We Suspect Silence

What you don't say and what you don't do will define you.

Put the North Queensland Land Council in the frame

On September 23, 2017 the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC) held it’s ward elections for 2017 – 2019. At those elections the then chair of Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation (KMYAC) was reelected to the position of ward director for the NQLC Townsville/Ayr ward.

Here’s a quote from NQLC CEO Steve Ducksbury.

 I also offer my warm congratulations to the existing Directors who were re-elected: Ms Kaylene Malthouse and Ms Tracey Heenan in the Tablelands Ward, Mr Garry Mooney in the Mackay/Proserpine Ward, Mr Terry O’Shane in the Cairns Ward, Ms Angie Akee in the Townsville/Ayr Ward; Ms Patricia Dallachy in the Charters Towers/Hughenden Ward; and Mr Victor Maund in the Innisfail Ward.

On September 22, 2017 the North Queensland Land Council ceased to act for KMYAC who were at that stage in the second period of examination by the regulator of Aboriginal corporations, the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC).

Here’s another quote from NQLC chief executive Stephen Ducksbury.

The NQLC ceased to act for (Kyburra) on 22 September 2017 following an unsuccessful mediation … where it became apparent that the parties could not reach agreement

On August 25, 2017 ORIC issued a ‘show cause’ letter to KMYAC directors asking why KMYAC should not be placed into special administration.

I am writing to tell you that I am considering putting the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (ICN 7581) (the corporation) under special administration under Division 487 of the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act).

Four weeks after the NQLC ward elections, on October 17, 2017 KMYAC was placed into special administration. KMYAC directors, under the leadership of the Townsville ward director and treasurer of the NQLC, were actively avoiding providing financial records to ORIC from October 2016 when the first examiner was appointed until October 2017 when KMYAC was placed into special administration.

On October 17, 2017 through placing KMYAC into special administration, ORIC special administrators effectively deposed the KMYAC directors making the NQLC treasurer and Townsville ward director a former chair of KMYAC.

June 29, 2018 marked the end of the fourth period of special administration of KMYAC and it is abundantly clear from the recent judgement by Justice Rares in court proceedings brought against KMYAC and Adani by Juru Enterprises Limited (JEL) that KMYAC is highly likely to be placed into insolvency with significant debts including worker’s entitlements. Justice Rares’ judgement confirms the repeated statements made by the ORIC administrators in communications available on the ORIC KMYAC documents page.

In spite of the repeated warnings of the imminent insolvency of KMYAC by the special administrators ORIC has once again extended special administration of KMYAC until August 31, 2018.

Here’s a quote from Justice Rares May 24 judgement.

Contemporaneously, when filing Kyburra’s defence on 19 April 2018, the administrators wrote to the Court. The letter stated that Kyburra had a deficiency of assets over liabilities, was insolvent, was likely to be placed into liquidation and would take no further part in the proceeding.

The NQLC allowed the KMYAC chair to be reelected while there was a ‘show cause’ letter in effect. The KMYAC chair was on the verge of being deposed as a director of the very type of Aboriginal corporation for which NQLC ward directors have responsibility. The  main purpose of the NQLC is to support Registered Native Tittle Bodies Corporate (RNTBCs) like KMYAC to securely manage and negotiate rights and interests under native title system.

As a director and office holder of NQLC the now former KMYAC chair is an agent of the Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) which acts as intermediary between government, corporations, and other entities on behalf of RNTBCs in relation to land use agreements. The expectations placed on an NQLC director are high.

Here’s a quote from the NQLC fact sheet ‘What it means to be an NQLC Director’.

 The vision of the NQLC is for a region in which the native title rights and interests of every Native Title Holder has been legally recognised and in which Aboriginal people benefit economically, socially and culturally from the secure possession of their traditional land and waters. To ensure the continuance of an organisation with good governance as a fundamental and which gives Traditional Owners a representative Board through the Ward election process.

Here’s a quote from the same fact sheet that strongly suggests that the former KMYAC chair’s position as a NQLC director is untenable.

You are disqualified by the Head Agreement for Indigenous
Grants and the Project Schedule thereto for general grants
for native title representative bodies and service providers
if:

[ ]

Is or was a director or occupied an influential position
in the management or financial administration
that had failed to comply with funding or grant
requirements of the Commonwealth, the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Island Commission or its
predecessors

 

Who should put the NQLC in the frame?

The Guardian Australia’s Ben Smee wrote two articles last week about the outcome of a Federal Court hearing that I attended on May 24, 2018 in Brisbane. These were the first two non-paywalled mainstream media stories to be published on this particular controversy. Reportage has remained inside the NewsCorp/Townsville Bulletin paywall since Samantha Healey wrote about the efforts of Juru people to get ORIC to investigate KMYAC back in October 2016.

‘Indigenous group hid more than $2m in payments from Adani mining giant’. Ben Smee, The Guardian Australia. June 22, 2018.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jun/22/indigenous-group-hid-more-than-2m-in-payments-from-adani-mining-giant?CMP=share_btn_tw

‘Adani coal port under threat of stop order amid concern for sacred sites’. Ben Smee, The Guardian Australia. June 28, 2018.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/28/adani-coal-port-under-threat-of-stop-order-amid-concern-for-sacred-sites

It wasn’t until June 29, 2018 that StopAdani coalition members and their allies began to share, for the first time ever, a news story or any other content about the trevails of KMYAC. Carol Prior (they call her “Aunty”) who spearheaded the complaint to ORIC and whose face the Stop Adani coalition routinely include in the promotional content, has been fighting to reveal the financial mismanagement of  KMYAC for years. The story the StopAdani coalition members shared today was the second of the two pieces written by Ben Smee.

Ben Smee and The Guardian Australia should put NQLC in the frame. Right now it seems that the Ben Smee pieces were written to put Adani in the frame. It is concerning that Adani appear to be stonewalling JEL who are the Juru Nominated Body for the Indigenous land use agreement made with the assistance of the NQLC in 2013. The full judgement by Justice Rares was published on June 12.

Ben Smee has his own sources for Adani’s stonewalling behaviour. The May 24, 2018 court proceedings related to the actions of KMYAC and Justice Rares’ judgement indicates that KMYAC took actions that were not in accordance with the Native Title Act.  But, the issue of Adani stonewalling JEL is separate from the court proceedings brought against KMYAC and Adani. Justice Rares did not find against Adani, he found against KMYAC for making themselves the Juru Nominated Body for an ancillary agreement to the 2013 ILUA . The court judgement relates specifically to actions taken in April 2017 by KMYAC directors while the organisation was likely insolvent and actively resisting the first ORIC examiner.

The  comments quoted below were posted to the Stop Adani Facebook page on June 28. They appear to have been copied verbatim by the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG)on their facebook page. The MCG are a long term partner to the StopAdani coalition and it’s predecessors. These comments demonstrate a deliberate conflation of the outcomes of the May 24, 2018 Federal Court proceedings and the Adani stonewalling reported by Ben Smee.

Quote from a StopAdani.com Facebook post with Ben Smee’s June 28, 2018 article. A truncated version of this comment appeared in a tweet by @StopAdani on Twitter on June 28.

Adani yet again disregards the rights of Traditional Owners, this time ignoring repeated demands by Juru elders to review unauthorised cultural assessments of their sacred sites at Abbot Point, amid concerns these sites haven’t been properly protected.

Quote from a StopAdani.com Facebook post announcing a video of Carol Prior speaking about her land and her opposition to Adani.

Adani’s cultural heritage assessments of Juru land near the Abbot Point coal port & proposed rail line have been ruled INVALID by the federal court.

Adani can’t be trusted to respect the land & rights of Traditional Owners & must be stopped!

Arguing that this situation is merely the product of manipulations by Adani masks the function of a range of state and federal departments, and the spectrum of bodies that deliver services and functions within the native title system. It also serves to disregard the significance of corporate failure in the native title system, it’s impacts, and the failure of the collective efforts to support autonomy and robust organisations.

The body that deserves the most attention is the NQLC as it is primarily responsible for the functioning of the native title system in the 9 wards which it administers. But there is also every reason to challenge the Queensland Department of State Development, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM), the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT), the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC), and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (D PM&C) in which the Indigenous Affairs portfolio sits.

 

An honest opportunity

Ben Smee and other non-NewsCorp journalists have an opportunity to dig into the apparent confusion demonstrated by the DSD back in 2015 as shown by the corrections issued to the ‘Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project Environmental Impact Statement Volume 1 – Executive Summary’. The DSD and Advisian who prepared the Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project documents were clearly confused about which Juru group had the responsibility for rights and interests in native title and cultural heritage management at Abbot Point. Representatives from JEL continue to make the same arguments.

It would also be wise to investigate why it is that in the DSD annual report for 2016-17 the following statement was included:

Work is also continuing with the local native title group, through Juru Enterprises Limited, to provide further skills and capacity building while undertaking land management activities within the Abbot Point SDA.

Federal court documents indicate that JEL initiated proceedings on June 30, 2017 more than 3 months before the DSD annual report was published.

Any honest investigator with editorial arrangements that support genuine journalism, or any ethical research and reporting would look at how the departments and bodies collectively responsible for regional development in concert with the bodies that form the native title system failed to support good corporate governance and a responsive, tangible, effective engagement with the Juru People. I’ve provided some significant avenues of inquiry for anyone who actually wants to understand what happened to the Juru People’s rights and interests over Abbot Point since the 2013 ILUA with Adani.

For a detailed briefing on the JEL vs KMYAC and Adani court case check out my blog post titled ‘The Adani court case nobody is talking about’. For more discussion of the role of NTRBs check out my blog post titled ‘The lies and prevarications of Quiggin et al’. For more background on the former KMYAC chair check out my blog post titled ‘Do you want Indigenous autonomy and to stop Adani?’.

 

 

 

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The lies and prevarications of Quiggin et al

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

All of us privileged types exhibit aversive racism from time to time, some of the time, or all of the time, myself included. Aversive racism is a product of privilege.

Here’s a good definition of aversive racism.

Aversive racism can be defined as exhibiting racist tendencies while denying that those thoughts, behaviors, and motives are racist (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012).

I don’t need to provide a dry definition of political economy here. I do need to point out that any serious analysis of political economy in relation to a development project like the Galilee Basin coal complex needs to identify and acknowledge all stakeholders in that economy, and all the legal and process based factors that can be exploited to enforce political will in shaping economic development. A person applying a political economy analysis has a professional and ethical obligation to look at all stakeholder groups without prejudice.

Traditional Owner Areas_map_Adani_March 2016_2

A map of the Traditional Owner groups along Adani’s preferred rail corridor, the North Galilee Basin Rail Project – released after February 20, 2018.

The above map ‘Attachment 2 – Map of Traditional Owner areas’ was supplied by Adani to the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) in March 2016. It was included in a RTI disclosure that was made at some point after the last document modification date of February 20, 2018. RTI 15-315 contains only content and communications generated between February 3 and April 3, 2016. The recipient of the RTI disclosure cannot be provided by DNRM staff and neither can the dates the disclosure was made available to the recipient and/or the public.

I wish I had access to this map in January 2018. On January 24 the ABC published a piece by David Chen titled ‘Adani jobs in high demand as Indigenous groups call for a bigger share’. This article was shared in a Facebook post of a Queensland based activist group working on anti-Adani campaigns. The comments from followers of the Facebook page in response to this story demonstrate aversive racist assumptions about Indigenous people living in regional areas and their community members living in the big cities and regional centres. I would contend that these assumptions were cultivated by the media driven narrative of the StopAdani coalition and their allies.

Here’s a selection of comments that were captured on January 24, 2018. I will not be individually analysing each comment. I’d rather you interpret them for yourself after reading the article in question.

I thought that the indigenous people of Australia did not want their Mother Earth ripping apart. What are we fighting for if they don’t really care? They are expecting jobs that will not materialise.

 

Nobody but people set to make $$ want Adani, greed over our environment, they should be put behind bars and Adani should be kicked out of the country.

 

I’m sure most of the indigenous groups do not want this mine to go ahead.
It goes against their love of country.

 

Does this not go against everything the culture believes in.

 

I was of the opinion the that aboriginal groups are totally opposed to the mine?

 

We need to talk about what it’s really like to be a Traditional Owner/native title claimant.

The starting position for many Traditional Owners is an absolute desire for economic autonomy, and freedom from paternalism and the micromanagement of coloniser bureaucracy.

