Sunday, February 22, 2009

Native title: divide and rule tactics to split traditional custodians

Reposted with acknowledgement from the Adelaide Independent Weekly:

Indigenous-mining dialogue group not a silver bullet: ACF
20/02/2009 2:10:00 PM

A group set up to bridge the gap between Aboriginal Australians and uranium mining companies has been criticised as being a tool to rob native title holders of their land.

Former national ALP president and Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine has also come under scrutiny following his decision to become a board member of the Australian Uranium Association - the industry body responsible for establishing the dialogue group that Mr Mundine is now part of.

Jillian Marsh, an Adnyamathanha custodian, is one such critic who knows first hand how desperately Aboriginal people need an independent body they can turn to for impartial advice and information.

But she does not believe the dialogue group, co-convened by ten uranium industry experts and indigenous community leaders, is the answer.

"Isn't it a conflict of interest what (Mr Mundine) is doing?"

"There is just too many people working across too many boards and that is what concerns me," she said.

"And they are not closely enough connected with the communities who are dealing with this stuff on the ground."

The Beverley Uranium Mine site, based 520km north of Adelaide, rests at the northern end of the Flinders Ranges on the traditional lands of Ms Marsh and her ancestors.

"I went all around that country with my parents ... and now to see what is happening under native title and to see our lands just being ripped out in front of us," she said.

"Not having the right to say no to this, not being able to stop this destruction from going on, it makes me feel really sick.

"The way that money is being used to bribe Aboriginal people is really unethical," she said.

"We never talk about how these decisions split families up and divide communities.

"The native title process is failing them."

Holding its first dialogue group meeting this week, AUA executive director Michael Angwin said it was "too early" to speculate what deals might done with native title holders to secure future mining sites.

"We regard this group as a key stakeholder group ... to whom we can go to for advice on the bigger issues affecting our industry," he said.

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear-free campaigner Dave Sweeney said indigenous communities had "been a major impediment for the uranium industry for a very long time".

"This is an absolutely cynical attempt on the part of the industry to reposition itself as an industry that listens, cares and is concerned," he said.

Mr Sweeney conceded some ACF members held biased viewpoints, but said "by the same coin" he was also concerned the information passed on to Aboriginal communities by the dialogue group might not be entirely balanced.

"No trader calls out 'bad fish'," he said.

"This information will be slanted.

"It is a group that is comprised of and paid for by Australian explorers and producers of uranium.

"It is not some balanced, measured, disinterested, impartial body, it is an industry advocacy group that is trying to facilitate the expansion of the uranium industry in Australia."

Mr Angwin, a former Rio Tinto executive, was open about the fact that discussions with indigenous community leaders would likely benefit the industry, but denied the group was borne out of any frustrations in gaining access to future mine sites or locations suitable for low-level nuclear waste.

"The impetus for this group came from a series of discussions which identified a series of common ideas," he said.

"If people have the right information... they'll come to good decisions and that's what we really want here - for people to make informed decisions based on evidence and not fear.

"If Aboriginal communities decide they don't want to be engaged with uranium, then so be it."
However, Mr Sweeney said Aboriginal people had no right of veto under the current native title system and that development applications were "profoundly weighted in favour of business".

"A lack of consent is not sufficient to stop development proceeding," he said.
"They act as if Aboriginal people have the right to say no and that this is an even playing field, but that is totally misleading."

As the chief executive of Native Title Services Corp, Mr Mundine said it was likely that most future mine developments would be established on indigenous land.

"I'm (part of the dialogue group) for the indigenous people, to put their viewpoints forward," he said.

Mr Sweeney said he questioned whether or not Mr Mundine would represent solely the interests of Aboriginal Australians during discussions, given his "unashamed support for the promotion of the industry" in the past.

"If you sit on the board, then you have nailed your colours to the mast," he said.

"It's no surprise, as he has for a long time pushed this barrow."

Mr Mundine said the ALP during its 2007 national conference scrapped its policy opposing the establishment of new uranium mines.

"And so this is an opportunity for development of the industry here for larger mining activity to happen," he said.

