The Kawasaki site is on Long island Point, Hastings, Victoria
On my recent visit to Melbourne by bus and train I made a trip down to Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula to see if I could find the building site for the hydrogen liquefaction facility designed to support Victoria’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) pilot project. A friend who lives locally came along with me on the Frankston train, we had planned to get a connecting bus onto Hastings, but my friend convinced me that we should get a car-share in Mordialloc and make the rest of the journey that way.
Reports in the media described the Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility as being built at the “Port of Hastings”. Our objective was to find the specific location, a street address, a map reference or both. We were confident we were on the right track shortly after exiting the Western Port Highway when we found pipeline markers running parallel to Frankston-Flinders Rd on our left as we headed south. We were even more confident when we saw the first of the Esso petroleum storage tanks to our left. We took a left turn where a rail spur crossed the road and another left onto Bayview Road. Where Bayview Road meets Long Island Drive we found the Kawasaki pilot site.
The corner of Bayview Road and Long Island Drive
The pilot site location is more accurately described as being on Long Island Point, Hastings. The area was clearly established as an industrial export site long ago. Two Esso storage/export facilities are situated near two Bluescope Steel facilities. Both are serviced by rail spurs and, it should be assumed, pipeline infrastructure. We found some key information on public displays at the Hastings pier where the fishers moor their boats.
While we were in Hastings we picked up a copy of the Western Port News which was running a story by Keith Platt on the new Kawasaki facility and the resistance coming on the back of the ‘climate emergency’ declared by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in August 2019. The Western Port Shire Council (WPSC) have commissioned a report on the Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hydrogen Engineering Australia project and a proposed container port. The report will likely be released sometime in April this year.
Western Port News, March 3
The HESC project has a 500 million price tag and includes the development of potential geological storage of CO2 sequestered from the Loy Yang brown coal to hydrogen facility in the Latrobe Valley near Traralgon. The WPSC may find itself up against the might of the Victorian and Australian governments in contesting the Kawasaki facility going beyond the pilot phase.
An aerial view of the Kawasaki site
The CarbonNet CO2 storage project has been provided 150 million by the Victorian and federal governments so far. The HESC proponents downplay the sequestration component that would transform the hydrogen exported by Kawasaki Heavy Industries projects into “clean” or “blue” hydrogen. It is likely that the Loy Yang pilot will not immediately sequester the CO2 produced in the process of producing hydrogen from brown coal which is precisely what happened at the Gorgon Gas Project on Barrow Island off the Pilbara coast.
Activist Peter Gardner is an activist, writer and Gippsland local who provided a warning with this map in 2017.
Ninety Mile Against Carbon Storage (NMACS) is a grass roots group based in Gippsland that has been campaigning against the CarbonNet project. In their project briefing they start by providing some important context about the 2 billion in federal funding for carbon capture and storage going back to 2009.
When the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program was established in 2009 by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd it was a means of securing a low-emissions future for coal by supporting the construction and demonstration of large-scale integrated CCS projects in Australia.
NMACS point out that the CarbonNet project is one of the survivors of the CCS Flagships program and is heavily supported by the state and federal governments.
A map of CarbonNet focus areas from the NMACS website
Supporting grass roots groups is of vital importance right now. The political will evidenced by the involvement of the Australian, Victorian and Japanese government in support of corporate interests in both Australia and Japan shows that grass roots groups are heavily out gunned. They are fighting plans that have been developed since at least 2009 when former federal energy minister Martin Ferguson attended the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum hosted under the banner of the International Energy Agency’s, Clean Energy Ministerial process.
Map reference for the Kawasaki Heavy Industries site
The Western Port Peninsula Protection Council and the Preserve Western Port Action Group have expressed concerns about possible dredging and climate impacts from fossil hydrogen production preceding any CO2 sequestration.
Notes from the Fossil Frontlines Tour Westernport Bay
There is still much to be unpacked about how the HESC project came to be. Very little information is available from the bigger environmental organisations and their networks into think tanks and the media. This is consistent with the general absence of intelligence and analysis coming from the big environmental organisations in regard to CCS projects. The HESC website provides some key information including an FAQs page.
Lastly, a piece called ‘Does writing books still matter in an era of environmental catastrophe?’ by Briohny Doyle gives a little context to the situation in Gippsland. It is perhaps the most widely read piece of writing to actually attend to the issue of CCS plans for the HESC project.
A field nearby the kawasaki site
The rig off Paradise Beach is an experimental driller for “Carbon Net”, a carbon capture and storage project capable of processing a promotional video extols, “the equivalent of CO2 emissions from around one million cars every year that it operates”. The comparison is misleading however, as Carbon Net will not capture emissions from the air but from high polluting industrial sites in the Latrobe Valley, piping them seaward to inject into layers of sandstone deep in Bass Strait.
The public record shows us that four years ago Adani began negotiating with local councils under the corporate banner of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN) for the purposes of developing their Galilee Basin coal complex businesses. But it wasn’t until March of 2018 that Adani formally advised the Queensland Coordinator General (CG) of the change of name of the proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) from Adani Mining Pty Ltd to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd, and the addition of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as the rail proponent for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR).
I was prompted to prepare a log of key dates and the primary sources that confirm them when I discovered an RTI (Right to Information) disclosure made to Lock the Gate Alliance (LGTA) in July 2019. The disclosure related to the North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS) application by Adani and contains the revelation that Adani regarded Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as the proponent for the rail component of both the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project more than a year before they informed the Coordinator General of the change of proponent. Crucially the disclosure shows that the Queensland government were informed, on the eve of the senate estimates hearings into the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), that Adani were running a new rail proponent. The release of the LGTA disclosure was made more than 2 years after the original RTI application, this time frame strongly suggests that LGTA made at least 2 appeals before achieving success.
Under the act that governs the functioning of the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP) the Coordinator General can, in writing, permit a proponent to delay reporting a change of proponent details for an unspecified period. It is likely that at some point in late 2016 Adani requested written advice from the CG indicating that they had unlimited time to inform them of a change of proponent. My understanding of the relevant act, the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act), is limited, but it is plain to see that it confers extraordinary, and unprecedented powers and privileges for large scale and controversial mining developments. This makes interpretation of Adani’s actions, sanctioned by the Coordinator General, extremely difficult to analyse. I would argue that the various NGOs and think tanks networked with the Stop Adani Alliance and the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) collectively possess the capacity to apply knowledge of the SDPWO Act to good effect. What remains to be done is to follow up previous RTI applications with targeted applications using the terms “Carmichael Rail Network” and “ Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd”.
It is clear that federal Liberal National Party (LNP) politicians were aware that Adani was running a secret proponent and it is clear Queensland Labor politicians were aware that Adani was running a secret proponent. Both parties had access to commercial in confidence information about the NAIF loan applicant. My question is why were Larissa Waters and members of the Stop Adani Alliance confident that they knew the name of the secret proponent? The crucial primary sources supporting the claims made in this document from Environmental Justice Australia (EJA), and this, and this article by Stephen Long are not available online. The first specific contention made by EJA and Stephen Long in the lead up to senate estimates hearings was that the Adani loan applicant was one of a group of shell companies which included Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd whose holding companies were housed in the Cayman Islands. The second contention was that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was the holder of the royalty deed. In the absence of primary sources, these claims, supported by people like Adam Walters – principal researcher and Energy Resource Insights, and associate professor Thomas Clarke – director of the Centre for Corporate Governance at UTS do not form a compelling case identifying which Adani entity was applying for the NAIF loan.