Traditional Owners are often presented with the threat of compulsory acquisition through discreet channels. This is what happened for all TOs along the North Galilee Basin Rail corridor. It is a strategy of non-cooperation exercised by governments in collusion with business interests. The collusive efforts of governments and business ensure they enter negotiations with a win-win strategy. Traditional Owners can only make themselves a stakeholder in protecting country through negotiating as the weaker party for the long haul to achieve some measure of agency and reasonable compensation.

The native title system is largely about managing extinguishment while affording a right to negotiate in order to protect rights and interests in country. The threat of compulsory acquisition or forced extinguishment fundamentally acts against the spirit of that right. The right to refuse, in most negotiations, does not exist.

The process of making a native title claim is long and can be excruciating while creating and exposing divisions. During and after the native title determination process Traditional Owners are compelled to negotiate and engage with corporate and government stakeholders with long-term plans for development. Most Traditional Owners have limited/problematic avenues for funding social programs and developing autonomy in the face of relentless pressure from resource companies and multiple levels of government. Add to this the fact that the most crucial bureaucratic functions performed in the native title sector are delivered by opaque organisations like Queensland South Native Title Services and the North Queensland Land Council who work with mining companies to deliver voting meetings and certify agreements along with providing enabling services like legal and technical support and representation within the native title system.

 

The truth doesn’t feel nice. What can we be passionate about?

It would be great if TOs had the choice to reject the deals put before them under our colonised/post colonial economy, but TO communities need services and jobs. Many TO communities need healing that can only be administered by themselves in their own way. If we want a country where TO communities have the autonomy to reject mines, rail lines, ports, dams, and other damaging developments then we need to start by looking at the political and economic truth of what is happening now. We need to look at the local economies and at the part to be played by the global economy. This is especially the case in relation to the Galilee Basin coal complex and the commodities we trade with the world to enable our consumer economy.

We can be passionate about getting to the truth and making our way to the point where TOs can negotiate from a position of strength. We can feel passionate about hearing and sharing the testimony of TOs in their struggle – whether it feels nice or not.

 

The Adani court case nobody is talking about

JEL (Juru Enterprises Limited) KMYAC (Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation) RNTBC (Registered Native Title Body Corporate) ILUA (Indigenous Land Use Agreement) ORIC (Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations) NNTT (National Native Title Tribunal) NQLC (North Queensland Land Council) DSD (Department of State Development) NTRB (Native Title Representative Body) NQBP (North Queensland Bulk Ports) CHMP (Cultural Heritage Management Plan) ATSI (Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander) APGGP (Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project)

 

The court case QUD244/2017

In June last year a news article appeared titled ‘Juru missed out on $1m from Adani: court’. It was written by NewsCorp regional reporter Geoff Egan (15). To my knowledge there are no other news articles or writing relating to the court proceedings mentioned in the article. Geoff kindly shared links to Commonwealth Court documents with me (16,17). Here’s a quote from his article that sums up the court proceedings:

Juru Enterprise has taken Adani and Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation to the Federal Court claiming Kyburra did not have approval to replace Juru under an Indigenous Land Use Agreement amendment.

Through my research I’ve gathered that Juru Enterprises Limited (JEL) were assisted in making Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) with Adani by the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC). I’ve also found that agreements over Abbot Point have been made or entered into by JEL after the Aboriginal corporation specifically set up to deal with native title matters for the Juru People, Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (KMYAC) came into existence.

 

KMYAC on the verge of insolvency

It’s important to understand that at this stage KMYAC are still under special administration by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) (10). This is the final run in an 18 month long process. ORIC appointed a small firm for the first incomplete examination back in October 2016, and then, in May 2017 appointed a second larger firm for the 2 following unsatisfactory examinations. In October 2017, a year after the first examination began KMYAC were placed under special administration which has been extended twice. The examiners, special administrators, and independent auditors appointed by ORIC have reported a lack of financial information supplied by KMYAC (11(a), 13).  Reports from the special administrators and financial auditors strongly suggest that on May 18, 2018 when the third period of special administration finishes KMYAC will be insolvent (11(a), 13). It seems there is no money for JEL even if they are successful.

 

The origins of Juru Enterprises Limited

JEL were created as a company in 2012 to “implement” an ILUA QI2011/063 made with North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP) in 2011 (20, 2). JEL did not exist until shortly before the this ILUA was registered (21). Here’s a quote from the North Queensland Land Council 2012/13 annual report.

The Juru People authorised the ILUA on 13 August 2011 at Bowen and the ILUA was registered on 12 May 2012. Juru Enterprises Ltd (JEL) was established in April 2012 to implement the ILUA and NQLC continue to assist JEL in these activities.

The Juru People were assisted in making the ILUA with NQBP by the NQLC who also assisted them in making another ILUA in 2013 QI2013/036 (3).  The Adani – Abbot Point ILUA covers part of Abbot Point and was made with JEL as the applicant. The earlier ILUA was made by a group of Juru claim group members represented by the NQLC. KMYAC, who at that stage had been a Registered Native Title Body Corporate (RNTBC) with ORIC for more than a year, were not a party to this agreement (5). The NQLC certified both agreements acting as the Native Title Representative Body (NTRB).

In 2014 Juru Enterprises Limited (JEL) were assisted to set up a head office on Lot 8 West St, Bowen by the Whitsunday Shire Council and the Department of State Development (DSD) who owned the land on which the JEL head office now stands (8, 22). In a previous blog post I explained how JEL have been involved in meetings with Adani representatives and other contractors (18). It’s fair to say that the Whitsunday Shire Council, the Queensland Coordinator General, and the North Queensland Land Council working with Adani and North Queensland Bulk Ports have helped Juru Enterprises Limited come into being.

 

After the big determination

In his “REASONS FOR JUDGEMENT” as part of the [2014] FCA 736, determination of  native title for Federal Court file number QUD 554 of 2010, Justice Steven Rares ported some rights and interests in native title matters from JEL to KMYAC “on trust” (23).

Determination that native title is to be held on trust

32 The Juru people should understand that some very significant native title rights and interests to which the claim group is entitled are not presently to be held on trust for it by Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation. Those rights and interests are covered by two indigenous land use agreements. One of those agreements was entered into by the original applicant in these proceedings and Adani Abbot Point Terminal Pty Ltd, Adani Abbot Point Terminal Holdings Pty Ltd, Mundra Port Holdings Pty Ltd and Mundra Port Pty Ltd, which are developing a large coal mine and the Abbot Point facilities.

On October 26, 2015 in a response to a 14 point submission regarding the Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project (APGGP) from an unnamed Juru Traditional Owner who argued in point 7 that “agreements with Kyburra that are binding on the Juru common law holders are null and void”, the DSD stated that the rights and interests in Native Title in relation to cultural heritage management for Abbot Point lay with KMYAC for “the project”, and “[KMYAC] is the appropriate party to enter into such an agreement under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003”. In another statement responding to point 2 from the same submission the DSD stated that “duty of care” in relation to procedures under a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) as part of an ILUA made with “the Juru People Native Title claimants, JEL (as the Juru Nominated Body)” under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 was “in compliance” (24).

Another document from the same date and tranche of APGGP EIS publications titled ‘Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project Environmental Impact Statement Volume 4 – Supplement Report’ provides an “editorial correction” to the executive summary document created on August 17, 2015 (25, 26). The correction strikes through text indicating that KMYAC are the Juru body with which “the proponent intends to develop a cultural heritage management agreement”. Here’s the complete text:

5.4 Editorial corrections
Volume 1 – Executive Summary: Section 3 ‘Native Title and Cultural Heritage’

“The Juru People hold non-exclusive native title rights and interests in land and waters within the Port of Abbot Point and the Abbot Point State Development Area.

(struck through) In accordance with the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003, as registered native title holder, the Juru People have special legal status as the primary party in charge of Aboriginal cultural heritage within the boundaries of the registered native title determination. Therefore, the proponent intends to develop a cultural heritage management agreement with Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation to identify and manage any project impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage values in both onshore and offshore areas. The engagement process has already been initiated and is ongoing.

The Native Title determination is subject to a suite of tenures and Indigenous Land
Use Agreements (ILUAs) that deal with development at Abbot Point and in the APSDA. This includes the Port of Abbot Point and APSDA ILUA (QI2011/063). The parties to this ILUA are the Juru People, the State of Queensland, NQBP, the Coordinator General and Juru Enterprises Limited. It also includes the Juru People and Adani Abbot Point Terminal ILUA (QI2013/036)”

I’m no legal expert, but it seems unclear if the rights and interests over native title relating to the ILUA made by the Juru People with North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (QI2011/063) are held by Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (KMYAC). This ILUA was signed after KMYAC was incorporated on July 5, 2011 and registered after KMYAC was registered with ORIC as an RNTBC on March 6, 2012 (4, 5).

It is clear that the DSD changed it’s position between August 13, 2015 when the APGGP executive summary was created and October 26, 2015 when the tranche of supplementary documents were created.

The May 24 hearing may provide clarity on issues of who has rights and interests under Native Title at Abbot Point and issues relating to the state of KMYAC finances.

 

The final hearing

After a fair bit of research on how to attend Federal Court – Queensland Registry hearings I was able to convince a friend and erstwhile native title expert to attend the February 8, 2018 case management hearing in preparation for a final hearing in Brisbane on May 24, 2018. My friend reports that a figure of 1.6 million was mentioned during the very fast-paced proceedings. My friend also noted that there was another unrelated matter heard in the same sitting involving financial mismanagement of an Indigenous corporation that left both of us asking “how many other cases of corporate failure end up in court?”.

I would note that the National Native Title Tribunal are not monitoring these proceedings. My conversations with the NNTT were confusing and I was not able to determine which organisation might be interested in monitoring and reporting on these proceedings.

The only acknowledgment of the upcoming court hearing by the regulator, the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC), was in a special administration ‘newsletter’ in April, 2018 (11(c)). Here’s a quote from the newsletter.

Federal Court matter—JEL vs Adani and KMYAC QUD244/2017 This matter is still progressing in the Federal Court. On 8 February 2018 at a case management hearing, the Court ordered various documents and pleadings to be filed by specified dates. A trial date of 24 May 2018 has been set. We have been able to obtain funding from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (via NQLC) so that KMYAC can receive legal advice and be represented in relation to this matter. A barrister has been briefed, and we have engaged a new lawyer. They are advising us on what KMYAC should do to achieve the best outcome in this matter.

ORIC have a stated interest in reducing corporate failure. They shared positive figures in November 2017, shortly after KMYAC was placed into special administration (27). They have not commissioned a report into corporate failure since 2010 (28).

 

The former KMYAC director and the NQLC

The North Queensland Land Council has a relationship with both JEL and KMYAC. It has done it’s job under the native title system to assist the Juru People to make claims and agreements. But anyone looking at the political and economic reality of the developments at Abbot Point and on the Adani rail corridor ought to be concerned about the fact that the former director of KMYAC is also a director of the NQLC and responsible for the Townsville Ward which covers Abbot Point. The former director of KMYAC is associated with multiple instances of financial mismanagement of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander (ATSI) organisations in the Townsville area. If this person was convicted in any one of those instances they would not qualify to hold the position of director in the NQLC. Here’s a quote from the fact sheet titled ‘What it means to be an NQLC director’.  (29)

You are disqualified from election to the board under the CATSI Act if you are a person who:

Conviction

Section 1
(a) is convicted on indictment of an offence that: i. concerns the making, or participation in making, of decisions that affect the whole or a substantial part of the business of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation; or ii. concerns an act that has the capacity to affect significantly the financial standing of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation; or (b) is convicted of an offence that: i. is a contravention of this Act and is punishable by imprisonment for a period greater than 12 months; or ii. Involves dishonesty and is punishable by imprisonment for at least 3 months; or

The former director may also lose their position as an NQLC director in the event of KMYAC insolvency.

You are disqualified by the Head Agreement for Indigenous
Grants and the Project Schedule thereto for general grants
for native title representative bodies and service providers
if:

[ ]

Is or was a director or occupied an influential position
in the management or financial administration
that had failed to comply with funding or grant
requirements of the Commonwealth, the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Island Commission or its
predecessors

The North Queensland Land Council are responsible for guidance and legal support for Aboriginal corporations, claim groups, and other entities to make Indigenous land use agreements with governments and corporations. That means they are extensively involved in appointing everyone from anthropologists to legal counsel. The strength of connection between the NQLC and the KMYAC director is very problematic and ought to be given some serious scrutiny.