"We need to ensure that indigenous people receive the benefits that they so rightly deserve in the social and economic areas."

Mr Sweeney said he did not believe education, employment and infrastructure should be linked to mining operation approvals.

"They are citizenship entitlements," he told AAP.

"What does that say to those Aboriginal people who do not have access to the potential of a uranium mine?

"Do you only get out of the poverty trap if you've got a uranium mine on your country?"

"For the industry to say `we are the silver bullet, we will solve (Aboriginal dislocation)'; it flies in the face of reality and the lived Aboriginal experience," Mr Sweeney said.

"It is a cynical PR exercise."

The federal government last year granted the approval of a six-fold expansion of the Beverley Uranium Mine.

It is understood native title processes between the Beverley Uranium Mine operator, Heathgate Resources and the Adnyamathanha elders are ongoing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A pair of parasites make a move on Marathon

The sordid little story of Marathon Resources just gets dirtier.

The latest development is the registration at the Australian Securities Exchange of Black Pearl Global Opportunity Fund as a substantial shareholder.

Although not yet listed on the Marathon Resources website as one of its Top Twenty Shareholders, BPGOF has purchased sufficient shares between December 8 last year and February 11 this year to move into fifth place behind ANZ Nominees Ltd with close to 4.8 million shares and a voting power of 6.3%.

So who is BPGOF?

It is a company incorporated in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.

Its directors are Abbas Jafarian and Reza Irani-Kermani.

And that’s about all the website of its parent company, Black Pearl Capital (of which Jafarian is CEO) reveals. It’s worth going there just to get the flavour of this secretive operation ( ).

Further investigation reveals that both Jafarian and Irani-Kermani worked together at Brokerbox Limited, based at Chicago and for the Fixi Group based in London.

Jafarian had also worked as an investment executive at Morgan Stanley where he was responsible for the Middle Eastern region managing over $1.3 billion in assets. He has also worked for British Chartis Research’s mergers and acquisitions advisory service.

Drawing on that experience, Black Pearl Capital has a sister company to BPGOF in Onyx MENA Fund, also registered in the Cayman Islands. Onyx is a hedge fund with a target capital of $US250 million focusing primarily on the Middle East and North African (MENA) markets.

Jafarian has a number of other private equity outfits of which he is sole director, such as Verity Real Estate and Eurozone Equity Company, both of which are registered in another tax haven, Luxembourg.

Irani-Kermani has based his career on foreign exchange and investment management.

However, he came under the spotlight in 1999 through his association with Kia Joorabchian with whom he acted as a front for Russian gangster capitalist Boris Berezovsky when the latter took control of the influential Kommersant Publishing which runs the most influential newspaper in Moscow.

Irani-Kermani popped up again in dodgy circumstances when he was associated with Joorabchian’s purchase of the Brazilian soccer team Corinthians. It has been alleged that the men were involved in money laundering through player payments, marketing and so on. In less than a year, they had spent $US60 million through their football investments.

Whilst their share acquisitions in Marathon are perfectly legal (they have retained Adelaide-based law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery), it remains something of a mystery as to how Marathon Resources, a minor minerals explorer at the best of times, and one whose future is clouded by ongoing controversy associated with its despoliation of the pristine Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, has come to their attention.

Is it just insignificant enough on the world scale to be set up for more money laundering?

With their expertise in hedge funds, are they going to seize an appropriate time to short it and race away with their pockets full (although it can’t be shorted too much at only 36 cents a share at the moment!)

With their private equity expertise, are they going to take it over completely, take it private and get it off the stock exchange so they can restructure and asset strip? It might need to have a structure first, to be restructured, and have assets for them to be stripped! It has neither at the moment.

So, the latest episode in our local little soap opera fails to clean the air.

Once again, the absence of an Independent Commission Against Corruption, consistently blocked by Premier Rann and his corrupt capitalist Labor administration, is very much felt.

Stay tuned folks, and let’s see what the Iranian pair of finance capitalists parasites can make out of the sad little Marathon mess.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yingiya Guyula's statement on the Northern Territory Intervention.

