Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Save the Kimberley reaches Sydney

Former Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox QC this week launched a book in Sydney opposing a controversial industrial development on the remote Dampier Peninsula in WA.

The publication titled Kimberley at the Crossroads – The Case Against The Gas Plant is about the development of a massive gas field which will use a site near Broome as its hub. In launching the book in Sydney’s Redfern today, Judge Wilcox said Aboriginal people are being treated unfairly.

“It’s a funny situation isn’t it, that Aboriginal people are expected to give up their cultural heritage for the sake of basic rights such as education and health. That isn’t a rule that is applied to the rest of the population,” he said.

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Murray Wilcox QC at the launch of his book.

According to the Federal Government, the development will be worth $50 billion to the national economy, an issue that is dividing the Indigenous communities involved.

While Judge Wilcox doesn’t have the support of all indigenous people of the area, he told those at his book’s launch that “I genuinely believe if [this development] goes ahead that the rest of the Kimberley will be degraded … piece by piece.”

The judge talked of the Kimberley’s natural beauty, rich sunsets and regular humpback whale sightings – the latter natural highlight could be a thing of the past if up to 9km of sea bed near the site is affected in the wake of the gas plant development.

Indigenous lawman Joseph Roe’s grandfather Paddy initiated a traditional walking trail along the Kimberley coastline – the Lurujarri Heritage Trail – that passes James Price Point, one of the proposed sites for the gas plant and believed to be favoured by venture partner Woodside and the WA Government. The Pilbara town of Karratha is believed to be the preferred site of other venture partners Shell and BHP.

Joseph Roe told how the walking trail had helped bridge the cultural divide between white and Indigenous Australians.

“I love this country … I love my culture, as did my grandfather,” said Roe, who says he is prepared to do whatever he needs to do to stop the gas plant going ahead, a sentiment that has put him offside with other indigenous communities in the region.

Representatives of the Jabirr Jabirr people, the traditional owners of James Price Point where the LNG plant is proposed, are in favour of the development and travelled to Sydney to protest against the launch of Judge Wilcox’s book.

Judge Wilcox says the Kimberley Land Council say it has approval from indigenous communities for the development, but formal requests by the judge and other concerned parties for information on who attended these meetings have met with silence.

Fishing guide Peter Tucker, who runs regular charters in the region catering for anglers from around the world, is a strong campaigner against the development and chairman for the Save The Kimberley campaign. Tucker believes there are alternatives to building the development on the Kimberley coast.

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Save the Kimberley campaigner and fishing guide Peter Tucker.

Albert Wiggin has lived in the Kimberley for all of his 30 years. In an empassioned speech, the indigenous father of two said his family still live in the traditional ways, off land and sea. Disgruntled that he wasn’t being properly represented by the Kimberley Land Council, Williams says the Save The Kimberley campaign has given indigenous people like himself a voice “and a way to work together with other Australians”.

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Judge Wilcox says the Kimberley “is the last great unspoilt wilderness”.

“I look back at the [environmental] degradation suffered in my lifetime…I don’t want Australia’s environment degraded any more,” he said.

The joint venture partners Woodside, Chevron, BP, BHP Billiton and Royal Dutch Shell will spend more than $1.2 billion before making a final investment decision, which is not expected before 2012.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who will make the final decision on the gas plant, told Fishing World in an interview this week that the “assessment of the proposal … will be absolutely comprehensive and vigorous”.

“The reason why it’s being considered as a potential site is because in the past whenever there’s been a proposal for one of these major developments they’ve always been considered in isolation,” Minister Garrett said.

“That’s meant that you’ve ended up having ad hoc developments take place in different parts of the coast line. We felt very strongly that you need to have a much smarter way of looking at how to look at dealing with those potential developments, seeing that there maybe ought to be something such as a common user site or a common hub for the processing. The last thing I want to see is a whole series of industrial developments stretching along the Kimberley.”

Kimberley at the Crossroads – The Case Against The Gas Plant is available now via the website  www.savethekimberley.com

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