Monday, April 30, 2012

Nation now 'indifferent' to environment

Nation now 'indifferent' to environment:

Australians are effectively indifferent to global and societal issues, rating these significantly lower. What we see in these results is a picture of a relatively conservative society concerned with local issues that influence its members' daily lives.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

It’s Not The Aboriginal Heritage Act That Needs Changing But The Chauvinistic State Government

In reference to the Western Australian Auditor General’s Report, September 2011  

It states that there are weaknesses in how social, environmental and economic conditions are monitored and enforced that need to be addressed if Parliament is to be assured that all the State’s interests are being protected. 

It not the Aboriginal Heritage Act that needs amending it’s the unprincipled and  injudicious executive management of Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) that needs altering  because they have no authentic professional abilities to implement or enforce approved Government policy,  undertake effective monitoring and reporting,  are totally non transparent in all their duties and they are never held  accountable for their negligence. 

These top ranking DIA officials only seem capable at obtaining gifts, tickets to attend the football matches from a variety of Corporations. 

Auditor General’s Report states: DIA has not actively monitored if operators are meeting the conditions placed on them under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (AH Act). This means that registered Aboriginal heritage sites could have been lost or destroyed without the State knowing or taking action.

As part of gaining approval to mine, proponents must meet the requirements of Section 18 of the AHAct. This Act aims to ensure that Aboriginal cultural heritage in WA is identified, managed and preserved.

Some operators must develop management plans to protect identified Aboriginal heritage sites. These can be archaeological sites housing tools and rock art, or ethnological sites of spiritual, historical or other importance.

As part of administering this activity, DIA keeps a register of identified heritage sites; a register of agreed heritage plans; and a register of who must report against these plans and when. DIA has identified that there are more than 7 000 mining tenements which have heritage sites. About 800 tenements have Section 18 requirements.

We found that DIA has only undertaken inspections of heritage sites when responding to complaints it received, but has taken no enforcement action when it has found non-compliance.

Because DIA has not been actively monitoring compliance with Aboriginal heritage conditions, it does not know the actual incidence of breaches of those conditions. In the last two years, it received 28 complaints related to the impact of mining on Aboriginal heritage. Of these, 21 are either still being investigated or awaiting investigation. Three have been closed with no further action taken and one referred to the State Administrative Tribunal. Three could not be investigated because they were more than 12 months old. The complaints involved alleged removal of rock art, mining within a significant site, building infrastructure on a significant site and failing to appropriately liaise with traditional owners.

DIA did not review all compliance reports required from mine operators in a timely manner. Nor did it effectively follow up those who had not provided reports. Most reports were received late or not at all.
For instance, in 2009 the Minister approved (under Section 18 of the AH Act) 114 applications to develop land on which an Aboriginal heritage site existed. 

The proponents of 62 of these applications were required to report to DIA on progress and heritage issues but only 28 (45 per cent) have done so. This low level of reporting and the fact that DIA does not review all the reports it receives, reduces DIA’s understanding of the levels of operator compliance with conditions. Financial returns are well managed, but some economic and social returns are not well monitored and enforced.

We also noted that DIA has not been inclined to take action on non-compliance with heritage conditions and that its legal capacity was somewhat restricted:

DIA has consistently failed to follow up when operators have not submitted progress reports or taken voluntary corrective action when a Section 18 condition has been breached. Non-compliance with conditions could for example be an operator’s failure to erect suitable fences to protect a heritage site or, actual damage to a site.

DIA cannot pursue matters more than 12 months after they have occurred. Three cases in the last two years could not be acted on as a result of this limitation.

DIA can only take formal action through the courts. It does not have authority to issue fines. However, it has the power to issue warnings and directions, but has never used these powers.

Doubt cast over Aboriginal Heritage Act shake-up - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Doubt cast over Aboriginal Heritage Act shake-up - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):
Posted April 27, 2012
There have been accusations that the Western Australian Government's overhaul of the Aboriginal Heritage Act panders to the mining sector by making it easier for companies to disrupt sacred sites.