In a written question on notice to Matt Canavan’s portfolio in March 2017 Larissa Waters asserted that “the company that owns their proposal for the railway line is ultimately owned in the Cayman Islands”. The confidence shown by Larissa Waters in asserting that she knows which Adani entity was the NAIF loan applicant was not supported by publicly available documents or evidence that those documents exist. Either Larissa Waters’ confidence came from her belief in the voracity of the claims made by Stephen Long and EJA, or it came from knowing that Adani had communicated to the Queensland government 2 months earlier that they were running a different proponent to the one listed on the DSDMIP website. It’s quite possible that the rumour mill provided Larissa Waters knowledge of Adani’s statements to the Queensland government. Was the existence of Adani’s secret proponent an open secret?
As far as I can tell, not a single RTI application in Queensland contains the words “Carmichael Rail Network” or “Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd”. Only 2 RTI disclosures mention Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. The Greens and StopAdani Alliance members were very concerned about the specific Adani proponent in line for the NAIF loan, but once the NAIF loan was vetoed that concern evaporated. There is little to no evidence that any Greens politician, Stop Adani Alliance member or CANA member have made any effort to analyse or reveal the nature and function of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd.
Unpacking the part played by the Queensland and federal governments in masking the establishment of a new proponent necessarily requires the unpacking of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and Separable Portion 1 (SP1) (the remnants of the rail line proposed for the Carmichael mine). As I have demonstrated repeatedly in my blog, the Greens, StopAdani Alliance and CANA have no interest in unpacking the rail corridor and the deals done to establish Traditional Owner consent.
Background from my blog
‘References to NGBR in reports by environmental organisations about the NAIF concessional loan to Adani: Briefing Document’
Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP)
State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (SDPWO Act)
Climate Action Network Australia (CANA)
Liberal National Party (LNP)
Environmental Justice Australia (EJA)
Separable Portion 1 (SP1)
21 key dates
The following is a list of 21 dates that represent the advancement of Adani’s spearhead contribution to the creation of the Galilee Basin coal complex. Very few of the sources and links have been cited by The Guardian Australia, Fairfax, ABC or NewsCorp journalists, even less has been shared by the Greens, StopAdani Alliance or Climate Action Network Australia members. I have included screen grabs whenever possible and have captured the text from each to demonstrate that the source documents are authentic.
Date: Jan 27, 2016
Source: Whitsunday RC minutes
Subject: Material change of use for rail infrastructure
Subject: Material change of use for rail infrastructure
12.1 2016/05/11.11 20150643 – REFERRAL ENTITY RESPONSE – APPLICATION FOR MATERIAL CHANGE OF USE FOR RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE (RAIL PACKAGE 3) IN THE GALILEE BASIN STATE DEVELOPMENT AREA, CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK PTY LTD
Subject: CRN ultimate holding company change from Caymans to Mauritius
08/09/2017 484 Change To Company
484D Change To
484N Changes To
08/09/2017 3 08/09/2017 7E9427173
Date: Sept 19, 2017
Source: We Suspect Silence blog and Riverine Protection Permit Exemption Requirements, Version 2.01, 13/11/2019
Subject: CRN made an ‘approved entity’
“On September 19, 2017 Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was added as an ‘approved entity’ for the purposes of ‘Riverine Protection Permit Exemption Requirements’. The available documents don’t indicate if Adani Mining Pty Ltd have ever applied for, or been added as an ‘approved entity’.”
Subject: Material change of use and approval of lease
12.12018/03/14.09 20170846 – DEVELOPMENT APPLICATION FOR DEVELOPMENT PERMIT FOR MATERIAL CHANGE OF USE -NON-RESIDENT WORKFORCE ACCOMMODATION (400 BED TEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION CAMP); AND OPERATIONAL WORKS – PETER DELAMOTHE ROAD, COLLINSVILLE, CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK PTY LTD
17.2Confidential Matters –Corporate Services 17.2.22018/03/14.25 APPROVAL OF LEASE CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK PTY LTD Moved by:P RAMAGE Seconded by:D CLARK Council resolves subject to the granting of Ministerial Consent under Section 236 (f) Local Government Regulation 2012 award the lease for Lot 87 SP 232119 to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd for an annual lease payment of $250,000 (excluding GST) per annum for a term of two years.
B. REASONS. Background 1. AECOM Australia Pty Ltd (referred to in this adjudication as the “claimant”) was engaged bythe Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (referred to in this adjudication as the “respondent”), to carry out engineering design services relating to the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project involving the: 1. development of the Carmichael Coal Mine; and 2. development of the Carmichael Rail Network, constituting the “work”.
Subject: Activites undertaken between October 2017 October 2018
Details of activities undertaken during report period
Early works activities undertaken included the
establishment of temporary fencing, clearing and
grubbing, filling and excavation and surveys
including environmental and cultural heritage.
Date: January 29, 2019
Source: Isaac RC minutes
Subject: CEO to negotiate and execute an interface agreement
Carmichael Rail Network (CRN) Interface Agreement
On 14 August 2018, Council authorised the Chief Executive Officer to “negotiate and execute an Interface Agreement regarding the CRN rail line interfaces with roads controlled by Council pursuant to section 60(1) of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld)”. At that time, the draft Interface Agreement provided for two rail-road crossings, namely the proposed CRN rail line interfaces with Bulliwallah Road at Ch 353.654km and Stock Route U401 at Ch 322.100km. Due to the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project reconfiguration and the resultant proposal to maintain the current alignment of Moray Carmichael Boundary Road rather than to construct a realignment of the road, there is a new rail-road interface with Moray Carmichael Boundary Road. This Report provides further background with respect to the new rail-road interface with Moray Carmichael Boundary Road.
Resolution No.: 5838
Moved: Cr Jones Seconded: Cr Bethel
1. Extend the Chief Executive Officer’s authorisation to negotiate and execute an Interface Agreement regarding the CRN rail line interfaces with roads controlled by Council pursuant
Council is requested to note the draft agreement and basis for negotiations with Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani) and Carmichael Rail Network (CRN) and to authorise the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to progress negotiations.
Moved: Cr Vea VeaSeconded: Cr BethelThat Council:1. Notes the draft Infrastructure Access Agreement. 2. Authorises the Chief Executive Officer to continue negotiations with Adani Mining Pty Ltd and Carmichael Rail Network and report to Council again in March on progress and/or outcomes of negotiations prior to any formal agreement being reached.3. Acknowledge the effort and work from staff involved with getting this draft agreement to this point, in particular the Senior Advisor, former Executive Support Officer, Director Engineering and Infrastructure and Engineering and Infrastructure officers
Subject: Confidential deliberations on CRN inetrface agreement
PROCEDURAL MOTION:Resolution No.: 5973Moved: Cr Vea VeaSeconded: Cr LaceyThat Council close the meeting to the public at 12.06pmunder Local Government Regulations 2012Section 275 (1) (h) to deliberate on confidential report 11.1 Infrastructure Agreement Update and report 11.2 Carmichael Rail Network Interface Agreementand confidential discussions relating to report 10.1 Division 4 – Appointment to Vacancy of Office –Shortlisting of Nominees.
