Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ms Wells and Ms Southern had initially agreed to take part in reviewing and assessing these modules as part of their role on the committee.

Two community representatives, Alison Southern and Robyn Wells, today withdrew their support from the Woodside Community Advisory Committee after being told they could not review any material for Woodside's Social Assessment modules unless they signed individual confidentiality contracts that forbid them from discussing the information with any other person.

Ms Wells and Ms Southern had initially agreed to take part in reviewing and assessing these modules as part of their role on the committee.

Ms Southern had already organized assistance from appropriate community members, such as tourism operators, to help review the Tourism module and insisted that honesty and transparency were essential to the consultation process.

Ms Wells said, 'This is no way to conduct a broad community consultation. Woodside are asking us to keep vital information out of the public arena. If Woodside are not able to freely disclose information they cannot expect community co-operation.'

Ms Wells told the meeting she was no longer willing to continue as a community representative under the burden of confidentiality constraints.

A Woodside representative also confirmed at the meeting that the results of a 300 residential household survey carried out in July would not be made available to the public. Ms Southern said that the results of this survey had been eagerly awaited by the Broome community.

I believe that people will now just think that Woodside has plenty to hide. The household survey is probably unfavourable - and the modules will probably contain lots of information about potential adverse impacts that they don't want leaked, at least until they are ready with the spin to "manage the community outrage". These actions (requiring confidentiality agreements and refusing to publish the household survey results) indicate to me that they are more interested in managing the spin, managing the impacts, lessening the bad press etc, than they are in any community consultation.

The Woodside rep Ainslie said there was no legal obligation to consult with the community. While that is true, clearly there is an ethical obligation when Woodside is likely to damage our community and environment forever. Companies will not be able to function unethically in the future - that is one of the things being insisted on within the world wide Occupy movements.

I did not hear at any previous time that the household survey results would not be made public or that confidentiality agreements would be required. The business survey results have been publicly available on EBC website for some time. That was done quite some time ago and even then showed about 45% small businesses not in favour of the gas hub. I suspect this would be a lot more if the survey were done now. What disturbs me is that there is no independant community attitudinal survey whatsoever. There are only social reports done by the proponents - State govt, Woodside and KLC.

At one level I am relieved to be out of a sham process and out of a committee that was clearly not representative of the Broome community. On the other hand some ongoing dialogue would have been desirable. At least Martin from Environs Kimberley is still there - the only one I see with enough courage to stand up to Woodside when necessary.

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