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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Woodside's Natural Gas Row in Broome

Carol Martin

The first indigenous woman to be elected to any Australian Parliament is Labor MP Carol Martin 54 who was elected to the seat of Kimberley in 2001. She has been called a "toxic coconut" in a newsletter and is so upset, she plans to leave politics and not contest the next election in March 2013.

Cranky Camel

We all love the Kimberley and having been there, I was appalled when I heard that the huge mining company Woodside was going to mine for natural gas in the area but it looks like they have convinced the traditional owners to go ahead. In June, they signed a deal to
relinquish their rights over land at James Price Point and in return, they will receive $1.5 billion in community, health education and employment benefits.

Carol Martin MP is right behind the Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr people's decision to proceed after they voted 60-40 in favour of the project but it puts her at odds with her own extended family in a town where there is strong anti-gas feeling. Last week she was named in an anonymous newsletter as "brown on the outside but full of the ilk of the of white man's money on the inside." Her name appeared on a list of nine Kimberley Aborigines under the heading "toxic coconuts".

Broome sunset

Lindsay Greatorex is one of the traditional owners and an employee of Woodside and says it's upsetting to see Aboriginal people fighting among themselves. Concerns about the atmosphere of Broome being ruined and air quality compromised are not true, the project is not visible from Broome and is far enough way not to be a problem. But indigenous academic Dr Anne Poelina says 3,000 signatures were collected on a petition opposing the project on environmental grounds, so fighting continues.

But there is no doubt that this mighty project will go ahead, bringing hundreds of jobs and business opportunities with it. Broome didn't exist until 1883 and was created by an emerging pearling industry. If Woodside keeps its promise to honour the traditional owners' concerns about the environment, it should be a win win situation for everyone, not only for Broome, but for the whole country.

The seat of Kimberley is up for grabs and The Nationals hope to take it from Labor at the next election.