Monday, 12 April 2010

The Wilderness Society (or Terra Nullius Wilderness geStapo)

The Senate Inquiry for Wild Rivers, Tuesday 13 April 2010, 11.00 am
Holiday Inn, corner Abbott and Florence Street, Cairns

Over the weekend Glen Walker, Wild Rivers campaigner for The Wilderness Society, promised that their “extensive submission” to the Senate Inquiry would “highlight the need for Wild River protection to prevent destructive development, for instance the Cape Alumina development on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve”.

“At last!” Bryan Law screamed, “Some substance to discuss about environmental issues”.

Law went looking for the promised information in the The Wilderness Society's submission, and even found a few paragraphs (in a 98 page submission) that briefly mentioned threats specific to Cape York Peninsula, along with the dysfunctional beating heart of the problem we all have.

First the rivers. In the TWS submission, you'll see this map...

TWS explains the Queensland Wild Rivers Act as a “state-wide” and “landscape-wide” instrument to enable “better protection” for a national and international crisis in river management, in which the Murray Darling features. Indeed the genesis of the Wild Rivers Act is located by TWS in the context of cotton developments on the Darling, Cooper and Paroo Rivers.

But if you look at the map of river basins, said by TWS to be an organisational principle, area 4 (the south west) is a long way from area 2 (Cape York Peninsula).
The problems of the Murray Darling are not the problems of Cape York.

One of the few hard facts in the TWS submission about development threats to rivers on Cape York Peninsula grows out of this discussion, and is:
  • “In 2001, the Australian Cotton Cooperative Research Centre released a report which identified 21 priority areas for cotton development in Northern Australia (Australian Cotton CRC 2001). This included proposals on healthy and undeveloped rivers, including the Kendal, Holroyd, Edward, Archer, Colman and Watson rivers on Cape York, as well as the Mitchell and Gregory rivers in the Gulf of Carpentaria.” (p 37)

"To my knowledge, there’s no extant proposal to grow cotton in Cape York Peninsula, and plenty of regulatory schemes to address any proposal that does emerge," Bryan Law says. "A phantom threat."

But there’s more:

  • “While some of these changes were reasonable, the concessions to the mining industry, in
    particular, meant a watering down of the environmental protections in the wild rivers initiative.

    But it was still a major step forward and given the protection of rivers and wetlands from dams,

    irrigation and strip mining, combined with the cap on water extraction, The Wilderness Society publicly supported the negotiated outcomes.”(
    p 40)

Bryan Law says that mining is a serious threat in Cape York Peninsula, but mining is not going to be any better regulated there because of the Wild Rivers Act.

"Exemptions, variations, and 'projects of state significance' ensure that mining corporations will get pretty much what they want," Law says. "TWS has signed off on this, and is using the traditional means of petition and public relations mobilisation in its present campaign to protect the Wenlock River from Cape Alumina."

"There are no dams or large-scale irrigation schemes planned for Cape York. More phantom threats," he says.

And even more:

  • “Arguments that there are no threats to the rivers of Cape York or elsewhere are naive and risky.

    The threats are real: plans to expand bauxite mining on the Cape are well-known.

    Whilst the science does not stack up when it comes to turning Northern Australia into “the food bowl of Asia”, this has not stopped the likes of Senator Bill Heffernan and some northern landholders arguing furiously for it, regardless of its sustainability.

    There’s also the danger of incremental, unchecked and unregulated development which can occur in the absence of proper planning controls. If this Bill were to be legislated, Traditional Owners of one part of a river would have their support for river protection undermined or rendered pointless if other Indigenous groups upstream support destructive development can veto protection measures. Such a situation would cause serious harm to the river but damage the health and livelihoods of the Traditional Owners downstream.

    Effectively, it could lead to destructive development occurring in highly sensitive riverine environments, such as the Aurukun wetlands, which would once again be exposed to sand and bauxite mining threats if the Archer River Basin declaration.” (
    p 58)

"Bill Heffernan. Now there’s a phantom threat if ever I saw one - gruff old Uncle Bill!," Bryan Law says. “ 'Incremental, unchecked and unregulated development' invisible enough to count as a phantom?"

"Yet this is the best TWS can do. Trade away Native Title Rights and Aboriginal sovereignty because gruff old uncle Bill frightened you. Sorry," Law says.

The Inquiry will hear on Tuesday from six indigenous organisations, three of whom are outside the Cape York Peninsula basin. The three from Cape York are the Cape York Land Council, Balkanu, and Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation. People interested in hearing from Aboriginal people about these issues ought attend at 11am.

TWS, the Queensland government, and Cape Alumina will also address the Inquiry, but Cape Alumina gets to do theirs last, and in secret.

Bryan Law says that he finds really hard to believe is that the Wilderness Society denies Aboriginal conflict with the Wild Rivers Act.

"It’s a pretend conflict. It’s being manufactured by Noel Pearson, he must be a developer, for no reason. They are legally wrong. They are morally wrong. They don’t even know their own culture," Law says. "I mean, why bother? There’s a conflict. You can’t deny."

