Save Kimberley campaign at critical point

Perth solidarity action July 7 2011

The fight to stop the James Price Point gas hub in the Kimberly in Western Australia's north reached a critical point on July 4 as police arrested dozens of people. The arrests were an attempt to break the spirit of the community protesters who have blockaded the site for a month.

Woodside Petroleum is the lead company in a consortium that is planning to build a $30 billion gas-processing hub that would destroy pristine environment and result in up to 39 million tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution a year.

The campaigners and arrestees include local Aboriginal people defending their country.

This heavy-handed action by police took place in the week of the National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Commemoration. It shows how little regard Woodside and the state government have for Aboriginal rights.

The Save the Kimberley website said police arrived in force before first light, waking 100 people who had camped overnight.

Seven police cars had been held up in the pre-dawn on July 4 but “after some discussion, the police vehicles were allowed through — just like all tourists and local vehicles have been for 30 days” though “without the friendly wave and well wishes that were customary”.

Woodside vehicles by contrast were not allowed through and when police tried to break the blockade, they were held back by a protest that had grown to 200 people.

Save the Kimberley makes the issues in dispute clear: “The protesters had no intention of allowing clearing and drilling workers or machinery through.

“They stood on principle. Protesters were supporting Indigenous Custodians to protect Culture and Country. They were acting to stop the environmental and social nightmare of a polluting gas plant on their doorstep.

“There were also justified concerns expressed about this development being a ‘thin edge of the wedge’ for industrialisation of the Kimberley, one of the world's last great wilderness areas.”

Save the Kimberley said: “Police moved in with clear intentions of making arrests.

“There were tears as three Indigenous women including a grandmother and her granddaughter were forcibly carried away from the protest. This during NAIDOC week.

“Other brave people including mothers and grandmothers were hauled away for their peaceful protest as they refused to move out of the way of bulldozers and drill workers.”



Other key developments in the last week include:

• Protester Shayne Hughes, who locked on to a bulldozer at the beginning of the blockade, was fined on July 4 but had no conviction recorded after the magistrate said he was obviously of good character.

• The Wilderness Society organised a well-attended lunchtime protest outside Woodside's Perth head office on July 5, and

• Broome resident Andrew Dureau has announced that he will complain to police and seek legal advice after he was injured by police and prevented from helping his 76-year old father who tripped in front of a bulldozer at the blockade site.

His father is frail and has a medical condition. He told The West Australian: “I went there to help him get up off the road, out of the way — then all the cops grabbed me and dragged me off ... all I wanted to do was help my father.”

Campaigners argued the effort and expense in breaking the blockade is misplaced.

“This development has no final investment decision, no federal environmental approval and is unnecessary.

“There are other, better, alternatives.

“The compulsory acquisition of land which was the ‘gun to the head’ for those Traditional Owners who have accepted payment to give up land is being challenged in court. A failure to get all required heritage clearances, and a breach of the one they did get, is currently under investigation.”

This campaign can be won and needs support today.

Comments

As the world wide economic situation gets tigher, we must not put profit before people. This issue needs a global fight! Keep spreading the word.

As a local photographer and member of Save the Kimberley organisation who was at the blockade on the James Price Point access road all this week and during the Police charge on last Teusday, i think the above article is a good portrayal of what is happening. What the above article cannot portray is the emotion, passion, tears, feelings of betrayal and utter devastation that the Community of Broome is feeling in the last few days. We were rough handled, arrested and forced aside so that Woodside could take heavy land clearing machinery to James Price point for the purpose of clearing an initial 25 Ha of pristine bush for 'investigatory' purposes. Even though devastated by the actions, the Broome Community is strengthening and fighting on. We do need as much support as we can find and people can find out information on www.savethekimberley.com or the Save the Kimberley Facebook page. I had a discussion with a retired Chemical Engineer at the Broome markets on saturday and he acused us of adhering to the NIMBY effect. Well, this is not our backyard we are fighting to protect, it is Australia's and the World's backyard. The Wilderness values of the Kimberley is a treasure to be held by the world and if we allow this Gas Plant to be established, the wedge into the Kimberley will be established.

This project is an environmental tragedy! To say that traditional owners of the land have agreed to the project is a load of crap. Dozens of familes that have lived in this area for generations, where not included in the vote. Those attending the vote, were a hand picked crowd, brought together by the 'ambassador of arrogance' Mr barnett, and his greedy little mate from the Kimberley land council, Wayne Bergman. The Kimberley land council is corrupt. The federal minister of environment, Mr Tony Burke, is sitting on his hands. He also needs to state where he stands on this issue, otherwise i fear he too may also be corrupt. When Barnett ordered seventy (or so), armed tactical response police in, to forcibly manhandle and arrest elderley aboriginal ladies, that sent reconcilliation and aboriginal rights back to the dark ages. It was naidoc week for crying out load! This Issue is dividing the whole community, but those that oppose the project, far outweigh those that support it. If common sense cannot prevail, and someone with some moral dignity, cannot put a stop to this, then this war will turn bloody. Confrontations with woodside workers and police, will become violent, because their are thousands of people ready to fight to save their home(black and white), and they will never give up. I an not aboriginal, nor am i a 'stinking hippie', i just know what it right, and this is NOT!

How arrogant could you possibly be to think the Kimberley is the "World's Backyard." Most Australians can't afford to travel to Broome, let alone most of the world. Despite the magnitude of it's beauty or environmental significance; do you really think that even 90% of the world cares about a strip of land that they don't live on and will never see. The protests are the very definition of NIMBY. I don't hear your outrage about other LNG projects set to begin elsewhere in Australia or elsewhere in the world.

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