Coalition Senators' additional comments
Importance of economic development on the Burrup Peninsula
The value of Western Australia's mineral and petroleum production cannot
be understated. The sector is a major contributor to the state and the
Australian economy with the estimated value of royalties the state received
from the resources sector comprising almost 15 per cent of estimated total
state revenue in 2015–16, or around $3.8 billion.
The Burrup Peninsula is the gateway to Australia's biggest oil and gas
operations—the $42bn North West Shelf Joint Venture and the $15bn Pluto LNG
Project. Yara Pilbara has invested over US$1.5bn to support and develop
downstream processing in the area.
The North West Shelf project remains important to the economic development
of Western Australia, as outlined in the recent comments made by WA Labor
Premier Mark McGowan on 21 September 2017:
My main objective is to get Browse gas to come onshore at
North West Shelf so I am working very hard with Woodside and the agency to
ensure that Browse gas comes onshore. I do not want to do anything that jeopardises
that particular outcome.
Throughout this inquiry, Coalition Senators have remained concerned over
the committee's refusal to consider the weight of the evidence over the economic
value the construction of the Yara Pilbara technical ammonia nitrate plant
facility (TANPF) TANPF will bring to the Pilbara and Western Australia, and
their continued support for a World Heritage listing of the Burrup Peninsula.
No credible evidence of adverse impact of emissions on rock art
The committee was informed that the Burrup Rock Art Technical Working
Group was established by the Western Australian Government to monitor the
heritage rock art sites on the Burrup Peninsula from 2004 to 2016 including to
oversee the science of these studies. CSIRO's role has been to conduct the
monitoring work that was designed and commissioned by the Burrup Rock Art
Technical Working Group.
The committee was informed by CSIRO at the hearing of 17 November 2017
that the final report, dated June 2016 and released in September 2017,
superseded prior reports. CSIRO's final report analysed colour monitoring of
the rocks using a model that includes a time trend, looking for evidence for
change over time.
CSIRO's final report concluded that a change in the colour
characteristics of the rock surfaces had been identified during 13 years of
monitoring the rocks, however, there was no statistically significant
difference between the two control sites in Dolphin and Gidley islands and the
sites close to industrial activity. CSIRO stated:
It should be noted that the report provides the colour
measurements and hence changes in colour. The reasons for the colour changes
are not addressed explicitly in this report.
The committee was informed by CSIRO that the small changes in the colour
characteristics of the rock surfaces could be the results of natural weathering
or other causes and that:
...while the indication of colour change is important, and
warrants closer attention, it cannot be automatically assumed that it
represents the impact of pollution from industrial plants. Sites further from
the industrial development, included in the study in order to test whether
change is more rapid at sites more prone to pollution effects, in fact showed
no statistically significant difference from the other sites.
Coalition Senators acknowledge that the committee received differing
theoretical evidence in relation to the measurement of the colour
characteristics of the rock surfaces prior to the hearing held in November
2017. Commentary from a critic of the CSIRO analysis [Professor Black]
requested CSIRO do a more comprehensive statistical analysis of the data,
which was in alignment with the recommendation of an independent reviewer to
the Burrup Rock Art Technical Working Group. CSIRO advised the committee at the
hearing held in November 2017 that CSIRO's final report, published in September
2017, includes a full statistical analysis of the colour measurements and that
CSIRO had addressed the recommendations that had arisen in the review process
established by the Burrup Rock Art Technical Working Group.
CSIRO advised the committee at the hearing held in November 2017 that
CSIRO's final report published in September 2017 includes measurements made in
2015 and 2016 in addition to those included in prior reports. CSIRO also
provided to the committee statistical analysis of the CSIRO colour measurements
for separate years back to 2010 in the CSIRO response to Questions on Notice
from the November 2017 hearing, received 27 November 2017.
Coalition Senators consider that the committee has no evidence before it
to call into question the final CSIRO report and note that CSIRO scientists
have repeatedly reassured the committee of their confidence in the validity of
their colour measurement results. Coalition Senators accept the advice from
The CSIRO report does not provide a basis to confirm or to
exclude an attribution to the industrial development, other than to note that
the measured changes are not statistically significantly different at sites
near to or far from industry.