Anyone looking at the role of the North Queensland Land Council in the political economy of North Queensland in relation to mining and infrastructure development ought to read the series of recent articles in the Townsville Bulletin written by Clare Armstrong outlining the anger and sorrow at the financial mismanagement of KMYAC at the recent AGM and the subsequent fallout (10). The articles written for the Townsville Bulletin in 2016 and 2017 by Samantha Healy contain important testimony from Carol Prior. My blog post titled ‘Do you want Indigenous autonomy and to stop Adani?’ is also useful reading (18).

 

PS. The briefing document below is a detailed set of references and links for the this blog post. It is a modified version of the briefing I send to interested persons.

 

JEL, KMYAC, and the state of play: Briefing Document 2

By Michael Swifte

JEL (Juru Enterprises Limited) KMYAC (Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation) RNTBC (Registered Native Title Body Corporate) ILUA (Indigenous Land Use Agreement) ORIC (Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations) NNTT (National Native Title Tribunal) NQLC (North Queensland Land Council) DSD (Department of State Development) NTRB (Native Title Representative Body) NQBP (North Queensland Bulk Ports) CHMP (Cultural Heritage Management Plan) ATSI (Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander) APGGP (Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project)

This briefing has been prepared in anticipation of the Federal Court hearing QUD244/2017 set for May 24, 2018 in Brisbane. The proceedings have been brought by Juru Enterprises Limited to determine the appropriate distribution of funds from Adani to one of two organisations representing the Juru People relating to ILUAs made with Adani by two organisations, JEL and KMYAC. Quotes and references have been collected to provide political and economic context to the proceedings on May 24. A key component of context here is the apparent corporate failure of KMYAC who have been under ‘special administration’ by ORIC since October 2017. My conversations with NNTT staff in early February 2018 indicated that they are not tracking this case.

 

JEL and KMYAC, ILUAs with Adani, KMYAC is the Juru RNTBC

1. Koori Mail October 9, 2013: Correction notice.

Juru Enterprises Ltd listed as ILUA “applicant”, NNTT Number: QI2013/036

http://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/digitised_collections/the_koori_mail/561.pdf

2. North Queensland Land Council 2012/13 annual report

Juru People – Port of Abbot Point and State Development Area ILUA An ILUA to facilitate the expansion of the Abbot Point Port and State Development Area was negotiated by the Juru People, North Queensland Bulk Ports and the Co-ordinator General. The Juru People authorised the ILUA on 13 August 2011 at Bowen and the ILUA was registered on 12 May 2012. Juru Enterprises Ltd (JEL) was established in April 2012 to implement the ILUA and NQLC continue to assist JEL in these activities.

https://nqlc.com.au/files/7114/4549/3755/NQLC-AR-201213.pdf

3. Juru Enterprises Ltd as the “applicant” in the NNTT extract of ILUA QI2013/036

c/- Applicant, Juru Enterprises Ltd PO Box 748

http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/ILUA%20Register/2013/QI2013.036/ILUARegisterExport.pdf

4. An AIATSIS summary document indicating that KMYAC was incorporated on 05/07/2011

http://nativetitle.org.au/PDFs/QLD_Kyburra_Munda_Yalga.pdf

5. KMYAC was registered with ORIC as an RNTBC on 06/03/2012

Certificate of Registration of Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (March 2012)

http://register.oric.gov.au/document.aspx?concernID=2035210

6. Extract from Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements. NNTT Number QI2014/072

Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and Adani Mining North Galilee Basin Rail Project ILUA

http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/ILUA%20Register/2014/QI2014.072/ILUARegisterExport.pdf

7. An Adani EIS document from October 2012 where “Juru Enterprises Ltd” are listed as the contact for Juru people in consultations over Abbot Point developments.

All those involved in the consultation process from the Juru people were contacted through Juru Enterprises Ltd.

http://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/adani/pdf/eisdoc_e11-indigenous-social-and-economic-impact-assessment.pdf

8. Whitsunday Regional Council meeting notice containing a proposal that a head office be set up for Juru Enterprises Ltd with help from the Coordinator General of the Queensland Department of State Development.

PROPOSAL The purpose of the proposal is to develop an appropriate head office for Juru Enterprises Ltd where the business of land care and pest management will be provided. The Office of the Coordinator General has engaged Juru Enterprises Ltd to undertake land care and pest management as per an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) for the Port of Abbot Point State Development Area. In order for Juru Enterprises Ltd to operate and establish a business, the West Street property (Lot 8 SP257305) owned by the Office of the Coordinator General, has been nominated for the development. Ranbury Management Group is acting as Project Managers for the Office of the Coordinator General to establish this project.

https://www.whitsunday.qld.gov.au/DocumentCenter/View/556

9. The Queensland Department of State Development Annual Report 2016/17 mentions Juru Enterprises Ltd in relation to the Abbot Point State Development Area.

Work is also continuing with the local native title group, through Juru Enterprises Limited, to provide further skills and capacity building while undertaking land management activities within the Abbot Point SDA.

https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/resources/publication/annual-report/dsd-annual-report-2016-17-part-06.pdf

 

KMYAC Under Special Administration

10. Townsville Bulletin article March 22, 2018. ‘Anger building as meeting reveals Kyburra paid cash to people wanting to avoid Centrelink‘.

CLARE ARMSTRONG, Townsville Bulletin. March 22, 2018

MEMBERS of an embattled Townsville indigenous corporation are angry about its management after discovering millions in undeclared revenue.

Emotions ran high at the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corp AGM in Bowen as many attendees expressed their dismay at the finances of the organisation, which is now under special administration.

Kyburra was incorporated in 2011 to represent the Juru people. The Bulletin revealed last month directors failed to declare about $1.8 million in revenue between 2014 and 2017.

The Office of the Registrar of indigenous Corporations (ORIC) found more than 70 potential breaches of the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act (CATSI), including that $205,828.76 in payments from July 2014 to March 2017 were unaccounted for.

At the AGM, former Kyburra bookkeeper Evelyn Lymburner said “everything was done by the books” but admitted the cash payments were at the request of members conducting cultural heritage work.

They said ‘no, we want the cash over the counter because we don’t want it to go to Centrelink, we’ve got debits on our accounts’,” she said. “So we gave the cash. I know we shouldn’t have done that, but that’s how it was done.”

Ms Lymburner said directors had “found a clause” saying there was no requirement to pay tax on such payments.

I don’t know how far the audit’s got to go back … because we might have to pay tax on them all,” she said.

There’s millions of dollars that have gone through, how did we end up $150,000 in debt, why should we have to sell our freehold land (to cover that),” one member yelled.

An elder asked why bursaries had not been granted.

What about the students that want training and what about all Juru people … they don’t know anything that’s going on,” she said.

ORIC examiners had also raised concerns that directors were paid thousands in “attendance and negotiation fees” in breach of the CATSI Act.

Ex-director Jenny Pryor said the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC) and a rule in Kyburra’s constitution allowed for the payments.

The Bulletin has confirmed Kyburra’s constitution does not allow for the payments and the rule referred to by Ms P.ryor is not yet in effect.

NQLC chief executive Stephen Ducksbury said “at no time” were Kyburra directors told they were entitled to be paid fees, but it was “standard practice” that traditional owners could be paid to participate in Native Title negotiations.

Subscriber only

https://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/news/townsville/anger-building-as-meeting-reveals-kyburra-paid-cash-to-people-wanting-to-avoid-centrelink/news-story/7096bbeb4c4a2998bedaa1824e4da0eb

11(a) On April 5, 2018 ORIC published a Special Administration Newsletter for KMYAC which has some alarming assessments.

As you can see KYMAC is in a serious financial position. Finding bail-out monies to pay the debts is proving very difficult. We have spoken to government and to various proponents to ask if they can help. Everyone we have asked for help has told us that they cannot provide any money.

And,

If we cannot get any money to repay the bills then KMYAC will have to go into liquidation. If this happens, the native title land that has been returned to the Juru people by Federal Court will remain with the Juru people however it will be necessary to set up a new prescribed body corporate (PBC) to look after and manage the native title. The financial situation is very serious. We are working hard to find a solution, so far without success. There is a real possibility that KYMAC may need to go into liquidation at the end of the special administration. We are working with ORIC to end the special administration as soon as possible, however a further extension may be required to allow enough time for the appointment of a new board or a liquidator.

11(b) The April 5, 2018 ORIC Special Administration Newsletter for KMYAC also has a table of unpaid debts which is also alarming.

Unpaid debts as at 12 April 2018 Staff wages 2017 $15,679 Staff superannuation and penalties 2014–17 $44,071 GST and PAYG $92,109 Rent $12,985 Legal and accounting fees $17,211 Other $2,329 Total amounts payable $184,384 Less available funds $16,130 Estimated shortfall $168,254

11(c) The upcoming Federal Court case is mentioned including mention of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet funding for legal expenses.

Federal Court matter—JEL vs Adani and KMYAC QUD244/2017 This matter is still progressing in the Federal Court. On 8 February 2018 at a case management hearing, the Court ordered various documents and pleadings to be filed by specified dates. A trial date of 24 May 2018 has been set. We have been able to obtain funding from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (via NQLC) so that KMYAC can receive legal advice and be represented in relation to this matter. A barrister has been briefed, and we have engaged a new lawyer. They are advising us on what KMYAC should do to achieve the best outcome in this matter.

11(d) Under the subject “Other native title issues” there is mention of “the rail corridor”.

We have held discussions with Adani about the proposed rail corridor and other sites in the Abbot Point area. We have requested further meetings with Adani representatives, so that members of the advisory group, and elders can get a better understanding of the existing agreements, the path of the rail corridor, Adani’s requirements, and advise Adani of any concerns of the Juru people.

Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC – Special Administration Newsletter (April 2018)

http://register.oric.gov.au/document.aspx?concernID=2035210

12. On April 20, 2018 ORIC extended special administration for the second time. New date the end of special administration is May 18, 2018.

AND TAKE NOTICE THAT: 1. Under subsection 487-15(1) of the CATSI Act, I, Kevin Vu, a delegate of the Registrar extend the period of the special administration of the corporation until 11:59pm (AEST) on Friday, 18 May 2018. 2. Under subsection 490-5(2) of the CATSI Act, I appoint Mr Gerry Mier and Mr Tony Jonsson as the joint and several special administrators for the period of the special administration. Dated this 20th day of April 2018

Section 487-1 Determination and Section 490-1 Instrument of Appointment

http://register.oric.gov.au/document.aspx?concernID=2035210

13. From the ORIC audited financial statement for 2016/17. The below quote follows multiple mentions of “insufficient supporting documentation”.

Emphasis of Matter Inherent Uncertainty as to Going Concern

We draw attention to Note 2 in the financial report which indicates that the corporation incurred a net surplus of $105,623 during the year ended 30 June 2017, but despite this, the Corporations current liabilities exceeded its total assets by $10,670 due to historical losses. These conditions, along with other matters as set forth in Note 2, indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the corporations’ ability to continue as a going concern and therefore the entity may be unable to realise its assets and discharge its liabilities in the normal course of business.

Audited financial statements – 30 June 2017

http://register.oric.gov.au/document.aspx?concernID=2035210

14. Three audited financial statements prepared for KMYAC under special administration provide revenue figures relating to Adani covering the 2014/15, 2015/16, and 2016/17 financial years.

Revenue from North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) – $140,872

Revenue from Adani Mining Pty Ltd – $395,380

Revenue from combined NGBR and Adani Mining Pty Ltd (NGBR proponent) – $536,252

Revenue from Abbot Point/port/bulk coal – $302, 735

Total revenue from Adani entities -$838, 987

Audited financial statements – 30 June 2017, 30 June 2016, and 30 June 2017.

http://register.oric.gov.au/document.aspx?concernID=2035210

 

JEL vs Adani and KMYAC in Federal Court

15. ‘Juru missed out on $1m from Adani: court’ by Geoff Egan, The Morning Bulletin.

Juru Enterprise has taken Adani and Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation to the Federal Court claiming Kyburra did not have approval to replace Juru under an Indigenous Land Use Agreement amendment.

https://www.themorningbulletin.com.au/news/juru-missed-out-on-1m-from-adani-court/3184689/

16. Federal Court documents for a final hearing with Justice Rares on May 24 in Brisbane. Mediation hearings have preceded this hearing. Proceedings relate to a reported 1.6 million AUD in disputed revenue.

JURU ENTERPRISE LIMITED Applicant ADANI AUSTRALIA COMPANY PTY LTD ABN 87 163 221 609 AS TRUSTEE OF ADANI AUSTRALIA HOLDING TRUST and another named in the schedule Respondent

Second Respondent KYBURRA MUNDA YALGA ABORIGINAL CORPORATION RNTBC

The proceeding be fixed for final hearing on 24 May 2018 at 9.30am in Brisbane.