(This statement has been posted at Sydney Indymedia, but it is important that the voice of Aboriginal Territorians be heard in relation to the Intervention and to the appeal against the suspension of the Racial Discrimiantion Act in the Northern Territory that is now going to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.)

STATEMENT: My name is Yingiya Guyula from Liya-dhalinymirr clan of the Djambarrpuy?u People. I am a Yolngu Studies lecturer at University in Darwin

The intervention has only created problems in East Arnhemland communities as well remote homeland centres. The Intervention has made our people more frustrated and confused, the white man’s way of thinking is forced on us, and forcing us to abandon our culture. Government Ministers have flown into Arnhemland communities just for few hours on the ground to gather a little bit of information, then they fly back into cities thinking they know how to fix the problems in the communities, thinking they know what’s best for us. Governments only looked at the fringe camps and towns and wet areas where people drink alcohol in places such as Nhulunbuy, Katharine, Tenant creek, Jabiru Alice Spring and Darwin.

White people see Aboriginal people in these places and think that these people that don’t care about life, who don’t care about living. But who are they to judge them. They class all Aborigines the same, but they are wrong. These white people and those bureaucrats do not go out to the East Arnhemland communities, where my people live, where there has never been alcohol, and these is no child abuse. There are Aboriginal people living on remote communities of Arnhemland, in homeland centres, away from towns, away from the binge drinking areas, poker machine and gambling venues. These are people that are able to manage their funds and work, or want work, educate, discipline, and practice ceremonies.

Quarantining of centrelink payments should be optional and not compulsory. Quarantining might be ok for people living in town camps and cities, where alcohol and gambling is a problem, but it doesn’t work for my people living on remote Arnhemland homelands where there is no gambling, no alcohol and no child abuse. We are asking simply for understanding that in life, their needs to be an understanding between two cultures. There needs to be respect between cultures. Mapuru homeland has a Coop store which won a National award for selling healthy food. Centrelink won’t approve it to accept quarantined money. This means an aircraft charter fight from the mainland homeland at Mapuru to the closest shop on Elcho Island costs 560 dollars return. This means it’s costing $560 return flight just to buy 150 dollars worth of food, where’s the sense in that?

Arnhemland is like the European Union, made up of many different nations, each clan-nation with their own language, each with it own national estate. Bringing everybody in from the homeland centres into the major settlements is not the right thing to do because people do not feel secure or happy living in another mans land. Children are forced to go to school, but really they do not feel safe and unsecure on other peoples’ land. There are about 40 children who willingly run to school every day at Mapuru homeland because it’s their home and they feel secure. Yet the N.T. Government wants to close down the homeland schools and bring everyone in to the major communities. They think it’s not worth spending money on homeland schools who have 40 or more children freely, and with their own will attending school, but is providing internet services, facilities and technology to white schools with attendances as low as 5. The Education department provides computers and internet and distance learning for hundreds of cattle station and small schools, across the Northern Territory, but homeland schools are neglected.

Further more I would like say that these homelands are our homes. There is no violence in the remote homeland communities, no child abuse happens, no alcohol, no pornography, because out there in the bush is where the cultural ceremonial grounds are, and from it is where strong discipline comes through spirits of our fathers talking through the land.

Both the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory Governments hasn’t given equal opportunity to us the First Australians to be able to exercise our rights. Through the intervention white man police stations have been put in the major communities for dealing mostly with cultural conflict issues (problems that can only be solved through traditional cultural justice), but instead the white policeman force white man law onto us, disrespecting our black fella law. They think they’ve done the right thing. But often they’re only making it much worst by locking up senior leaders, the very ones who are wise and keeping our Indigenous Law strong.

This time we are taking the case further where it can be heard loud and clear by people whose ears, brains, feelings have a heart for Indigenous Australians. It is now being taken further where there is an ear that will listen. We are taking it further, to the United Nations and will talk about the intervention, about how income management in the Northern Territory has had a devastating and debilitating impact on remote communities in Arnhemland.

