Warren Mundine’s nuclear allegiances
Jim Green, Online Opinion, 11 April 2012, www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=13478&page=0
Warren Mundine, a member and former National President of the ALP, and co-convener of the Australian Uranium Association’s Indigenous Dialogue Group, has been promoting the nuclear industry recently. Unfortunately he turns a blind eye to the industry’s crude racism, a problem that ought to be core business for the Indigenous Dialogue Group.
Mundine could have mentioned the legacy of uranium mining in the Wiluna region of WA; to pick one of many examples. Uranium exploration in the region in the 1980s left a legacy of pollution and contamination. Greatly elevated radiation levels have been recorded despite the area being ‘cleaned’ a decade ago. Even after the ‘clean up’, the site was left with rusting drums containing uranium ore. A sign reading “Danger − low level radiation ore exposed” was found lying face down in bushes.
In August 2000, coordinator of the Wiluna-based Marruwayura Aboriginal Corporation Steve Syred said that until 1993, 100−150 people were living three kilometres from the spot where high radiation levels were recorded. Syred told the Kalgoorlie Miner that the Aboriginal community had unsuccessfully resisted uranium exploration in the area in the early 1980s. Since then many people had lived in the area while the Ngangganawili Aboriginal Corporation was based near the contaminated site. Elders still hunted in the area.
Another example ignored by Mundine was in late March when the NSW government passed legislation that excluded uranium from provisions of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 thus stripping Aboriginal Land Councils of any say in uranium mining.
Yet another example ignored by Mundine was the 2011 amendments to the S.A. Roxby Downs Indenture Act 1982. This is the legislation that governs operations at the Olympic Dam uranium and copper mine and retains exemptions from the S.A. Aboriginal Heritage Act. Traditional Owners were not even consulted in the amendments or exemptions. The S.A. government’s spokesperson in Parliament said: “BHP were satisfied with the current arrangements and insisted on the continuation of these arrangements, and the government did not consult further than that.”
That disgraceful performance illustrates a broader pattern. Aboriginal land rights and heritage protections are feeble at the best of times. But the legal rights and protections are repeatedly stripped away whenever they get in the way of nuclear or mining interests. The Olympic Dam mine is largely exempt from the S.A. Aboriginal Heritage Act and any uranium mines in NSW are to be exempt from provisions of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act. Likewise, sub-section 40(6) of the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act exempts the Ranger uranium mine in the N.T. from the Act.
Mundine claims that Australia has “a legal framework to negotiate equitably with the traditional owners on whose land many uranium deposits are found”. That claim is disingenuous.
Native Title rights were extinguished with the stroke of a pen by the Howard government to seize land for a radioactive waste dump in South Australia. Aboriginal heritage laws and Aboriginal land rights are being trashed with the current push to dump in the Northern Territory. Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson’s National Radioactive Waste Management Act overrides the Aboriginal Heritage Act, sidesteps the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and allows for the imposition of a dump on Aboriginal land even in the absence of any consultation with or consent from Traditional Owners.
David Ross, Director of the Central Land Council, noted in a March 14 media release: “This legislation is shameful, it subverts processes under the [Aboriginal] Land Rights Act and is clearly designed to reach the outcome of a dump being located on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, whether that’s the best place for it or not. This legislation preserves the Muckaty nomination without acknowledging the dissent and conflict amongst the broader traditional owner group about the process and the so-called agreement. The passage of this legislation will further inflame the tensions and divisions amongst families in Tennant Creek, and cause great stress to many people in that region.”
A small number of Traditional Owners support the N.T. dump proposal. However most are opposed and the Northern Territory Government supports that opposition, key trade unions including the Australia Council of Trade Unions, church groups, medical and health organisations, and environmental groups. If push comes to shove, there will be a blockade at the site to prevent construction of the dump.
A pro bono legal team is assisting Traditional Owners with their legal challenge against the nomination of the Muckaty site. At a Federal Court hearing on March 27, a Commonwealth lawyer argued that the government’s legislation allows the nomination of a dump site to stand even if the evidence regarding traditional ownership is false.
These patterns are evident in other countries. North American Indigenous activist Winona LaDuke from the Anishinabe Nation told the Indigenous World Uranium Summit in 2006: “The greatest minds in the nuclear establishment have been searching for an answer to the radioactive waste problem for fifty years, and they’ve finally got one: haul it down a dirt road and dump it on an Indian reservation”.
Here in Australia the situation is scarcely any better than it was in the 1950s when the British were exploding nuclear bombs on Aboriginal land. Which brings us to another of Mundine’s blind spots. He could have mentioned the latest ‘clean up’ of the Maralinga nuclear test site, which was done on the cheap. Nuclear engineer and whistleblower Alan Parkinson said of the ‘clean-up’: “What was done at Maralinga was a cheap and nasty solution that wouldn’t be adopted on white-fellas land.”
Mundine’s claim to support Aboriginal empowerment is contradicted by his consistent failure to speak out when mining and nuclear interests and governments that support those interests disempower Aboriginal people.
Environmentalists respond to Warren Mundine’s attacks
1 Aug 2014, Indymedia
Tony Abbott says he wants to make a ”new engagement” with indigenous people. But there’s nothing new about finding opportunists like Warren Mundine to provide political cover for a racist government. That tactic is tried and tested. Only the names change.
Mine deal allegations against Warren Mundine and Aboriginal corporation
July 11, 2014, Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
A company that was part-owned and directed by the federal government’s chief indigenous adviser, Warren Mundine, helped broker a highly questionable deal that gave a mining company access to an Aboriginal sacred site in outback Western Australia.
