When I make a call to an organisation seeking information about an issue I assume that organisation has a process to vet callers to ensure that the appropriate person deals with that individual (me). When I call I usually say my first name and ask for information. This is what I did today when I called the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC). I was put through to a case manager who, at the end of the call when I asked for them to repeat their last name, refused saying they were concerned with my involvement with the media. I took lots of notes before the case manager twigged to my line of questioning and asked about my purpose and intentions. I told the case manager I was a blogger and was encouraging journalists to explore this story, I also told the case manager I was fighting for justice for Carol Prior, a complainant, native title holder, and member of the Indigenous corporation under examination. I didn’t tell the case manager I was glad I’d taken lots of notes and quotes.
Some context: Samantha Healy reported in October last year in the Townsville Bulletin that at the time Carol Prior and her fellow complainants spoke to her about their initial complaint “the watchdog [ORIC] refused to confirm the existence of the complaint”. I cover the issue here: https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/the-notice-of-examination-that-could-reveal-adanis-dirty-dealings-in-securing-the-ngbr-corridor/
Now we are witnessing the further delaying of the examination process with the appointment of a new examiner and a new examination. This is at a crucial time in the fight to #stopadani. In my previous phone call to ORIC I was told that the first examiner was delayed in their examination due to health issues and the holiday season. The case manager explained to me that because the first examination “wasn’t completed properly” due in part to instances when the examiner was “unable to access the [Indigenous] corporation” and unable to access “other” parties. The case manager also revealed “we had issues obtaining information”.
I was told by the case manager that we would not see anything published by ORIC until at the earliest “the first week in June”, a full 10 months after the complaint was first lodged and over 8 months after the publication of the Notice of Examination. I asked if the complainants would be informed before publication of any outcomes by ORIC and if they would receive any more information than would be made available for the public in any publication. The case worker said Carol Prior “will have to watch the website” and indicated that the complainants will receive no more information than any member of the public.
I explained how the timing of this delay only favoured powerful interests. I pointed out that proposed native title system reforms relating to Indigenous Land Use Agreements could be impacted by the outcome of the ORIC examination and that the NAIF funding final approval could come through in the next few weeks. I explained that the 1 billion Adani loan for a rail link is likely to be for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project for which Adani have a signed Body Corporate Indigenous Land Use Agreement which is one of the subjects of the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation members complaint and therefore part of the ORIC examination.
This phone call raises so many questions. By “other” parties was the case manager referring to Adani? Why was “the corporation” unavailable? Why did ORIC, a regulator of corporate behaviour under the CATSI Act fail to ensure a prompt and accountable process? And why is a well resourced organisation like ORIC not prepared for calls from concerned citizens about a controversial coal complex on which their work could have a crucial impact?