“Law Below the Top Soil” – Just Released


Law Below the Top Soil, by Dr. Peter Botsman

a concise history of the flawed proposal to develop Browse Gas at James Price Point 


The “Botsman report” explores the interconnected roles of the WA government, Woodside Petroleum and the Kimberley Land Council that have resulted in a proposal for a massive gas hub at James Price Point. The report outlines the major meetings and dealings of the parties involved, revealing major flaws in the process. Moreover, the report provides a compelling case for the proposed development at JPP to be permanently shelved and for the ultimate protection of that country.


Subsequently, recent conflict of interest and probity issues surrounding the EPA, WA government and Woodside have emerged that further raise serious questions about the integrity of the process. There is no better time than now, with final environmental and investment decisions pending, for better public understanding of the process to date as outlined in this report.


Photo copyright Rod Hartvigsen. 


Download Law Below the Top Soil here.


Dr. Peter Botsman’s key findings as listed in Law Below the Top Soil:


  1. For overwhelming economic, social, cultural and environmental reasons the LNG precinct proposed for Walmadany (James Price Point) should not be built. The drivers to complete the LNG Precinct at Walmadany (James Price Point) are narrow: (1) State revenues and an ongoing push to industrialise the Kimberley (2) Woodside Petroleum’s potential for increased revenue (3) payments and benefits for the Indigenous community. These are not sufficient to (1) destroy the significant traditional cultural heritage of the area (2) to destroy a pristine and precious coastal environment (3) and to fundamentally undermine the people-centred tourist and cultural economy of the Broome region. Furthermore the hasty processing of the Browse resources will result in diminished revenue and an over-expenditure on infrastructure. In sum, such a project is against the national interest.


  1. The Lurujarri Trail — the magic 80 kilometre stretch from Broome’s Roebuck Bay Caravan Park, (spanning Gantheaume Pt/Entrance Pt through Daparapakun, Jurlarri, Lurujarri and Minarriny to north of Coulomb Pt), to Bindingankuny — should be preserved in a pristine state forever in accordance with the wishes of the traditional law holders and custodians who know the law and spirit of the land.


  1. The Browse Basin gas resources should be distributed by a pipeline to the Burrup Peninsula LNG plant or, if this involves too long a timeline for the gas lessees, then by floating gas liquefaction. The ‘use or lose’ it provisions engineered to fast track the Walmadany (James Price Point) development need to be the subject of a major parliamentary inquiry.


  1. All Australian economic development on Aboriginal land needs to be in accordance with the principle of Indigenous Free Prior Informed Consent (IFPIC). The threat of compulsory acquisition of the Walmadany lands and the formal bureaucratic methods of the Native Title process that took place in relation to it need to be reviewed in the light of IFPIC. In short, Australia needs to bring its laws and processes into line with the principles of IFPIC.


  1. Traditional Indigenous decision-making is best practice decision making. Decisions are made that are strong, binding and valued. Traditional processes do not occur by majority votes or participation in committees or through political representatives who can work within mainstream decision-making or negotiating frameworks according to a timeline. Decisions are made by ‘men and women of high degree’ who have a direct knowledge and expertise of the matters to be decided upon. The decisions of the leaders take time and are then endorsed by consensus as reflected in the liyarn of the customary group. Without these ingredients there can be no consent on matters as important as the status of lands and estates.  Aboriginal people, or any other people from outside areas have no bearing or right to determine decisions in such a forum.


  1. There will be some who view these findings as anti-progressive and anti-development. In fact they are the basis for a more enlightened economic development process. Australia must recognise that destroying the environment is not progress and pursuing the fastest dollar possible is not sound economic development.


  1. The hardship and plight of Kimberley Indigenous peoples is well understood. The need to celebrate and practise traditional law and culture as well as participate in the best of the mainstream world is the goal of all Indigenous people supported by all honourable Australians. The package of economic and social benefits negotiated by the KLC on behalf of the Jabirr Jabirr and other Kimberley Indigenous people was a step forward from the travesty of royalty payments in the Pilbara. There will be other opportunities to improve on these developments and to improve on this model, and to improve on it further.


