Aboriginal interests don’t get a look-in as cashed-up cynics work the courts.
Last week the leader of a major Australian political party encouraged his supporters to break the law to stop a coalmine. Indeed, he claimed he would be willing to break the law, too. Richard Di Natale’s call to arms may have been irresponsible, but it was also premeditated. All part of the plan.
Back in 2011, a bunch of green activist groups, including GetUp!, Greenpeace, Lock the Gate and Environmental Defenders’ Offices, met in the Blue Mountains to produce a document called Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom. The document was later leaked to the media. Ironically, it was funded by the US-based Rockefeller Family Fund — created with profits from the US oil boom. The foreign greenies had a nine-step plan, the first being holding up projects in court. According to the plan, legal challenges “can delay them (the coal projects) in order to buy time to build a much stronger movement and powerful public campaigns”. In other words, these green activists have been abusing our judicial system to further a political agenda.
That first step played out to the script. The proposed Adani Carmichael coalmine has been subject to seven legal challenges in its tortuous eight-year approval history. Green activist groups have lost every one of these legal cases, except one when the federal Department of Environment forgot to tick a box on an approval form. A remade approval has withstood challenge in the courts.
Adani estimates that it has spent $150 million defending and responding to these frivolous and vexatious actions. Adani has already made the biggest investment in Australia from an Indian company, in the Abbot Point coal terminal. The mine and rail project would be bigger again. If we are serious about taking the opportunities presented by the Asian century we must not let this chance pass.
During the past month the greenies put up the white flag in the courts. They had until late last month to lodge appeals to two court cases they had lost. They failed to do so. That leaves just one outstanding potential legal case against Adani, in regards to its native title registration, which lower courts have already upheld.
Finally, the long-suffering jobseekers of north Queensland see relief in sight. But the foreign-funded green activists don’t want to let that happen. The next step of their “Battle of the Galilee” (their words, not mine) is to “launch a high-profile public campaign”. This step kicked off during the past month with a “week of action” in the town of Bowen, the closest town to Adani’s Abbot Point terminal.
The foreign greenies were at pains to describe to the media that they were “locals”. Since many of them were arrested by police we can check this claim. On one day 10 protesters were arrested by police. Of them only two, from Airlie Beach and Mackay, could be considered “locals”. Of the other eight, three were from Canberra, and the rest were from Brisbane and NSW.
This week three of them (all from NSW) faced court and were given two-month good behaviour bonds. In response, one said: “The reason we came up and did what we did was for the locals here, to give them a national voice.” I appreciate his concern but I think north Queenslanders can speak for themselves. Those locals include the traditional owners of the land where the mine will be located, the Wangan and Jagalingou people. They voted 293 to one in favour of the mine last year but, of course, Di Natale and his green activist friends know better.
I agree with Marcia Langton that much of the green opposition to development projects that Aboriginal people support amounts to the second coming of terra nullius. These greenies are just the latest army of whitefellas the Wangan and Jagalingou people have had to fight.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of brutal reprisals launched by white pastoralists on the Wangan and Jagalingou people near Emerald. An estimated 300 Aborigines were killed and many of the survivors were rounded up and transported to the Cherbourg Aboriginal mission more than 600km away. The Wangan and Jagalingou people lost that first Battle of the Galilee. We should honour their memory and make reconciliation in this country more than just empty words.
All Australians who share this view should stand with the Aboriginal people and make sure the second Battle of the Galilee results in an emphatic victory for Aboriginal land rights and opportunity by allowing them to work in a mine that they support on their land.
Matt Canavan is a senator for Queensland.