Closed under s275 (1) (h) other business for which a public discussion would be likely to prejudice the interests of the local government or someone else, or enable a person to gain a financial advantage.11.2Carmichael Rail Network –Interface Agreement
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This report is to provide Council with an overview of the content of the Carmichael Rail Network Interface Agreement for consideration and approval for execution.Resolution No.:5977 Moved: Cr Vea VeaSeconded: Cr JonesThat Council approve the Carmichael Rail Network Interface Agreement and authorise the Chief Executive Officer to execute and vary the Interface Agreement subject to:1. Consistency of the Interface Agreement with the Carmichael Mine Project Infrastructure Agreement; and 2. Satisfactory finalisation of the Interface Risk Management Plan (IRMP) Risk Assessment which is currently with an independent Rail Safety Consultant engaged by Council for review. Carried
Subject: Approval of infrastructure agreement with Adani
CONFIDENTIAL REPORT Closed under s275 (1) (h) other business for which a public discussion would be likely to prejudice the interests of the local government or someone else, or enable a person to gain a financial advantage. 11.1Infrastructure Access Agreement – Carmichael Mine and Rail Project EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Council is requested to approve the final draft agreement with Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani) and Carmichael Rail Network (CRN) and to authorise the Chief Executive Officer(CEO) to execute the Agreement. Resolution No.:6093 Moved: Cr JonesSeconded: Cr LaceyThat Council:1. Approves the final draft Infrastructure Access Agreement with Adani Mining Pty Ltd and Carmichael Rail Network 2. Authorises the Chief Executive Officer to finalise negotiations, execute, administer and vary the agreementto the extent that the variation or cumulative effect of the variations are not material. Carried
MEDIA RELEASE 18 October 2019 Martinus Rail partners with Adani to deliver $100 million rail contractAdani today announced the more than $100 million rail contracthas been awarded to Australian-founded and operated Martinus Rail, with the contract being delivered out of Rockhampton.In a major win for regional Queensland, the contractor will base itself out of Adani’s newly opened Rockhampton Business Centre, ensuring Rockhampton businesses and people will be in prime position to participate in the contract delivery.Adani Mining CEO Mr Lucas Dow said that more than $450million worth of contracts hadalready been awardedon the Carmichael Project, the majority toregional Queensland areas.
The Carmichael Project was redesigned in 2018 to be a 10 million tonne per annum mine and 200km railway, which will see 1,500 direct jobs and 6,750 indirect jobs created during ramp up and construction.
Siemens to deliver safety rail signaling systems for Carmichael Rail Network
After a significant competitive tender process, Siemens has been awarded acontract to deliverrail signaling systemsfor the Carmichael Rail Network.The digital system is designed to keep the trains running safely and efficiently. Siemens core technology helps avoid derailments, which secures aclean environment along the rail line.
Adani made this map and gave it to the Queensland government in 2016. The Queensland government sat on it till it was revealed in a Right to Information disclosure in 2018. Whatever person or entity made the RTI application and first received the disclosure documents made no effort to share it with the public.
A map of the Traditional Owner groups along Adani’s preferred rail corridor, the North Galilee Basin Rail Project – released after February 20, 2018.
I’ve shared this map with all the appropriate journalists, politicians, NGO mouthpieces and activists. I’ve made every effort to present it to those who ought to have an opinion on what it shows us about stopping the means of export for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine. I wrote about this map shortly after I found it in May 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.
If we focused more on the political economy of the Galilee Basin coal complex we might see less aversive racism toward Traditional Owners
The featured image for this blogpost uses the map to show the approximate location of the most recent Frontline Action on Coal direct actions in the Galilee Basin in the last week. I’ve been in contact with a journalist embedded with FLAC who captured the 2 direct actions on video and has provided me with a few location details.
The direct actions took place at the intersection of Separable Portion 1 and the Gregory Development Rd (Gregory Highway).
The direct actions on August 16 and 21 involved locking on to a drill rig on a section of Adani’s rail corridor beside the Gregory Development Road. The intersection of the rail corridor section known as Separable Portion 1 and the Gregory Development Rd is on Jangga People country.
As is always the case, the StopAdani alliance NGOs did not share content or news of FLACs direct actions. This has been happening for nearly 2 years. I wrote about it here and here.
The majority of Adani’s green field rail corridor is to be built on Jangga People country. The FLAC direct actions on August 16 and 21 represent the first of many. The StopAdani alliance member NGOs and their friends in the Climate Action Network Australia need to decide if they are more committed to the narrative they have constructed or laying the future of their institutions on the line in order to properly support frontline activists. All they have to lose is their charitable status and access to those dubious ‘impact philanthropy’ funding streams.
This is the abstract I submitted for consideration by Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), AIATSIS National Indigenous Research Conferences (ANIRC) Program Committee, for inclusion as a presentation at the 2019 AIATSIS National Research Conference: Research for the 21st Century.
My proposed presentation was declined, but I’m sharing the abstract here because I believe my questions continue to be relevant.
Green-Black Relations and the Galilee Basin Coal Complex: Political economy, aversive racism and public discourse
Mr Michael Swifte
To have a belief in protecting nature while supporting the right of Traditional Owners/Sovereign First Nations to exercise autonomy is to hold two ideas in enormous tension. It is not for me as a non-Indigenous person to tell Indigenous people how to care for nature or who they ought to negotiate with in regards to rights and interests in country.
The public discourse is influenced by particular environmental and activist groups, but do these groups represent the truth of the political economy that Indigenous peoples are confronted with on a daily basis? How do these representations shape the public consciousness and influence decision making around resource extraction projects like the Galilee Basin coal complex?
My close examination of the public discourse, many phone calls to case managers at the NNTT and ORIC, and my reading of the work of Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh and Lily O’Neill has left me with two key questions: (1) What can be learned from academic inquiry that observes the Guidelines for Ethical Research in Aboriginal and Islander Studies? (2) How can independent researchers support the kind of critical inquiry that can contribute to a more informed public discourse regarding the native title system, environmental protection and resource extraction?
My RTI disclosure documents suggest that Qld DSD staff were aware of the change of
proponent at least a day before the CG received the letter from Adani Mining Pty Ltd
confirming the change of proponent for NGBR from Adaning Mining Pty Ltd to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. DSD staff were notified of a meeting titled ‘Adani projects — Implications of proponent name change’ on March 26, 2018 while Adani Mining’s letter to the CG arrived March 27, 2018.
Adani changed ultimate holding companies one month after the first hearing in the Senate inquiry into the NAIF.
ASIC documents show that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd changed ultimate holding
companies on September 8, 2017. (retrieved on November 14, 2018).
484 08/09/2017 08/09/2017 3 08/09/2017 7E9427173
484 Change to Company Details
484D Change to Ultimate Holding Company
484N Changes to (Members) Share Holdings
Context and confusion about rail approvals
I reported in my blogpost ‘Plan B, Separable Portion 1 and the new Adani proponent’ that
the rail line for the Carmichael mine is a fusion of 2 separate sections belonging to 2
separate projects. I pointed out that Separable Portion 1 is the remnants of the east-west
narrow gauge line that constituted the rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and
Ian Macfarlane puts the NGBR project in perspective
What’s going to happen with the groundwater application and its potential approval is that any further applicants will have not only the infrastructure to get the coal out because the railway line will be there,
Anyone can make a right to information application with the Queensland government, and some people can get information released with minimal cost if they are experiencing financial hardship. If Adani don’t try to hold up my application I will receive a disclosure document on December 10.
