Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Matters of Urgency
At the request of Senator Thorpe, I move:
That the Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed to by nearly 200 countries, including Australia, resolved to pursue efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, which according to the International Energy Agency would require no new coal mines or new gas fields, and is consistent with respecting, promoting and considering the rights of First Nations and Indigenous peoples when taking actions to address climate change."
I rise to thank three brave environmental warriors who right at this minute are in 35-degree heat, putting their bodies on the line to stop work today at Woodside's Pluto project in the Burrup, working to stop the environmental criminals. This morning I spoke to Petrina, a mother and schoolteacher who has locked herself to a concrete barrel inside a caravan to block the Burrup Road, the only road into Australia's biggest gas hub. Alongside her are Elizabeth, a grandmother, and Caleb, a 23-year-old schoolteacher, who is chained to a concrete barrel under a car. The lands of the Murujuga people are made up of five language groups, so I pay my respects to them, their elders past and present and their emerging leaders. Murujuga always was and always will be Aboriginal land. The word 'Murujuga' means 'hip bone sticking out' in the Ngarluma Yapurarra language and consists of a narrow peninsula of land and 42 islands located near the town of Dampier in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
For First Nations people, land and people are connected, both physically and spiritually. There is a belief among First Nations people that if country gets sick, damaged, degraded and polluted then they too will become ill and might even die. By protecting the land, the people are also protected. Everyone is responsible for looking after country, even non-First Nations people who live and work on this land. This is not Woodside's land. This is not BHP's land. It's not the state government's land. This is our land, and we've looked after this land for thousands of years. We have been the custodians of the ancient Murujuga rock art, which depicts the Seven Sisters dreaming story that is etched into the rock. We know that, when people fight for nature, nature wins. We saw this at James Price Point. We saw it when people were locked onto tractors to save the Beeliar wetlands to stop a highway being built through those beautiful and precious wetlands. It was a campaign that, by the way, Labor supported and protected, so we know that Labor can protect the environment, but they only do it when they get votes to win elections. Why can't they do it all the time? I'll tell you why. It's because of donations. Woodside donate $220,000 every year to both the Liberal and Labor parties. In a statement to the Australian Financial Review, shadow resources minister Madeleine King said, 'The investment decision to go ahead with Scarborough was consistent with the global move towards decarbonisation.' That sounds pretty much like a line straight out of Woodside's playbook. Is Woodside writing talking points for Labor or is Labor writing talking points for Woodside? It's anyone's guess. The Greens are the only party that are turning up to protect nature, to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage and to reduce the dangerous, polluting emissions that are cooking this planet.
On Monday, the WA state Labor government's support of Australia's most-polluting gas project paved the way for Woodside and BHP to give the final tick of approval for the Scarborough gas project, which will generate 1.6 billion tonnes of emissions every year, equivalent to 15 coal-fired power stations. There's a groundswell of opposition coming together against this project, including from investors. The world has been turning against oil and gas and the extraction of fossil fuels, since the Glasgow summit. We know that Japan and Korea are transitioning out of gas. Any suggestion by Woodside CEO Meg O'Neill that this project will assist in decarbonising the planet is blatantly untrue. There is no credible evidence to back that up.
Today I was taking a look at Woodside's Indigenous communities policywhich was released, funnily enough, in August 2020, not that long ago. Unfortunately, I had to laugh with horror as I read the policy, because it couldn't be further from the truth. Post-Juukan caves, where lots of corporates made statements like this, Woodside claim that they will be 'guided by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples'. They will ensure their 'management of cultural heritage is thorough, transparent and underpinned by consultation and continued engagement'. They will avoid 'future damage or disturbance to cultural heritage' and, 'if avoidance is not possible', 'minimise and mitigate the impacts' in consultation with communities. They will also support 'self-determination, economic empowerment … and cultural heritage protection'.
To me, these are absolute lies. Now we are witnessing Juukan Gorge in slow motion, thanks to Woodside's obsession with fossil fuels. In my conversations with community, I have seen no evidence of Woodside upholding UNDRIP or protecting cultural heritage. In fact, what I have witnessed is the exact opposite. This is nothing short of gross negligence, and these governments and companies will have to answer to our kids and their kids for generations to come. They are the criminals here. To Petrina, Elizabeth and Caleb, I say: thank you, because you are the real change-makers.