We Suspect Silence

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

Aboriginal Autonomy and the Galilee Basin Coal Complex

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

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

Submission by:

Michael Swifte

February 2018

Email: mgswifte@yahoo.com.au

Blog: We Suspect Silence

Twitter: http://twitter.com/empathiser

Member: Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective

Sections

1. Motivated by understanding Green-Black relations.

2. Auto-didactics and an unstructured methodology.

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

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

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

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

List of acronyms

NNTT – National Native Title Tribunal

NTA – Native Title Act

PBC – Prescribed Bodies Corporate

RNTBC – Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate

ORIC – Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations

ILUA – Indigenous Land Use Agreement

NAIF – Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

KMYAC – Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation

JEL – Juru Enterprises Limited

NGBR – North Galilee Basin Rail Project

NPIC – Non-Profit Industrial Complex

WKOG – Wrong Kind of Green

CSG – Coal Seam Gas

RTI – Right to Information

1. Motivated by understanding Green-Black relations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Auto-didactics and an unstructured methodology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juru QI2014/072

Registered: 24/11/14

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

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

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

Birriah QI2014/080

Registered: 24/04/2015

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

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

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

Jannga/Bulganunna QI2014/065

Registered: 05/01/15

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

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

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

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

Juru

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

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

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

Birriah

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

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

Public notice 1.

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

Public notice 2

BIRRIAH NATIVE TITLE CLAIM GROUP NATIVE TITLE AUTHORISATION MEETINGS

Public notice 3

BIRRIAH PEOPLE NATIVE TITLE MEETING TO AUTHORISE INDIGENOUS LAND USE AGREEMENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juru Enterprises Limited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WJ Corporation

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

screenshot.693

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

GVK Hancock and all the rail project ILUAs.

Alpha Coal Project (GVK Hancock) – State Development page

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

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

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

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

 

Parties to the Galilee Basin shell game: The Greens

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

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

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

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

Link: Senate Hansard March 2, 2017 

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

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

Link: Senate Hansard March 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

Download link: QoN SI.36

Download link: QoN AI.70

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

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

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

Download link: NAIF inquiry hearing August 11, 2017

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

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

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

Download link: NAIF inquiry hearing August 11, 2017

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

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

Download link: NAIF inquiry hearing August 11, 2017

 

Unpacking the Galilee Basin shell game

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

screenshot.622

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

screenshot.623

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

Galilee_Carmichael+Rail+Network

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

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

screenshot.608

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

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

mine_project_description_pdf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

screenshot.635

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

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

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

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

A thought exercise for StopAdani coalition stooges

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

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

screenshot.584

Here is the thought exercise.

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

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

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

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

screenshot.585

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

screenshot.586

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

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

Completely Spooked or Relieved of Duty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Withholding Reach: The Stop Adani coalition has a problem supporting direct action

Today was the first day of the battle to stop Adani building the rail line in the Galilee Basin linking the Carmichael mine to the Abbot Point port. But looking at the social media feeds of Stop Adani coalition partners 350 dot org, GetUp, the Australian Conservation Foundation, and StopAdani dot com, you wouldn’t know there was a marathon 11 hour lock-on in stifling conditions in the Galilee Basin on the rail corridor where Adani and their contractor AECOM have machinery set up for building the rail line.

The reason you wouldn’t know that today’s direct action was happening was because these key partners shared nothing about the protest. No retweeted photos from the direct action organisers Frontline Action on Coal (FLAC) though Bob Brown, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition retweeted photos shared by FLAC.  There was no sharing of stories from the Courier Mail or the Townsville Bulletin, nothing, on Facebook or Twitter, nothing.

Townsville Bulletin: http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/news/antiadani-protesters-chain-themselves-to-machinery/news-story/5e318b4362b8f3834048f75856687ff1?nk=edc9bc18ba7fc11278a22ebc3e1bdd60-1508902888

Courier Mail quote:

The protest is in the state development area on the Gregory Highway 35km from the Belyando Roadhouse.

At 8 pm this evening FLAC provided this announcement:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FFrontLineActionOnCoal%2Fposts%2F1385041661608720&width=500

At this time, which is about 8.30 pm October 25, 2017, Missy Higgins is trending higher than today’s direct action under the #StopAdani hashtag. Missy Higgins, it was announced about 6 hours into the lock-on, is the latest ambassador for the Stop Adani coalition. Did Missy Higgins make her first action as ambassador the exuberant celebration of the efforts of the 3 activists, 2 of which were arrested? She did not.