Come along next Monday afternoon for an informal discussion about how ordinary people, putting their heads together, can work to liberate information about the Queensland state government’s dealings with Adani.
If a disclosure is provided to me on December 10, I will make it available to anyone who attends. The disclosure will be made publicly available by the Department of State Development who coordinate the Adani projects a week later. The first week is a crucial time for analysing an RTI disclosure and creating opportunities in the media to share new and possible explosive information.
I was able to get some support from the Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland in preparing my RTI application. EDO Qld were able to identify the relevant legislation and framed the crucial language that forms the most important element of an RTI application. Key words and terms determine the searches of departmental documents and communications conducted in response to an RTI application.
On December 10, 2018 the Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning will either provide me with up to 215 pages of correspondence relating to the change of proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the addition of a new proponent for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, or they will inform me of an extension of time for consultation with a third party (Adani). The information I am seeking is significant because the new proponent is the subject of multiple approvals that could be described as being ‘stealthed’ through by multiple Queensland government departments. The new proponent is one of the Adani shell companies mentioned in the media in the lead up to last year’s NAIF inquiry and is reported to hold the royalty deed for the Carmichael mine.
The Queensland Office of the Information Commissioner determine how right to information processes are delivered across the Queensland government departments. It also reviews decisions made by government departments. In March it issued it’s judgement on the Queensland Department of Treasury decision not to release information to Greenpeace Australia Pacific. The below statement confirms the importance of access to information about Adani’s dealings.
“The Carmichael rail project is a matter of considerable community interest and debate. Disclosure of information relating to the project, such as that in issue, could reasonably be expected to promote open discussion of the ‘pros and cons’ of the project, contribute to informed debate on the project’s merits and ensure any decisions to advance public monies are made transparently and accountably.” L Lynch, Acting Right to Information Commissioner, 1 March 2018
The Office of the Information Commissioner provides guidelines for right to information officers across the Queensland government. These guidelines are very informative and can help members of the public understand how RTI officers do their job.
Adani are retaining a 200 km section of the often quoted 388km “Carmichael Rail Project” (a fictional project). That 200km section is made up of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR), Separable Portion 1 (SP1) – 78km and the remnants of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) which we can suppose is roughly 120km.
On September 14 I had a conference call with the media team at the Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSD). They asked me a lot of questions about my interest in when and how Adani had switched proponents for the NGBR and added a joint proponent to CCMR. I gave them my theories about the ENGOs, think tanks, the Greens, and non-NewsCorp newspapers avoiding mentioning the NGBR as it would highlight the Traditional Owners who signed with Adani in 2014.
At one stage in our call the DSD media people indicated that I may have to submit a right to information request to discover the date Adani made communication with them indicating that there was a new proponent, and the date the DSD website was updated. They also said something about there being “no time limit” for Adani to inform the DSD that there was a change of proponent. The idea that there is no time limit for a change of proponent leaves me with many questions about what it took to legally change proponents (for the world’s largest proposed coal project) and how easy it may have been for Adani to stealth in a new proponent, approvals, and accreditations. Indeed the approvals and accreditations granted by the DTMR and DNRM in May and September of 2017 have confirmed to me that it is absolutely necessary to identify the exact date and procedure for transferring proponents between companies within a conglomerate like Adani.
On September 19 I received a call back from Rebecca, the Adani media person. Rebecca was able to confirm that Adani had sent a communication to the Qld DSD in March 2018 asking to change the name of the listed proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) and add a new proponent to the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR). They were also able to confirm that the DSD added the new proponent names to their website, ‘project overview’ pages in May 2018. It is on these DSD hosted pages that the key project information such as EIS documents are provided.
Here’s a link to the National Library of Australia web archive showing that on March 18, 2018 Adani Mining Pty Ltd were listed as the proponent for the NGBR.
The North Galilee Basin Rail Project became the Carmichael Rail Network when Plan B was announced
Accreditations and Approvals
On May 15, 2017 the Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was accredited as a ‘rail transport operator’ by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR). On September 24, 2018 I sent a set of questions to DTMR asking them to provide information about how and when Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd applied for and received accreditation. I can expect a response by October 16, 2018.
Here’s a link to the download page for Rail Regulator’s Reports:
It should be noted that, according to a report by Jenny Wiggins on September 14, 2018, the Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd had no employees and $1000 in assets at the end of the 2016/17 financial year. If this is the case then DTMR gave accreditation to nothing but a shell company.
Aecom’s contract was with Carmichael Rail Network, a subsidiary of Adani. But as its most recent annual report for the year ending March 2017, the Carmichael Rail Network had no employees and only $1000 in assets.
The ABC’s Stephen Long reported in March 2017 that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd were assigned the royalty deed sold to Adani by Linc Energy in August of 2014. Long described Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as a “shell company”.
But in August 2014, in dire financial straits, Linc Energy agreed to sell the royalty deed back to Adani at a fire sale price: just $150 million.
The obvious course would have been to extinguish the royalty deed, because it represented a multi-billion-dollar liability for the mine which is ultimately owned by Adani Enterprises Ltd, the Bombay-stock exchange listed company.
Instead, the royalty deed “was assigned by Linc Energy Limited to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as trustee for Carmichael Rail Network Trust,” notes in financial reports of Adani Mining Pty Ltd say.
Carmichael Rail Network is one of a group of companies behind the proposed North Galilee Basin rail line, which Adani is currently seeking a subsidised loan of up to $1 billion from the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to build.
“What this means is that one of the companies currently seeking up to $1 billion in public subsidy is going to profit to the tune of up to $3 billion if the mine goes ahead,” Mr Walters said.
Adani Mining Pty Ltd, the proponent of the Carmichael mine and the holder of its environmental approvals, appears to have lent Carmichael Rail the funds to buy the royalty deed.
A spokesman for the Adani Group said the subsidiary assigned to the royalty right was an Australian registered and regulated company and “as such it pays all applicable Australian taxes charges”.
Long’s reporting relied on analysis from the Adam Walters at Energy and Resource Insights based in Sydney. It appears that it was Walters who provided the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, and Environmental Justice Australia intelligence regarding an Adani report to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission indicating that among the “proponents” for the “Carmichael Rail Project” is “Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd”.
2. According to company filings to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission
dated 1 July 2015, the Australian domiciled Carmichael Rail Pty Ltd and Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as trustee for the Carmichael Rail Network Trust are the “proponents of the Carmichael Rail Project”.
It was announced on June 6, 2017 that AECOM had a contract to build the rail link from the Carmichael mine to the port. While some reports used the term “Carmichael Rail Network” none specified that the contract was not with the existing proponent (according to the DSD website) Adani Mining Pty Ltd who made ILUAs for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project in 2014 and who were responsible for satisfying ‘unprecedented’ environmental conditions in seeking approvals for the Carmichael mine and associated rail corridors.
At the time of the AECOM contract announcement Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd had held rail transport operator accreditation for only 3 weeks. The announcement of the AECOM contract preceded the publication of the 2016/17 regulator’s report which also shows that Adani Mining Pty Ltd had ceased to possess accreditation.
On September 19, 2017 Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was added as an ‘approved entity’ for the purposes of ‘Riverine Protection Permit Exemption Requirements’. The available documents don’t indicate if Adani Mining Pty Ltd have ever applied for, or been added as an ‘approved entity’.