Finally, we need you to support us. We need you to tell governments that we want the same opportunities as white people, to live and enjoy our own cultural life, but they must stop trying to make us like whiteman, we have our own cultural identity. Let us be who we are, and together we will have hope for the future.

Thank you

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Victorian bushfire commentary

Organised and united, ordinary people are the strongest force on Earth

(The following commentary on the horrific Victorian bushfires was posted on the website of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) on February 11).

The tremendous community response to the devastation of the ferocious bushfires in Victoria and New South Wales, and the floods in Northern Queensland, have once again demonstrated that ordinary people will pull together to endure every hardship and sacrifice to defend their communities in the face of disasters. Unity and practical organisation give ordinary people the confidence and power to do extraordinary things.

In the bushfires that have raged across the state of Victoria during days of record high temperatures over 40o C, 181 deaths have so far been confirmed, while hundreds more have suffered burns and other injuries.

The townships of Kinglake, Marysville, Narbethong, Flowerdale, Wandong and Callignee have been virtually wiped out and more than a thousand houses and farm buildings lost. 450,000 hectares of native forest, plantations, scrub and grasslands have been burned out, along with power transmission lines, schools,telephone exchanges, communication towers, shops, community centres and other vital infrastructure. Farm animals, livestock and native wildlife have perished. It is the biggest natural disaster ever to hit the Australian people.
Courage and decency

Even though the state emergency services were alert and prepared for a busy “bushfire season”, the 4,000 fire-fighters and emergency workers were initially overwhelmed by the intensity, speed and extent of many fires which sent 15 metre flames racing across the countryside, fanned by howling winds. The fire-crews, some working 18 hour shifts, showed great discipline, humanity and courage in stalling the fire-fronts long enough for many people to escape to relative safety. Even though many lives were lost, many thousands more have been saved by the heroic teams battling to contain the infernos.

Unlike many other countries, Australia relies on a system of trained, volunteer fire-fighters, organised around a core of professional officers, with trucks and equipment in the country towns. Many volunteers are ordinary workers who put themselves at great risk out of their sense of care for their communities, families and friends.

Along with helicopter crews, police and other emergency services, they have stayed on the line for days on end. Some had even lost their own houses, or had no idea if their own families were safe, but they kept at it.

Behind this human wall of protection, ordinary people in the townships, the city and communities have quickly organised support networks, feeding and sheltering the homeless, caring for the injured, collecting clothing, looking after children and lost pets. They have assisted search teams and offered their houses, vehicles and energies to the arriving medical teams and welfare agencies. Finally, belatedly perhaps, the army has been called in, bringing heavy equipment to clear the roads and erecting tents for the homeless.

The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) decided to call off planned state-wide industrial action against the Telstra monopoly, in order to allow hundreds of their workers to carry out urgent repair work on damaged and unsafe power lines and transmission towers in the fire zones.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Victorian Premier John Brumby offered words of support for the victims and quickly implemented assistance funds for the homeless and injured. But, in calling for the banks and insurance companies to be compassionate, Kevin Rudd was probably being over-optimistic.

Away from the disaster areas, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people of Australia have responded generously to the tragedy, raising millions of dollars in donations, lining up to donate blood for burns victims, donating food, clothing, toys and all sorts of services freely. The response to the call for donations was so overwhelming that many donations of food and clothing had to be turned away.

In these tragic events, there is much sadness, but also something to celebrate. We get some sense of the great power of humanity when ordinary people band together and work collectively and selflessly together with a clear objective in mind, supporting each other in a common cause. The petty things that divide people become trivial and irrelevant and the common decency that unites people comes to the fore.

Climate warming

There will be a Royal Commission to review all aspects of these fearful fires; the warning system, weather forecasting, communications, the management of resources and the decisions taken at the time.

Already, some are pointing to climate warming as a key factor. Australians have always lived with bushfires, but these fires have occurred in conditions of record high temperatures, record low humidity, months of virtually no rainfall, and gale force winds – the most extreme conditions imaginable.
Scientists are saying that climate warming will bring these conditions to Australia more frequently, as average temperatures rise and average rainfall decreases.