  1. Broome and the Kimberley have resisted the dictates of crass commercialism and development at all costs. Broome is the place where the White Australia Policy had only minimal effects on the shape and fabric of the people behind the famous fence that divided the European bosses from the greater community. The behind-the-fence Broome culture has created a wonderful spirit and people who know how to think in ten different cultural ways. This unique quality does not need just to be celebrated in the famous festivals of Broome. It needs to be a foundation for economic, social and cultural development of the region. Miners, economic developers and politicians would do better if they worked together with the people who have made the region so special. If they do so they are sure to have success and to bring wellbeing and prosperity to the region, Australia and the world.


About the Author


Peter Botsman (BA Hons, Diploma Ed., M Phil, PhD) is an inter-disciplinary public intellectual. His distinguished career includes work at the University of Technology, Sydney, Director and Executive Director of the Evatt Research Centre, Associate Professor in Public Health and Public Policy at the University of Western Sydney (Macarthur) and Head of the division of Public Health, Professor of Public Policy, University of Queensland and Executive Director of The Brisbane Institute and Foundation Director of the Whitlam Institute.


Peter has made major contribution to public debate and policy having written significant publications on a wide variety of subject areas including the banking industry, health research and development, the waterfront, the NSW power industry, unemployment, financing aged care, community employment co-operatives and a new model of family centre services for children with developmental disabilities. Botsmans’ The Great Constitutional Swindle, A Citizen’s Guide to the Australian Constitution was shortlisted for the Centenary of Federation Prize in 2001 and his book, The Enabling State was a landmark book of its time.

Peter currently works as voluntary secretary of the ISX, editing Australian Prospect, writing a series of papers and books, contributing to national newspapers and working at a variety of consultancy projects. He runs a Scottish Highland cattle farm in Kangaroo Valley and also grows green tea there.


  1. Congratulation, to everyone involved in this publication. A wonderful document and a great record for the history of our struggle, the Roe and Hunter family struggle, the Goolarabooloo struggle, a community struggle and a people struggle to retain and protect their Country, their environment, their values. Thankyou Peter, a vast amount of work.

    Comment by Redhanded on October 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm


    Comment by Kerry Firkin on October 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

  3. Thanks for the comments below. Every day of my life since 2004 has been about raising capital for Aboriginal social, cultural and business enterprises. But never under any circumstances can the right of Full Informed Prior Indigenous Consent over land matters ever be traded for money, no matter how much, no matter how attractive it is made to look.This is a fundamental principle that cuts across all politics: Labor, Liberal, Green, Blue, Red! Yes there are many debates to be had about the nature of Indigenous Consent – its forms, protocols, legitimacy. But in the case of James Price Point there is no doubt that this principle was not followed. The KLC’s own independent consultants confirm this. So it is very clear that the actions of Woodside and the Barnett State Government are completely without foundation and cannot be respected by any thoughtful or fair minded Australian.

    Comment by Peter Botsman on October 15, 2012 at 9:09 am

  4. Thank you so much for your support and your enlightened comments. I for one, long term resident of Broome and great lover of this place, this country, and appreciator of the importance of Paddy Roe’s heritage and descendants, salute your wisdom. Broome is very special because of its history and avoidance of the White Australia policy. Some of us are aware that we are at the cutting edge of what is new, what is coming, what is precious to preserve and honour in Australia. What is happening here is extremely important for the future of our country, perhaps of the world.

    Comment by Alison on October 16, 2012 at 8:17 pm

  5. It sickens me that anyone could even think of doing anything that would destroy the pristine wilderness area of the Kimberley.  Once you have been there you can feel the “sacredness” of the place.  Would any government allow some great gas- mining  structure to be built outside St.Marys Cathedral or St.James Cathedral, and yet these are merely man-made structures.

    Comment by Nutmeg42 on October 18, 2012 at 6:51 pm

  6. I agree completely with what you have said. Being at the Kimberleys is a very moving experience and truly sacred,beautiful and should NEVER be spoilt in any way .I’ve now been there a few times and its beauty and its people(indigenous) do not deserve this heartache.

