The moderate Kimberley Land Council has previously signed a heads of agreement with the Gas Field Consortium and Western Australian government but this has been challenged by a progressive Aboriginal traditional lawmaker who disputes the KLCs right to control of the desired Gas Hub location,known as James Price Point. That legal challenge has been dismissed by the courts, nevertheless,Premier Barnett insists on pursuing his land confiscation "in the interests of giving Woodside certainty and providing aboriginals with "jobs".
Premier Barnett's contention is just the latest in the European colonial process of simply grabbing whatever they wish to take and paying or not what they wish as they please. The Premiers declaration that he wishes to provide Woodside with certainty presents the notion that Woodsides (and the consortium it represents) interests should have priority over any other.Or in broader terms that international capitals interests are of greater concern than local peoples and in particular local aboriginal people.Woodside or its consortium partners do not have any current interests in or association with the area. The Aboriginal claimants to the land have proven one of the longest continuous associations with and connections to land by any people anywhere in the world.The Kimberley Land Council position, as I believe is its duty,is to leverage the best possible opportunity it can for the whole its constituency as quantified by that community.
Premier Barnetts rationale-he ran out of patience- is really a shotgun to the heads of the local aboriginal community bullying them to accept such scraps as the Woodside Consortium and State Government might deign to throw their way in the form of short term "jobs". Premier Barnett cannot wait for proper scientific analysis of the undeniable environmental impact of the Gas Hub to be available and appropriately digested by the community prior to the parties entering into a binding agreement.
Aside from the areas concern to preserve its world renowned eco-tourism based on pristine marine ecology, there are the local Cobia and Whale breeding grounds. The gas hub will almost certainly bring more shipping to the area and navigational sonar and radar common to modern shipping has a negative impact on marine life navigational capabilities.
There is also a nebulous grey area relating to the mining "camp", said to be planned to house 5000 people, and its impact on the wider community as well as the much more local aboriginal communities. There is no clearly defined available surplus natural resource of potable water,leaving aside consideration of the massive call for this scarce commodity for industrial use. This aspect is a concern of the Civic authorities in nearby Broome, who are demanding that workers be subjected to prison like constraints on their liberties in their recreational time in a "closed camp" model. Unions representing minesite workers are understandably hostile to such a proposal.
The local aboriginal communities whose custodianship has had a lot to do with the current pristine state of the precarious ecology have due cause to express their concern.This project marks another step in the genocide of their culture.Land which is theirs will pass perhaps irreversibly to the short sighted hands of people who live in Ivory Towers in most cases in other countries.People whose actual interest in the proposed James Price Gas Hub is driven by a few lines representing dollars on an excel sheet. Whether that concern is articulated and settled by The Kimberley Land Council or another group is not the issue. The issue is that any progression of a project which could have such a profound impact on the local indigenous way of life should only progress with the informed consent of the community.
The Kimberley Land Councils position is by no means radical or even very progressive.They are content to see indigenous jobs flow from the project,with few other non housekeeping terms.They do not seek to share in ownership of the project as I would be advocating if my community was pro development.They do not seek leading edge environmental measures.They merely want the concerns and future of their community to be a significant factor. Isn't that fair?
Couched in the flowery language of colonialism Premier Colin Barnett's words and actions really say "Nigger,you have the right to do as you're told". To a chorus of applause from Woodside, BHP, BP and Chevron,those international masters of indigenous and environmental exploitation.
related interview with local aboriginal people from SBS "Living Black"