(accessed 23/04/18)

https://www.comcourts.gov.au/file/Federal/P/QUD244/2017/3789232/event/29191598/document/1114116

17. Federal Court of Australia, Queensland Registry portal. Number: QUD244/2017

Court 5 Level 7 Harry Gibbs Commonwealth Law Courts

https://www.comcourts.gov.au/file/Federal/P/QUD244/2017/actions

 

Further context on my blog We Suspect Silence.

18. The most relevant of my blog posts looks into the business and networks of JEL and KMYAC.

Do you want Indigenous autonomy and to stop Adani?

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/do-you-want-indigenous-autonomy-and-to-stop-adani/
19. My submission to Reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 provides in depth detail about the ILUA making process and the role of the NNTT.

Aboriginal Autonomy and the Galilee Basin Coal Complex

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/aboriginal-autonomy-and-the-galilee-basin-coal-complex/

 

Supplementary references

20. Port of Abbot Point and Abbot Point State Development Area ILUA. QI2011/063

http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/ILUA%20Register/2011/QI2011.063/ILUARegisterExport.pdf

21. ASIC Company Info – Juru Enterprises Limited.

Incorporated April 3, 2012

https://www.asiccompany.info/australian?utm_term=Juru-enterprises-limited&utm_source=157951203

22. JEL head office

8 West St, Bowen QLD 4805

http://www.juruenterprises.com.au/contact.html

23. Lampton on behalf of the Juru People v State of Queensland [2014] FCA 736 (11 July 2014)

Determination that native title is to be held on trust

[ ]

32 The Juru people should understand that some very significant native title rights and interests to which the claim group is entitled are not presently to be held on trust for it by Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation. Those rights and interests are covered by two indigenous land use agreements. One of those agreements was entered into by the original applicant in these proceedings and Adani Abbot Point Terminal Pty Ltd, Adani Abbot Point Terminal Holdings Pty Ltd, Mundra Port Holdings Pty Ltd and Mundra Port Pty Ltd, which are developing a large coal mine and the Abbot Point facilities.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FCA/2014/736.html?stem=0&synonyms=0&query=title(Lampton%20on%20behalf%20of%20the%20Juru%20People%20and%20State%20of%20Queensland%20)

24. Appendix A: Detailed Submission Responses – Abbot Point Growth Gateway. October 26, 2015

Traditional Owner Submission

2. The current Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) between Juru Enterprises Limited (JEL), NQBP and the Coordinator General has not been efficient thus far in the identification of and preservation of the Eastern Dune System (Abbot Point Beach), Dingo Beach and Shark Bay. The current measures do not protect these areas enough as they are currently not registered as Significant Aboriginal Areas as they should be, and minimum buffer zones of 50m need to be enforced to maximise protection

Response

Potential impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage in undertaking the Project have been managed under the cultural heritage management procedures in the Port of Abbot Point and Abbot Point State Development Area Indigenous Land Use Agreement QI2011/063 (Abbot Point ILUA). The parties to the Abbot Point ILUA are the Juru People Native Title claimants, JEL (as the Juru Nominated Body), the State of Queensland, NQBP and the Coordinator-General. Compliance with the cultural heritage management procedures in the Abbot Point ILUA satisfies the cultural heritage duty of care under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003.

and

7. In application of Section 58(a) of the Native Title Act 1993, due to Kyburra only holding Juru people’s Native Title in trust, Kyburra cannot act as agent or representative of the Juru common law holders and cannot enter into agreements binding them. Therefore any agreements with Kyburra that are binding on the Juru common law holders are null and void.

Response

The Queensland DSD entered into an agreement with Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation (Kyburra) in relation to the management of cultural heritage for initial geotechnical site investigations for the Project. Kyburra, as the registered Native Title body corporate for the Juru Native Title determination at Abbot Point (QUD554/2010), is the appropriate party to enter into such an agreement under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003, as the project area is within the external boundaries of the Juru Native Title determination.

https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/resources/project/abbot-point-apx/supplement-report-appendices-part2.pdf

25. Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project Environmental Impact Statement Volume 4 – Supplement Report

5.4 Editorial corrections
Volume 1 – Executive Summary: Section 3 ‘Native Title and Cultural Heritage’


“The Juru People hold non-exclusive native title rights and interests in land and waters within the Port of Abbot Point and the Abbot Point State Development Area.


(struck through) In accordance with the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003, as registered native title holder, the Juru People have special legal status as the primary party in charge of Aboriginal cultural heritage within the boundaries of the registered native title determination. Therefore, the proponent intends to develop a cultural heritage management agreement with Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation to identify and manage any project impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage values in both onshore and offshore areas. The engagement process has already been initiated and is ongoing.


The Native Title determination is subject to a suite of tenures and Indigenous Land
Use Agreements (ILUAs) that deal with development at Abbot Point and in the APSDA. This includes the Port of Abbot Point and APSDA ILUA (QI2011/063). The parties to this ILUA are the Juru People, the State of Queensland, NQBP, the Coordinator General and Juru Enterprises Limited. It also includes the Juru People and Adani Abbot Point Terminal ILUA (QI2013/036)”

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

26. Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project Environmental Impact Statement Volume 1 – Executive Summary 17 August 2015

Section 3 Native Title and Cultural Heritage

The Juru People hold non-exclusive native title rights and interests in land and waters within the Port of Abbot Point and the Abbot Point State Development Area. The Juru people are represented by the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation. In accordance with the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003, as registered native title holder, the Juru People have special legal status as the primary party in charge of Aboriginal cultural heritage within the boundaries of the registered native title determination. Therefore, the proponent intends to develop a cultural heritage management agreement with Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation to identify and manage any project impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage values in both onshore and offshore areas. The engagement process has already been initiated and is ongoing.

https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/resources/project/abbot-point-apx/abbot-pt-eis-vol-01-exec-summary.pdf

27. ORIC – Registrar’s Year in Review

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations are less likely to fail than mainstream corporations. In 2016–17 not a single corporation was placed into liquidation, receivership or voluntary administration—that’s 0 per cent.

http://www.oric.gov.au/publications/yearbook-section/registrars-year-review

28. ORIC: ‘Analysing key characteristics in Indigenous corporate failure’ by Dr James Swansson

http://www.oric.gov.au/publications/other-report/analysing-key-characteristics-indigenous-corporate-failure

29. What it means to be an NQLC director

You are disqualified from election to the board under the CATSI Act if you are a person who:

Conviction

Section 1
(a) is convicted on indictment of an offence that: i. concerns the making, or participation in making, of decisions that affect the whole or a substantial part of the business of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation; or ii. concerns an act that has the capacity to affect significantly the financial standing of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation; or (b) is convicted of an offence that: i. is a contravention of this Act and is punishable by imprisonment for a period greater than 12 months; or ii. Involves dishonesty and is punishable by imprisonment for at least 3 months; or

and

You are disqualified by the Head Agreement for Indigenous
Grants and the Project Schedule thereto for general grants
for native title representative bodies and service providers
if:

[ ]

Is or was a director or occupied an influential position
in the management or financial administration
that had failed to comply with funding or grant
requirements of the Commonwealth, the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Island Commission or its
predecessors

http://nqlc.com.au/files/1715/0207/4463/20170807-factsheet_nqlc-director-V1.0.pdf

 

Aboriginal Autonomy and the Galilee Basin Coal Complex

First published by the Native Title Unit of the Australian Attorney-General’s Department

Submission to Reforms to the Native Title Act 1993: Transparent agreement-making

Submission by:

Michael Swifte

February 2018

Email: mgswifte@yahoo.com.au

Blog: We Suspect Silence

Twitter: http://twitter.com/empathiser

Member: Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective

Sections

1. Motivated by understanding Green-Black relations.

2. Auto-didactics and an unstructured methodology.

3. My key themes and areas where I shine a spotlight.

(a) Theme one: Indigenous Land Use Agreements relating to the crucial Adani rail link to the Galilee Basin.

(b) Theme two: Information giving and oversight of negotiation processes.

(c) Theme three: Non PBCs/RNTBCs making ILUAs

List of acronyms

NNTT – National Native Title Tribunal

NTA – Native Title Act

PBC – Prescribed Bodies Corporate

RNTBC – Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate

ORIC – Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations

ILUA – Indigenous Land Use Agreement

NAIF – Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

KMYAC – Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation

JEL – Juru Enterprises Limited

NGBR – North Galilee Basin Rail Project

NPIC – Non-Profit Industrial Complex

WKOG – Wrong Kind of Green

CSG – Coal Seam Gas

RTI – Right to Information

1. Motivated by understanding Green-Black relations.

I started out as an anti-CSG (coal seam gas) activist in 2011 working with Generation Alpha and Zombie-A-Frack. I then moved on to be a founding member of the Galilee Blockade group. Around that time I was a shareholder activist against Aurizon as part of the Over Our Dead Bodies campaign. These were the earlier stages of the Queensland based environmental resistance against the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex.

As a member of Galilee Blockade I was focussed on strategy and capacity building for future blockades and direct actions in the Galilee Basin. I fell out with the Galilee Blockade group but maintained an interest in good strategy to inform direct action in the Galilee Basin.

My research into native title issues in the context of large scale coal mining development in the Galilee Basin – which I began tentatively in mid 2015 – was focussed on analysis of the ‘means of export’ and the economic position/agency of Traditional Owners in relation to the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex. At this time I was not conscious of the concept of ‘Aboriginal autonomy’ as articulated by Professor Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh from the School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University. (1)

I have moved from a position of support for stopping the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex ‘at all costs’ to a more nuanced position that takes account of the experience of Traditional Owners and their communities in dealing with the apparatus of the native title system. There is an inherent tension in valuing both Aboriginal autonomy and the prevention of destructive mining developments. It is my belief that in this tension lies the great challenge of decolonisation as it relates to all Indigenous and non-indigenous people. There is no value – in terms of decolonisation – in ignoring particular issues and groups of people when attempting to engage Indigenous and non-indigenous people in support of a particular agenda. Indeed, only thorough and honest assessments of the economic reality of all Traditional Owners as they engage or are excluded from engaging in the negotiation processes afforded to them by the native title system can we properly inform and underpin our fiduciary responsibility to Aboriginal people with regard to the institutions and corporations they are compelled to form and maintain.

Corruption and corporate failure occur in all modern cultural contexts, and as such the expression of these phenomena are a legacy of the post-colonial/colonised era in which our native system operates. Transparent agreement making must be supported by processes and information-giving that allow the general public and more specifically Traditional Owners who have been marginalised from their representative bodies to make assessments about the integrity and effectiveness of the native title system. In the following passages I will make the case that rather than being accountable, accessible and fair, the key institutions that make up the native title system fail to deliver justice through ineffective and poorly defined information-giving, lack of oversight and disclosure regarding negotiation processes, and significant bureaucratic/administrative/institutional failures in attempting to make the native title system navigable.

My involvement with the critical thinking collective Wrong Kind of Green (WKOG) began in 2014 after my first blog post on my blog called We Suspect Silence under my Twitter handle @empathiser. (2) The relationship has deepened since. The non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) critique is at the centre of WKOG’s entirely self funded work. Broadly, the non-profit industrial complex critique contends that through funding relationships with philanthropy, and through networked relationships with a broad range of government, corporate, and non-government institutions, the not-for profit sector effectively captures the efforts of Indigenous and non-indigenous activists for the benefit neo-liberal forces.

2. Auto-didactics and an unstructured methodology.

I subscribe to the understanding of intelligence articulated by anti-war activist Stan Goff in his 2007 essay ‘On Strategy, Tactics & Intelligence’.

Intelligence is information analyzed for its value to develop plans for action. Most of it, even in the world of government intelligence, doesn’t come from breaking codes or running agents — contrary to the media myths — but from information that is readily available to everyone. Basically, that means if we do intelligence gathering and analysis right, then ours is going to be as good as theirs… maybe better, since we don’t have bureaucratic ambitions and political agendas distorting ours as much.” (3)

My journey has been a learning one. I entered into this area only seeking to get to the truth and as such did not have a predetermined or structured plan. I have had to become an investigative journalist and a pundit to compliment my environmental activism, but it has been my determination to never forget or ignore the economic impacts on all Traditional Owners and their communities that has kept my eyes open. The depth and breadth of economic impacts on Traditional Owner communities and the nature of the negotiating processes that lead to key decision making events have only been revealed to me because I make a special effort of digging around to extract information that Traditional Owners are entitled to know but would otherwise be buried. The decision making events I have investigated – voting meetings, ILUA authorisation meetings, execution meetings – fall under the focus of the ‘Transparent Agreements’ proposals contained in the Reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 Options Paper. I will include information not published by the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) but derived from my investigative efforts in the section titled ‘My key themes and areas I spotlight’.