Riverine protection permits allow entities doing work around water ways of various types to conduct earth works. Exemptions are sometimes given by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines for significant works.
It is quite possible that no information was available about the ‘approved entity’ status of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd until after the creation date for the below linked document – August 7, 2018.
In early 2015 Jerome Fahrer provided an affidavit on behalf of Adani in proceedings brought by Land Services of Coast and Country Inc and Conservation Action Trust. Included in the instructions from Peter Stokes, a partner at McCullough Robertson Laywers who were engaged by Adani Mining Pty Ltd are three intriguing points.
Given that Peter Stokes was engaged and presumably briefed by Adani, the significance of the revelations made in the three points under the heading ‘Rail alignment’, must be recognised.
Once you know what “SP1” is the picture becomes clearer. SP1 stands for Separable Portion 1, the first section of the proposed 189km rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR). As the points below show, in early 2015 it was known that less than half of the CCMR rail corridor was going to be retained.
14 As you know, Adani is proceeding with the North Galilee [Basin] Rail Project alignment in preference to the full rail alignment as set out in the EIS and SEIS. The investment associated with this has been calculated at $2.2 billion.
15 However, a portion (but not all) of SP1 as presented in the EIS and SEIS will also be constructed, representing the first approximately 70 kilometres of the rail leading from the mine itself. The investment associated with the whole of the rail aspect of the project is approximately $2.5B (inclusive of contingency and transactional costs).
16 The revised SP1 alignment will no longer connect directly with the existing Goonyella or Newlands rail system.
The reason that the admissions made in the instructions to Jerome Fahrer are so significant is because they show that the “rail” component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) had been reduced to less than half only months after the final approvals were given by state and federal governments.
The name of the CCMR suggests that it’s rail component is so significant that it needed to be included in the project name unlike most mines which do not include the rail component in the name. Indeed the majority of Separable Portion 1 is located on Jannga country. The Jannga People represented by Bulganunna Aboriginal Corporation made 2 ILUAs with Adani Mining Pty Ltd for both the NGBR and CCMR. The National Native Title Tribunal numbers for the two Jannga-Adani ILUAs are: QI2014/065 and QI2014/022.
The reality is that the rail component of the CCMR as indicated on the DSD website ‘project overview’ page was effectively severed from the mine project in late 2014 or early 2015. It’s likely that the Jannga People ILUA for the CCMR covers Separable Portion 1 and the Jannga People ILUA for the NGBR covers the remnant Plan B corridor which extends to the eastern boundary of the Jannga People’s determination area.
Separable Portion 1 is only mentioned in two types of documents: EIS documents for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR), and two documents associated with Jerome Fahrer and the consulting firm he leads called ACIL Allen.
In my briefing in the lead up to the senate NAIF inquiry in 2017 I highlight an unreferenced statement about the composition of the 388km the “rail link” by ACIL Allen in their report for the NAIF inquiry commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation.
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.
Here’s a quote from an archive copy of the Adani Australia website, media releases section from November 1, 2015 (the earliest available).
The NGBR, the principal component of the company’s planned 388 km rail link from Carmichael to the port at Abbot Point, will be Queensland’s first standard gauge rail line, helping drive lower costs for Adani and other producers by with the longest, highest capacity trains for coal haulage in Australia.
The above statement is an acknowledgement of the reality of the fictional “Carmichael Rail Project”. If NGBR is the “principle” component, then Separable Portion 1 is the secondary component. By a fictional creation, a fake name that was unquestioned in the media, among ENGO spokespeople, and their think tank allies Adani masked the composition of their rail link. Through the withholding of information by both Adani and the Queensland and federal governments no reliable or intelligible information sources existed when needed. This created a situation where marginalised Traditional Owners, campaign groups, and the public could not analyse and determine what was really happening.
Additionally, the acknowledgements made in the instructions given by Adani Mining Pty Ltd legal representatives were entirely ignored by organisations like the Australian Conservation Foundation and Land Services of Coast and Country Inc. These organisations are well networked into the StopAdani coalition/alliance. Ignoring the significance of Separable Portion 1 may have strategically disadvantaged collective efforts at preventing the advancement of the Adani’s rail corridor plans.
The statement below from the introduction to the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) EIS documents shows that Adani preferred the more direct route offered by the NGBR. I am left wondering if Adani ever intended to actually build the rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR). It seems quite possible that they pursued a less desirable corridor in order to attach a significant rail project to the mine. By presenting a fictional name for the connected rail projects created the suggestion that the NGBR was part of the mine project itself and not a separate project.
The proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project includes a 120 km portion of dual gauge rail that will run west to east from the mine site to Diamond Creek, and a 69 km narrow gauge portion that will run east from Diamond Creek and connect to the Goonyella rail system south of Moranbah. This would enable carriage of product coal over the existing narrow gauge networks either directly to the Port of Hay Point (Dudgeon Point Expansion) or indirectly to the Port of Abbot Point. As such, the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project rail infrastructure offers a short-term incremental solution that maintains port optionality, but is primarily only a medium – to long – term solution for export directly to Dudgeon Point.
Dual port capability for the export of coal is required by Adani to insure against potential force majeure conditions that may affect one of the mine-to-port supply chain routes. In addition, dual port capability will help to accommodate any future production increases from Adani and/or third-party mines in the Galilee Basin, which may exceed the capacity of one port. Given Adani’s interests in the existing and proposed export facilities at the Port of Abbot Point ( refer Section 1.4), a highly efficient, long-term and more direct transport route to the port was identified as a key business requirement.
Cut n paste journalists and busy people, could, and have quite reasonably assumed that the viability of the rail line would be impacted by any success achieved by the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council in their efforts to stop the mine. These assumption were made possible by the absence of investigation of the political and economic context of the negotiation of ILUAs for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. As I have pointed out many many times, the Stop Adani coalition/alliance NGOs and think tanks, the Fairfax, Guardian Australia, and ABC have consistently avoided investigating the reality of the diversity of Traditional Owners in the Galilee Basin coal complex area.
Here’s a map that was provided to DNRM in March 2016 and only made available in a right to information disclosure in February 2018. Neither Adani nor the Queens;land government saw fit to release this very enlightening map when it would have been valuable for public understanding. I have not been able to ascertain which organisation made the initial RTI (DNRM 15-315) that yielded this map. I am left to assume that they did not have an interest in sharing it with the public.
On the 5th of November 2012 I emailed Ben Pennings for the first time. I felt I had received an education in thinking on environmental issues through his Facebook page Generation Alpha which was light-years ahead in quality of content compared to that put out by the environmental NGOs that were prominent at the time. A month later we organised a Zombie attack on my former employer, the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. A year later we were shareholder activists at the AGM of the Galilee Basin rail frontrunner Aurizon. We pitched legally vetted questions about activists blocking trains on the vast Aurizon networks. Months later Ben and I were both part of the founding Galilee Blockade group. My focus was capacity building for long term blockading while broadcasting the capacity we were building. I brought in a former military capability specialist turned anti-fracking and holistic agriculture campaigner. Some of our members joined in on a tour of the Galilee Basin with the recently arrived 350 dot org. Our members pitched our plans by a camp fire in the bush, and if my memory of the events conveyed to me by Galilee Blockade members serves me correctly, our plans were roundly dismissed. There were other plans afoot.
