Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Death threats to Aboriginal elders in mining dispute

Nick G.

A Melbourne-based mining company has been linked to death threats against Aboriginal elders in Western Australia.

Hawthorn Resources carries substantial Chinese investment, has a six-person Board of Directors which includes three Chinese as well as infamous anti-worker die-hard Chris Corrigan who led Patrick Stevedores in its massive attack on the Maritime Union back in 1998.

The company is currently in conflict with the Indigenous managers of Pinjin cattle station, 145 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie.

Its open cut gold mine is just 150 metres from the Pinjin Station homestead where between 6 and 20 Aboriginal people live, depending on the time of the year.  The station is Crown Land, leased to Indigenous company Tisala Pty Ltd and managed for Tisala by Wongatha elders Leo and Lawrence Thomas.

Hawthorn has ridden roughshod over the Pinjin people since it began testing there more than three years ago.  The WA Mines Department has had to instruct Hawthorn to remove its sample bags littering local roadsides, and to reduce dust and disturbance to Pinjin’s infrastructure.  What it has not dealt with (“outside our scope”) is the racist attitudes of Hawthorn employees and the company’s disrespect for the Pinjin people.

Matters came to a head late in June when Leo Thomas discovered racist signs, including death threats, on the walls of his homestead and on fences nearby.

Signs accusing “black nigars” (their spelling) of holding up mining, and claiming to have the WA Mines Minister’s support for the company (“So eat our dust and put up with noise or piss off”) were bad enough.   “We destroy black nigars” and “Leo and Lawrence will end same as Elijah” left no doubt as to the nature of the threats thrown at the Pinjin people.  The “Elijah” reference was to Elijah Doughty, the 14-year old Kalgoorlie boy run down and killed in 2016 by a white fella subsequently acquitted of manslaughter.

Hawthorn’s Chinese connection is to three state-owned and one private enterprise. In 2012 the company entered into an agreement with Feng Hua Mining Investment Holding Limited to secure $15 million in investments. Feng Hua is comprised of Chinese state-owned Guangdong Feng Hua Advanced Technology (Holding) Co. Ltd., Guangdong Rising Assets Management Co. Ltd, and Guangdong Corporation of Geology and Mineral.  A non-state-owned entity, Lite Smooth Investment Limited completes the Feng Hua quartet.

Given the exemplary attitude of China during Mao Zedong’s time towards combatting great Han chauvinism and protecting the interests of China’s minority nationalities, you would think that a company, half of whose Directors were from China, might have shown greater sensitivity towards relations with Australian First Nations peoples. But that was then, and this is now.

Hence, the website of Hawthorn Resources makes no reference to Pinjin Station in its description of its mining activity there. It merely says its operation “is located 140 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie and is centred on the historic Anglo Saxon Mine.” Nor is there any reference to or condemnation of the racist attacks on the Pinjin people.

On June 26, Hawthorn Resources stated to National Indigenous TV News “that a number of threatening and highly offensive signs have been placed on Crown Land immediately adjacent to its mining lease”, a statement that was itself highly offensive by ignoring that the so-called “Crown Land” was the homestead occupied by Leo Thomas.  It said that as the matter was before the police, there would be “no further comment”.

Two days later, following a public outcry, including an accusation by One Nation upper house MP Robin Scott that Hawthorn Resources was responsible for the racial taunting of Leo and Lawrence Thomas, a further comment was made, a belated condemnation of the signage and a disclaimer of any responsibility: "Hawthorn, its officers, its employees, its partners and contractors had no part in creating or erecting the posters and categorically deny any allegations of this nature."

What other Australians would be expected to have mine blasting 150 metres from home?  What other Australians would expect to have 40,000 tonnes of ore per month excavated and loaded onto trucks 150 metres from home?

This is allowed to happen because the only people directly affected are Indigenous Australians.

According to Leo Thomas, the WA State Labor government should be ashamed of itself.

“The Mines department has allowed Hawthorn Resources to continually and on a growing scale destroy over the last seven months hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment and infrastructure,” he told the Koori Mail.

“While these pictures are disgusting and sickening, what is even more sickening is the Mines department, despite being given photographic evidence, has allowed Hawthorn Resources to breach tenement conditions relating to dust, surface water flow, uncapped drill holes and small bags left on the ground affecting the wider environment.