My phone calls to NNTT case workers and other staff helped me get clarification of basic elements of it’s information-giving and information architecture. I was always mindful of the experience of and challenges put before a claim group member who was marginalised from the negotiation process. I routinely asked myself “How much useful information could a blackfella get from calling the NNTT?”.

The process of finding the relevant ILUA documents was haphazard and involved many phone calls to NNTT staff. I encountered issues with information architecture, broken links, and a general lack of guidance for researchers in the online environment. As I outlined in my blog post titled ‘The National Native Title Tribunal: Arbiter or “record keeper”?’ some staff who deal with the public need to seek guidance about which non-privileged information in their possession can be provided to a member of the public. As a record keeper the NNTT is inconsistent.(4) Non-privileged information relating to ILUAs that I was told by one staff member would need to be provided in response to an email request, was freely provided over the phone by other staff members.

3. My key themes and areas where I shine a spotlight.

Rather than attend to the elements of the Native Title Act (NTA) and regulations, I will be presenting particular sets of information gathered since mid 2015, much of which is rarely, if ever, discussed in public forums.

(a) Theme one: Indigenous Land Use Agreements relating to the crucial Adani rail link to the Galilee Basin.

The North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) is the standard gauge rail project which was the subject of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan application. This was revealed to me during the inquiry conducted by the Senate Economics References Committee titled ‘Governance and operation of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF)’. I analysed the revelations presented in this inquiry at length in my blog post titled ‘Confirmation that the North Galilee Basin Rail Project is the Adani rail project being considered by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility’. (5)

The NGBR is currently under development by Adani and is the crucial piece of export infrastructure without which the Galilee Basin coal complex could not be developed. As I highlight in my blog post titled ‘Unpacking the Galilee Basin shell game’ the project has been erroneously named the ‘Carmichael Rail Project’ by Adani Australia in the ‘Projects’ section of their website. (6) This is a contradiction of the actual name of the project which appears in the relevant Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) documents and in the Queensland Department of State Development project listings. One notable environmental organisation echoed this nomenclature in relation to the NAIF in December 2016. Greenpeace Australia Pacific published a document titled “OffTrack: Why NAIF can’t approve the Carmichael Rail Project’. (7)

By capitalising the words “rail” and “project”, both Adani and Greenpeace suggest a formal title for a project which in all official documents has a different name. The actual project name, the ‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project’, can be used as a targeted search term to direct researchers and the general public to documents that would show that negotiations, including voting meetings leading to signed ILUAs, took place between Adani and Traditional Owners in the second half on 2014. The absence of this name from popular discourse could be interpreted as a deliberate tactic to confound and mislead. Questions ought to be asked of Adani Australia and Greenpeace AP about their purpose in using a misleading title in this context.

Three key ILUAs relating to the NGBR have been signed without objection by the Juru, Birriah, and Jannga People’s representative bodies. These ILUAs were never discussed in any form, nor were the Traditional Owner representative groups mentioned by name in the New Matilda five part series titled ‘Killing Country’, which ostensibly focussed on native title issues in the Galilee Basin coal complex (though the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council was placed at the forefront of the story). These unreferenced pieces make no mention of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. The authors, Kristen Lyons, John Quiggin, and Morgan Brigg were supported by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland to write the June 2017 report from which the New Matilda five part series follows on. The report is titled ‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS: ADANI, THE STATE, AND THE INDIGENOUS RIGHTS STRUGGLE OF THE WANGAN AND JAGALINGOU TRADITIONAL OWNERS COUNCIL’. (8)

(b) Theme two: Information giving and oversight of negotiation processes.

All the negotiation meetings in preparation for the registration of an ILUA come down to one or two voting meeting(s). After ascertaining that Adani had two rail projects, one of which was rarely ever named in the media or in government business, I was able to track down and identify – with the help of NNTT staff – the registered ILUAs that made the rarely-named (and sometimes mis-titled) rail project possible.

The below list is taken from my February 2017 blog post titled ‘Why is there so much silence around the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and related Indigenous Land Use Agreements?’. (9)

Indigenous Land Use Agreements applying to the North Galilee Basin Rail Project

QI2014/072 – Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and Adani Mining North Galilee Basin Rail Project ILUA (10)

QI2014/080 – Birriah People and Adani Mining North Galilee Basin Rail Project ILUA (11)

QI2014/065 – Bulganunna Aboriginal Corporation and Adani Mining Carmichael North Galilee Basin Rail Project ILUA (12)

When I established through a 2014 Right to Information (RTI) disclosure that these ILUAs were significant to the development of the standard gauge rail project that is central to the Galilee Basin coal complex I began to develop a time line and identified key non-commercial-in-confidence data points that would help me ascertain if every effort was made to ensure that each claim group member was able to attend voting meetings on crucial ILUAs. (13) (14) My concern about voting meetings was driven by a single ABC regional article about Juru elder Carol Prior who stated that claim group members who were on Palm Island didn’t know about a crucial voting meeting. (15) She stated that she intended to object to the ILUA. No objection is recorded by the NNTT for any of the three ILUAs that I investigated. (16)

I determined that the dates when voting meetings occurred, the dates when voting meetings were advertised, and the dates when claim group members were notified of their right to object to an ILUA ought to published by the NNTT and be available to any member of the public. With these particular data points I would be able to ascertain if news paper ads had been placed and every effort had been made to notify claim group members.

After my initial requests for various advertising and voting dates was rejected by an NNTT case worker who suggested I write an email request, I decided to try other NNTT staff who were happy to provide me with what dates they were able to find. None were able to find any dates for advertising of authorisation/voting meetings. (17) I later returned to the first case worker with the data I had gathered and was told again that I should send through an email. I created a set of fields which included the data I had gathered and mistakenly did not specify that I was also requesting dates for the advertising of voting meetings. I received a reply to the email which included the dates of the authorisation meetings for each ILUA and an explanation that body corporate agreements – two of the three – did not require a public notification of intention to register an ILUA. (18) Having confirmed the voting meeting dates I was able to discern that for each of the three ILUAs the commencement date was also the date of the second of two voting meetings. My searches based on the execution dates provided by the NNTT case worker provided incomplete and interesting results.

Below are the data fields for voting meetings and advertising of notification periods. All of the information other than the tribunal numbers and registration dates was acquired or clarified through phone conversations and emails with NNTT staff in late 2016 and in 2017. (19) The execution dates for the Birriah and Jannga ILUAs (blue text) was provided via email with the NNTT case worker. (20)

Given the effort it took to gather unpublished dates for voting/authorisation/execution meetings I cannot see how the NNTT can effectively arbitrate a conflict over the delivery of a voting meeting if it does not acquire and retain information regarding the efforts made to ensure all claim group members have an opportunity to attend voting meetings and lodge objections. The lack of published information about meeting advertising dates, notification advertising dates, authorisation meeting dates signifies that the NNTT is neither actively providing oversight in regards to crucial authorisation meetings nor actively capturing and publishing non-commercially sensitive data that is relevant to marginalised Traditional Owners and other researchers.

Juru QI2014/072

Registered: 24/11/14

Votes: 05/08/14 and 16/09/14

Notification: 21/10/14 to 21/11/14

Advertised: Body Corporate Agreement. Not advertised in newspapers. No grounds for objections by claim group members.

Birriah QI2014/080

Registered: 24/04/2015

Votes: Agreement was executed by the parties between 27/09/2014 and 4/11/2014

Notification: 21/01/2015 to 21/04/2015

Advertised (notice of application to register an ILUA): 14/01/15

Jannga/Bulganunna QI2014/065

Registered: 05/01/15

Votes: Agreement was executed by parties on 4/07/2014 and 6/08/2014

Notification: 28/11/14 to 29/12/14

Advertised: Body Corporate Agreement. Not advertised in newspapers. No grounds for objections by claim group members.

Armed with the 6 execution dates for the three NGBR ILUAs I was able to find notices published in the Koori Mail on two dates in 2014. These notices relate to the Juru and Birriah people information sessions and/or authorisation meetings. I was not able to find public notices for the Jannga/Bulganunna authorisation meetings.

Juru

The July 30, 2014 public notice of information sessions in the Koori Mail for the Juru ILUA with Adani relating to the North Galilee Basin Rail Project lists August 5, 2014 as an information session date but not an authorisation meeting. No authorisation meeting dates are specified. No mention is made of any dates scheduled for the September 16 execution meeting.

Here’s is a statement from the July 30, 2014 public notice that clearly reinforces that the dates indicated are specifically for “information sessions”.

Under the Native Title (Prescribed Bodies Corporate) Regulations 1999 (Cth) Kyburra cannot make a decision to enter into the ILUA unless it has consulted with and obtained the consent of the Juru People to enter into the ILUA. Kyburra must also consult with and consider the views of the native title representative body for the ILUA Project. Kyburra and Adani have organised a number of consultation and consent information sessions (Information Sessions) for the Juru People to attend for this purpose.” (21)

Birriah

There were three public notices of information sessions and authorisation meetings for the Birriah People placed in the Koori Mail on September 10, 2014.

The three public notices relating to Birriah information sessions, a reformulation meeting, and authorisation meetings carried similar headlines texts.

Public notice 1.

PUBLIC NOTICE OF AUTHORISATION MEETING TO CONSIDER PROPOSED INDIGENOUS LAND USE AGREEMENT (AREA AGREEMENT) UNDER THE NATIVE TITLE ACT 1993 (CTH)

Public notice 2

BIRRIAH NATIVE TITLE CLAIM GROUP NATIVE TITLE AUTHORISATION MEETINGS

Public notice 3

BIRRIAH PEOPLE NATIVE TITLE MEETING TO AUTHORISE INDIGENOUS LAND USE AGREEMENTS

Public notice 1 lists the authorisation meeting as September 27, 2014 while public notice 2 and 3 list the authorisation meeting as September 28, 2014.

Public notice 2 lists two meetings, the first of which is a reformulation meeting to change the apical ancestor list. The current and proposed apical ancestor lists are provided in all three notices.

Public notice 3 lists the start time of the authorisation meeting as 8.30am which is the same time listed in public notice 2 as the starting time for the reformulation meeting.

Public notice 2 outlines the order of proceedings as the reformulation meeting followed by the authorisation meeting for those still deemed to have an apical ancestor.

Meeting 2 – Meeting of the reformulated Birriah Native Title Claim Group If a decision is made to change the description of the Birriah Native Title Claim Group a further meeting of the re-formulated claim group will be held immediately following Meeting 1 for the purpose of authorising an Applicant to deal with all matters arising in relation to the Native Title Claim. Note: If the proposed amendments to the description of the native title claim group are authorised at Meeting 1, then only persons who fall within the re-formulated claim group description may participate in Meeting 2.” (22)

No mention is made in the Birriah public notices of any authorisation meetings scheduled for November 4, 2014.

A public notice announcing that an application to register an area agreement on the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements was issued in the Koori Mail on January 14, 2015. Here’s a quote from that notice indicating the a Birriah Traditional Owner could not make an objection to the registration of an ILUA in this particular circumstance unless they made a registered native title determination application during the notification period.

Responses to an application to register an ILUA—where the application has not been certified: Because this application for registration of the agreement has not been certified by the Representative Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander Body/ies for the area, there is no opportunity to make a formal objection to its registration. However, if you claim to hold native title in relation to any of the land or waters covered by this agreement, you may wish, within the notice period, to make a native title determination application or equivalent application under a law of a state or territory in respect of any part of the area. The application must be made by 21 April 2015. If that application is registered on the Register of Native Title Claims, the registered native title claimants must be a party to this agreement before it can be registered.” (23)

(c) Theme three: Non PBCs/RNTBCs making ILUAs.

I’ve identified two occasions in the negotiation of ILUAs relating to the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex when Traditional Owners have been represented in ILUA negotiations by groups that are not the claim group, Prescribed Body Corporate (PBC) or the Registered Native Title Body Corporate (RNTBC).

This raises some serious questions about the oversight of the NNTT. While I’m no expert on native title, it seems to me that the claim group ought to be represented by bodies that are subject to regulation by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) and were incorporated for the specific purpose of making native title claims and negotiating with parties on behalf of the claim group defined under the native title system.

Juru Enterprises Limited

Juru Enterprises Limited made an ILUA with Adani in January of 2014. The Juru RNTBC, KMYAC were not a party to this ILUA.

