11 | 24
2011

FMGL versus YAC – is the truth really out there

Categories: Accountability, Australian Labor Party, Corporate profit, Corruption, Culture, Environment, Equality, Human Rights, Justice, Law, Mining, Rule of Law

by: Bakchos
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As most readers of Blak and Black, indeed as most readers of any daily paper in Australia will be aware there has been an ongoing dispute between Fortescue Metals Group Limited (FMG) and two affected Aboriginal groups – the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) and the Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WYAC) – over FMGL’s Solomon Hub mine in the Pilbara.

The arguments center on cultural significance versus corporate greed. Adding confusion to the mix is the fact that the Yindjibarndi themselves are divided into two separate and apparently opposed camps. One, the WYAC, seems to be onside with FMGL, being prepared to sacrifice cultural heritage and integrity for jobs, while the other, the YAC, place their culture and the voices of their ancestors above the scraps offered from the table of greed.

Over the millennia the differences between the WYAC and the YAC would have been settled according to customary law. This was of course before the arrival of the white man on the scene. The white man, as he would like us all to believe, brought the ‘rule of law’ in his wake; the ‘rule of law’ that dispenses ‘blind justice’ without fear of favour, relying only on the competing merits of the case. The problem with this system is that the white man seems to believe that, as justice is blind, he can get away with manipulating the ‘competing merits’ so as to favour his case against the case of his black brother. Where I come from this is called corruption and those who stand idly by and allow this manipulation to occur are complicit in this corruption.

In keeping with the vagaries that have come to pass for the ‘rule of law’, white man has established a system of arbitration and menace that he argues dispenses justice without fear of favour. This he jokingly (I assume he is joking, as the notion can’t be taken seriously) refers to as the legal system.

As part of the joke that white man passes off as the legal system in Australia, he has in enacted legislation designed to provide a series of checks and balances to ensure that Aboriginal rights are protected against corporate greed and that mining companies are not unreasonably denied access to the mineral wealth of this country. If we put to one side for the minute the issue of who actually owns Australia’s mineral wealth, this system sounds both fair and reasonable.

The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (the Act) sets out the procedures mining companies are required to adhere to when they are seeking permission to mine on Aboriginal land. Section 16 of the Act sets out the application process and section 18 of the Act deals with ministerial consent. As part of the process leading to the submission of s18 notices and s16 applications under the Act, miners and interested Aboriginal groups rely on reports from so called experts. In these cases the experts are usually archaeologists and anthropologists. In anticipation of lodging s18 notices and s16 applications during 2011, FMGL contracted the services of Veritas Archaeology and History Service (Veritas) and Eureka Heritage (Eureka).

In December 2010, Veritas and Eureka produced a report entitled, Report of an Archaeological Assessment of 10 Aboriginal sites located within the proposed Firetail Priority Mine and Infrastructure Area. This report was Veritas and Eureka’s final report and was dated December 2010. The report was submitted to the Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) in support of a s18 notice and underwent review by the Registrar.

Section 4.3 of the December 2010 report contained an analysis of the ethnographic issues. In a letter written to the Registrar of Aboriginal Sites Department of Indigenous Affairs dated 5 November, 2011, Sue Singleton, Archaeologist with Eureka made the following comments:

The ethnographic research undertaken by Kath Beech found that sworn evidence given to the Native Title Tribunal clearly demonstrated that there are members of the Yindjibarndi People who belong to the YAC and who are connected to the Study Area. These YAC members claim to hold relevant ethnographic information that would be material in the assessment of cultural heritage significance. In contrast David Raftery’s reports on consultation with the members of Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation demonstrated that they held little, if any ethnographic knowledge about the Study Area. Pointing out the deficiencies in consultation was intended to assist the ACMC in determining any requirement for further ethnographic investigation.

This is all very well and good, until we come to the crux of the issue. The aforementioned letter only came into existence because its author, Sue Singleton, was formalising allegations that she deleted key sections from the December 2011 report commissioned by FMGL, because she feared she would not be paid for the work if she did not. Specifically, Ms. Singleton states that:

It soon became very clear that, if we did not comply, FMGL would withhold payment of our previous, outstanding and well overdue invoices on the basis that FMGL could not be expected to pay for a report that they could not use. At the time there were a number of invoices that were already overdue for payment, amounting, in Eureka’s case to $70,000.00

If Ms. Singleton’s allegations are proven this would raise a number of serious issues not only about anti-Aboriginal bias amounting to corruption in Australia’s legal system, but about the whole edifice the white man jokingly calls the ‘rule of law’. As I have discussed previously in You can only have as much justice as you can afford, white man’s justice is nothing more than a façade which attempts to fool the less fortunate into believing that they are receiving a fair go.