‘The Coal Truth: The fight to stop Adani, defeat the big polluters and reclaim our democracy’ by David Ritter, with chapters by Adrian Burragubba, John Quiggin, Geoff Cousins and others. UWA Publishing
The first thing you should know about Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter is that he’s a highly regarded and widely cited native title lawyer. Having acted for Traditional Owners in the Pilbara region, and authored articles and books on the subject, he ought to be very familiar with the Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) who become prominent players when it comes to the pointy end of negotiations over Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs). He ought to be able to comprehend the likely state of play for all the Traditional Owners affected by the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex better than most people. And yet, on the subject of native title rights, Ritter effectively hands the mic to one representative of a faction of only one of the Traditional Owner communities who’ve negotiated with Adani.
When you shine a spotlight on one individual, group, or faction you cast all others into darkness. Spotlighting is my name for what the StopAdani coalition do to Traditional Owners. Invisiblisation of certain inconvenient Traditional Owners is the net effect of spotlighting. I am left with questions about those Traditional Owner groups who are left in the shadows. It seems to me, for the sake of justice and proper investigation of the political economy of a coal complex, that the diversity of Traditional Owners should be considered. I’ve been left with these questions:
How can one representative’s position represent all Traditional Owners?
Are not the Juru, Birri, and Jannga peoples worth mentioning?
Were they not also threatened with compulsory acquisition?
I believe that the testimony of Juru elder Carol Prior is entirely worthy of inclusion in any history of this ‘war over coal’.
In his introductory chapter Ritter recalls an email conversation with Robert Manne in which he highlights the importance of “truth-telling” in social movements. Reading this made me think of the suggestion embedded in the book’s title and prompted me to ask myself “Does this book contain the ‘whole truth’?”. My answer to that question is a resounding “No!”.
If Ritter was telling the whole truth he would have been very clear about the name of the rail project that was in line for Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) funding and likely the subject of Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) considerations. Greenpeace AP cleverly avoided naming the rail project in their ‘OffTrack’ report from December 2016 in which they substituted the actual project name, the ‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project’ which appears on 3 crucial ILUAs, for the fictional project name listed on the Adani Australia website, the ‘Carmichael Rail Project’.
If Ritter was telling the whole truth he would have stated that the Rockefeller Family Fund, Graeme Wood Foundation, and Bob Burton (with his extensive networks) helped John Hepburn get the ‘Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom’ plan and funding together. It’s not surprising that Ritter does not mention Hepburn’s Sunrise Project and it’s relationship with John Podesta, the Climateworks Foundation and the Sandler Foundation as revealed by Wikileaks in the Podesta emails. I encourage you to have a look at the phalanx of impact philanthropists who were also recipients of Hepburns update emails. They come across as very much like venture capitalists, but instead of their objective being profits, they seem to be more concerned with shaping the discourse and the institutional underpinnings of resistance.
If Ritter et al were telling the whole truth (half the book is filled with essays by ‘leaders’ like John Quiggin, Will Steffen, and Geoff Cousins) they would have lamented that the majority of the Stop Adani coalition/alliance members ignored content and reportage of direct actions on their social media accounts. Direct actions by Frontline Action on Coal occurred in the Galilee and Bowen basins, and on Juru lands near Abbot Point starting in September 2017. Each of these actions materially slowed work being done by Adani and it’s contractors. In October 2017 I had an email conversation with 350 dot org dot au CEO Blair Palese about the sorry situation of direct actions involving arrests that were receiving little to no amplification from the institutions that existed to further the aims of those protesters. Palese explained to me that the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission had been investigating 350 AU and other organisations, and it was identified that sharing certain content could compromise campaign efforts. The saddest example of this rather feeble explanation was when, 6 hours into the first ever direct action against Adani in the Galilee Basin, Missy Higgins announced her new role as ‘StopAdani ambassador’. I urged her through Twitter to make her first act as an ambassador to celebrate the efforts of activists in physically stopping machinery. Sadly there was no sharing of direct action content or coverage from the new ambassador. I’ve come to believe that the StopAdani coalition/alliance members value the brands and institutions they maintain so much that they are not prepared to compromise them in order to share the whole truth of direct actions.
‘Adani and the War Over Coal’ by Quentin Beresford. NewSouth Publishing
Quentin Beresford is in the unique position of being the supervisor for the only published academic investigation that covers ILUA negotiations with Adani relating to the Galilee Basin coal complex. An honours thesis by Kate Arnautovic was drafted in early 2017 shortly before Justice Reeves determined that the March 2016 “self-determined” meeting facilitated by the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council (W&J FC) was not properly constituted as a legitimate authorisation meeting under the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA). Arnautovic’s thesis focussed on the history of negotiations between Adani and the Wangan and Jagalingou People of which the W&J FC are a faction. I can only guess at why the Arnautovic thesis focusses on only one Traditional Owner group in the development of a coal complex.
Beresford ought to be familiar with Principle 1 of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) – Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (GERAIS) which is about “recognition of diversity and uniqueness of peoples”. Beresford was co-supervisor on a 2015 doctoral thesis on ‘ethical research in Indigenous contexts’ which covered the various sets of ethical guidelines available including those developed by AIATSIS. But no guidelines provide detail about the ethics of ignoring Indigenous communities in selecting research subjects and framing research questions. The question that Beresford must ask himself is:
“Would the Juru, Birri, Jannga, and Wangan and Jagalingou peoples benefit from academic research into native title negotiations with Adani across the entire coal complex area?”
The collected works of John Quiggin, Kristen Lyons and Morgan Brigg were written in partnership with the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council in a project hosted by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland called ‘We Are The People From That Land: Centring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Transition to a Sustainable, Low-Carbon Future’. These collected works were written by academics and published on progressive online platforms, but they contain no references or citations. Instead they rely on published and unpublished testimony from members of the W&J FC . The scope and framing of these works did not include all Traditional Owner groups who negotiated with Adani. Here too the mine and the Traditional Owners of the proposed mine location were the focus. The fact that Adani have all of the necessary rail corridor ILUAs in place was somehow contextually insignificant.
Each of the seven pieces of writing that make the collected works of Quiggin et al were published after Justice Reeves’ April 2017 judgement regarding the March 2016 “self-determined” meeting. But the existence of Justice Reeves determination was never acknowledged, and hence evidence of the factional split was masked off from view. Quiggin et al were in the partnership to give a voice and legitimacy to a narrative position supported by Graeme Wood and the networks built and maintained by John Hepburn and the Sunrise Project. In their first piece ‘Unfinished Business’ they paraphrased their W&J FC partners, but by the end of their New Matilda series called ‘Killing Country’ the authors had fashioned a talking point that the poorly constituted “self determined” meeting was “bona fide”. The Federal Court, and more specifically, Justice Reeves is the final arbiter of what, under the NTA, can be deemed to be “bona fide”. Any claim about the legitimacy of a native title authorisation meeting, no matter how righteous, must satisfy the requirements of the NTA. The false claims made about the March 2016 meeting after April 2017 only serve to misinform the public and can only exist because Quiggin et al, the W&J FC, David Ritter, Anthony Esposito, Tony McCoy and Quentin Beresford remain silent when they ought to provide a position.