    Comment by helen(zig) on November 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm

  7. Why is it as a nation we can’t see past the next big gain in monertry value when our survival as a whole depends on our taking care of our country

    Comment by Bk_harris on October 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm

  8. The Strawman Syndrom

    The main reason why the millions of humans cave in to their demands is a very clever deception which they have been running for a very long time now. They say that the country is a “democracy” and that it is run by “the people”. That claim would be really funny if it were not so sad and so destructive. They have set up a series of commercial companies, collectively known as “the government” and they tell the population that they can vote for their own choice of serving officers in those companies. The pretence is that “the government” looks after the interests of the population and makes “laws” to protect the population.
    This is a very clever deception. “Laws” are actually created by the long-term body of decisions of juries who rule on criminal offences. What the “government” (which is owned by “The Crown”) does is produce “legislation” and “statutes”, neither of which are “law” and none of which are actually binding on any human unless that human chooses to be bound by them. The legislation enacted is whatever is chosen by the owners of the company, namely, “The Crown” although some of the rank and file MPs may not even realize this. It doesn’t matter in the slightest that MPs are elected as they have no actual role other than to distract and misdirect the population as a whole. All significant legislation is produced in accordance with the wishes of “The Crown”, which, people will recall, is a non-Austrilian, foreign power, answerable to nobody.
    A very large amount of effort is put into convincing ordinary humans that “statutes” are “laws” which they most definitely are not. They rely on the fact that most humans know absolutely nothing about the law, combined with the fact that there are tens of thousands of “statutes” mistakenly thought of as ‘the law’ and as that volume of legislative rubbish is too vast for any ordinary, uninformed human to know about in detail, nearly everybody will just ‘go along with’ the established system, not realizing that they are being conned

    Comment by Waubin Aken on October 22, 2012 at 9:51 am

  9. Lets hope the Kimberley can be saved.  Man has managed to stuff up most of the world in the name of mining for the financial gain
    of just a few greedy people.  When will people learn that we are a part of this earth and the more that we destroy it we destroy ourselves
    as well think of the next generation  – what have we left for them just a big mess.  The more harm we do the worse the tornados, storms,
    earthquakes etc PLEASE wake and save the Kimberley         Susie Stevens

    Comment by Susie Stevens on October 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm

  10. Lets put it in basic English, what the hell is wrong with you dear government is everything about money!

    Comment by Ergunbolen on October 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

  11. Statement No.5. many of our people negotiate,consult,plan as traditional decision making, come to Yarrabah and you will find that some of the claimants here are not from here by bloodline or understand ‘lore’, they can talk of historical context but do not speak the language, somehow manage to make decisions without the context of traditional values and at its most do not take time to discover who really holds ‘lore’ and traditions of country, they just want to ruin the beauty of our country, destroy and descrate our scared sites.  there needs to a more thorough research to discuss these culutral values and decisions based on it, not because certain families or clans have ‘intelligence’ in politics or mainstream’ knowlege.  Take the time to sit around the camp fire, then it will be told.  My granfather Nalambi of the Guru Bana people (Yarrabah) made sure his children and grandchildren did.  All the best to you mob overe ther in Broome…anthea

    Comment by anthea (Judal) on November 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm


    Comment by Kerry Firkin on November 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm

  13. I am starting to really hope that we are going to win this eptic struggle. There are simply too many great voices having their say, sharing and enlightening and getting the media publicity needed to sway public opinion. Hope, pray, beleivea nd keep fighting to save this special land…

    Comment by Debbie on November 8, 2012 at 6:05 pm

  14. http://www.change.org/start-a-petition?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=GST_USER_AUST1_SCHT1_make_online_petition

    Comment by Pete on November 18, 2012 at 5:09 am

  15. The rhetoric and lack of professional transparency debases the whole article. Can anyone genuinely explain to me – in specific language – how this project will ‘destroy’ the Kimberley? Bear in mind I have asked for specific information, not emotionally inflammatory generalisations.

    Comment by Heath Mccarthy on November 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm

  16. good work! keep it up; we must not cave in!!

    Comment by Johnmaxwellbates on December 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm

  17. The Kimberleys is only one of five truly pristine wilderness left in the world  and it has been voted in the travel magazine the  most popular place to visit so why one earth do they want to destroy the Kimberleys
    We have a great chance to show the world one of the most beautiful places on earth
    So please join us in the fight to save this truly pristine wilderness 

    Comment by Kerry Firkin on January 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

  18. Please read this it explains the reasons why this gas hub should not  be built  at James Price Point a whole lot better than I can ever  do

    Comment by Kerry Firkin on February 5, 2013 at 10:28 am

  19. It’s amazing that there is so much information about things like this. I guess I should pay attention to, and below, my topsoil in Vancouver . Thank you for sharing! I’ll have to show all of my friends your amazing article.

    Comment by Simon Martin on February 22, 2013 at 11:59 pm

The comments are closed.