Saturday, April 13, 2013

Victory against Woodside at James Price Point

The Broome community and environmentalists around Australia are celebrating a major victory with Woodside announcing it won't go ahead with a gas hub at James Price Point.

Nik Weavers, long time Broome resident and member of the Broome community no gas group when asked how she is feeling said “We've got rid of the one big thing we set out to do, which was to stop the project, so I feel really excited about that.”

She goes on to say “I feel really warmed that so many other people have gathered (in Broome) and are feeling really good.”

For many Broome residents this is the first campaign they have ever being involved in and, after years of struggle, winning this major victory is very inspiring.

It is a victory that has involved an incredible mass campaign across the country. From actions of thousands of people (e.g. this one) in cities and hundreds laying themselves out on the red dirt of the Kimberley to physically stop Woodside destroying it.

It is a time to celebrate the positive result and rejoice in the success of broad community activism but the issue is far from over.

Woodside CEO Peter Coleman stated in a press conference on April 12 that the project is not over and other options for how to process the gas are being considered by Woodside and it's joint venture partners like Shell and PetroChina.

Alternative proposals being considered include having a floating LNG plant. This would still be of concern to environmentalists. For instance, climate change impacts of the gas won't be going away no matter where or how it is processed.

Nik Weavers argues that the plan to build a port in the Kimberley is the major issue people need to start focusing on as “the state 'needs' the port because they want to get uranium out, the coal out of the Fitzroy Valley and then get the gas out of the Canning Basin”.

This is becoming more urgent with the federal environment minister giving approval for the first uranium mine in Western Australia and the unconventional gas fracking industry set to expand rapidly across the Kimberley region.

Socialist Alliance candidate for Fremantle Sam Wainwright welcomed the victory. “This is a good reminder that it is possible for a community campaign to defeat a major mining company,” he said.

Amidst the celebration outside Woodside's offices on the day of the announcement, a strong sentiment to continue the campaign against industrialisation of the Kimberley and to stop fracking is evident.

WA premier Barnett claims that not developing a has hub at James Price Point will result in significant loss of jobs and royalties for Aboriginal communities. However no proper analysis has been done of the net effect on employment of the project. A lot of people fear tourism jobs would be lost with an industrialisation of the Kimberley.

Aboriginal communities should be given basic services like housing, health and training without the need for a mine on their land.

The mainstream media and politicians claim this is a purely economic decision. The fact remains that a mass campaign against gas has being built across the country and is starting to win victories and is inspiring many people.

[This article by Broome-based Socialist Alliance member Zeb Parkes was written for Green Left Weekly #961.]