There are plenty of examples where good faith negotiations have produced sound environmental outcomes, and Bryan Law wants those to negotiate in good faith.

"I said at the beginning that the Wilderness Society had revealed the flaw in its approach to the wild Rivers Act. Here it is...

  • "Eight months after the re-election of the Beattie Government [2004], The Wilderness Society, Queensland Conservation Council and the Queensland Environmental Defender’s Office released an initial policy position on the proposed Wild Rivers Act, which the Government was developing on the back of their election commitment.”

" 'On the back of Aborigines by further dispossessing them? Where is the Aboriginal voice in that mob?" Law says.

3 comments:

Syd Walker said...

I was sorely tempted to stop reading after the headline:"The Wilderness Society (or Terra Nullius Wilderness geStapo)"

I knew to go further would cost time.

Oh dear. Here we go again do we, wearing a History Chennel level of historical understanding on our sleeve? In ancient times, conformists wove myths about Gods and Goddesses into their daily discourse. These days, the encouraged norm is to use World War Two mythology instead.

When Bryan Law calls TWS 'The Gestapo', he doesn't mean the Wilderness Society in Australia has been conferred with police powers, nor that TWS staff wear Nazi uniforms. Actually, he means nothing at all... except that TWS is very, very, very, very naughty.

To attentive CairnsBlog readers, that is scarcely news. We kinda new Bryan claims to believe that anyway.

The article then proceeds to nit-pic the TWS submission to the Senate Wild Rivers Inquiry, with the narrator (presumably Michael Moore in mischeivous mode?) spinning Bryan's comments into a tangled yarn of utter nonsense that would impress Alistair Campbell himself.

We discover amazing facts along the way.

Did you know, for instance, that Cape York is not the same as the Murray Darling Basin? They are in different places and have different problems! There - learn something new every day if you keep reading.

We learn we shouldn't be scared about Bill Heffernan and his grandiose schemes to transform the ecology of northen Australia after all.

The Coalition Senator and self-appointed terraforming expert, it turns out, is merely a 'phantom'. No need to bother about phantoms! Nazis are the REAL enemy!

I gather Bryan will be attending the Cairns Hearing, with a placard complaining about something or other again

Once more, he will demonstrate his remarkable physical courage.

After all, Bryan could easily be spotted by brutal Gestapo agents, who will be visiting Cairns to defend their lengthy submission before the Senate Inquiry.

Here's my draft article for Wednesday's edition of CairnsBlog:

Conflict between well-known anti-fascist agitator B Law and visiting Nazis escalated yesterday.

An un-named spoksewoman for The Gestapo said "Vee deny zer iz much conflict at all, really".

Bryan Law responded: "These people are filth. We don't need racist, fascist scum in our community! Blackfellas have rights too!"

Bryan Law is 6 years old (on a good day).

Syd Walker said...

I was sorely tempted to stop reading after the headline:"The Wilderness Society (or Terra Nullius Wilderness geStapo)"

I knew to go further would cost time.

Oh dear. Here we go again do we, wearing a History Chennel level of historical understanding on our sleeve? In ancient times, conformists wove myths about Gods and Goddesses into their daily discourse. These days, the encouraged norm is to use World War Two mythology instead.

When Bryan Law calls TWS 'The Gestapo', he doesn't mean the Wilderness Society in Australia has been conferred with police powers, nor that TWS staff wear Nazi uniforms. Actually, he means nothing at all... except that TWS is very, very, very, very naughty.

To attentive CairnsBlog readers, that is scarcely news. We kinda new Bryan claims to believe that anyway.

The article then proceeds to nit-pic the TWS submission to the Senate Wild Rivers Inquiry, with the narrator (presumably Michael Moore in puckish mode?) spinning Bryan's comments into a tangled yarn of utter nonsense that would impress Alistair Campbell himself.

We discover amazing facts along the way.

Did you know, for instance, that the Cape York peninsula is not the same as the Murray Darling Basin? They are in different places and have different problems! There - you'll learn something new every day if you keep reading and check the map.

We learn we shouldn't be scared about Bill Heffernan and his grandiose schemes to transform the ecology of northen Australia after all.

The Coalition Senator and self-appointed terraforming expert, it turns out, is merely a 'phantom'. No need to bother about phantoms! NAZIS are the REAL enemy!

I gather Bryan will be attending the Cairns Hearing, with a placard complaining about something or other again.

Once more, he demonstrates his remarkable physical courage.

Bryan could easily be spotted by brutal Gestapo agents, who will be visiting Cairns to defend their lengthy submission before the Senate Inquiry.

I love the way Cairns Blog gives access to a range of commentators. Maybe it's time for another post from the hills?

Here's my proposed article for Wednesday's edition of CairnsBlog:

Conflict between well-known anti-fascist agitator B Law and visiting Nazis escalated yesterday.

An un-named spokeswoman for The Gestapo said "Vee deny zer iz much conflict at all, really".

Bryan Law responded: "These people are filth. We don't need racist, fascist scum in our community! Blackfellas have rights too!"

Bryan Law is 6 years old (on a good day).

The Grateful Mac said...

We all know this is a Zionist conspiracy. The Gestapo are only doing their job !