Marcia Langton has provided the most important criticism of the W&J FC alliances and messaging. In a piece titled ‘Adani, native title and risky strategies’ published in The Saturday Paper in July 2017 Langton lays her arguments at the feet of Tony McAvoy and to a lesser extent Adrian Burragubba. McAvoy is the nephew of Burragubba; a W&J man; Australia’s first and most highly established Indigenous silk; and a native title lawyer of high regard. McAvoy didn’t author a reply to Langton preferring to let journalist Joshua Robertson share his very general dismissals of her arguments, namely: that there were indeed other Traditional Owners who have negotiated with Adani; that the McGlade amendments weren’t about the W&J Adani ILUA; and that Graeme Wood and the Sunrise Project had provided substantial financial support to establish the W&J FC. Beresford does not mention Marcia Langton or Warren Mundine. Langton’s name does not appear in the index, nor does her The Saturday Paper piece appear in the bibliography. Beresford dedicates 5 words to Langton and Mundine, “criticism from some Aboriginal spokespeople” without ever mentioning their names.
Beresford attends to accusations that the Sunrise Project provided funding to the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council in 2014, but only in the context of so called ‘conservative” media. While Hepburn has admitted that some “logistical support” was provided to the W&J FC, the true nature of that support has never been forthcoming. Beresford paraphrases Hepburn’s argument that it ought not be shocking or surprising that a Clinton senior advisor was being briefed on developments in the campaign. This argument ignores the significance of the collected impact philanthropies represented in the list of email recipients and the crucial role played by John Podesta and the Clinton Foundation in the politics and business of climate change. Beresford argues that Hillary Clinton has a commitment to “implementing the Paris agreement”, but if you look at Podesta’s efforts with the Climateworks Foundation, The Clinton Foundation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Obama’s ‘Clean Power Plan’, and the Democrat’s support for the suite of new carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) bills, you will see a pattern of support for continued fossil fuel use. Hepburn’s emails to Podesta and others are a lot more significant than Beresford suggests. Hepburn indicated that he was prepared to go to extreme lengths to hide knowledge of the funding of his organisation and the relationship it had with the spotlighted Traditional Owner faction for the StopAdani coalition/alliance.
The most important piece of infrastructure in the Galilee Basin coal complex is the rail line, the means of export for up to a dozen mines. The rail project in question is mentioned only twice in Beresford’s book and does not appear in the index. The North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) is listed with the Queensland Department of State Development (DSD). No link appears in the bibliography which contains no more than a handful of references that name or make reference to primary source documents that confirm that the NGBR is Adani’s preferred rail project.
The NGBR was named in 2016 when the Queensland Minister for State Development Anthony Lynham announced that the ‘combined project’ was now a “critical infrastructure” project and it was named when the Queensland premier issued her veto letter to Adani stopping the controversial Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) concessional loan. As Lissa Schindler of Brisbane based figurehead group the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said recently regarding the NGBR link “It’s their Achilles heel – if we stop the railway we stop the mines.”. While people like Michael West and Adrian Burragubba might argue that Adani can’t build their rail line without the Carmichael mine, I would contend that the opposite is true. No mines can be built in the Galilee Basin without a standard gauge rail line. Understanding the negotiations and relationships that make the NGBR possible are imperative if any efforts to stop colonised neo-liberal forces from opening up the Galilee Basin for decades of mining are to be successful.
In November 2013 Adani reported that Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) had been made with Traditional Owners along the NGBR corridor. The status of negotiations with the Juru, Birri, and Jannga peoples was discussed in the report. At this stage John Hepburn et al had worked with US based global foundations and local impact philanthropists to develop broad plans which had been shared across networks like the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA). Beresford asserts that these efforts were “at the grass roots”. I was here in Brisbane and watched as the networks were developed, and philanthropically incubated players like 350 dot org and Avaaz were introduced. There was no grass roots campaign, just the capture of the efforts of good but misguided people. Anti tar sands campaigners Macdonald Stainsby and Dru Oja Jay coined a term for this back in 2009, they called it “offsetting resistance”. In a fashion that would be familiar to the early climate justice campaigners against the Athabasca tar sands Wood, Burton and Hepburn cooked up a plan that laid a path for 350 dot org to set up in Australia. Networks were effectively exploited across environmental NGOs, the Greens party and the media to advance particular talking points and ignore primary sources that threatened to compromise an oversimplified narrative.
When former Melbourne based renewable energy and climate campaigner Ellen Roberts is introduced by Beresford she is presented as part of a small local team at the Mackay Conservation Group. Roberts was active with the MCG when they were working with the Environmental Defenders Office – New South Wales on a court case against Adani. EDO NSW like EDO Qld had been allocated funding under the Hepburn/Burton/Wood plan. Roberts now works for Get Up as the lead Queensland organiser and is an ordinary member on the Queensland Conservation Council executive. Both of these organisations help fund the MCG legal challenge. In 2013 the Sunrise Project partnered with The Change Agency and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW to create the Community Organising Fellowship. In 2014 Roberts, while at MCG, graduated from the fellowship.
In my March 2017 phone conversation with MCG coordinator Peter McCallum I was told that they had a tiny team that shared a limited number of full time roles. In 2013 and 2014 the MCG were staffed by imported personnel like Roberts and similarly the North Queensland Land Council employed former Greenpeace political lobbyists Jeremy Tager. It seems that the networks were always able to furnish ‘grassroots’ groups with new staff. Indeed the 8 months I spent in 2012 managing the Facebook page for the Friends of the Earth (FoE)- 6 Degrees team in Brisbane introduced me to a team, all of whom moved on to positions with Greenpeace, the Greens, Coast and Country, Market Forces and others I’m sure. In the years since that time I have realised the role FoE plays as an incubator. It gave the modern climate justice movement Ellen Roberts.
Impact philanthropists excel at marketing particular narratives and creating the impression among the public that well funded campaigns spring from the grass roots. They do this through partnerships, grants and most crucially the exploitation of networks. The best metaphor I can find for the way highly networked philanthropy works is the American football concept to ‘run inference’. At the heart of offensive strategy is the use of offensive team members to create opportunities for the ball carrier to score touch downs by interfering with defending players to create an unimpeded path to the end zone. In the same way the EDOs, Environmental Justice Australia, The Australia Institute, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis run interference for the StopAdani team.
In Ritter’s book former advertising mogul, environmental crusader and conservationist Geoff Cousins got given a whole chapter to talk about his scrambling visit to India. In Beresford’s book the business man and CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) also gets plenty of opportunity to speak, mostly about himself. The ACF effectively replaced the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as the formal directorate for reef based campaigning in the lead up to the creation of the Stop Adani coalition. Over the 2016/17 summer break the Fight for the Reef campaign became the Fight for Our Reef campaign. In May 2017, the same month that the ACF published Michael West’s ‘Dirty Deeds’ report on the NAIF and Adani which contained no mentions of the NGBR, ACMS published their poorly referenced ‘fact sheet’ on the “Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project”. This document did mention the NGBR, but unlike the report commissioned for ACF by ACIL Allen for the senate NAIF inquiry, it quoted the rail corridor length for Adani’s fictional ‘Carmichael Rail Project’. This is a common mistake that has been made by amateurs and professionals. The NGBR length is listed as 310km while the combined length of NGBR and the rail component of Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) is 388km. My phone calls to ACMS staff did not reveal with any certainty who authored the fact sheet or if there was any willingness to improve the referencing. It was suggested to me at one stage that the fact sheet may have been prepared by StopAdani dot com.