The sorry tale of Lake Disappointment, the missing mining millions and Warren Mundine
July 10, 2014, Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
Legal advice questioned controversial mining deal
July 15, 2014, Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
Questions over Warren Mundine’s involvement in mining deal
12 Jul 2014, Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
First principles owed to our first people
July 14, 2014, The Age – Editorial
Cash, missing cars fail to spark criminal probe in to indigenous body
July 12, 2014, Richard Baker, Nick McKenzie
Responses to the above Fairfax articles:
- Warren Mundine planning to sue Fairfax, The Australian, 14 July 2014
- Media Statement: WDLAC CEO Noel Whitehead, July 14, 2014, WDLAC RESPONSE TO FAIRFAX ARTICLE.
- ‘Fairfax Q&A’, July 14, 2014, http://www.wdlac.com.au/news/
- ‘Response to Fairfax Media’, July 14, 2014, http://www.wdlac.com.au/news/
- Reward Minerals Ltd, 14 July 2014, Market Update: Response to Media Articles, ASX Release … this will presumably be uploaded to the following website soon though it is not there as at 15 July 2014: http://www.rewardminerals.com/?cat=5
Jeff McMullen: Neoliberalism, market fundamentalism and the colonization of Aboriginal policy
by Colin Penter, March 14th, 2014
The Australian journalist, writer and social justice campaigner Jeff McMullen has written two cogent and articulate critiques of the colonization of Aboriginal policy making in this country by the cancer of neo-liberalism (or what others call market fundamentalism).
One of Jeff McMullen’s articles The New Land Grab is available on line here (in The New Internationalist blog). The second piece is a book chapter titled Dispossession- Neoliberalism and the Struggle for Aboriginal Land and Rights in the 21st Century which appears in a new book In Black and White: Australians at the Cross Roads (edited by Rhonda Craven, Anthony Dillon & Nigel Parbury). This article is available here on Jeff McMullen’s own website
McMullen is scathing about the role played by influential Aboriginal leaders, such as Noel Pearson, Marcia Langton and Warren Mundine who have become influential advocates and brokers for neoliberal policies and have gathered adherents and supporters in both political parties and corporate Australia.
25 June 2014
Warren Mundine has confirmed what many First Nations leaders and community members suspected all along – he doesn’t represent anyone but the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. The Chairman of the Indigenous …
Warren Mundine is a man driven by ideology whose Lore and Culture is dollar signs, according to two prominent Elders who were responding to Mr Mundine’s scathing attack on Green groups. In an opinion …
09 July 2014
22 August 2013
Leaders react to Tony Abbott’s advisory council plans Reaction to Warren Mundine’s Garma address have been mixed with one leader declaring Mr Mundine was “on another planet” and “should not be up there …
15 August 2013
Coalition leader, Tony Abbott believes he and Warren Mundine are kindred spirits seeking to improve the plight of Aboriginal people. Mr Abbott said there was a need to convert all the good thinking from …
Green groups hit back at Mundine
8 July 2014
Response to Warren Mundine, letter published in the Australian Financial Review
It’s time to stop radioactive racism
Globally the nuclear industry is in decline and has been for a long time. The price of uranium was briefly inflated along with false dreams of a nuclear renaissance, in reality the industry is waning. The Fukushima disaster reminded both communities and financial institutions that nuclear power is far too risky for life on this planet.
In Western Australia we have a very aggressive uranium exploration program, sponsored by the State Government, yet deeply opposed by the people. We have a strong history of resistance against uranium mines and a proud history of stopping these mines. In the 1970′s my elders fought against uranium mining at Yeelirrie. In the 1980′s people from the Western Desert marched down St Georges Terrace in the thousands against uranium mining on their lands and we are proud to say we’ve never had a uranium mine in WA. We are going to keep it that way.
Warren Mundine wrote to the Financial Review promoting the nuclear industry. He wants uranium mining, he wants nuclear power and he wants the international community to dispose of its nuclear waste here, all on our lands. Mr Mundine does not speak for us here in Western Australia and has no right to talk about what should or should not happen on our country.
Some of the communities who are being barraged by these wanna be miners have generations of knowledge about uranium ‘poison’. We know better than most, the dangers of uranium. We also have generations worth of experience in dealing with mining companies , of witnessing their broken promises and the deep enduring failures of government to protect our country and people.
We don’t need someone from the East Coast, from Canberra or Canada to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do. Uranium stays in the ground. We have a saying, “Wanti* Uranium, leave it in the ground!” (*leave it)
The nuclear industry across Australia takes it’s toll on Aboriginal communities; from the nuclear weapons testing in Maralinga and Monte Bello island, from the trial mines in Wiluna, Yeelirrie and Manyingee in WA, to the abandoned mines in the NT & Queensland at Rum Jungle and Alligator River and Mary Kathleen, the existing mines at Ranger and Beverley and Roxby Downs in SA. The defeated proposed waste dump in South Australia now proposed for Muckaty Station in the NT. This industry preys on remote Aboriginal communities keeping everything out of sight and out of mind.
Across Australia there has never been a uranium mine that has not leaked radioactive mine waste into the environment, this industry has been tried and consistently failed.
The risk to our lands, to life itself far outweigh the measly rewards, the few jobs on offer, the State government royalties. It is not worth the long term damage to our country and to our water.
These mines will only last for 10 years or 20 years but as custodians we have thousands of years of waste. Long after this State government is a memory, long after the mining companies have gone broke we will be living with the radioactive legacy of their greedy short term ambitions. I and the people of West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance will not sell future generations short.
Kado Muir is the Chairperson of the West Australia Nuclear Free Alliance, he is a Ngalia man and a custodian for Yeelirrie – one of the uranium deposits under exploration by BHP Billiton.