Sunday, February 22, 2009
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
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 (http://blackpearlcap.com/ ).
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
(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.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
(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.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
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.