Coalition Senators also note the evidence from CSIRO that:
The June 2016 CSIRO Report
(released during 2017) includes the last two years of measurements (2015 and
2016) and a complete statistical analysis of all the data for both the KM and
the ASD photospectrometers instruments. This also includes data for three new
sites that were incorporated into the BRATWG monitoring program in 2014 and so
the June 2016 CSIRO Report also includes three years of data for these sites....The
June 2016 CSIRO Report provides statistical testing for the threeway
interaction of trends over time on background and engraving at northern and
Further, the focus on one company, Yara Pilbara, appears an
over-reaction given the committee has heard that whilst nitrogen and sulphur
dioxide emissions pose the most significant risks to rock art—Yara Pilbara
operations will contribute just over 2 per cent of nitrous oxide (NOx) and 14
per cent of sulphur oxide emissions on the Burrup Peninsula.
Coalition Senators further note that the monitoring undertaken by the
CSIRO since 2004 indicates that industrial emissions have had no measurable
impact on rock art.
Historical modelling carried out for the TAN Plant environmental
approval predicted a maximum dry deposition rate of 68 mill equivalents/m2/year
from a combination of plant emissions and background concentrations.
- The CSIRO identified a critical loading value of 200 mill
equivalents/m2/year, below which harmful impacts to rock art were unlikely to
occur. The CSIRO critical value was derived from consideration of a range of
ecosystem sensitivities to acid deposition published by Cinderby, et al, 1998,
with the relatively high value assigned on the basis of CSIRO's conclusion that
Burrup ecosystem is relatively insensitive to acid deposition.
Professor John Black report
The committee was presented with a considerable number of claims and/or
statements made by Professor John Black and others regarding the scientific
credibility of this monitoring; specifically that:
- the 2007 fumigation studies conducted by CSIRO suffered poor
experiment design through an inadequate selection of rock samples, and
- the 2008 air pollution study incorrectly used a study by Cinderby
et al to conclude that the critical load for the Burrup rocks would be
- the analysis of rock art monitoring conducted between 2004–2014
did not include adequate statistical analysis, and further the measurements
taken were unreliable due to the equipment used.
Coalition Senators note the majority of claims and statements made by
Professor Black and others as to the risk and/or actual degradation of rock art
are not supported by scientifically valid evidence. Overall, the majority of
claims and/or statements made by Professor Black and others about risks of/or
actual damage are not supported by evidence from well-designed technical
studies and investigations. As such, it is not possible at this time to
conclude with adequate certainty that damage to rock art has or has not
occurred from industrial emissions.
When presenting his theories to the inquiry, Professor Black proposed a
critical loading value of 25 milliequivalents/m2/year as appropriate for
protection of rock art from atmospheric emissions. The proposed critical
loading value provided by Professor Black has not been validated by field
studies, and represents the lowest of the sensitivity classes assigned by
Cinderby, et al, 1998.
While it is acknowledged that there is criticism regarding the validity
of the methodology used by the CSIRO, we note that improvements to any
methodology do not imply that the current or previous methodology is flawed. As
it is the nature of the scientific method that as knowledge is gained through
experimentation, new knowledge provides the data to allow further refinement
and improvement of the methodology, as can be reasonably argued that has
occurred with this research. This is noted in the CSIRO's opening statement
where Dr Helen Cleugh affirmed that 'our research undertaken in relation to the
Burrup Peninsula rock art is no exception and was the first of its kind
Coalition Senators note that the CSIRO measurements of rock surface pH
and mineral dissolution suggest a decrease in pH has occurred since industry
commenced operations on the Burrup, with an associated increase in dissolution
of Mn and Fe in the patina. However, that work has not established a direct
link between emissions from industrial sources and in particular Yara
operations, and risks or actual damage to rock art. In addition, the
relationship of acid deposition as measured from gases and deposition samples
to changes in rock art has not been established and the appropriate critical
loading has not been determined.
We also note that Professor Black's submission also addresses the health
and safety effects of additional pollution from the TANPF, including nitrite
poisoning, carbon monoxide poisoning, and risks of an ammonium nitrate
explosion. None of these claims are supported by scientifically valid evidence.
