Aug 24th 2021

Government and Labor set to ignore Traditional Owner consent in the Beetaloo

The Senate inquiry's interim report into the Morrison Government's $50 million Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program is yet further proof they cannot be trusted and have no respect for Traditional Owners from the Beetaloo and McArthur Basins, who have been saying no to fracking on their Country for over a decade.

The $50 million fracking handout is dogged by "perceived conflicts of interests with the Liberal Party' and several Government Ministers, and must lead to a review of the processes gas corporations use to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent from Traditional Owners to frack on Country.

Some members of the Committee have today failed Traditional Owners, disappointingly stopping short of recommending that this destructive program be scrapped immediately. 

The recommendations are a start and should be implemented in full by the Morrison Government, but there is clearly much work to be done to ensure Traditional Owners and First Nations communities are properly and fully consulted on any proposed fracking on Country.

The report comes before a Senate disallowance vote on Wednesday that would scrap the Government's $50 million handout to the gas industry.

The Senate inquiry runs until March 2022, and has committed to visit the Beetaloo and McArthur River Basins to meet directly with Traditional Owners and communities, but this consultation may come too late. The Senate Committee report can be found in full here.

GetUp First Nations Justice Campaign Director Larissa Baldwin said:

"The Senate inquiry's interim report has confirmed what Traditional Owners have been saying for years: Aboriginal communities are not being properly consulted by mining and gas corporations. If Canberra politicians had bothered to visit Aboriginal communities in the Beetaloo and McArthur Basins, rather than going on corporate-paid junkets to fracking wells, they would know that these massive fracking licenses do not have the support or consent of Traditional Owners.

"Ahead of the vote tomorrow, we call on all Senators to heed the words of the Traditional Owners when they say ‘no’ to gas fracking on their lands.

"Despite the report finding 'strong and widespread opposition to the shale gas industry' in the Beetaloo and McArthur Basins, hearing 'concerns about the potential environmental impacts of unconventional gas exploration activities on Country', and finding 'unanimous and unequivocal agreement that the grant money should be spent within impoverished communities on Country where it is greatly needed', both the Government and the Labor Party seem set to support the $50 million handout to the gas industry when it comes before the Senate tomorrow.

"The Morrison Government and the gas industry are unforgivably intertwined, and will desecrate the Beetaloo and McArthur Basins at the expense of the Traditional Owners fighting to preserve their Country.

"The Australian public deserve a genuine opposition to this Government and its vested interests. That means strong action on climate change, preventing destructive gas expansion, solidarity with Traditional Owners, and holding multinational gas giants and the Liberal Party to account. 

“If Labor is serious about respecting the wishes of Traditional Owners, enforcing decent governance standards and preventing massive releases of carbon emissions, they will vote to disallow the Government's $50 million handout to giant gas corporations."

Yanyuwa & Garrwa Traditional Owner Joni Wilson said: 

"Country is important to me because it’s my life. It's part of my body, soul and spirit. It provides food, water and healing. Country is important because I live off my land as my ancestors did. Without our land and our water we are nothing — we're nobody.

"We have not been given any information about fracking, we have not given anyone permission. No one has asked us, and even if our old people had, no one understood what was being asked. So no, we haven’t given permission."

Spokespeople available for interview:

Larissa Baldwin, First Nations Justice Director at GetUp
Joni Wilson, Yanyuwa & Garrwa Traditional Owner 

Media contact: Alex McKinnon, 0411 829 334