I’m not the only one who noticed the absence of allies with reach sharing content from today’s direct action. At about 5 hours into the direct action CounterAct coordinator Nicola Paris (@peacenicsta) tweeted:

it sure is – not much online support from people with big followings – help us boost the call! x

The Regulator Takes Over: ORIC appoints ‘special administrators’ to deal with Adani and Abbot Point native title holders

Today the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) has announced that they will be placing the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation (KMYAC) under ‘special administration’.
The ORIC media release provides a quote from the registrar:
‘Kyburra is currently facing many complex issues, and despite the passionate leadership and good work of its directors, the corporation requires external assistance’, said Mr Beven. ‘The special administrators will assist the Juru people and their native title corporation through this difficult period and then return the corporation to its members.’
That means that the Aboriginal corporation responsible for dealings with Adani over the rail corridor on which Adani are reportedly about to start digging has for a third time refused to show their books to the regulator.
ORIC has a fact sheet page explaining what happen’s during special administration. Here’s a quote from the fact sheet:

A special administration is when the Registrar appoints an independent and suitably qualified person (a special administrator) to take control and oversee the running of a corporation while, at the same time, helping it to fix its problems. These problems may be short-term financial troubles or the result of poor business practices, poor governance and/or a weak organisational structure.

The aim of a special administration is to restore the corporation to financial and organisational health and, once this is achieved, to give back control to the members.

In my August 2017 blog post titled ‘The Invisiblised Struggle of an Ally: Who will take notice of ORIC’s ‘show cause’ letter to KMYAC?’  I provide the background to the complaint made by a group of Juru people in September 2016 lead by elder Carol Prior. I’m sad to say few people took any notice of ‘show cause’ letter.
KMYAC are also currently in the middle of court proceedings to determine which Juru organisation is to receive funds from Adani over an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) on the Abbot Point port: KMYAC or Juru Enterprises? Only one article has been written about this court case which involves large sums of money may be determined in late November 2017.
It should be noted that KMYAC director Angie Akee is also on the board of directors of the North Queensland Land Council and is on the Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee for GBRMPA. My blog post from September 2017 titled ‘Do you want Indigenous autonomy and to stop Adani?’ explains in some detail the networks that surround Angelina Akee including Juru Enterprises 2014 dealings with Adani before the NGBR ILUA.
I will reiterate what I have been saying since I first heard Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh’s speech on Indigenous autonomy. We need to look at all the business around the North Galilee Basin Rail Project ILUAs and dealings with Adani to determine if the native title system has delivered opportunities for Indigenous autonomy to be strengthened.
My strong position is that the Stop Adani coalition have chosen their spearhead traditional owner group and that all discussion about native title issues dealt with by amplification and funding of the chosen spearhead group leaving all other traditional owners out of the spotlight including those traditional owners who, having very little choice economically, choose to work with Adani.

Not Ready to Blockade: The Impact of Graeme Wood

“If we can’t stop it in the parliament, we’ll stop it by standing in front of those bulldozers. It won’t go ahead,” Senator Richard Di Natale, 15/10/17.
 
The bulldozers will start digging the Carmichael rail link (whose name barely anyone knows) in just a few days according to reports based on a statement not published on the Adani website. The reason barely anyone in the general public knows the name of the rail link ( North Galilee Basin Rail Project) is because the Stop Adani coalition members, their allies in the think tanks and NGOs, the Greens, all the other political parties, and the mainstream media (this includes The Guardian Australia) barely even say it’s name. In not saying it’s name they cut off in advance any discussion or exploration of the struggles of traditional owners along the nearly 400 kms of the proposed rail corridor, many of whom have signed with Adani. In refusing to acknowledge the rail project name as confirmed by Matt Canavan in February and May, all of those I previously listed act to mask the economic reality of traditional owners who are already burdened by the native title system which heavily favours mining companies.
 
Journalists like Michael West and Joshua Robertson see very little reason to name the rail project or explore the implications of the indigenous land use agreements signed along it’s length back in 2014. They tell me they’ve read my writings but, even at this time when Adani have announced that they’ll start digging in “days”, they don’t see why I’m so concerned with naming the rail project for the public.
 