Further, attempts have been made during various stages of the inquiry to
question the safety of the new $1 billion Yara Pilbara technical ammonium
nitrate (TAN) plant; however, it has been pointed out that the product produced
at the Yara Pilbara site is equivalent to a fertiliser grade ammonium nitrate
held at suburban hardware stores across Australia.
Coalition Senators are deeply concerned that in ignoring expert, peer
reviewed scientific advice and the findings of a decade of scientific
research, the majority report will only serve to unjustifiably support the
intention of a small minority who wish to stop the development of the TANPF.
Dr Rob Gillett report
The committee received commentary in relation to a CSIRO paper published
in September 2008 entitled 'Burrup Peninsula Air Pollution Study, 2004/2005 and
2007/2008' by Dr Rob Gillett and the reference of that report in government
approvals of industry activities.
The committee heard evidence from an author of a 1998 scientific report
that was referred to by Gillett (Cinderby, S. et al).
Dr Kuylenstierna told the committee that his work 'was not designed to look at
the impact on rock art and I felt it was worth making clear that I do not think
that this is appropriate to use as evidence in this case'.
Coalition Senators note that the commentators on the Gillett 2008 paper
limited their criticism to one aspect of the report and did not call into
question the rest of that report. In response to questions as to the Gillet
2008 paper, Dr Kuylenstierna's evidence included:
I understand that the actual reference to our work was one
paragraph in a much larger report, so I am not commenting on the work of the
larger report which, as far as I understand it, was related to the atmospheric
processes and measurements in the region.
I understand that the CSIRO report was talking about some of
those aspects. I did not read it in detail; just the bits about the use of our
work in terms of the likely impact of acidic deposition on the rock art.
CHAIR: That is fine. CSIRO is our pre-eminent Australian
scientific body and it has a very good reputation internationally. Do you think
this reflects badly on CSIRO's reputation?
Dr Kuylenstierna: I do not think I can say that because I
have not studied all the literature that you have got. I have met with many
colleagues at CSIRO and they are good scientists. I cannot comment, because I
have not studied all of the literature that you have available.
In relation to Gillett 2008, Professor Black opined:
...and that is that at the end of his paper...he misinterpreted
by saying that he believed that the Burrup rock would withstand 200
milliequivalents of the highest acid load, but he had no justification for that
because of the things we have talked about—because he did not measure buffering
But also, in relation to the rest of Gillett 2008, Professor
Black stated: 'which was a good paper and scientifically well done...'
Coalition Senators note that CSIRO representatives were challenged as to
'whether the Gillett report should be withdrawn or amended in the light of that
evidence?'. Coalition Senators note the evidence from CSIRO that:
We have not come to the view in any way, shape or form that
there's any reason for us to withdraw that scientific publication of a decade
or so ago. We recognise that that is one of the pieces of evidence that have
been used in the subsequent process. We have no reason to believe that the
original paper—which was the views of the authors and went through a peer
review at the time—was inappropriate at the time. And obviously it's the
evolution of the scientific understanding of the area which will determine
whether or not it continues to be appropriate for that to be considered,
including in the opinions of those people who are responsible for making the
appropriate decisions around approvals et cetera.
I just repeat my evidence: we do not have a scientific basis
to consider that that report has been withdrawn in any way, shape or form. We
make the observation that it's in the public domain and people can draw their
own conclusions. Indeed, it's clear that there's free commentary in relation to
Coalition Senators consider that judgements as to the rigour of
technical interpretations and conclusions drawn in the scientific literature
are a matter for the consideration and judgements by scientific experts.
Adequacy of existing regulatory approvals and compliance
While the Burrup Peninsula is the location of rock art
(petroglyphs) of major archaeological and cultural significance, it also shares
its location with several industrial complexes including a major iron ore port,
liquefied natural gas production, salt production, ammonia plant (fertiliser
production) and a technical ammonium nitrate plant (TAN Plant).
The inquiry heard that successive Western Australian governments have
pursued a long-term vision of transforming the Burrup Peninsula into the
largest industrial precinct in the southern hemisphere, attracting foreign
investment and royalties. As such, The Burrup Strategic Industrial Area (Burrup
SIA) was developed to provide an area for industry in close proximity to gas,
port and other key infrastructure.
