Kimberley gas campaign must go national, say activists

Photo: Pip Hinman

Campaigners against the mining companies’ push to open up the Kimberley region in WA to vast gas and mineral exploitation told a public meeting on April 19 that this was the “Franklin Dam campaign of our time”.

The forum “Saving the Kimberley: Our Land or Gasland?” was organised by Stop Coal Seam Gas, Sydney.

Wilderness Society national director Lyndon Schneiders said the $40 billion plan for a gas hub at James Price Point was in strife. The nearby Browse Basin has big gas reserves. He said it was critical to defeat it because it was “the main part of the jigsaw puzzle that would turn the whole Kimberley into a mining and industrial region”.

But he said the campaign needed a national effort to win protection for the area, often compared to the Amazon, Great Barrier Reef or Antarctic for its pristine and natural landscapes.

“The mining industry has dramatically expanded over the last 10 years – and is having an undue influence on the political process,” he said.

WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert agreed. She said alternative sites had not been properly checked because WA Premier Colin Barnett and federal resources minister Martin Ferguson had decided to make this their “signature” project.

The WA Liberal government has re-advertised its notice of intent to compulsorily acquire 3500 hectares of land at James Price Point. The original notices were ruled invalid by the WA Supreme Court.

Siewert spoke angrily of companies and governments fuelling divisions in Aboriginal communities. She slammed the “compensation” packages being offered as ridiculously small, but also an outrage, saying that housing and health care are rights and not commodities to be sold back to communities for a land and resource grab.

Schneiders and Siewert said the campaign, including blockades, was growing. All investment decisions had been delayed and WikiLeaks had revealed that project partners were worried.

Siewert said: “We need the joint partners to pull out. The native title claims have to be processed thoroughly. Alternative sites have to be considered, and any mining benefits have to go back into the communities.”

Geoff Cameron from Beyond Zero Emissions showed how gas was not a clean or transition fuel for a clean energy future.

A Sydney campaigner who had spent several weeks on the blockade and picket line at James Price Point described the solidarity and strength that comes from community action. She urged everyone to sign up as “Kimberley campaigners”.

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