“No other person or mining company would be given the special benefit of breaching all these laws over such an extended period of time. As far as I am concerned the Mines department is corrupt as they do not have morals of what is right and wrong to support a mining company doing massive destruction of infrastructure and equipment on Pinjin Station.”

Hawthorn Resources should immediately end its mining operations at Pinjin. There is no excuse for subjecting Australian people to the noise and dust of an operation 150 metres from their home. It must cooperate fully with police in determining authorship of signs made in its name that promote racial hatred and convey death threats. Its Board of Directors should assume full responsibility for the hostility shown by racist elements towards the Pinjin Station managers, and resign.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The deeper reality of fracking

Arrernte Kaytetye elder, Christine Palmer, speaking in Sydney at rally marking the 11th anniversary of the NT Intervention

Louisa L

‘We have to ventilate our homes so they don’t explode’

Gamilaraay man Raymond ‘Bubbly’ Weatherall is at the Redfern Community Centre. On this Friday night in early June, rain smashes down outside as he recounts how his countryman Nathan Leslie threatened to arrest police, who’d come to arrest him for trespassing on his own land. 

Weatherall’s audience has just watched the outstanding documentary ‘Sacrifice Zone’ on anti-fracking struggles against the Santos Narrabri Gas Project in north western NSW. 

They’ve seen Leslie on screen. His bearing shows someone to be reckoned with, because he stands in the Law. The battle is “bigger than me,” says Leslie. “Our Ancestors are always watching.” 

The police backed off and left, Bubbly gleefully tells the audience.

Struggle spreads

Huge struggles up to 2015 reduced the percentage of NSW open for fracking from 60 per cent to 5 per cent till, as the documentary states, “all that is left is Santos land.” Work has begun on Gomeroi land in the Pilliga.

The battle is Australia-wide. Only Victoria, which has banned it, Tasmania and the ACT are currently unaffected. According to Guardian Australia’s Michael Evershed, “The vast majority of land in both the NT and South Australia is covered by either current tenements for petroleum exploration and development, or applications for exploration and development,” leaving them vulnerable to shale gas mining.

When the ALP mis-government recently approved 51 per cent of NT for shale gas mining and fracking it became clear that Aboriginal lands are being particularly targeted.

Before the go-ahead, NT First Nations’ youth group, Seed, stated, “Over 60 community members from across 13 regions came together on Larrakia country in Darwin, 18-20 November 2017, to yarn about how to stand together and stop fracking from destroying the NT.  

“Never before have this many Aboriginal community members been brought together on the issue of fracking.
“People came together from every corner of the Territory” 
This spearhead of powerful opposition ensured 135 requirements were promised, but the fight is not over by a long shot. 

For our children
Shale and coal seam gas mining creates huge amounts of poisoned waste water and can contaminate rivers up to 1000km away. 

Borroloola’s McArthur River has already been poisoned by mining giant Glencore using conventional mining.
A statement from Elder Nancy McDinny, Yanuwa & Garrawa from Borroloola reads, “Those four rivers on Garawa country; we’re going to fight for that water for our children and ban fracking.” 
“We want this land to be strong and healthy for our children so they can go out bush hunting and fishing in the clean environment. Our water has to be clean and healthy for everyone to drink,” she says.

To the east, the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) covers an area the size of Queensland, straddling four states. Once contaminated, underground resources like GAB which communities rely on into the future, damage can’t be undone. 

‘We let this go without so much as a whimper in our country’
Lisa Cox writes in Guardian Australia, “Alliances have been formed across groups that have traditionally been at odds – the environment movement, Indigenous groups and conservative regional and farming communities.” 

Drew Hutton, former President of the Lock the Gate Alliance, says, “The only thing stopping them is this magnificent fortitude.”

When corporations came knocking in the US coal seam gas belt, communities believed the hype.  US farmer, John Fenton says, “We let this go without so much as a whimper in our country. We can’t drink the water out of the wells any more. We have to ventilate our homes so they don’t explode… Our property is worth nothing now.”

In Queensland, producing gas fields already cover more than 30,000 square kilometres.  The results are laid bare; industrialisation of rural and remote areas by an insidious, deceitful and destructive industry. Those affected have begged Australia to listen and learn.

Struggle reveals the bloodless icy heart of capitalism; that only profits matter. The interests of the people and those of giant corporations are diametrically opposed. Those on the front line of struggle will never look at capitalism in the same way again. Many begin to sense that this antagonistic and irreconcilable contradiction needs a final resolution. 