As such, the industrial facilities on the Burrup Peninsula operate under
a myriad of different state and federal approvals, including and not limited
- Environmental Protection Act 1986 Part IV (WA)
- Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act) Part V (WA)
- Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA)
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act)
- National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 (Cth).
Environmental approval under the EPBC Act was granted in September 2011,
under then ALP Minister Tony Burke. The approval obtained under the EPBC Act sets
out the required monitoring program for rock art sites, which includes a system
for identifying and responding promptly to any changes in rock art.
The Western Australian Department of Environmental Regulation (DER)
undertakes environment regulation functions under Part V of the EP Act. This
agency has principal responsibility for licensing, approvals, compliance and
enforcement in relation to emissions and discharges.
To ensure protection of the values of the Dampier Archipelago (including
Burrup Peninsula) National Heritage Place, Yara Pilbara Nitrates has been
required to submit both construction and operational environmental management
plans which detail management measures for air quality and dust, water quality,
erosion control and storm water, waste and traffic. Separate Aboriginal
Heritage and Hazardous Materials management plans are also required.
In August 2002 the Western Australian Government established the
independent Burrup Rock Art Monitoring Management Committee (BRAMMC). In 2003
the BRAMMC commissioned a number of studies to monitor the petroglyphs on the
Burrup Peninsula. They included air dispersion modelling studies, air quality
and microclimate; colour change, dust deposition and accelerated weathering
study and mineral spectroscopy carried out by CSIRO.
In 2009, BRAMMC reported to the Minister for the Environment that
concentrations of air pollutants on the Burrup Peninsula were generally very
low with the exception of atmospheric dust. It is important to note natural
sources of emissions in the Pilbara region are also substantial, and that in
the case of the Burrup Peninsula these natural sources include the land surface
dust as a result of the semiarid environment and marine salts from the adjacent
BRAMMC concluded from these studies there was no scientific evidence to
indicate there was any measurable impact of emissions on the rate of
deterioration of the petroglyphs. BRAMMC recommended monitoring of the colour
contrast and spectral mineralogy be continued on an annual basis for ten years
and be reviewed after five years. The Minister for the Environment accepted
these recommendations and subsequently this committee was replaced by the
Burrup Rock Art Technical Working Group (BRATWG) in 2010.
BRATWG completed its five-year term of engagement in 2016 and has
drafted its findings and recommendations to the WA Minister for Environment.
BRATWG concluded there is no scientific evidence indicating any measurable
impact of industrial emissions on the rock art on the Burrup over the period
2004 to 2014. It was recommended monitoring of rock art using the CSIRO
developed method continue on an annual basis to provide an early warning of any
possible impacts to rock art from industrial emissions and BRATWG continue for
another five year term.
Coalition Senators note that the new Labor WA Environment Minister
Stephen Dawson released a draft Burrup Rock Art Strategy in September 2017
which was open for public comment to 1 December 2017. The draft strategy
recommends establishing a Burrup Rock Art Stakeholder Reference Group to
oversee the design and implementation of the strategy.
Coalition Senators also note that the failure to replace BRATWG in a
timely manner leaves Yara with no approved mechanism in place under which
monitoring can occur, as the approved heritage monitor, the CSIRO, will not
carry out monitoring for Yara to allow the company to meet its compliance
Best practice monitoring
The inquiry heard that in addition to Commonwealth and State approvals
and conditions, Yara Pilbara has actively sought to include what is known in
industry as best available techniques (BAT) in the company's Burrup operations.
Yara Pilbara has incorporated best practice control technology in the
design and construction of the TAN plant which reduces the emission of NOx and N2O gases by up to 90 per cent.
Emission concentrations of ammonia and ammonium nitrate dust from the
TAN plant are predicted to be below the levels stated in the Fertilizers Europe
and European Commission best practice guidelines. These guidelines represent
the benchmark in best practice for industry on a global scale.
Yara has advised that emission monitoring during commissioning runs at
the TAN plant show that the facility will run well below the required emission
levels as set by the State and Commonwealth.
Since taking over as operator of the existing ammonia plant, Yara has
carried out equipment enhancements, increased maintenance activities and
several process improvements.