The first senate NAIF inquiry hearing explored the issue of our collective knowledge of the rail project earmarked for the 1 billion concessional loan. Two people discussed the source of this knowledge during the first hearing, Tom Swann and David Barnden. Both spoke of a December Courier Mail article as the primary source of information regarding the likely project. While David Barnden mentioned the rail project named in that CM article, Tom Swann raised doubts about the voracity of certain claims in the article. As it turns out both men knew coming into the hearing that Matt Canavan had placed the rail project name on the public record. Tom Swann has acknowledged this in a tweet to me and the Environmental Justice Australia submission to the inquiry references the answer to question on notice SI.36 in which Matt Canavan first passes on the message given to him by his department on behalf of the NAIF. 
Following the NAIF inquiry The Australia Institute submitted their own answers to questions on notice. These answers included references to previously mentioned QoN SI.36. This is the first public reference of any kind to the acknowledgement by the NAIF board of the name of the rail project, and therefore the likely proponent and project location. I explain the importance of the TAI response in this blog post
Clearly Richard Di Natale should be publicly pushing for another NAIF hearing and encouraging Senator Janet Rice to push as well. Di Natale should be asking Senators Ian MacDonald, Jane Hume and Murray Watt to agree to a second hearing. 
Are we ready to blockade?
We are not ready to blockade. We don’t collectively know the name or nature of the rail project Richard Di Natale says he’s so keen to stop. Di Natale did not take the opportunity at the first NAIF inquiry hearing to mention the rail project name and that it had been placed on the public record. Nobody in the party he leads, despite the fact that they had 6 months and 2 senate estimates hearings, and a inqiury hearing has raised the issue or acknowledged Matt Canavan’s communication. What makes things worse is that Matt Canavan contradicted his own statements from December that the project name, location, and proponent were “commercial-in-confidence”. Why was this contradiction not enough to make the Greens politicians motivated to name the rail project?
Richard Di Natale’s statements about standing in front of bulldozers are hollow and improvised. He is siding with and wearing the logo of the coalition NGOs working with plans funded by impact philanthropy. It just so happens that the single biggest donor to the Greens, Graeme Wood is the impact philanthropist who has been intimately involved in funding or facilitating funding for the groups that form the StopAdani coalition. If Graeme Wood was seeking to have impact in stopping the mine he has failed, but if he was seeking to control the resistance, to not test the foundations of corporate law and the native title system, to place a single traditional owner group in the spotlight and cast almost all others in shadow, then he has succeeded.

Do you want Indigenous autonomy and to stop Adani?

Warning: This blog post looks closely at the Juru people’s business and corporate relationships relating to the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex. I do this only to provide context to Juru Elder Carol Prior’s recent calls regarding the need for greater efforts to protect Juru country and to give consideration to the desires and ambitions of those who choose to work with mining companies, governments, and other bodies involved in regional development.

*For an understanding of Indigenous autonomy listen to this recent speech by Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh.

Everything I’ve included in the blog post below is provided to explain the type and extent of networks and incorporated entities that can inform our understanding of Carol Prior’s complaint against her Registered Native Title Body Corporate (RNTBC), Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation (KMYAC).

I’ve focused on a very visible leader among the Juru people, Angelina Akee who is the 1st director of KMYAC. Ms Akee holds a number of positions that are of significance. Any day now we will discover if KMYAC have been placed under ‘special administration’ for failure to cooperate with 2 examiners appointed by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) in September 2016 and May 2017.

Read my previous blog posts here for some background: https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/the-invisiblised-struggle-of-an-ally-who-will-take-notice-of-orics-show-cause-letter-to-kmyac/

 

Angelina Akee – Networks

 

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)

Angelina Akee is a member of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee:

Angie is a Juru Traditional Owner and is the chair of the Kybra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation which is the prescribed body corporate for the Juru Traditional Owners.

http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-us/reef-advisory-committee/indigenous-reef-advisory-committee

A recent statement by Agelina Akee and Gavin Singleton at the GBRMPA Reef Summit 2017:

First nations people of Australia continue an age old long established spiritual and physical bond with the Great Barrier Reef that has existed for over 60,000 years. The Reef is a place that is highly significant for sustaining cultural celebration and community wellbeing for over 70 Traditional Owner groups. Recent events occurring on the Reef, both natural and manmade have had a disastrous impact on its state of health. Our tears of joy when connecting with the reef as young people has turned to tears of deep sadness as elders. We watch this wonder of the natural world show us that it needs our immediate care. We the first nations people of Australia send an urgent call to all people of the world to please give us your help to turn back the clock of deterioration. We believe it is no longer a question of resilience but a desperate need for intervention. With deep respect, we call out to all global citizens and international story tellers who have, in the past, and wish to in the future, experience the majesty of the Reef, to walk with us on this journey of courage, to give back her dignity, by nursing her back to health. We the first nations people of Australia, acknowledge the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is a natural wonder and a global asset and as such requires solutions to come from the global village to stop this tragedy from happening in our lifetimes. Let us be a generation of action and restoration. We must ensure the universal songlines of the Great Barrier Reef continue to endure for many generations to come. Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) 2017

http://elibrary.gbrmpa.gov.au/jspui/bitstream/11017/3203/1/GBR-Summit-proceedings-and-outputs-report.pdf

 

North Queensland Land Council (NQLC) – Townsville/Ayr Ward

Angelina Akee is on the board of directors of the North Queensland Land Council and is responsible for the Townsville/Ayr ward.

http://www.nqlc.com.au/files/9414/7908/0841/NQLC_Annual_Report_2015-2016.pdf

Statement by Angelina Akee upon the 3rd consent determination from the Federal Court, June 22, 2015:

The Juru People can now move forward with a strategic plan for the management of our land and sea country. This highlights the importance of recognition of the our people’s land and sea. – Angelina Akee (Kyburra Chairperson and NQLC Director)

https://nqlc.com.au/files/3614/4184/9047/20150902_MS_Q3_FINAL_WEB_v2.pdf

 

Local Networking

2015 Bowen Basin Mining Club – contractor networking event 2015

Photos:

1. Angie Akee with Adani, Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (DATSIP) Partnerships, and Department of State Development Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP) staff

screenshot.443.jpg

2. Juru Enterprises Limited (JEL) staff Trevor Prior and Damein Aidon

screenshot.444

https://issuu.com/miningadvocate/docs/qia_march_2015

 

KMYAC and JEL connection

Juru Enterprises Limited provide employment, health, education, and cultural services within the Juru determination area boundaries including jobs in the mining industry.

Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Juru-Enterprises-Limited-1505795609645605/posts/

Juru Enterprises Limited

20 January

Juru Enterprises will no longer receive any bursary funding.
Please contact Kyburra Munda Yalga
5 Charles Street Gulliver, Townsville QLD 4812
E-mail: admin@kyburramundayalgacorp.com
Phone: (07) 47281117
Fax : (07) 4775222

In 2014 shortly before voting meetings on the ILUA with Adani over the North Galilee Basin Rail Project, KMYAC and JEL held their AGM and an SGM at the same event.

Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Juru-Enterprises-Limited-1505795609645605/posts/

Juru Enterprises Limited

27 March 2014

Good Afternoon Everyone

A Special General Meeting will he Held in:
Townsville at the Centre Base Child Care, 33-37 Aitken Street Aitkenvale on the 29.04.2014

This Special General Meeting is to movie a resolution to Amend the Constitution to Accept the Rosie Wake Family.

Agenda:
5:00pm Dinner (Buffet Style)
6:00pm Kyburra Munda Yala Corporation – AGM
6:45pm Juru Enterprises Special General Meeting
Close of Meeting 9:00pm

Letters will be Mailed out to Juru Members this week

Thank you

An excerpt from the May-August 2014 edition of the JEL newsletter:

Adani Mining In July, a delegation of Juru representatives will be meeting with representatives from Adani Mining to discuss employment opportunities for the Juru people. While in Brisbane, the delegates will also be meeting with prospective Adani contractors to discuss the possibilities of joint ventures.

http://www.juruenterprises.com.au/assets/newsletter-issue-4.pdf

 

Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation

Documents from the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations show that Angelina Akee is a director of Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation.

http://register.oric.gov.au/reports/generatereports.aspx?rpt=cmpext&fmt=pdf&concernID=2035210