Watch Senator Scott Ludlam’s impassioned speech here: ”Together we’re fighting for James Price Point”
View Senator Ludlam’s speech here:
Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (19:15): It is fitting that I am able to rise tonight to speak on a matter that is very close to my heart after the parliament has spent a large amount of time today debating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill-a bill that does no more and no less than acknowledge the existence of those custodians of this ancient continent who have been here before us since time immemorial.
Every day it is fitting to note that you, President, acknowledge the existence and prior ownership of this country of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, to which senators on all sides of this chamber rise, listen and acknowledge our respect for the people of the region on which this parliament stands.
The sweep of history that senators from all sides have made perceptive contributions to, and that we face up to in the course of the debate on Aboriginal recognition, takes us from the point of terra nullius, where we refused to even acknowledge the existence of human beings with prior occupation and sovereignty over this land; to a period in our history where we treated them as flora and fauna, and they were treated as no better than animals; to the transition where we figured for their own good it would be better to remove children from parents in order to smash the culture that we figured was inferior to own. Behind all of this was dispossession from the land itself, by force, if necessary.
For those who believe, however, that that forcible dispossession of land is a phenomenon of the 19th or early 20th century, I have two words-compulsory acquisition. This is the legal mechanism chosen by the Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, to hand the gas industry-particularly Woodside and its joint-venture partners, including Shell-30 square kilometres of the West Kimberley coast, violating a dreaming trail that has been sung since at least the last ice age, compromising a whale nursery and covering a 130 million-year-old dinosaur track way in cement. Meanwhile, the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke-as my colleague, the Greens leader Senator Milne, was able to establish yesterday-has spent more than 18 months dithering on a decision as to whether or not an emergency heritage protection over this area should be granted. Woodside may be only a matter of a few weeks from moving heavy equipment into the dunes at Wamadan, which will be for the company, its joint-venture partners and its political backers in this parliament and in the West Australian parliament, the point of no return.
I was enormously proud this Sunday just gone to stand with Goolarabooloo traditional owner Phillip Roe, representing his people from the West Kimberley; Martin Pritchard, who spoke passionately on behalf of Environs Kimberley; and Peter Robertson, a long-time campaigner for ecological and social sustainability of our nation with the Wilderness Society, as they spoke compellingly at one of the largest rallies that I have ever had the honour to address. Dr Bob Brown also spoke passionately of his experience on the beach at Wamadan. He spoke of the things that each of us who have taken the time to travel up there have been able to have, and the honour that is granted from the custodians of the area who will show you around and express quite directly the values of that place that they are seeking to preserve.
The occasion that had brought us together-which has been a long time coming, and certainly welcome given that we are only 10 days out from a state election-was put together by the musician and campaigner John Butler with guests Missy Higgins and Ballpark Music and 20,000 of their closest friends. It is certainly the largest demonstration I have ever seen at the Esplanade Park in Fremantle, and we filled the streets.
These events are not called demonstrations for nothing.
This is a demonstration for both of the major parties and their backers in this parliament and the Western Australian parliament against this poorly conceived, disastrous and unnecessary industrial occupation of the West Kimberley. This is an expression of defiance.
It is defiance not to speak for but to support the rights of people who have nowhere else to go, because what Premier Barnett has done is put their representatives of the last three decades, the Kimberly Land Council, in an absolutely impossible position. The land council has a legal obligation to tell the people that it represents that compulsory acquisition means you may have the right to negotiate but you do not have the right to say no. That is a bind that is very familiar to Aboriginal people who have entered into any form of interaction with the native title process: you can negotiate but you cannot say no.
Compulsory acquisition adds insult to this injury by forcing the land council into a position where it has to tell its constituents, ‘We need to negotiate because they are going to build this thing no matter what we say.’ That is what was compulsory acquisition means.
I was extremely proud, and I have been proud over a period of years, to stand with my colleague Senator Rachel Siewert, who has been absolutely tireless in her advocacy for the values of the West Kimberley, and my dear friend and long-time colleague Robin Chapple MLC, who has, in two terms in state parliament and many hours in between, spent a lot of time in the Kimberley supporting our local candidates, given that we are in the teeth of a state election.
We are extremely competitive in the Kimberley, so I would suggest that is a seat you would want to watch early in March. I also stood with people who are either resident in the Broome community or the surrounding areas of West Kimberley, or those of their supporters who have put their lives on hold to travel to that part of the world to show their support for the traditional owners and for the wider population of the West Kimberley that this kind of inappropriate industrialisation, this foot in the door of heavy industry into the West Kimberley, will be resisted.
It will be defied and it will be defeated.
There are better places and better ways if indeed that gas should come out of the ground-which is a position that I will contest, given the extraordinary greenhouse gas implications of accessing the very dirty gas of the Browse Basin. If it is the will of the proponents and the state government to process that gas, there are alternative locations to that beach. That is what the so-called strategic environmental assessment should have taken into consideration, rather than simply adopting the bullying approach of Premier Colin Barnett, backed up by the federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson.
We see Minister Ferguson’s hand in this-from WikiLeaks cables released in 2011-and elements in the federal government. While we wait on Minister Tony Burke to say anything constructive about the West Kimberley, we know that the major parties are thus far in this together. The only thing standing between those dunes and their violation by the gas industry and Woodside Petroleum is us: the people who assembled in the Esplanade Park in Fremantle and hundreds of thousands of their allies around the country and, indeed, around the world.
Compulsory acquisition means taking what is not yours without asking. That is compulsory acquisition. It is theft of land. If we want to believe that we have left these dark chapters in our history behind as we struggle towards a consensus among the Australian people that our Constitution-our foundation legal document-should acknowledge the existence of traditional custodians of this country, a very good place to start would be by avoiding repeating the horrendous mistakes and the dispossession of Aboriginal people from their traditional lands, starting on that beach at Wamadan at James Price Point.
I commend the campaigners, their supporters and their families who have given so much time and so much money. On this occasion, particularly I commend John Butler and Danielle, for putting their money where their mouths are, for putting their time on the line and for assembling the most extraordinary array of people and supporters that I have seen thus far in this campaign.
We will continue to turn up the temperature on this campaign until the government sees reason. I hope that, well before the forthcoming state election, we get a resolution to this issue to take the pressure off the people who are defending the extraordinary cultural and ecological values of James Price Point.
Senate adjourned at 19:24
Read more here: http://www.thegreenpages.com.au/news/together-were-fighting-for-james-price-point-2/