Coalition Senators acknowledge that Yara Pilbara Nitrates has received
caution and infringement notices including:
- 7 June 2016 – Caution Issued to Yara Pilbara Nitrates (YPN) due
- missed deadline for annual compliance report and management plans
unavailable on YPN website (Plans had previously been published but website was
under maintenance at the time/compliance report submitted late to YPN by
project EPBC contractor)
- Rock art monitoring report delayed (Release of CSIRO report to Yara
Pilbara delayed by DER).
- Annual compliance report required under Condition 3 of EPBC approval
provided to DoEE on 6 October 2016
- 10 May 2017 – Letter from DoEE containing Infringement Notice for
$10,800 for late submission of the Annual Compliance Report (Condition 3).
- 24 August 2017 – 2nd Infringement issued carrying fine of $12,600
due to lack of monitoring for total suspended particulates (TSP). Yara Pilbara
had informed DoEE at a meeting on 8 February 2017 that a review of the offsite
air monitoring data had identified deficiencies. YP had subsequently, with
regular updates to DoEE, developed a Baseline Model to satisfy compliance with
the TSP monitoring requirement as per Condition 9 of the EPBC approval.
Cultural and heritage value protections
Coalition senators strongly support and recognise the cultural and
spiritual significance of petroglyphs to Aboriginal people, and that Murujuga,
also known as the Burrup Peninsula is a sacred place for the five traditional
owner groups: the Ngarluma, the Mardudhunera, Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo, the Yaburara, and
the Yindjibarndi, who are collectively represented by the Murujuga Aboriginal
Given the cultural and spiritual significance of the petroglyphs to the
traditional owners, Coalition Senators remain concerned over the lack of
engagement, consultation, and inclusion of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation
in the committee's inquiry. Ms Raelene Cooper, Chairperson of MAC, stated
during hearings on 20 April 2017:
On behalf of Murujuga, I want to express our frustration and
disappointment to you due to the lack of any advice to, consultation with or
involvement by MAC at any stage in the Senate committee's inquiry.
In addition, MAC also expressed its frustration with the actions of the
Friends of Australian Rock Art (FARA), and their lack of collaboration with
Traditional Owners. Ms Cooper stated:
In relation to this inquiry, we have received very little
advice in relation to the potential damage that may be caused by industrial
emissions to our rock art. We did receive a presentation from the Friends of
Australian Rock Art, FARA, in 2016 expressing their view that damage was
occurring now and would increase in the future. However, we are not scientists
or chemical engineers. We have also had a variable relationship with FARA. In
our opinion, they have treated us paternalistically—more or less telling us
what we need to do rather than respecting or listening to our views. On
occasion, they have not adhered to our cultural protocols and displayed sacred
images on their website and in other literature. Lately, to their credit, they
have shown some remorse and understanding, and I am hopeful that we may work or
share a collaborative relationship into the future.
Conduct of Friends of Australian Rock Art and Bob Brown Foundation
Coalition Senators note with concern that while the rock art of the
Burrup Peninsula was assessed as meriting World Heritage listing in the 1980s,
the push for World Heritage Listing comes not from the Traditional Owners, but
from two outside, non-Aboriginal groups; FARA and the Bob Brown Foundation.
On 17 Febrary 2017 Ms Judith Hugo, Co-convener, Friends of Australian
Rock Art, and Ms Christine Milne, Spokesperson for the Bob Brown Foundation
provided evidence to the committee regarding their respective organisation's
involvement in the World Heritage Listing of the Burrup Peninsula.
According to Ms Hugo:
Friends of Australian Rock Art was established in 2006; we
are a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation..
Since the Yara Pilbara TAN plant was conceived we have had
huge anxiety about the effects of industrial emissions on the rock art, and
since 2010 we have focused more on direct meetings with industry and
government...The one in April last year was particularly to emphasise the need
for World Heritage listing to prevent further industrial expansion.
According to Ms Milne:
The Bob Brown Foundation has a long history of support for
World Heritage and World Heritage sites...and believes that the petroglyphs of the
Dampier Archipelago—including the Burrup Peninsula, which is a national
heritage-listed site—should now be nominated for World Heritage listing.
