler of Brisbane based figurehead group the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said recently regarding the NGBR link “It’s their Achilles heel – if we stop the railway we stop the mines.”. While people like Michael West and Adrian Burragubba might argue that Adani can’t build their rail line without the Carmichael mine, I would contend that the opposite is true. No mines can be built in the Galilee Basin without a standard gauge rail line. Understanding the negotiations and relationships that make the NGBR possible are imperative if any efforts to stop colonised neo-liberal forces from opening up the Galilee Basin for decades of mining are to be successful.

In November 2013 Adani reported that Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) had been made with Traditional Owners along the NGBR corridor. The status of negotiations with the Juru, Birri, and Jannga peoples was discussed in the report. At this stage John Hepburn et al had worked with US based global foundations and local impact philanthropists to develop broad plans which had been shared across networks like the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA). Beresford asserts that these efforts were “at the grass roots”. I was here in Brisbane and watched as the networks were developed, and philanthropically incubated players like 350 dot org and Avaaz were introduced. There was no grass roots campaign, just the capture of the efforts of good but misguided people. Anti tar sands campaigners Macdonald Stainsby and Dru Oja Jay coined a term for this back in 2009, they called it “offsetting resistance”. In a fashion that would be familiar to the early climate justice campaigners against the Athabasca tar sands Wood, Burton and Hepburn cooked up a plan that laid a path for 350 dot org to set up in Australia. Networks were effectively exploited across environmental NGOs, the Greens party and the media to advance particular talking points and ignore primary sources that threatened to compromise an oversimplified narrative.

When former Melbourne based renewable energy and climate campaigner Ellen Roberts is introduced by Beresford she is presented as part of a small local team at the Mackay Conservation Group. Roberts was active with the MCG when they were working with the Environmental Defenders Office – New South Wales on a court case against Adani. EDO NSW like EDO Qld had been allocated funding under the Hepburn/Burton/Wood plan. Roberts now works for Get Up as the lead Queensland organiser and is an ordinary member on the Queensland Conservation Council executive. Both of these organisations help fund the MCG legal challenge. In 2013 the Sunrise Project partnered with The Change Agency and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW to create the Community Organising Fellowship. In 2014 Roberts, while at MCG, graduated from the fellowship.

In my March 2017 phone conversation with MCG coordinator Peter McCallum I was told that they had a tiny team that shared a limited number of full time roles. In 2013 and 2014 the MCG were staffed by imported personnel like Roberts and similarly the North Queensland Land Council employed former Greenpeace political lobbyists Jeremy Tager. It seems that the networks were always able to furnish ‘grassroots’ groups with new staff. Indeed the 8 months I spent in 2012 managing the Facebook page for the Friends of the Earth (FoE)- 6 Degrees team in Brisbane introduced me to a team, all of whom moved on to positions with Greenpeace, the Greens, Coast and Country, Market Forces and others I’m sure. In the years since that time I have realised the role FoE plays as an incubator. It gave the modern climate justice movement Ellen Roberts.

Impact philanthropists excel at marketing particular narratives and creating the impression among the public that well funded campaigns spring from the grass roots. They do this through partnerships, grants and most crucially the exploitation of networks. The best metaphor I can find for the way highly networked philanthropy works is the American football concept to ‘run inference’. At the heart of offensive strategy is the use of offensive team members to create opportunities for the ball carrier to score touch downs by interfering with defending players to create an unimpeded path to the end zone. In the same way the EDOs, Environmental Justice Australia, The Australia Institute, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis run interference for the StopAdani team.

In Ritter’s book former advertising mogul, environmental crusader and conservationist Geoff Cousins got given a whole chapter to talk about his scrambling visit to India. In Beresford’s book the business man and CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) also gets plenty of opportunity to speak, mostly about himself. The ACF effectively replaced the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as the formal directorate for reef based campaigning in the lead up to the creation of the Stop Adani coalition. Over the 2016/17 summer break the Fight for the Reef campaign became the Fight for Our Reef campaign. In May 2017, the same month that the ACF published Michael West’s ‘Dirty Deeds’ report on the NAIF and Adani which contained no mentions of the NGBR, ACMS published their poorly referenced ‘fact sheet’ on the “Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project”. This document did mention the NGBR, but unlike the report commissioned for ACF by ACIL Allen for the senate NAIF inquiry, it quoted the rail corridor length for Adani’s fictional ‘Carmichael Rail Project’. This is a common mistake that has been made by amateurs and professionals. The NGBR length is listed as 310km while the combined length of NGBR and the rail component of Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) is 388km. My phone calls to ACMS staff did not reveal with any certainty who authored the fact sheet or if there was any willingness to improve the referencing. It was suggested to me at one stage that the fact sheet may have been prepared by StopAdani dot com.