The less fortunate in this context include those suffering from emotional, intellectual or financial difficulties. Most Aboriginal Australians coming before white man’s justice are suffering at lease one if not more of these difficulties. The nature of the concerns I discussed in You can only have as much justice as you can afford, namely the manipulation of evidence by those with the resources to do so and get away with it, seem to be based on the allegations made by Ms. Singleton, mirrored in what has happened to the YAC.

Yindjibarndi elder Michael Woodley of Roebourne, has been trying to bring these issues to the attention of the Australian public for some time now. He has continually argued that some of the heritage surveys were flawed or incomplete and that FMGL is destroying places where the Yindjibarndi have held religious ceremonies for thousands of years saying that, ”These places are sacred in our belief, our culture and our identity.” Now it appears that Mr. Woodley has some support for his allegations. I’m waiting to see how white man’s ‘just-us’ responds to allegations that the ‘us’ in ‘just-us’ the white man, has been caught in the act of manipulating evidence!

What value to the Australian community is there in mining, anyway?

Since before the last federal election Australians have been bombarded with propaganda about the competing merits of a mining tax, a tax that was first raised in the 2009 Henry Tax Review as part of a package of measures designed to deal with the pressure the resources boom was putting on non-mining industries.

In the latest farcical attempt by Prime Minister Gillard to actually get a piece of legislation passed by parliament, she agreed to a number of 11th hour amendments proposed by independent Andrew Wilkie. In order to win Wilkie’s support for a mining tax, Gillard agreed to increase the profit threshold at which the tax kicks in, from $50 million to $75 million. This change in the threshold immediately creates a $100 million black hole in the Government’s forecasts.

The original idea for a Mineral Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) came out of the Henry Tax Review. The idea was to replace ad valorem mineral royalties on mine production volumes with a rent tax on profits. The argument was that governments and therefore, the general population, weren’t sharing in the big increase in commodity prices that in turn impacted on the terms of trade and increased the currency. Indeed, there was and is a fundamental disconnect between the terms of trade boom that is killing manufacturing and tourism and the tax revenue governments are getting from this bonanza, because royalties are levied on volume not price.

Ken Henry’s idea was sound in principle, but the luminaries in the Labor party stuffed it up; Swan and Rudd jumping on one portion of the proposal recommended a Resources Super Profits Tax. Taken by surprise the miners revolted and unsurprisingly won. Following this debacle Gillard knifed Rudd in the back, stole his crown and negotiated a lower tax on iron ore and coal with BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata so that only the smaller companies with smaller advertising budgets would complain.

As part of her deal with the mining bully boys, Gillard was forced to allow existing mineral royalties to be deducted from the tax, which totally negated the idea of replacing ad valorem royalties with a tax on profits. Then, just to prove that she deserved the crown snatched from Rudd’s political corpse, Gillard proceeded to make the whole exercise completely pointless by tying a MRRT to an increase in the superannuation guarantee levy from 9 per cent to 12 per cent. This had the bonus of increasing manufacturing costs rather that reducing them. Way to go, Julia!

According to Brian Toohey in yesterday’s Financial Review, the cost to the budget of the extra superannuation tax deductions will be $4.2 billion in 2019-20. The total cost of the concessions connected to the MRRT will be $9.4 billion in that year, less than a third of which is paid for by the revenue to be collected from the MRRT.

In the 2012-13 financial year in which the budget is supposed to return to surplus, the net cost of the MRRT package – revenue minus giveaways – is $1.7 billion. So there you have it folks, mining far from being Australia’s saviour, is poised to cost the tax payer $1.7 billion in its first year of operation.

I say we give the land and its resources back to their rightful owners, concentrate on what Australia does best – whatever that is – and the country will be better off to the tune of $1.7 billion.

Ya just gotta love our pollies don’t ya?

 

19 Comments

  1. Is the fighting between YAC WYAC real or has that prick Forrest created friction just so he can plunder Yinfibjidandi land.

  2. Andy Mason I was wondering myself how much of this trouble between the various Yindjibarndi factions is real and how much has been fabricated by Forrest to make his job of raping the Pilbara easier. Interesting thought.

  3. Jenifer Trees Your suspicions are almost certainly correct. Forrest is a man who lives by the sword, as such, he is well aware of the age old adage – divide and conquer.