‘Sacrifice Zone’ is free to view at

Monday, July 16, 2018

US imperialism gathers its proxies and prepares for war


The wave of United States-led militarism sweeping the Asia-Pacific region is not difficult to observe; evidence is readily available from easily accessible sources.

The development of US-led military facilities for defence and security provision, likewise, is also easily traceable.

It is, however, the developments not so easily identifiable which reveal US military planning for real-war scenarios through the use of regional proxies that are particularly revealing.

In March, an official Australian Defence Department media release announced a 'record number of US marines will be deployed to Darwin' within coming weeks, and they will, 'take part in joint operations with Australian Defence Force personnel'. (1) The same media release also revealed the increased numbers of military personnel was 'the seventh and largest rotation' since the deployments began in 2012. (2) While the release revealed 'these initiatives strengthen the ability of Australia and the US to work together', reference was also made to a total of fifteen planned military exercises including other regional partners such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. (3)


Behind the list of regional partners lie the US-led Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS) provision from the period when Donald Rumsfeld was Defence Secretary with the Bush administrations. The plan included Japan being transformed from a client state to a fully-fledged hub for 'US interests' in the northern part of the region, with Australia as a southern counterpart. While the GTDS plan was military in orientation, the thinking was also based on economic neo-colonial considerations.


Military alliances and Free Trade Agreements


The Asia-Pacific region had become the most dynamic sector of the world economy, following the rising influence of China as the main driver of economic growth throughout the 1990s. The US wanted to retain their hegemonic standing within the region, increasingly challenged by the rise of China. As early as 2000, it was noted in official media releases, that, 'it is now a common assumption among national security thinkers that the area from Baghdad to Toyko will be the main location of US military competition for the next several decades'. (4) Military alliances, therefore, rested upon layers of so-called regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). 


It is not difficult to establish the merging of military alliances with FTAs: speaking to a major forum in London in 2015, then Australian Defence Secretary Kevin Andrews said the western response to 'China's rise will be the major driver of the Indo-Pacific's strategic future', and that the problem will be 'a key consideration for Australian planning and policy-making' for defence. (5)


GTDS and the role of proxy states


The GTDS plan has now been fully implemented; the regional partners of the fifteen planned military exercises are now clustered around the two main hubs in matrix formation as part of US-led alliances. In the case of Japan, the GTDS plan included provision to extend 'the reach of Japan's military', previously limited to 'its own self-defence', to, 'allowing it to act when the US or countries US forces are defending are threatened'. (6)


The GTDS planning also included major diplomatic initiatives for the “US military's re-entry in Southeast Asia, 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War'. (7) Numerous military facilities across the wider region were, therefore, subsequently re-opened. It was noted in official media releases, however, the US 'have no desire to reoccupy any of the massive south-east Asian bases from the last century. Nor do they have the money to create new ones'. (8) Within US military planning provision was made for the extensive use of proxies and alliances to enable the Pentagon to become 'partnered with nations and have rotational presence that would allow us to build up common capabilities'. (9) Emphasis was placed upon the US 'committed to helping its allies', with expecting them to defend 'US interests', even if they run counter to their own best interests. (10) A recent US media release following the release of a 55-page national-security document, for example, contained the statement, 'our strategy is to advance American influence in the world'. (11) No reference, however, was given to the specific interests of US proxies and alliances with allies. 


The extensive use of proxies and alliances, however, has brought the US new problems which they are still trying to resolve. As proxy country's military capabilities are connected into the centralised GTDS plan, the problem of 'lack of interoperability' has arisen. (12) Different technologies are not necessarily compatible. The recent case of New Zealand buying four Boeing maritime patrol planes from the US is an example of the case in question. The four planes will be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. An official media release tersely noted, 'flying the same aircraft as military counterparts in Canada, the US and Australia would be a huge advantage'. (13)


There remains little ambiguity about the military plan for the four planes, and location: New Zealand has 'flagged concerns over China's economic influence on Pacific nations'. (14)


The problem of interoperability has also been exacerbated for the US by countries across the region readily accessing military technologies developed by China, including 'advanced radars, sonars, sensors and communications platforms which cannot integrate effectively with US technologies'. (15)


In the case of Thailand, traditionally one of the closest regional allies for the US, for example, China has recently sold over US$1 billion of submarines to the Thai navy. (16) Diplomatic initiatives between Bangkok and Beijing have also recently established a 'joint naval centre' together with a 'joint arms factory to produce and maintain other military equipment'. (17)


There are numerous other similar examples with countries across the Asia-Pacific region. It is, however, the manner in which the US has chosen to deal with the problem which has revealed their regional military planning.


