Bob Brown, the former leader of the Greens in Australia, appeared on the ABC tv program Q&A on Monday night. His comments about the rights of traditional Aboriginal land owners in the Kimberley region of Western Australia were a perfect example of how little the Greens care about Aboriginal Australians.
The first question of the show was put by Rita Augustine who is an Aboriginal woman from the Jabirr Jabirr country of the Kimberley which encompasses James Price Point where the proposed $45 billion Browse Basin gas project will have its processing plant. Rita Augustine pointed out to Bob Brown that the proceeds of the agreement between the developers of the gas project and the traditional owners will provide financial resources that will be used to improve the conditions of her community and mitigate their social problems. She recognised that Bob Brown’s concern for whales and dinosaur footprints were genuine but then asked why he did not have the same concern for the welfare of the traditional owners.
Bob Brown’s answer imagined a fantasy world in which the gas hub was not built, but nonetheless the traditional owners received the $1.5 billion settlement with the project developers. He said that there is a moral obligation on others to make the real world resemble his fantasy world. Everyone, including Bob Brown, knows that if the gas hub is not built then the traditional owners will not receive the $1.5 billion. Why would they? The $1.5 billion is for use of their land. The gas field is 250 km off-shore from James Price Point. If the gas does not come ashore then the traditional owners are not involved in any way.
The true Green position is obvious. The welfare of the traditional owners is not a first order consideration for the Greens. The Greens know that whales and dinosaur footprints are not endangered by the project. Those are just smoke screens. The Greens want the project stopped. The Browse Basin will deliver over 1 billion tonnes of gas if it is developed and their goal is to prevent that production. If traditional landowners are deprived resources as a result, that is unfortunate from the Greens perspective, but not a first order concern. That is the truth of it.
It is a long way from Fitzroy or Newtown to Warburton or Hall’s Creek, not just in distance but in mindset. The Greens don’t have the problems of Aboriginal Australians front of mind. As another example, consider what happened when the Greens negotiated with Julia Gillard for their support in forming a Government in 2010. The first thing the Greens wanted was carbon pricing. What was their second highest priority — reform of the Marriage Act. What about improving the conditions of Aboriginal Australians — isn’t that the next most important thing after carbon pricing? No, not if your constituency is urban elites.
Consider as another example the opposition of the Greens to the extension of the Federal Government intervention in NT Aboriginal communities. It is a mystery to me why anyone opposes the Federal Government insisting on the rule of law throughout Australia, and especially the protection of children and women from sexual violence. Nonetheless, the Greens opposed the Government’s bill to extend the intervention by 10 years, seeking major amendments. It passed with the votes of the Government and the Opposition. It just shows how removed the Greens are from the real problems and aspirations of Aboriginal people in remote communities.