The Bob Brown Foundation is very concerned about the
industrial emissions that are already covering the area but, furthermore, that
the proposed emissions from the TAN plant will tip it over and we will now see
a loss of those petroglyphs within a generation or two.
The view of the Bob Brown Foundation would be that no further
heavy industry be permitted, that the TAN plant be moved—it is a modular plant;
they have said very clearly that those five modules were built offshore and
brought here onto a foundation that could be moved to the Maitland estate—and
that all of the other areas that have already been zoned for industry but not
allocated to a specific industry be revoked. So you would end up with no
further heavy industry and you would have the Burrup as a World Heritage area
and you would have the Maitland industrial estate being where further
development would be.
When asked about the level of engagement with Traditional Owners over
the World Heritage Listing, Ms Hugo stated:
As I mentioned earlier, we had specific a meeting with the
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation in April last year spelling out to them why
World Heritage listing was so important to stop further industrial expansion on
the Burrup. They went away very enthused about it but, unfortunately, some of
the people within MAC were not that keen. It is thought that large industrial
interests are possibly offering them financial support particularly, in terms
of building the Murujuga Living Knowledge Centre and that one of the underlying
conditions, perhaps, is that they are not that keen on World Heritage listing.
Ms Milne responded:
I have not been working on this campaign for a long time, but
in November I went up to Karratha and the area and met with Mr Wilfred Hicks,
who is an Aboriginal elder in the area. He is supportive of World Heritage
listing, but it was fairly clear in what he had to say that a lot of the
Aboriginal people do not yet understand what World Heritage listing would mean
or what the nature of the management that might be developed as part of a World
Heritage management plan would be.
Coalition Senators note the following comments when asked if the local
Aboriginal community does not support World Heritage listing:
Ms Hugo: Not exactly the whole Aboriginal community.
There are individuals within the community who are very for it. But,
officially, the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, or the circle of elders, has
been reluctant to commit to World Heritage listing. We feel that there are
possibly influences within the organisation which are trying to downplay the
importance of World Heritage listing, because it was claimed that they have not
been exposed or given workshops on it—but we have specifically been up there to
promote World Heritage listing...
Ms Milne: If I could just add to that..I think it is a
case where some of the elders are in favour of it, and others are unsure because
they do not know what it means...
Dr Mulvaney: I have attended a meeting of the Murujuga
board, at which they voted for nomination for World Heritage. That occurred
four years ago. The CEO at the time was opposed to World Heritage and did not
progress that. I have attended three meetings of what is known as the circle of
elders, the senior representatives of the native title groups, at MAC meetings,
at which, again, they have specifically stated support for World Heritage.
Again, there are certain staff of MAC who come from a different area and are
not supportive of World Heritage and, despite agreement for it, have stymied
it. There are individuals who have come here as Aboriginals to speak to federal
ministers in support of World Heritage requesting action...
Coalition Senators note with concern the comment made from MAC Board
Member Mr Peter Hicks when asked if he had been consulted at all by anyone
about heritage listing.
We have not had anybody come in and sit at the board table
with us and talk with us about what is going on here. There are a lot of people
running around the parliament, and everywhere else, that we hear about but
there is nobody coming to sit down and talk with us...
Comments echoed by MAC CEO Mr Craig Bonney who, when asked if the elders
council had a formal position on World Heritage Listing, stated:
The short answer is no. We have not discussed it at a board
level and formed a view. Again, that is related to that lack of information and
awareness. We believe in making informed decisions at the board level, and,
because we have not got the information, we have not discussed it.
Coalition Senators also note with concern comments made by Mr Bonney
regarding past incidents between elders and FARA:
For us, culture is really, really important. We have to abide
by certain cultural protocols and parameters. There are things we can and
cannot do. Images of the petroglyphs themselves have significant meaning. Some
of those are only to be seen by certain people who have been through certain
levels of Aboriginal law. I cannot see many of those things as the CEO because
I have not been through law. So when we have not only Friends of Australian
Rock Art but others who wish to use images, sometimes they go on the internet
and find images which in our view should not be on the internet or should not
be seen by anyone. Sometimes they will use those images on their website as
part of their promotional material or whatever. On a couple of occasions we
have asked the Friends of Australian Rock Art to remove those images because
you cannot be our friend on one hand and disrespect our culture on the other.