The title of the ILUA isJuru People and Adani Abbot Point Terminal ILUA’. NNTT number: QI2013/036 (24)

Juru Enterprises Limited and Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation are currently in pre-hearing case management in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Case management hearings are being presided over by Justice Steven Rares. (25)

From my research only Geoff Egan, a reporter from Central Queensland is the only person to write about these proceedings in a piece titled ‘Juru missed out on $1m from Adani: court’. (26)

The Queensland Department of State Development Annual Report 2016/17 mentions Juru Enterprises Limited.

Work is also continuing with the local native title group, through Juru Enterprises Limited, to provide further skills and capacity building while undertaking land management activities within the Abbot Point SDA.” (27)

WJ Corporation

Kate Arnautovic’s honours these provides are very useful background on negotiations between the Wangan and Jagalingou People and Adani. The quote below should interest anyone who is concerned with transparent agreement making during the pre-determination phase.

In December 2012, Adani attempted to sideline the authority of the applicants and seek authorisation from the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (WJ Corporation). The WJ Corporation is a representative body with a board of Wangan and Jagalingou family representatives (Adani Mining v. Jessie Diver & Others, 2013). While its membership is comprised of many Wangan and Jagalingou claimants, it also represents people who are not claimants. Patrick Malone told the NNTT that the membership of the WJ Corporation included ‘large numbers’ of people who were not descendants of the 12 families that constitute the claim group (Adani Mining v. Jessie Diver & Others, 2013).” (28)

References

(1) O’Faircheallaigh, Ciaran. ‘Mining royalties and Aboriginal autonomy’. Distinguished Lecture presented by the School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University. 9 August 2017 (Broadcast ABC Radio National: September 13, 2017).

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/mining-royalties-and-aboriginal-autonomy/8808038

(2) Swifte, Michael. ‘Australia’s climate movement has been bought for a pittance.’ Blog: We Suspect Silence, May 13, 2014.

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/australias-climate-movement-has-been-bought-for-a-pittance/

(3) Goff, Stan. ‘On Strategy, Tactics & Intelligence’. Huffington Post: The Blog.

Originally published February 1, 2007. Updated May 25, 2011. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/stan-goff/on-strategy-tactics-intel_b_40222.html

(4) Swifte, Michael. ‘The National Native Title Tribunal: Arbiter or “record keeper”?’ Blog: We Suspect Silence, May 10, 2017.

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/the-national-native-title-tribunal-arbiter-or-record-keeper/

(5) Swifte, Michael. ‘Confirmation that the North Galilee Basin Rail Project is the Adani rail project being considered by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility’. Blog: We Suspect Silence, September 8, 2017.

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/confirmation-that-the-north-galilee-basin-rail-project-is-the-adani-rail-project-being-considered-by-the-north-australia-infrastructure-facility/

(6) Swifte, Michael. ‘Unpacking the Galilee Basin shell game’. Blog: We Suspect Silence, December 24, 2017.

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/unpacking-the-galilee-basin-shell-game/

(7) Greenpeace Australia Pacific. ‘Off Track: Why NAIF can’t approve the Carmichael Rail Project’. December 2016.

https://d68ej2dhhub09.cloudfront.net/2021-Off_Track_-_Why_NAIF_can%E2%80%99t_approve_the_Carmichael_Rail_Project_(web_version).pdf

(8) Lyons, Kristen, Brigg, Morgan, and Quiggin, John. ‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS: ADANI, THE STATE, AND THE INDIGENOUS RIGHTS STRUGGLE OF THE WANGAN AND JAGALINGOU TRADITIONAL OWNERS COUNCIL’. 2017.

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

(9) Swifte, Michael. ‘Why is there so much silence around the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and related Indigenous Land Use Agreements?’. Blog: We Suspect Silence, February 17, 2017. https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/why-is-there-so-much-silence-around-the-north-galilee-basin-rail-project-and-related-indigenous-land-use-agreements/

(10) National Native Title Tribunal: Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreement Details. ‘QI2014/072 – Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and Adani Mining North Galilee Basin Rail Project ILUA’. November 24, 2014.

http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/Pages/ILUA_details.aspx?NNTT_Fileno=QI2014/072

(11) National Native Title Tribunal: Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreement Details.

‘QI2014/080 – Birriah People and Adani Mining North Galilee Basin Rail Project ILUA’. April 24, 2015.

http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/Pages/ILUA_details.aspx?NNTT_Fileno=QI2014/080

(12) National Native Title Tribunal: Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreement Details.

‘QI2014/065 – Bulganunna Aboriginal Corporation and Adani Mining Carmichael North Galilee Basin Rail Project ILUA’. January 5, 2015.

http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/Pages/ILUA_details.aspx?NNTT_Fileno=QI2014/065

(13) Queensland Treasury: RTI disclosure log – 2016 and earlier. RTI 493. Disclosure made to Jeremy Tager at the North Queensland Conservation Council. Released December 17, 2014.

https://www.treasury.qld.gov.au/about-treasury/right-to-information/previous-disclosure-log-php/

(14) Swifte, Michael. ‘Only a “standard gauge” rail line will deliver the economies of scale to open up the Galilee Basin’. Blog: We Suspect Silence. April 14, 2017.

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/only-a-standard-gauge-rail-line-will-deliver-the-economies-of-scale-to-open-up-the-galilee-basin/

(15) Roe, Isobel. ‘Native title holders lodge objection to proposed North Galilee Basin rail project’. ABC News. October 20, 2014.

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

(16) Pers, Comm,. NNTT. May 10, 2017.

(17) Pers, Comm,. NNTT. May 10, 2017 and May 23, 2017.

(18) Pers, Comm,. NNTT. October 18, 2017.

(19) Pers, Comm,. NNTT. (multiple occasions in late 2016 and 2017).

(20) Pers, Comm,. NNTT. October 18, 2017.

(21) Koori Mail. Ed 581. July 30, 2014.

https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/digitised_collections/the_koori_mail/581.pdf?width=900&height=800&iframe=true

(22) Koori Mail. Ed 584. September 10, 2014. https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/digitised_collections/the_koori_mail/584.pdf?width=900&height=800&iframe=true

(23) Koori Mail. Ed 592. January 14, 2015. https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/digitised_collections/the_koori_mail/592.pdf?width=900&height=800&iframe=true

(24) National Native Title Tribunal. Extract from Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements. ‘Juru People and Adani Abbot Point Terminal ILUA’. January 20, 2014. http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/ILUA%20Register/2013/QI2013.036/ILUARegisterExport.pdf

(25) Federal Court of Australia, Queensland Registry. File number: QUD244/2017. JURU ENTERPRISE LIMITED v ADANI AUSTRALIA COMPANY PTY LTD ABN 87 163 221 609 AS TRUSTEE OF ADANI AUSTRALIA HOLDING TRUST& ANOR. Updated February 8, 2018. https://www.comcourts.gov.au/file/Federal/P/QUD244/2017/actions

(26) Egan, Geoff. The Morning Bulletin. ‘Juru missed out on $1m from Adani: court’. June 1, 2017. https://www.themorningbulletin.com.au/news/juru-missed-out-on-1m-from-adani-court/3184689/

(27) Queensland Government. Department of State Development. Annual Report 2016-2017. http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/tableOffice/TabledPapers/2017/5517T1706.pdf

(28) Arnautovic, K. (2017). Resources, race and rights: A case study of Native Title and the Adani Carmichael coal mine. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses_hons/1503

We know less about Aurizon’s NAIF application than we knew about Adani’s

Aurizon’s Central Queensland Integrated Rail Project (CQIRP) has lapsed as you can see on the Queensland State Development (DSD) website.

Before their rail project lapsed Aurizon entered into an agreement with GVK Hancock. You can can read about it on the Aurizon website.

GVK chairman Dr G V Krishna Reddy was extremely confident about their deal to connect the south Galilee Basin block of mines. He is quoted on the Aurizon website saying:

This is one of the most significant deals in Queensland’s coal history. The development of the rail and port infrastructure will unlock the Galilee Basin and see the development of Alpha, Kevin’s Corner and Alpha West, creating one of the largest integrated coal development projects globally.

The reason the GVK chairman was so confident was because, like Adani, GVK Hancock possessed multiple Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) covering their proposed rail corridor. The GVK Hancock rail corridor is designed to connect Abbot Point to mining leases nearly 500 kilometres south-west of the port. One of these ILUAs was made with the Wangan and Jagalingou People. It covers the southern most section of the GVK Hancock rail corridor and some mining infrastructure, but not mining activity.

You can find the Hancock Alpha Coal Project ILUA (Wangan and Jagalingou Area) on the National Native Title Tribunal website.

Here’s a map of the section of rail corridor covered by the ILUA with NNTT number QI2011/011

screenshot.693

The northern most portion of this rail corridor section passes over Mistake Creek before it crosses the Gregory Highway adjacent to Mazeppa National Park. On the DSD website page for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project it states:

The southern end of the rail line would connect with rail infrastructure proposed as part of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project in the vicinity of Mistake Creek (west of Moranbah) and would run north to the Port of Abbot Point (near Bowen).

What the GVK Hancock rail project and the Adani rail project have in common is that they are both planned as standard gauge projects unlike CQIRP which was planned to be a narrow gauge extension of the existing Newlands and Goonyella systems currently in use servicing the Bowen Basin mines. What these two projects have in common that separates them from Aurizon as a rail project developer is that they have the necessary ILUAs to support project development. Adani have the three necessary ILUAs to develop the NGBR and GVK Hancock have the four necessary ILUAs to develop the rail component of the Alpha Coal Project and in the process connect four or more other coal mines to Abbot Point. You can read about these mines in the Queensland Department of State Development – Annual Report 2016/17.

GVK Hancock’s very confident media release from March 2015 titled ‘GVK HANCOCK HAS ALL INDIGENOUS AGREEMENTS IN PLACE FOR ITS PROPOSED MINE, RAIL AND PORT’.

Aurizon don’t appear to have any rail project ILUAs with the Wangan People, Jannga People, Birriah People, or Juru People. It seems highly likely that Aurizon’s ambitions to build a rail line with NAIF funding are connected to their relationship with GVK Hancock who have the necessary agreements in place.

It is not likely that Aurizon will seek to revive their narrow gauge CQIRP project. It has been reported from many sources that the coal industry strongly prefers new coal rail projects in the Galilee Basin to be standard gauge. One key source indicating a preference for standard gauge is an RTI disclosure from 2014 revealing communications between Queensland Treasury, State Development, and the Department of Premier and Cabinet bureaucrats. I discussed the disclosure in this blog post.

When I say “we know less” I’m not referring to “we” as in the general public, because the general public have been misinformed by silence and lies and cut n paste journalism. When I say “we know less” I’m referring to those who know some actual true information, and who, for the most part, don’t share that information. I’m referring to the messaging masters of the Stop Adani coalition NGOs and their think tank allies, the political parties (including the Greens), Fairfax, The Guardian, the ABC, and the NewsCorp press.

 

GVK Hancock and all the rail project ILUAs.

Alpha Coal Project (GVK Hancock) – State Development page

QI2011/011 – Hancock Alpha Coal Project ILUA (Wangan and Jagalingou Area)

QI2011/003 – Hancock Alpha Coal Project ILUA (Jangga Area)

QI2011/004 – Hancock Alpha Coal Pty Ltd & Birri Native Title Claim Group ILUA

QI2011/019 – Hancock Alpha Coal Project (Port Area Native Title Group)

 

Parties to the Galilee Basin shell game: The Greens

When The Australia Institute became the first entity of any kind to acknowledge that Matt Canavan placed the name of the Adani rail project – that was in line for the 1 billion NAIF loan – on the public record in February 2017, I was sent into a flurry of activity to find senate estimates hearings with NAIF and ONA staff to see what had been said by Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters at two key senate estimates hearings that both followed revelations of the Adani rail project name via answers to questions on notice arising from previous hearings. I was also compelled to review the senate NAIF inquiry transcripts to see how Janet Rice and Richard Di Natale allowed the NAIF inquiry hearing to pass without any mention of Matt Canavan’s revelations from February and May.

To me it was understandable that Labor and LNP senators would have an interest in helping mask details of the rail corridor from scrutiny, but not the Greens. Surely the Greens would have an interest in exposing Matt Canavan breaching his own standards of “commercial-in-confidence”, and allowing the public the opportunity to have the fullest possible knowledge of developments in the Galilee Basin to help inform their choices.