  4. Anne via Facebook says:

    Division is certainly what FMG has sown among the Yindjibarndi, it would seem. Remember, the company has funded legal representation for the WYAC and apparently transport costs to get them to the “meeting” held last March (but for the YAC). Blak and Black discussed this meeting in a post at the time and still has a link to the video of the meeting on the post for April 10. What’s happening to the Yindjibarndi is nothing short of destruction of cultural and family ties and we all know where that ultimately leads. Another means of destroying and disrespecting the lives, history and culture of another. The saddest thing is, the damage at sites already mined cannot be undone and do not think the legal system will stop FMG, even temporarily, to investigate the apparent corruption. And that my friends, is an example of why my faith in democracy, in which the so-called rule of law is central, is being so rapidly eroded. It was a nice idea …

  5. Hello there Miss Anne Bright or should I say Bullwinkle – Hokey Smoke I think that you are right FMG has funded WYAC to break ranks or possibly to ‘invade’ the YAC for the sole purpose of corporate and personal profit. I have seen the file as well, obvious problems with the meeting – stacked would be a word for it. As Bakchos Glass keeps saying Australia really does operate a ‘just-us’ system.

  6. Hi Anne Bright and Paulo Flores To my mind the real problem is the manipulation of evidence. If we take the Sue Singleton letter at face value, assuming no sour grapes for losing the contract with FMGL, then evidence has been tampered with for the purpose of causing a miscarriage of justice, if so, why are not both FMGL and Eureka (Sue Singleton) equally guilty? At the very least Eureka has demonstrated a complete lack of integrity in that its principles were prepared to put fees (corporate greed) before professionalism. If archaeologists are required to be licenced, the licencing authority should take a long, hard look at Eureka’s integrity and professionalism.

  7. Tom Ashby an interesting analysis, but you forgot to mention that what everyone is arguing about is stolen Aboriginal land and resources. Remember – always was, always will be Aboriginal land!

  8. Bill Coe Uncle Bill while I sympathise with you and what you are saying we all have to face up to reality, Australia has been successfully invaded and colonised, this started over 200 years ago and the process is irreversible. I’m sad for this, but we have to now develop plans to deal with this reality. A big problem is that ATSI people are less than 3% of the Aussie population, with immigration and baby bonuses this percentage is likely to fall not grow – it’s called genocide by stealth, which I think is one of Bakchos’s phrases.

  9. Hi Tamara Ann Wooden, what you say is true, but the fact remains that all of Australia is Aboriginal land and we as a race are victims of theft and genocide.

  10. So true uncle Bill Coe, so true. I was only trying to suggest an alternative means of addressing an issue that is here to stay. I’m on your side. Lol Tammy.

  11. Hi there Tamara Ann Wooden, I understand that you were not trying to offend just to offer suggestions – my life, the lives of my family and my culture are in ruins because of the history of white invasion and colonisation. All we ask for is acceptance, justice and understanding. Is that so hard?

  12. Anne Bright, yes I think that FMG are in the divide and conquer mode, or should I say destruction mode? There are many unanswered questions relating to this mining application and what is happening on YAC land. Questions have to be asked and answers given.

  13. The issue is about justice and integrity in the system.Tom Ashby is right, Eureka as is as guilty as FMGL, they both seem to suffer from a complete lack of honesty, integrity and professionalism and for the same reason – money. In FMGL’s case we are talking billions, in Eureka’s case we are talking 10s of thousands, but in the final analysis its all about money only the amount changes.

  14. Anne I with you in what you say. As I have sad before, bats and pipes, the only answer to this type of corruption.

  15. Where is the accountability in all of this – isn’t the so called ‘rule of white man’s law’ all about accountability? If so, where is it? I agree with others commenting here that Eureka is as corrupt as FMGL only the rewards for that corruption is different. Hey Sue you changed a report for $70,000.00 wake-up, that’s corruption.

  16. Tom Ashby I fully support what you’re saying, but others also have a valid point in that the underlying issue is; whose land is it in the first place. Imagine what would happen if 3.000 or so Aborigines invaded your backyard on January morning and set up camp. You would have the pigs there so fast it wouldn’t be funny. Worse what if we invaded your land, found natural gas and started extracting it by fracking, would you have the shits or what? Let’s address to first issue, then we’ll move onto the others.

  17. Mahmud Ahsan via Facebook says:

    As I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, give me an honest dictator over this fantasy known as the ‘rule of law’. At least with an honest dictator everyone knows where they stand, unlike the different classes that everyone pretends don’t exist in the so called Western Democracies. Those who belive in Australian justice are deluded..

  18. Mahmud Ahsan interesting view, not sure I agree though. Mind you, in Australia our dictator id coruption so maybe you do have a valid point, I’ll have to think on this one.

  19. Davo says:

    Depends on which ‘elders’ one listens to – or follows.

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