As climate warming triggers more extreme weather conditions around the world, such as the recent severe freeze in Britain, people everywhere will become increasingly insistent on better precautions against natural disasters, fires and floods.

They will demand an end to preventable man-made disasters such as greenhouse gas emissions, logging of native forests, soil degradation and erosion, the death of river systems and water catchments and the plundering of fish stocks. They want to live in harmony with nature, not at war.

As the bushfire tragedy demonstrates, when the power of ordinary people is mobilised and organised, it can overcome all difficulties and setbacks. When such power becomes a conscious political force, a new and better world can be built.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Marathon jump the gun at Arkaroola

Marathon Resources appears to have learned nothing from the state government's indefinite suspension of its exploration license at Mt Gee in the Arkaroola Wildlife Sanctuary.

True, in the immediate aftermath it did change the composition of its Board and produce a report, Learning from Waste in the Wilderness, in which it proclaimed a change of heart and a commitment to a new set of environmental and social standards.

These included an acknowledgement that the company had "failed to build sufficient trust with Mr and Ms Sprigg, the owner-operators of the Wilderness Sanctuary...Marathon will seek to build a better relationship with Mr and Ms Sprigg..."

So much for words.

The company announced at the end of January that its clean-up of the sites at which it had illegally dumped waste had been completed. However, the state's primary industries department PIRSA has yet to inspect the site and approve of the clean-up.

Yet Marathon has jumped the gun and served a notice of entry and notice of equipment on the Spriggs. It continues to disrespect them because of their public stand against mining within the Sanctuary. The Spriggs presumably immediately contacted state Greens MP Mark Parnell, who raised the matter in the Legislative Council of the SA Parliament on Thursday Feb 5.

This led to an exchange with Paul Holloway, the Minister responsible for mining, which clearly showed that even he was somewhat peeved with Marathon's "bull at the gate" approach.

The exchange follows:


The Hon. M. PARNELL (14:47): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Mineral Resources Development a question about Marathon Resources.

Leave granted.

The Hon. M. PARNELL: In September last year, in response to questions about the clean-up and disposal of radioactive and other waste illegally dumped in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, the minister stated that Marathon Resources' exploration licence continued only because the company 'needs some authority in order to undertake the activities about which we have been talking, that is, the removal of the waste'. When questioned further, the minister said, 'As to the future of the exploration licence, that is something that we will have to await until the clean-up is finished.'

Last week, Marathon Resources released a statement to the Stock Exchange stating that its clean-up was completed on 18 December last year and that all rehabilitation and revegetation works relating to the formal rectification plan were completed early last month, and a report by the independent consultant verifying the work was submitted to PIRSA on 23 January. This morning, the owners of the wilderness sanctuary, Marg and Doug Sprigg, were served by Marathon Resources with a new notice of entry and notice of equipment. Now that the clean-up is complete, it seems that Marathon is preparing to resume its exploration activities once the minimum 21-day notice period expires. My questions of the minister are:

1.Now that the clean-up is complete and the company has served a new notice of entry, when will he make a decision on whether Marathon Resources will be allowed to resume its exploration activities and, in particular, its drilling activities?

2.Has Marathon Resources made a formal reapplication to resume its drilling activities, and has it submitted a new declaration of environmental factors?

3.Considering the high level of public interest in this issue, is there any scope for public comment on whether the company can resume its exploration activities?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Minister for Urban Development and Planning, Minister for Small Business) (14:49): As the honourable member said in his questions, a report was handed to the department on 23 January. The department has not yet signed off on that issue so, as far as the government is concerned, the clean-up of the Mount Gee region and exploration in the Arkaroola area by Marathon is not yet complete, and it will not be complete at least and until the department formally signs off on the work that is being done. I have certainly had no formal application from Marathon, and, certainly, I would not even contemplate one until the process is completed. In any case, I can say to the honourable member that he would be aware that some issues arose in relation to the fluoride (sic!) matter that pointed to some deficiencies within the Mining Act in terms of how these matters might be dealt with.