Beresford’s book was drafted before the May 24 proceedings brought by Juru Enterprises Limited (JEL) against Adani and the Juru Aboriginal corporation Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation (KMYAC). The concerns highlighted in the court proceedings which I attended have been articulated by Juru common law holders from since at least the middle of 2015. The confused reporting of Advisian who consulted to the Queensland Department of State Development on the Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project provides evidence that the neither the DSD nor Advisian knew where they stood in terms of Cultural Heritage Management Plans (CHMPs) and which Juru body should deliver them. Justice Rares determined that KMYAC who were placed under examination by the regulator of Aboriginal corporations the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) in October 2016 and placed into special administration in October 2017 made invalid ancillary agreements with Adani which diverted funds to the struggling KMYAC. Justice Rares determined that JEL were the “Juru nominated body” for the purposes of the 2013 ILUA and ancillary agreements with Adani. JEL have complained recently that Adani have been unresponsive since Justice Rares judgement came down and are currently seeking a stop order so that proper CHMP assessments can made with the appropriate bodies.
Ben Smee from The Guardian Australia has the honour of being the first journalist outside the NewsCorp silo to report on the travails of KMYAC. He is more concerned with his informants in JEL and the Juru people opposed to ILUAs with Adani than he is about the parlous state of KMYACs finances. I have suggested to him through social media that he ought to look at the role played by the former KMYAC chair and her current employer, the North Queensland Land Council (NQLC). The NQLC are the NTRB for the Juru People. As such they have facilitated authorisation meetings with Adani for both JEL and KMYAC. They also provide anthropological services and legal support as well as having the responsibility to support good governance in Indigenous organisations for the benefit of Traditional Owner communities. The former chair of KMYAC is the director for the Townsville/Ayr Ward and the treasurer of the NQLC. If there is substance to Carol Prior’s concerns in 2014 that Traditional Owners on Palm Island had not been adequately notified of authorisation meetings for the Adani-NGBR ILUA, then the former KMYAC director is in the frame along with the NQLC.
Last week Ben Smee joined Bec Horridge on 3CR Earth Matters community radio show to talk about the concerns of his Juru informants. He didn’t mention the NQLC or how long Carol Prior has been loudly calling for transparency from KMYAC inside the Townsville Bulletin/NewsCorp silo. Bec Horridge followed on from her discussion with Smee to share her 2017 interview with Carol Prior along with a recording of a recent speech. Horridge has been sharing Carol Prior’s testimony wherever she can. I convinced a friend at 4ZZZ ECORADio to broadcast Carol Prior’s testimony, but other than the few opportunities Horridge has hustled, Carol Prior’s testimony has been ignored. The StopAdani coalition are happy to have ‘Aunty’ Carol’s face on film and share general statements about her fight, they like to call her ‘aunty’, but they don’t share her testimony like Bec Horridge does. The Stop Adani coalition/alliance, Ritter and Beresford completely ignore the struggles of the Juru people while telling heavily filtered story of the Galilee Basin coal complex.
The crucial role played by Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) is completely ignored by Beresford. Indeed it wasn’t until early in 2018 that either the W&J FC through their website or Quiggin et al in the Morgan Brigg instalment of Killing Country went into any detail about the what functions the Queensland South Native Title Service (QSNTS) actually serve in the delivery of an authorisation meeting. The very serious allegations made against Adani by Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson on behalf of the W&J FC necessarily implicate QSNTS. Indeed QSNTS staff would have to have allowed the alleged non-W&J people to attend and vote at the contested meeting. The contested registration of the April 2016 ILUA between the Wangan and Jagalingou People and Adani is the subject of a judgement held over from court proceedings in March 2018. If the judgement invalidates the ILUA then the Stop Adani coalition/alliance will claim a victory, but it will be the actions of QSNTS that will be in the frame exposing key failings of the native title system.
Tony McAvoy SC should be very familiar with the functioning of QSNTS having written in detail about the implementation of the 2007 reforms to the NTA and their implementation within the QSNTS. McAvoy sits on the Aboriginal Advisory Committee of the NSW EDO and in November 2017 he was a special guest along with Pat Anderson AO at the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) – Annual Dinner. ALHR are a partner in the Global Change Institute project for which Quiggin et al provided a voice. Did McAvoy advise that blame for manipulation of claim group member identification at the April 2016 authorisation meeting be squarely aimed at Adani rather than pointing the spotlight at the functions of the W&J People’s NTRB?
The native title system’s most crucial functions for delivering ownership-extinguishing contracts to miners are the simple majority votes at authorisation meetings by claim group members on ILUAs, and certifying the simple majority vote of the applicant group representing family and clan groups. Both of these functions are performed by NTRBs like QSNTS and the NQLC. If Adani has manipulated the native title system to secure ILUAs it has done it with the help of these 2 organisations and the ever present threat of compulsory acquisition by the state government. Only the interrogation of processes and accountabilities within bodies like the NNTT and ORIC can highlight the ways that the ILUA negotiation process, facilitation of claim group meetings, the execution and certification of ILUAs, and the limited non-commercially sensitive information provided to the NNTT for the purposes of accountability and arbitrating conflicts can mask manipulation of process by NTRBs.
Sometime after February 20, 2018 the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) published RTI 15-315 which contained Adani’s map of the Galilee Basin coal complex area featuring the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the boundaries of the four Traditional Owner groups along the NGBR corridor. This map had been provided to DNRM in early 2016. It would have been incredibly enlightening to the public if it had been made available back in 2016. I shared this map with StopAdani coalition/alliance members who took no interest.
Beresford follows the pattern set by StopAdani, the Qld state government, Adani, coalition member organisations, the ABC, The Guardian Australia, Fairfax, NewsCorp, and progressive and leftists media organisations in not telling the whole story and masking off the public’s access to primary sources and relevant discourses. The spotlighting of one Traditional Owner faction while largely ignoring all other groups, the silences around the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the signed ILUAs along it’s corridor, the silences about the struggles of the Juru People, and the tendency to ignore direct actions by Frontline Action on Coal and Galilee Blockade are the behaviours that characterise the StopAdani coalition/alliance in their messaging, networking, and the content of their communications. The well briefed journalists, authors like Beresford, and the revolving doors that shuffle activists back and forth from .orgs to the Greens party serve to reinforce the talking points of the StopAdani coalition/alliance.
If there are any people whose work I would recommend in relation to the ‘war over coal’, or more correctly, the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex, it would be the following three women. The first is activist, inventor, and world class train stopper Annette Schneider who saved me from permanent exclusion from the Lock the Gate Group Page on Facebook in spite of our very different takes on Galilee Basin development. The second is Bec Horridge whose commitment to capturing the testimony of people on the frontlines is unmatched. The third is Dr Lily O’Neill, a person who understands the tension created when the values of Aboriginal autonomy are weighed up against the imperative to protect the environment.
References you wont find in either book
‘A tale of two agreements: negotiating aboriginal land access agreements in Australia’s natural gas industry’. PHD Thesis by Dr Lily O’Neill
‘Australian Conservation Foundation – Carmichael – Abbot Point Rail: Financing Issues for Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility’ (Prepared by ACIL Allen for submission to the NAIF senate inquiry). The report can be found on this page listed as Attachment 1 in the ACF submission.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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”.
The project at the Global Change Institute
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
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.
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’
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  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.
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)).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.