Beresford’s book was drafted before the May 24 proceedings brought by Juru Enterprises Limited (JEL) against Adani and the Juru Aboriginal corporation Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation (KMYAC). The concerns highlighted in the court proceedings which I attended have been articulated by Juru common law holders from since at least the middle of 2015. The confused reporting of Advisian who consulted to the Queensland Department of State Development on the Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project provides evidence that the neither the DSD nor Advisian knew where they stood in terms of Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) and which Juru body should deliver them. Justice Rares determined that KMYAC who were placed under examination by the regulator of Aboriginal corporations the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) in October 2016 and placed into special administration in October 2017 made invalid ancillary agreements with Adani which diverted funds to the struggling KMYAC. Justice Rares determined that JEL were the “Juru nominated body” for the purposes of the 2013 ILUA and ancillary agreements with Adani. JEL have complained recently that Adani have been unresponsive since Justice Rares judgement came down and are currently seeking a stop order so that proper CHMP assessments can made with the appropriate bodies.

Ben Smee from The Guardian Australia has the honour of being the first journalist outside the NewsCorp silo to report on the travails of KMYAC. He is more concerned with his informants in JEL and the Juru people opposed to ILUAs with Adani than he is about the parlous state of KMYACs finances. I have suggested to him through social media that he ought to look at the role played by the former KMYAC chair and her current employer, the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC). The NQLC are the NTRB for the Juru People. As such they have facilitated authorisation meetings with Adani for both JEL and KMYAC. They also provide anthropological services and legal support as well as having the responsibility to support good governance in Indigenous organisations for the benefit of  Traditional Owner communities. The former chair of KMYAC is the director for the Townsville/Ayr Ward and the treasurer of the NQLC. If there is substance to Carol Prior’s concerns in 2014 that Traditional Owners on Palm Island had not been adequately notified of authorisation meetings for the Adani-NGBR ILUA, then the former KMYAC director is in the frame along with the NQLC.

Last week Ben Smee joined Bec Horridge on 3CR Earth Matters community radio show to talk about the concerns of his Juru informants. He didn’t mention the NQLC or how long Carol Prior has been loudly calling for transparency from KMYAC inside the Townsville Bulletin/NewsCorp silo.  Bec Horridge followed on from her discussion with Smee to share her 2017 interview with Carol Prior along with a recording of a recent speech. Horridge has been sharing Carol Prior’s testimony wherever she can. I convinced a friend at 4ZZZ ECORADio to broadcast Carol Prior’s testimony, but other than the few opportunities Horridge has hustled, Carol Prior’s testimony has been ignored. The StopAdani coalition are happy to have ‘Aunty’ Carol’s face on film and share general statements about her fight, they like to call her ‘aunty’, but they don’t share her testimony like Bec Horridge does. The Stop Adani coalition/alliance, Ritter and Beresford completely ignore the struggles of the Juru people while telling heavily filtered story of the Galilee Basin coal complex.

The crucial role played by Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) is completely ignored by Beresford. Indeed it wasn’t until early in 2018 that either the W&J FC through their website or Quiggin et al in the Morgan Brigg instalment of Killing Country went into any detail about the what functions the Queensland South Native Title Service (QSNTS) actually serve in the delivery of an authorisation meeting. The very serious allegations made against Adani by Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson on behalf of the W&J FC necessarily implicate QSNTS. Indeed QSNTS staff would have to have allowed the alleged non-W&J people to attend and vote at the contested meeting. The contested registration of the April 2016 ILUA between the Wangan and Jagalingou People and Adani is the subject of a judgement held over from court proceedings in March 2018. If the judgement invalidates the ILUA then the Stop Adani coalition/alliance will claim a victory, but it will be the actions of QSNTS that will be in the frame exposing key failings of the native title system.

Tony McAvoy SC should be very familiar with the functioning of QSNTS having written in detail about the implementation of the 2007 reforms to the NTA and their implementation within the QSNTS. McAvoy sits on the Aboriginal Advisory Committee of the NSW EDO and in November 2017 he was a special guest along with Pat Anderson AO at the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) – Annual Dinner. ALHR are a partner in the Global Change Institute project for which Quiggin et al provided a voice. Did McAvoy advise that blame for manipulation of claim group member identification at the April 2016 authorisation meeting be squarely aimed at Adani rather than pointing the spotlight at the functions of the W&J People’s NTRB?

The native title system’s most crucial functions for delivering ownership-extinguishing contracts to miners are the simple majority votes at authorisation meetings by claim group members on ILUAs, and certifying the simple majority vote of the applicant group representing family and clan groups. Both of these functions are performed by NTRBs like QSNTS and the NQLC. If Adani has manipulated the native title system to secure ILUAs it has done it with the help of these 2 organisations and the ever present threat of compulsory acquisition by the state government. Only the interrogation of processes and accountabilities within bodies like the NNTT and ORIC can highlight the ways that the ILUA negotiation process, facilitation of claim group meetings, the execution and certification of ILUAs, and the limited non-commercially sensitive information provided to the NNTT for the purposes of accountability and arbitrating conflicts can mask manipulation of process by NTRBs.

Sometime after February 20, 2018 the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) published RTI 15-315 which contained Adani’s map of the Galilee Basin coal complex area featuring the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the boundaries of the four Traditional Owner groups along the NGBR corridor. This map had been provided to DNRM in early 2016. It would have been incredibly enlightening to the public if it had been made available back in 2016. I shared this map with StopAdani coalition/alliance members who took no interest.