I will be bringing some amendments into this parliament. Certainly, I would not be contemplating any further activity by Marathon at least and until that legislation was in place, and that might well be some time away. It is certainly news to me that Marathon has served a new notice of entry. As I said, I have no intention whatsoever of approving that, or even considering any approach from it until the matters have been finalised to the satisfaction of the department. I understand that work is completed. I am not questioning that the work may not have been done satisfactorily, but that needs to be certified by the relevant authorities.
In any case, I think that, at the very least, the deficiencies of the Mining Act that were brought to light by Marathon's activities need to be corrected. Then, I think, the government would have to give consideration to the impact of any further exploration and, in particular, any public benefit that would come out of that given the history of this matter. I am not even going to consider that until at least those two preconditions are met, and I expect it would be some time at least before the legislation would be considered by this parliament.

The Hon. M. PARNELL (14:52): As a supplementary question, given the minister's response about his lack of knowledge of the notice of entry having been given, will the minister bring back to the council some advice on the validity of those notices and, in particular, the validity of the 21 day statutory periods under those notices, as well as any advice on whether, if invalid, those notices would have to be reissued at some future date?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Minister for Urban Development and Planning, Minister for Small Business) (14:52): I think that is a reasonable point. I will certainly have that looked at as a matter of urgency.


The "flouride" reference is actually to the rare mineral fluorite, a large crystalline deposit of which was stolen from the Mt Gee area. Marathon admits responsibility for damage done to the deposit by an employee, but denies the involvement of the employee in the theft.

The issue was extensively covered by photographer Bill Doyle on his blog unknownsa last November.

The issue was also featured prominently in Murdoch's daily paper the Advertiser on January 24 under the heading Missing minerals anger. It noted that the crystal was believed to have been sold on the internet. However, there has been no police action subsequent to the theft, and rather incredibly, PIRSA has stated that there are "no penalties under several State Government acts relating to mining and the protection of rare minerals.

Whilst there is obvious potential for the Marathon-Arkaroola issue to serve as a distraction from the grand crimes being committed by BHP-$Billion at Olympic Dam, we must still fight to save Arkaroola from the despoilers at Marathon and to continue to honour the vision of Reg Sprigg and the rights of the Adnyamathanha traditional owners.

How good are the Greens?

Nigel Carney has opened up an interesting debate on the value of the Australian Greens on his website here: . His critique has led to some debate about the responsibilities and credibilities of minor parties operating in capitalist parliaments. It's worth a read!
Without pre-empting your reading of Nigel's piece, this is my response:
Hi Nigel,
This is really an important issue: the role of minority capitalist parties in relation to the struggles of the people and particulaly, but not only, of the Aboriginal custodians and owners of the land. There seem to me to be two aspects to this:
(1) The Greens are a party of capitalism operating within the political institution that acts as the executive committee for the ruling class as a whole, Parliament, and they accept the economic system of capitalism. That is the underlying basis for their inconsistencies and vacillation, particularly in relation to the fundamental questions of the rights of capitalists to operate within parameters set by their need to make a profit. I understand your frustration and anger, but nothing is black and white and it is unrealistic to expect the Greens to be anything other than good on some issues and bad on others. We unite with them where we can and go our own independent way without them or even against them when we need to.
(2) Maybe on the scale of things, the issue at Arkaroola is less important than the issue at Olympic Dam. In that sense, you're correct that one can serve as a diversion from the other. However, a wise eastern gentleman once advised his comrades to learn to play the piano with all ten fingers. Even if the Olympic Dam struggle resounds with stentorian bass notes thumped out with force and majesty whilst Mt Gee/Marathon/Arkaroola is a little tinkling with the pinkie finger at the other end of the piano, the combined effect is better than each on its own. That’s a fundamental of good music. A fundamental of good struggle is to unite all the various arenas of people’s activity into one mighty movement that will shake heaven and turn earth upside down. In an environmentally sustainable way of course! So, I welcome Parnell’s support for the Arkaroola issue and agree with your criticism of his and the Green’s silence on Olympic Dam.