MEDIA RELEASE 16 APRIL 2016
Sham agreement to be challenged in the Federal Court
Representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) claim group today slammed a meeting organised and funded by Indian giant Adani, which purports to be a gathering of the W&J people but was convened by the company to push a land use deal for its Carmichael mega-mine.
Adrian Burragubba, senior W&J traditional owner, native title applicant and spokesperson for the W&J Family Council said, “This was a sham meeting which has engineered a sham outcome. We will challenge Adani’s phoney land use deal in the Federal Court and properly discredit it.
“Not just once but three times W&J traditional owners have voted to reject Adani taking our lands and digging the Carmichael mine on our country. But right from the start foreign billionaire Adani’s company has been intent on getting what it wants, and used its power and money to divide our community.
“Just last month the W&J claim group met of our own accord and said ‘no’ to Adani. We made it clear that Saturday’s meeting is not a legitimate meeting of the claim group and the resolution to approve Adani’s deal is not legitimate either,” Mr Burragubba said.
See Guardian Australia investigation,“Revealed: traditional owners accepted payments to attend Adani meetings”, Sat 16 April.
Murrawah Johnson, a W&J Family Council spokesperson and native title applicant said: “Adani has consistently tried to fracture us for a mine that will never be built. But we will stand strong. We have told Adani, we have told the State Government that we do not accept their sham process, and we will fight it all the way through the courts.
“The company has lied about job creation, lied about the mine’s economic benefits and continues to try entice our people with coloured brochures full of empty promises. Adani, working closely with the Queensland government, has stitched up a dubious outcome.
“The Indian coal giant has worked to dupe us into signing away our rights by offering a measly compensation package, and money just to sign up their deal.
“True to form, Adani has bussed in large numbers of people, including non-members of our claim group who have no connection to the country which this dangerous mine is set to destroy. Many members of the claim group who last met in March refused to attend Adani’s meeting today,” Ms Johnson said.
Lawyer for the W&J applicants opposing Adani’s Carmichael mine, Mr Col Hardie, said: “In native title proceedings it is very important that mining and exploration companies stand at arm’s length and allow Traditional Owners a proper opportunity to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. In this case Adani appears to have gone over the line in pushing for a particular outcome. In my view, the benefits they are offering are below standard. They have done little to respect the views of the Traditional Owners who have opposed the project on cultural and environmental grounds.”
On Wednesday W&J representatives launched further legal action in the Federal Court challenging the Palaszczuk government’s issuing of mining leases to Adani for Carmichael mine. The government issued the mine leases in the absence of the consent of the W&J people to Carmichael mine, and in the face of their three-time rejection of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani, most recently at an authorisation meeting of the claim group on 19 March 2016. Mines Minister Lynham had said on numerous occasions that he would await resolution of the Judicial Review in the Federal Court but reneged on his word.
W&J representatives have also filed a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) about the racially discriminatory way in which the Native Title system operates, as a forerunner to further court action.
Mr Burragubba, who filed the AHRC complaint, said: “We are disadvantaged by the law and denied our international rights to self determination and free, prior informed consent. We are required to participate in the native title regime against a backdrop of financial disadvantage and discrimination.
“We will continue to pursue all legal avenues, Australian and international, to put a stop to this diabolical and dangerous project. Our rights are not protected and we will test the limits of the law in this country. We will never give our consent, or have our consent extracted by misrepresentation, misinformation and inducement.
“This is just the start in another chapter of our long but determined struggle to defeat this coal company and all those who would sell our ancestral land and heritage out from under us. The future of our people and culture, and of our lands and waters and plants and animals, and our sacred sites and stories that connect our homelands together into our spiritual home, cannot and will not be based on coal mining.
“Our fight is far from over. When we say no, we mean no,” Mr. Burragubba concluded.
For comment: Adrian Burragubba 0428 949 115; Murrawah Johnson 0439 919 891
On legal matters: Col Hardie, principal, Just Us Lawyers 0408 697 145
Background: Anthony Esposito, W&J council advisor, 0418 152 743