W&J Council calls on Siemens to suspend its contract with Adani over breaches of human rights


Latest News / Monday, February 3rd, 2020

In a letter sent to its CEO Joe Kaeser, the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Council has challenged international German tech company Siemens AG to meet with its representatives. It has called on the corporation to prove it conducted due diligence regarding their rights as First Nations people when entering into a contract with Adani Mining in Australia, and to suspend its contract with the industrial conglomerate.

You can see the letter here, along with accompanying
 international law advice.

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Siemens has locked in behind its Australian division’s contract to provide signalling work on the Carmichael coal project rail line. Siemens is the only company left in Australia willing to undertake this work for Adani. Without it, there is no viable rail link to Adani’s mine of mass destruction.

Siemens has come under intense pressure from climate activists in Germany and Australia over the past couple of months . In December, Mr Kaeser announced the Board would review Siemens involvement in the project; and subsequently issued a statement confirming they would stick with Adani. 

Siemens has refused to cancel its contract with Adani in the face of community concern in Australia – amplified by the cataclysmic, climate-change-fuelled bushfires that have decimated large parts of the country – and international concern about the acceleration of global heating from increased burning of fossil fuels.

W&J Council is now calling on Siemens to put some First Nations justice into the climate equation.

We are particularly concerned by the CEO’s statement that said: “the Adani mining project has been approved by the Government of Australia, the Highest Courts and – very important to us – the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou people.”

Our spokespeople, Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson, have written to the CEO and Board of Siemens requesting a meeting to draw attention to our ongoing rejection of the Adani mine and to demonstrate that, critically, there is no Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for the project. That is, there is no W&J ‘approval’ that is consistent with our rights under international law, or in accord with our own laws and customs.

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It is incontestable that the mining leases held by Adani were granted by the Queensland State Government without consent, agreement or authority from the W&J people, in clear breach of our FPIC rights.

The engineering of a meeting by Adani and the State to overturn our decisions and ‘approve’ the mine did not retrospectively validate these leases. It merely added ‘a veneer of consent’ and served to divide our people. 

Yet Siemens have taken their cue from Adani and the Australian Federal Resources Minister, Senator Matt Canavan, and trotted out the line that ‘a vote of 294-1’ approved the mine. 

The Adani Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) that Siemens relies on was rendered invalid by a Federal Court decision in 2017. It was only rescued by the intervention of the Commonwealth Attorney General in one of W&J’s court proceedings, and by amendments to the Native Title Act 1993 to ensure the ILUA survived summary dismissal. 

The Government moved the goalposts when Adani was about to lose. Its actions were taken with the express commitment of the Prime Minister of Australia to Gautam Adani to ‘fix’ the native title problem. 

This ‘approval’ therefore remains highly contested and controversial in Australia, and lacks the legitimacy of genuine FPIC. It is not in accord with our traditional laws and customs for decision making; and the numbers are misleading because they are not a true representation of the W&J people. Many traditional owners boycotted the stacked meeting, and many people who ‘voted’ at the time were subsequently removed from the native title claim. 

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It is also not true as Mr Kaeser states that ‘the Highest Courts’ have approved the mine. There has never been a High Court of Australia case regarding Adani, and any litigation in the Supreme and Federal Courts – whether on grounds of environmental harm or assertion of Aboriginal rights – were administrative reviews only; they did not ‘approve the mine‘ or consider the merits of the arguments against it. 

The W&J Council have reminded Siemens that mere legal compliance, and following the lead of Government authorities, is no guarantee of rights and justice. Nor must contracts be maintained if they facilitate breaches of human rights. 

Our young leader Murrawah Johnson is in Munich seeking to meet with the CEO regarding his statement, and will address Siemens shareholders at the annual meeting on 5th February. 

A request has been made for a meeting to include a video link to senior leader Adrian Burragubba here in Australia. Mr Burragubba is unable to make representations in Munich because his freedom of movement has been curtailed by a punitive bankruptcy order imposed by Adani. 

So far, there has been no response to our meeting request.

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While in Munich, Ms Johnson will be seeking to build international relationships to sustain pressure on Siemens for failing to meet the standards required of them regarding human rights – and particularly for the casual disregard they have shown for the real situation and historical injustice faced by the W&J people. 

Siemens needs to understand the fundamentals of Aboriginal customary law and W&J’s cultural sovereignty, and why the Australian legal system and corporate governance in Australia fails to respect, recognise and uphold these, consistent with our status as First Nation people.

Siemens must consider –

  • the destructive impact of the Carmichael mine on our homelands
  • the failure of Adani and the Queensland and Australian governments to secure our genuine free, prior and informed consent to the mine
  • the violations of our human rights, which are protected under international law and
  • the international responsibility of corporations such as Siemens to respect those rights.

Relying on advice from self-interested advocates for the mine, including Senator Canavan, and Adani itself, is not sufficient to meet their obligations to W&J people, or to conclude that the mine has First Nation approval.

Siemens CEO and Board must meet with W&J Council representatives to prove their good faith – and get out of bed with Adani Mining, who can only harm their reputation.

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For more information and to speak to a W&J Council spokesperson, contact the W&J Council adviser on +61 (0) 418 152 743 or
info@wangajaglingou.com.au:

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