We have had those conversations and, to their credit, we have seen those images
removed of late, which is great.
Sometimes we have external stakeholders come and speak to our
elders. I have been working with Aboriginal people for more than 25 years right
across northern Australia and the Pilbara, and what I find is we get a lot of
stakeholders who, without meaning to, talk down to Aboriginal people or talk to
Aboriginal people as though they are—it is difficult to describe the word—of
lesser understanding or capability. What happens is the dominant people who
have the intelligence tend to portray their views down to those people. Those
people are often not in a position to question or really understand what the
message or the conversation is all about. Their views are then seen as the only
views—the dominant views—that must be adopted by the mob. I have seen a couple
of instances of that where people come along and talk to us from that
We also note that throughout the committee process, the over-zealousness
of FARA and the Bob Brown Foundation in attempting to criticise Yara Pilbara
and other industry has resulted in claims made to the committee which were
based on hearsay, specifically inferring 'strings attached' financial
inducements had been offered to traditional owners.
Coalition Senators note the comment made by Ms Hugo when asked if any
there is any evidence of inducements, financial or otherwise, that have been
offered to the Aboriginal community, to not support World Heritage listing:
Not directly, no. But I do know that Yara Pilbara—from
reading their submission—have offered to support the community financially with
their living knowledge centre, and the current thinking by the Western
Australian government is that the centre would be better placed in the northern
Burrup, away from industry. That, we know, is precisely what people like
Wilfred Hicks and other Aboriginal custodians do not want to happen. They would
prefer it to be at Hearsons Cove, where it has always been planned, right next
to Deep Gorge. That is just one piece of information we have had to hand
We feel it is very important to go back again and speak to
the custodians, but we are meeting with considerable negative feeling from
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation; put it that way...
Coalition Senators note with concern the statement from Mr Bonney when
questioned over the validity of FARA's claim that there was an underlying
condition that financial support for the living knowledge centre was contingent
that the corporation not support World Heritage listing:
I have read that statement. I actually watched it live when
it was occurring. I have responded in writing directly to the people who made
that statement and pointed out our issues with that. That statement undermines
our credibility as an organisation and almost suggests that we are open to
taking inducements to form various views. We take no inducement from anybody in
how we manage and protect our country and our Murujuga.
We have dealt with them directly. They have responded and
very apologetically withdrawn from that position, to their credit. However, it
was deeply offensive at the time. We do not and have not ever had a discussion
with any industrial partner or stakeholder in forming a view around World
Heritage listing. We certainly have not had a conversation where any talk of
financial inducement or incentive was ever discussed. I can state that for the
Coalition Senators note with concern the statement from Mr Hicks when
questioned over the validity of FARA's claim that there was an underlying
condition that financial support for the living knowledge centre was contingent
that the corporation not support World Heritage listing:
The only financial benefit to the cultural centre is what has
been placed into the BMIEA agreement and that would be a part of the building
of that cultural centre. There has been no other conversation around that.
Coalition Senators also note with concern comments contained in a letter
to the Committee Secretary dated 27 February from Dr Mary Edmunds, refuting
Ms Hugo's statement to the committee. In particular that:
Whatever Ms Hugo's intention—and she was not present at the
2016 Roeburne meeting—the implication was that Yara's offer of funding was
intended to influence MAC improperly...This would be an inaccurate and misleading
interpretation of Yara's offer. It would also have the potential to undermine
the achievements to date of the National Heritage Listing of the area, of the
establishment of the Murujuga National Park, and of other relevant stakeholders
in progressing a supportive and inclusive approach to the future preservation
of Murujuga, its invaluable rock art, and the continuing culture of Traditional
Owners and Custodians.
Coalition Senators note that significant factors, including failure to
consult with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, have been excluded from both
the committee's Terms of Reference and Final Report, in favour of a number of
claims about the negative impacts of emissions from one company, Yara Pilbara,
on the Burrup Rock Art that are unsubstantiated by scientifically valid
evidence. This is to the detriment of a full and proper consideration of the
important and relevant issue of the Commonwealth's responsibility under the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to protect the globally
significant and National Heritage listed Aboriginal rock art of the Burrup
Senator Dean Smith
Senator for Western Australia
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