The first of these hearings was on March 2, 2017, two weeks after Matt Canavan had issued his answer to a Question On Notice from Larissa Waters from October 2016. I found no actual reference to QoN SI.36 by Scott Ludlam during the March 2 senate estimates hearing, but I found an exchange in which Ludlam, Canavan, and NAIF CEO Laurie Walker failed to acknowledge the communication placed on record by Matt Canavan in February 2017. While the bureaucrat Walker can hide behind protocol, and Matt Canavan can say in his defence “what’s an entity?”, Ludlam was perfectly free to acknowledge the very clear response from Matt Canavan to his colleague’s question on notice. Scott Ludlam had every opportunity to put it to the NAIF CEO and Matt Canavan that Adani Mining Pty Ltd were the likely proponent since they are the proponent for the mine and rail projects listed with the Queensland Department of State Development who are charged with coordinating the mine, rail, and water projects for the Carmichael mine/Galilee Basin coal complex.

Senator LUDLAM: On notice if you need to, can anybody at the table please shed some light on which particular Adani entity has applied for the loan? I understand it is quite a complex corporate structure and there are various shell entities and goodness knows what else. Which particular entity is it that has lodged the request for assistance?
Senator Canavan: I am not aware.
Senator LUDLAM: I will maybe put that to Ms Walker.
Ms Walker: The NAIF has a protocol that it treats all its business dealings as commercial in confidence.
Senator LUDLAM: The minister announced one of them last December, so that is not working out super well.
Ms Walker: There are very limited exceptions for information that is able to be disclosed publicly; it is agreed with some of the proponents.
Senator LUDLAM: Are you heading towards not being able to tell us which particular Adani entity you are dealing with?
Ms Walker: Yes, because from a financing perspective, which the NAIF is, we regard it as very important to maintain the commercial in confidence information.

Link: Senate Hansard March 2, 2017 

Another exchange caught my eye due to the suggestion by Labor’s Chris Ketter that NAIF protocol may have been breached by the release of unspecified information. The NAIF CEO Walker said that her organisation did not breach protocol and the Office of Northern Australia – Head, Mark Coffey said that the protocol had recently changed. Matt Canavan indicated that he had made public comment about the Adani rail project loan application, but did not specify the type of public comment. Matt Canavan indicated that he spoke to the “proponent” before making public comments to ensure they were “comfortable” with the information he was sharing. From the below exchange we can assume that the information Matt Canavan had sought permission to share is an exception to the “commercial-in-confidence” arrangements often presented by Matt Canavan, his office, and NAIF and Office of Northern Australia staff.

Senator KETTER: Ms Walker, could you give us a breakdown of the four projects that are in the due diligence stage, in the same way that you have done with the inquiry stage? How would you characterise those? I think we know that one is a pipeline.
Ms Walker: I have given you a breakdown at the very high level, because we obviously want to be as transparent as we can with the pipeline. But I think to break down four deals that are in due diligence would be revealing information about those transactions, and our protocol would be that we maintain commercial-in-confidence of what those projects are.
Senator KETTER: I am sorry; I said pipeline before. I think you told us that one of those four projects is a rail link.
Ms Walker: Yes.
Senator KETTER: So we know that.
Ms Walker: As I said, we have a protocol that has a very limited exception as to information that we can disclose, and we can on that one under our protocol. But I am not at liberty to reveal the others at this moment.
Senator KETTER: I am a bit confused as to why we can know one of those four but not the other three.
Ms Walker: As I said, our general protocol is that we regard all business information in relation to proponents—whether or not a proponent has approached us—as information that is commercial-in-confidence that can give signals to the market that are valuable. Perhaps when I respond on that other question—the question on notice—about why we wish to maintain commercial-in-confidence, that would be the way I would like to handle it.
Senator KETTER: Has there been a breach of protocol in relation to the rail link project?
Ms Walker: NAIF have not breached a protocol.
Mr Coffey: Senator, maybe I can answer that. Last year in estimates I answered that question and at the time that high-level information was released through my office and there was not a breach of protocol at that time. NAIF have a policy now that they treat that information as commercial-in-confidence and they will maintain that.
Senator KETTER: So there has been a change in policy?
Ms Walker: As clarification: on that particular deal, we had the consent of the proponent to acknowledge that they have expressed interest in approaching the NAIF. That is the information that I have made public.
Senator Canavan: While I am obviously not party to the protocols and policies of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility—and it is a matter for them—I only commented publicly on that particular project after speaking to the proponent and ensuring that they were comfortable with that. I have not sought to do the same with other projects, because there simply is not the same level of public interest. That is of course a judgement call on my behalf, but I am trying to be as open as I can. In fairness to Adani, while I am not here to talk to them, they have not tried to hide anything either. They are being completely open and upfront about their project. There will certainly be a lot of commentary on it and a lot of interest in it.

Link: Senate Hansard March 2, 2017

QoN AI.70 is a set of written questions by Larissa Waters, submitted after the March 2 estimates hearing and directed to Matt Canavan’s office. Question 3 reads:

3. When the Minister publicly announced in early December last year that the NAIF is looking into the Adani rail proposal did he discuss that with you or your office before he let the media know? a. If yes how was it communicated – phone or email?

The answer to Question 3 was published a little over a week before the June 1, 2017 senate estimates hearing and contains the second revelation of the Adani-NAIF project name. Waters made no mention of this or the previous revelation in her extensive questioning of NAIF and ONA staff on June 1, 2017.

3. As the Minister stated at Senate Estimates there has been no public formal announcement from Government.
The NAIF had informed the Minister via email that Adani had consented to disclose the following:
‘Adani has expressed interest in accessing the NAIF facility, for the purposes of supporting the North Galilee Basin Railway Project.’

Download link: QoN SI.36

Download link: QoN AI.70

Waters and Ludlam had been sidelined by the time the first and only hearing in the senate NAIF inquiry took place. Senators Rice and Di Natale were in attendance for the Greens and did not mention the two answers to questions on notice that explicitly named the North Galilee Basin Rail Project as the Adani project in line for the NAIF loan. They did not seize on Australian Conservation Foundation and Environmental Justice Australia lawyer David Barnden’s mention of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the December 2016 Courier mail article which broke the news.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Mr Barnden, could you just assist us by giving me on notice the reference to where in Hansard you say the NAIF board spoke about Adani and what processes they were proceeding with at NAIF on the Adani application?
Mr Barnden: Yes, we can take that on notice.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: You’ve said that the NAIF board have discussed it, and I just wish you to—
Mr Barnden: I believe there’s a Senate estimates answer to question on notice SI-35, 20 October 2016, which states that Adani and NAIF have been in discussions. There was also a Courier Mail article in early December 2016 which—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Not everything that’s in the Courier Mail—
Mr Barnden: Yes, but there’s been no public response by NAIF refuting that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: But you’re suggestion NAIF are going through the process. I just want the reference to that because I know that’s not true and I’d like to see the reference.
Mr Barnden: If you can tell us any more about NAIF not analysing the Adani proposal, we’d be welcome to hear it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: No, no. This is the point: your submission and those of the previous witnesses are based entirely upon Adani, and yet—
Senator RICE: The minister acknowledges it.

Senator DI NATALE: The minister has acknowledged it. Don’t expect the witness to refute what is patently false.
CHAIR: Senator Macdonald, the witness has agreed to take your question on notice, so have you got another question?
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes. I am asking: do you have any evidence at all—real evidence—that Adani have made application and put in the necessary applications, and, if so, what is that evidence?
Senator DI NATALE: If you’d paid more attention at Senate estimates you would have seen that NAIF confirmed that Adani had applied for the loan.

Download link: NAIF inquiry hearing August 11, 2017

As I outlined in my blog post Confirmation that the North Galilee Basin Rail Project is the Adani rail project being considered by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, Tom Swann had seen QoN SI.36 as early as July 2017 and acknowledged to me on twitter that he was aware of it coming into the inquiry and claimed he couldn’t recall on the day. When he was asked by Janet Rice to provide details, examples and time lines he stopped at a January 18 response from the NAIF to an FOI request. Janet Rice does not encourage him to continue the time line or press him to provide more concrete details, but she did come to some agreement stating “So the NAIF, Adani and the statements from the government all seem to be intersecting and influencing each other quite inappropriately.”

Tom Swann knew full well that QoN SI.36 and QoN AI.70 superseded the Renee Veilaris exclusive from December 2016 in terms of primary sources and yet he seemed to raise doubts about the sources for the article pointing out that the NAIF did not appear to be a source. Janet Rice had every opportunity during her time with Mr Swann to press him to reveal the very specific revelations of the 2 offending QoNs, but did not.

Senator RICE: Thank you, Mr Swann and Mr Campbell. There are very clear recommendations in your submissions about how the NAIF could operate and how it is currently operating. I want to focus on your concerns regarding political interference with the NAIF, which you mentioned in your submission and in your testimony just then, and the contradictory statements made by Adani in terms of their relationship with the NAIF. Can you talk us through in more detail your concerns with political interference—including, if you have some details, time lines and specific examples?
Mr Swann: Sure. The NAIF was announced in the ’15-’16 budget and was actually set up in the ’16-’17 budget. There were media reports that Adani had applied quite early on, but the controversy really took off on 3 December when there was a front page Courier-Mail story. Interestingly, the NAIF itself was no part of this story, and it was not clear where the story came from. On 5 December, a couple of days later, the Adani spokesperson boasted that the loan was not critical. We have obviously applied because it is available. It doesn’t mean it’s make or break for the project. Interestingly, at the same time, Minister Canavan promoted the project and promoted the loan, and emphasised that it will be a multiuser rail line. On 6 December I had some correspondence with the NAIF in which they refused to acknowledge that the proposal even existed. On 18 January, in response to an FOI request, the NAIF refused to say that it had any documents containing the words ‘Adani’ or ‘Galilee’ or ‘Carmichael’—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: But that doesn’t worry you at all—
Mr Swann: on the basis that it would breach confidence—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: You still assume—
Mr Swann: It wasn’t that there were no documents but rather that to even consider whether there were documents or not would prejudice their decision-making. So how could it be that an independent agency that was assessing a proposal was bound to confidentiality while the minister could essentially run national PR for the proposal?
Senator RICE: Yes. Indeed. Then ongoing from that—other issues in terms of that?
Mr Swann: There was another example of the issue around Adani’s boast that the loan was not critical for it to go ahead. On 4 May, Adani announced that it had promised to buy steel from Arrium, from the steelworks in Whyalla, and this was touted as a lifeline for the Whyalla Steelworks, despite the fact that it represented less than two per cent of the steelworks’ capacity for about 2½ years. So it really was quite small, as the Whyalla Steelworks spokesperson acknowledged at the Adani press conference. But, at the same time, Adani said that it would go ahead with this order, regardless of whether it got the NAIF loan. So again there are real questions about why the NAIF didn’t, at that point, dismiss the application. And then, on 7 June, suddenly Adani changed its mind: the day after having given the investment proposal the so-called green light, it said that the funding was critical, and that subsequent requirements from state and Commonwealth to make the rail project an open-access common-user line increased costs. But, as I said, it has always been a multiuser rail line. The word ‘multiuser’ is in the first sentence of Adani’s 2013 environmental impact statement.
Senator RICE: So the NAIF, Adani and the statements from the government all seem to be intersecting and influencing each other quite inappropriately.
Mr Swann: Absolutely. And that raises real concerns. The NAIF has made a lot of noise about its confidentiality, and much more noise about its confidentiality than the projects that it is assessing. If we accept what the NAIF has said—that that’s really important—it raises incredibly big concerns about the way that the minister and the proponent have been allowed to promote their project in the national media in the intervening period.