India and the Quad


The US is the main advocate of the so-called Quad, the linking of India into the GTDS plan. The recent US national-security document contained information about 'Trump's call for closer quadrilateral engagement between Australia, the US, India and Japan', and that the diplomatic relationship was the plan for the US to 'remain closely engaged with the Indo-Pacific'. (18) The statement was met with the usual diplomatic silence although it is generally acknowledged both Australia and Japan are not particularly enthusiastic about the so-called Quad.


There is, nevertheless, a logic behind the US position, with far-reaching implications for the region.


India, with its large, well educated workforce, has in recent times been used by US-led military planning as a buffer against China. The planning now appears to have been intensified for the following reasons.


India was formerly close to the former Soviet Union and Russia, which it relied upon for much of its defence and security provision. The country joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961 and remains fully committed to the organisation which has provided extensive contact within the developing countries which frequently support Cuba. In recent times, however, India has swung heavily in support of the US. (19) With the final stages of the implementation of the GTDS, the Indian government of right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, began a 'desperate bid' to 'modernise the nation’s Soviet-era military hardware and boost its fledgling domestic defence industry' with a twelve per cent increase in military spending. (20) It continues to the present day.


The diplomatic re-alignment of India in recent years has also included the exporting of military technology and electronic warfare equipment compatible with US requirements which has included a global positioning system intended for sharing with regional neighbours. (21) The present Indian government has also maintained strong links with its former pro-Soviet allies. In 2017, India began the construction of a satellite ground station in Vietnam, linked to others in Brunei, Indonesia and Mauritius, linking the sensitive and congested shipping-lanes of the South China Seas with the Straits of Molucca and access to the Indian Ocean. (22)  


The moves have also been accompanied by a high-level diplomatic initiative from the Pentagon to New Delhi to negotiate defence and security agreements to enable the US 'to sell security-focused communications equipment that enables communications interoperability between Indian forces and those of the US and, potentially, other US allies that use the same or similar secure data links'. (23)
There remains little ambiguity with the chosen US position toward India. The same official media release covering the Pentagon-New Delhi diplomatic talks also included reference to 'Washington's need to cultivate India as an ally', and the importance of 'India's geographical location'. (24)


India has become a regional proxy for US-led militarism and real-war scenarios: the move carries new dangers for the Asia-Pacific region.

1.     More US Marines than ever head for Darwin, Australian, 23 March 2018.

2.     Ibid.

3.     Ibid.

4.     Asia moves to the forefront of Pentagon planning, The Guardian Weekly, (U.K.), 1-7 June 2000.

5.     China's rise will drive defence policy, Australian, 28 April 2015; and, China's rise a threat to security, Australian, 15 November 2017.

6.     Japan to extend military reach beyond self-defence, The Age (Melbourne), 29 April 2015.

7.     Guardian Weekly, op.cit., 1-7 June 2000.

8.     US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, The Guardian Weekly, (U.K.), 29 June 2012.

9.     Ibid.

10.   US signs defence deal in Asia, The Guardian Weekly, (U.K.), 2 May 2014.

11.   Tough-talking President takes a blunt instrument to the bullies of Beijing, Australian, 20 December 2017.

12.   US needs to sell more weapons as Russia and China fill the breach, Australian, 4 July 2018.

13.   Upgraded Kiwi eyes on China's Pacific interests, Australian, 10 July 2018.

14.   Ibid.

15.   Australian, op.cit., 4 July 2018.

16.   Ibid.

17.   Ibid.

18.   Australian, op.cit., 20 December 2017.

19.   The United States in South Asia: The India Factor, Strategic Analysis Paper, Future Directions International, 26 June 2018.

20.   Arms Race, The Express Tribune, 20 July 2014.

21.   India takes on China in Asian space race, Australian, 30 June 2017.

22.   Ibid.

23.   The US and South Asia, op.cit., 26 June 2018.

24.   Ibid.