Beresford follows the pattern set by StopAdani, the Qld state government, Adani, coalition member organisations, the ABC, The Guardian Australia, Fairfax, NewsCorp, and progressive and leftists media organisations in not telling the whole story and masking off the public’s access to primary sources and relevant discourses. The spotlighting of one Traditional Owner faction while largely ignoring all other groups, the silences around the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the signed ILUAs along it’s corridor, the silences about the struggles of the Juru People, and the tendency to ignore direct actions by Frontline Action on Coal and Galilee Blockade are the behaviours that characterise the StopAdani coalition/alliance in their messaging, networking, and the content of their communications. The well briefed journalists, authors like Beresford, and the revolving doors that shuffle activists back and forth from .orgs to the Greens party serve to reinforce the talking points of the StopAdani coalition/alliance.

If there are any people whose work I would recommend in relation to the ‘war over coal’, or more correctly, the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex, it would be the following three women. The first is activist, inventor, and world class train stopper Annette Schneider who saved me from permanent exclusion from the Lock the Gate Group Page on Facebook in spite of our very different takes on Galilee Basin development. The second is Bec Horridge whose commitment to capturing the testimony of people on the frontlines is unmatched. The third is Dr Lily O’Neill, a person who understands the tension created when the values of Aboriginal autonomy are weighed up against the imperative to protect the environment.

 

References you wont find in either book

Academic writing

‘A tale of two agreements: negotiating aboriginal land access agreements in Australia’s natural gas industry’. PHD Thesis by Dr Lily O’Neill

https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/111978

News and feature articles

‘Adani, native title and risky strategies’ by Marcia Langton

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2017/07/01/adani-native-title-and-risky-strategies/14988312004864

‘Leading Indigenous lawyer hits back at Marcia Langton over Adani’ by Joshua Robertson

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/09/leading-indigenous-lawyer-hits-back-at-marcia-langton-over-adani

‘Adani’s Australian project to generate $22 billion in taxes and royalty’ by Debjoy Sungupta (while Geoff Cousins was in India – not reported in Australia)

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/indl-goods/svs/metals-mining/adanis-australian-project-to-generate-22-billion-in-taxes-and-royalty/articleshow/57692866.cms

Institutional reports and government sources

‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project: Project overview’. Queensland Government – Department of Sate Development, manufacturing, Infrastructure, and Planning https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/assessments-and-approvals/north-galilee-basin-rail-project.html

‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project – Environmental Impact Statement: Chapter 15, Cultural Heritage’. Adani Mining Pty Ltd

http://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/adani/pdf/volume-1-chapter-15-cultural-heritage.pdf

‘Burragubba on behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou People v State of Queensland [2017] FCA 373’. Justice Reeves, Federal Court of Australia

https://jade.io/article/526911

‘Australian Conservation Foundation – Carmichael – Abbot Point Rail: Financing Issues for Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility’ (Prepared by ACIL Allen for submission to the NAIF senate inquiry). The report can be found on this page listed as Attachment 1 in the ACF submission.

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/NAIF/Submissions

‘Question on Notice (Hansard, 20 October 2016, page 125 -126): SI-36’. Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science

http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/Committees/economics_ctte/estimates/sup_1617/Industry/answers/SI-36_Waters.pdf

‘Answers to questions on notice received from the Australia Institute on 5 September 2017, following a public hearing in Canberra on 11 August 2017’. The Australia Institute

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/NAIF/Additional_Documents

‘QI2011/011 – Hancock Alpha Coal Project ILUA (Wangan and Jagalingou Area)’. The National Native Title Tribunal

http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/Pages/ILUA_details.aspx?NNTT_Fileno=QI2011/011

‘Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies: 2012’. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/research-and-guides/ethics/gerais.pdf

‘Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines: RTI 15-315’.

https://www.dews.qld.gov.au/rti-tool/dnrm/15-315

‘Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project Environmental Impact Statement Volume 4 – Supplement Report’ (Prepared by Advisian for the Queensland Department of State Development)

https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/resources/project/abbot-point-apx/supplement-report-part1.pdf

Websites

‘Native title holders lodge objection to proposed North Galilee Basin rail project’ by Isobel Roe

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-20/native-title-holders-lodge-objection-to-proposed/5826168

‘Premier Palaszczuk whitewashes our rights for Adani’. Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council

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

‘North Galilee Basin Rail approvals and NAIF’. Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland

https://www.edoqld.org.au/galilee_basin_rail_approvals_naif

‘LIVE BLOG: Week of frontline action to #StopAdani’. Green Left Weekly

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/live-blog-week-frontline-action-stopadani

‘Juru traditional owners call for Adani to stop work’. Bec Horridge with Ben Smee featuring interviews with ‘Aunty’ Carol Prior

http://www.3cr.org.au/earthmatters/episode-201807151100/juru-traditional-owners-call-adani-stop-work

 

 

 

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

 

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