Download link: NAIF inquiry hearing August 11, 2017

Ian MacDonald pressed Tom Swann for what Murray Watt called “real evidence”. The committee secretariat presented the chair (Chris Ketter) with the text of QoN SI.35 which was mentioned earlier in the hearing by David Barnden. That text does not go as far as QoN SI.36 in confirming that Adani are indeed “in discussions” with the NAIF over a rail project as it does not expressly name the rail project while strongly suggesting the likely rail project. It’s clear that in this exchange was another opportunity missed for senators Rice and Di Natale. They would have seen all the responses to Larissa Waters’ questions on notice and would have known that QoNs SI.36 and AI.70 were a more appropriate and powerful response to questions about primary sources.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You acknowledged to Senator Hume that NAIF have said something publicly about Genex, because Genex apparently gave them approval to do it. Do you have any real evidence at all of Adani making an application, whether the facts and figures have gone in or whether NAIF has actually been investigating it? Do you have any evidence at all?
Mr Swann: The proponent has repeatedly discussed its application. This is a quote I read out before: ‘We have applied for it because it’s available.’ That was 5 December. The minister wrote an opinion piece about why it was a good idea to provide this loan and, again, promoting that it was multiuser. That was on 8 December. I cannot refer to it, I’ll have to take it on notice, but I do remember seeing a note on Hansard in which the NAIF acknowledged that the Adani proposal was one of the proposals they were considering, yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I’ve asked previous witnesses for that. Give me that Hansard.
Senator WATT: It sound like real evidence.
Mr Swann: In the last week, or maybe this week, the Australian CEO of Adani was in the media discussing how big a loan might be required from the NAIF by Adani and expressing that there was some uncertainty around that. So there have certainly been repeated references.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Can you on notice refer me to that? Which paper was that in?
Mr Swann: Um—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Doesn’t matter.
CHAIR: Senator Macdonald, in the interests of the record here, you have asked questions about this a couple of times. The secretariat has pointed out to me that in answer to question on notice at supplementary budget estimates on 20 October last year, the NAIF said:
I can confirm that discussions have occurred between Adani Australia representatives and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility in respect of their rail project in the north Galilee Basin. These discussion are commercial in confidence and we are unable to provide further information.

Download link: NAIF inquiry hearing August 11, 2017

 

Unpacking the Galilee Basin shell game

The “Carmichael Rail Project” listed on the Adani Australia website is a fiction. There is no such project listed with the Queensland Department of State Development. The “Carmichael Rail Project” is the fusion of the mine access rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, and the North Galilee Basin Rail Project.

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State Development map showing the west-east rail corridor for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project.

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State Development map showing the North Galilee Basin Rail Project corridor.

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Part of the rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (78 km) added to the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (310 km) equals the “Carmichael Rail Project” (388 km), but that’s not the project name on this map.

The Adani Australia website lists three projects in Australia: the Carmichael Coal Mine, the Carmichael Rail Project, and Adani Abbot Point Terminal O. The links provided for the “Carmichael Mine Project” list the project as the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, and the links for the “Carmichael Rail Project” list the project as the North Galilee Basin Rail Project.

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The 2 Carmichael projects are misnamed. These project names are not the names listed with the Queensland Department of State Development.

The Queensland Department of State Development website lists the length of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project as 310 kms while the Adani website lists the length of the “Carmichael Rail Project” as 388 kms. The other 78 kms could only come from part of the rail corridor providing mine access to the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project

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This map appears in the “Mine Location” subsection of the “Carmichael Coal Mine” section of the Adani Australia website. Interestingly the Adani brand and the name ‘Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project’ don’t appear on this map.

In my blog post The Galilee Basin Shell Game Continues I explained how ACIL Allen who prepared the Australian Conservation Foundation’s report for the senate NAIF inquiry broke down the numbers for the rail corridor length. They did not provide any references for these calculations or their certainty regarding the name of the rail project in line for the NAIF loan.

The rail link comprises the 78-km Carmichael rail project from the mining and processing operation to Mistake Creek, and the 310-km North Galilee Basin Rail (NGBR) project from Mistake Creek to Abbot Point. The NGBR facility will be accessible by other enterprises.

The ACIL Allen report can be downloaded at this link: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/NAIF/Submissions

Another clue to the source of the 78 km figure may be in the document called Species Management Plan – Carmichael Rail Network SP1 prepared for Adani by Eco Logical Australia. This document can be located on the Adani Australia website in the “Carmichael Coal Project” section, in a table contained in the “Plans, Reports and Programs” subsection.

1. Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, comprising the Carmichael Coal Mine and 77 km of rail line known as Separable Portion 1 (SP1)
2. North Galilee Basin Rail (NGBR) Project, comprising 311 km of rail from the connection with SP1 to the Port of Abbot Point.

It seems that some time before May 2016 when the Eco Logical Australia ‘Species Management Plan’ was published and after a document with the short title Mistake Creek Water Application was published in September 2013, the distance of Separable Portion 1 was changed from roughly 120 km to 77 km.

The rail line is divided into several different portions. This application is concerned only with Separable Portion 1 (SP1), which is known as ‘west rail’ which traverses approximately 120km from the Carmichael Coal Mine (mining lease area) east towards Moranbah.

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A map of the roughly 120 km Separable Portion 1 rail corridor as at September 2013.

At the heart of the Galilee Basin shell game are manipulations of nomenclature and information architecture by Adani Australia. Naming systems and the way supposed facts have been organised have helped shape the public perception on the coal complex development. It seems the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project is really just a coal mine with the usual rail access. The 189 km west to east rail corridor indicated on the map in the ‘Mine Location’ sub-section of the “Carmichael Coal Mine” section of the Adani Australia website is never mentioned in either the “Carmichael Coal Mine” or “Carmichael Rail Project” sections. It seems that 111 km of those 189 km were dispensable. I’m sure the old aficionados of the shell game had a name for that move.

By omission, and by manipulation of project names, Adani Australia have constructed text that masks the true nature of the rail components of two projects listed with the Queensland Department of State Development. The actual names of the projects don’t appear in the relevant section of the Adani Australia website, and the rail corridor distances listed with State Development don’t appear either.

The text Adani Australia have constructed is designed to feed cut n paste journalism ensuring that key search terms don’t enter the general consciousness. The Adani Australia website is a primary source for the purposes of reporting on the Galilee Basin coal complex. The manipulation of project names and rail corridor distances limits members of the general public from possessing either the key terms for research and the key pieces of information to consider what might be happening on the ground in a crucial component of the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex.

A thought exercise for StopAdani coalition stooges

On December 6 I shared a thought exercise on my Facebook page and on my Twitter account. It’s something I’ve been considering for a while and an attempt to sum up the difficult tension between wanting to protect the environment and at the same time deal truthfully with the reality of the economic life of traditional owner communities.

I was prompted to post the thought exercise after reading this piece by John McCarthy in The Courier Mail/Townsville Bulletin and reading a quote from Wangan and Jagalingou man Pat Malone who is in favour of the Carmichael mine. The Pat Malone quote was shared on Twitter by the deputy editor of the Townsville Bulletin, Damian Tomlinson, a noted critic of the StopAdani coalition whose Twitter page features a photo of a bumper sticker that says “Don’t take away my coal job and I wont take away your soy latte”.

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Here is the thought exercise.

Imagine if we could out-bid Adani and pay the four traditional owner groups that exist within the Galilee Basin coal complex area the money they need to care for country and community.

Imagine if the green bloc bothered to consider the Juru, Birriah, and the Jannga peoples who signed ILUAs in 2014/15 under the threat of compulsory acquisition.

The responses from 2 key Aboriginal leaders interested me. I’m going to share them here and attempt to explain my feelings about their statements.

Warren Mundine replied to my thought exercise with what reads like a strawman argument insinuating that I am yet another white man who thinks that throwing money at blackfellas will solve their problems. In my defense I would say that I am trying to capture the sentiment put forward by Pat Malone that limited economic opportunities need to be grasped, especially when choices about how to respond to the heavy weight of callous state governments who employ the threat of compulsory acquisition which imposes a sense of the inevitability of mining companies coming onto country and doing damage as they always do leaving traditional owners with the difficult choice of fighting what will probably be a losing battle or going into business and becoming a stakeholder in the economic opportunities that mining companies and state government may bring.

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Marcia Langton’s response defies what I have learned in my research into the native title system. What I have learned is this: Things are complicated, history is complicated; The Native Title Act has been manipulated in favour of governments and mining interests leaving Indigenous people as the perennially weaker party in negotiations; The Native Title Act informs the functions of the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) in inscrutible ways; NNTT case managers employ procedures that fail to capture the appropriate data to arbitrate disputes over voting meetings for Indigenous Land Use Agreements which are rock solid corporate contracts that are often made with mining companies; NNTT case managers are unable to fully explain why the procedures they employ exist and why they function the way they do.

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As a final note I want to share an observation I have made about the Aboriginal people whose lives and dealings I have looked into in the last year or so.

Down to the last person, every Aboriginal person whose business I have looked into, every person in a position of leadership or influence has had the care of country and their community front and centre. I’m not bullshiting you. Every single one. No matter how much I think they are being manipulated or co-opted. No matter how much I despise their allies, they have all had the sharing of wealth and the desperate desire to begin to heal their communities at the heart of their efforts and intentions.

Completely Spooked or Relieved of Duty?

It seems likely that the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) has half of the organisations that form the StopAdani coalition under investigation. I can confirm that 350.org.au has been under investigation for more than a year.

I’ve have watched in dismay as the StopAdani coalition members have largely ignored 3 recent direct actions in the Galilee Basin that have stopped work on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. These direct actions occurred on October 25, October 30, and November 15, 2017.

My first reading of the situation which was based on the observations I published in a blog post on October 25 was that StopAdani coalition members were withholding reach in order to protect their narrative by avoiding acknowledging that these direct actions were happening on the rail corridor that they never name.  Frontline Action on Coal (FLAC) indicated that the first direct action on October 25 occurred on Jannga country where Adani have successfully secured Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs). The November 15 direct action may well have occurred on Birriah country where Adani also have an ILUA.

Now I’ve come to the conclusion that the StopAdani coalition members have been spared from unpacking the rail corridor, the deals done with traditional owners, and the role of the Queensland government and the native title system in securing agreements. These are things they’ve never shown any willingness to unpack and things that would threaten their particular narrative.

The most important signifier that the StopAdani coalition members are happy to be relieved of their duty is that they haven’t pulled out all the stops to get the message out about the recent direct actions. None of the Stop Adani ambassadors have stepped in to get the message out. Where was the support from Missy Higgins, Michael Caton, Nell Schofield, Tim Winton, John Butler, and Peter Garrett? The StopAdani coalition have many avenues to empower individuals with reach into social media audiences in Australia to share news and content from FLAC direct actions.

Most disturbing to me is the apparent disinterest in the recent Galilee Basin direct actions by Fairfax, The Guardian Australia, and the ABC who seem to be leaving reportage of the direct actions to NewsCorp papers like the Townsville Bulletin and The Courier Mail. This effectively leaves the news of extremely important direct actions inside NewsCorp’s paywalled silo. I would argue that if the Guardian, Fairfax, and ABC journalists were reporting as vigorously on direct actions in the Galilee Basin as they do on other less illegal StopAdani campaign actions that Stop Adani coalition members would find it hard to avoid discussion of these direct actions.

It’s my opinion that Michael West who has done research for the Australian Conservation Foundation has definitely done his bit for the accepted narrative. He wasn’t interested in Galilee Basin direct actions when I challenged him to share content and news back in October. He tweeted this flippant response to my request that he share content and news.

“Start with the rail line to Abbot Point” though NAIF is yet to approve it? Surely not with non-taxpayers’ money.

On November 14 he published a piece called ‘Corporate lobby in clover, charities SLAPPED’. It’s a comparison of the privilege and favour that private and industry lobbyists receive over not for profit organisations. He goes into some detail about the ACNC and the attacks against various NGOs with charitable status. The below quote highlights just how little these organisations are prepared to say publicly about the threats to their existence.

A number of [Not for Profits] were contacted for this article. All spoke but most on condition of anonymity. There has been a chilling effect on advocacy; the charities are afraid to speak out.

Before she blocked me – unfairly of course – 350.org.au CEO Blair Palese and I had a brief email exchange regarding my issues with the lack of sharing content and news of direct actions. In an email dated October 30 Palese outlined what could be described as an existential threat to her organisation. Now that I’ve been – unfairly – blocked I’ve decided to share a quote from that email.

In the mean time, if we post directly, we will cease to exist as an organisation until we can challenge the ACNC’s interpretation of what promotion of illegal activity means.

I’m of the opinion that it’s crunch time. Adani have begun work on the rail line and it’s time to confront the machinery. Because I believe that stopping the means of export is the only way to stop a coal complex from being developed, I also believe that we need to stop the rail line being built by every means possible. We need to do everything we can to support direct action that stops the machinery. The StopAdani coalition members ought to consider the value of falling on their swords or allowing themselves to be martyrs for the cause. What is the value of protecting an institution, a brand, a chunk of market reach when the most important front, the one where the machinery of destruction gets stopped, is being neglected?

 

PS. Check out the digital2 page on the Frontline Action on Coal website. Digital2 are the remote support team working to get news and content from direct action out to the public. It is very clear that they are determined to get content and news to travel far and wide. They are working in very remote areas which poses enormous challenges to getting communications out. https://frontlineaction.org/digital2/