The WA Aboriginal Heritage Act Review – 

What we understand is happening

·       In May 2011 Dr John Avery was appointed to undertake a review of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.  Dr Avery was engaged for a period of 12 months which will terminate in approximately 6 weeks.
·     The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Peter Collier at the time indicated that Dr Avery would produce a discussion paper on any proposed legislative or administrative changes and that stakeholders and interested parties (including Aboriginal people, archaeologists and heritage professionals) would be provided with ample time to make submissions.
·        To date, no such discussion paper has been produced and no period of public review or comment has been provided.  To date, the work of Dr Avery has been conducted under a veil of secrecy, to the extent that the Heritage and Culture Division of the Department of Indigenous Affairs has been kept in the dark about administrative changes.
·        Despite the lack of consultation to date and the obscurantist responses to questions in parliament, we have managed to glean the following facts and believe this accurately characterises the current state of affairs.  From this we can surmise the intent of the review process.
·        On 10 February 2011 the Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) and DPC issued the “Cultural Heritage Due Diligence Guidelines”.  It is known, however, that these were in existence as early as August 2011, at which time relevant changes were also made to the DIA website without anyone being informed.
·         The steps set out in Part 2 of the guidelines are totally inadequate to achieve the rather ingenuously stated purpose of protecting and preserving Aboriginal cultural heritage and assisting land users in complying with their statutory obligations under the Heritage Act.
·        In a nut-shell, the purpose of these guidelines is, in the majority of cases, simply to assist land users to justify, to and for themselves, proceeding with their project or development proposal without the need for heritage avoidance or management strategies.
·        A secondary purpose of the guidelines is to assist in developing a valid section 62 defence under the Act, in the event that a site is damaged or destroyed by a proponent. 
·        The guidelines are also deeply disrespectful of the rights and interests of Aboriginal persons and groups and totally ignore the role of Aboriginal Representative Bodies in the management of heritage issues and the negotiation of heritage agreements on behalf of native title claimants and Traditional Owners.
·        The guidelines also state that the conduct of an Aboriginal heritage survey is only necessary where ground disturbance will disturb an Aboriginal site.  This presupposes that surveys are only required where an Aboriginal site is already known to be present.
·        In effect the guidelines do not recommend or explain any processes designed to establish whether there are any as yet unidentified Aboriginal heritage sites on the land.
·        Coupled with the issuing of the due diligence guidelines to industry, it is known that staff in the Heritage and Culture division of the DIA have been issued with an internal set of procedures, referred to as the “Registrar’s Guidelines”.
·        The DIA are being required to implement the policies outlined in the “Registrar’s Guidelines” which principally concern a strict application of the definitions of ‘Aboriginal site’ and ‘Aboriginal object’ under sections 5 and 6 of the Act.  Such an application will effectively result in greater that 90% of all Aboriginal heritage sites in this State being disqualified from legal protection under the Act.
·        It is understood that the Register of Aboriginal sites, which currently contains records of approximately 30,000 Aboriginal places and sites, will be reviewed in accordance with the Registrars Guidelines.  Based on the new narrower interpretation of section 5, up to 90% of sites will again no longer be qualified for legal protection under the Act and will be taken off the register.  At the current time, we are aware of at least one site (the Lake Yindarlgooda, Mammu Tjukurrpa – formerly registered site 30602) having already been de-registered.
·        The state government has a commitment to the Burra Charter for the protection of heritage places, though both the government and Dr Avery is clearly ignoring this commitment in their review.
·        Both sets of ‘guidelines’ discussed above appear in fact to be constructed to assist developers to avoid their statutory obligations by devaluing Aboriginal heritage.  It should be noted that the indigenous people of the Pilbara are already extremely socially disadvantaged despite living in the richest province in the state.  Should Dr Avery’s changes be allowed to go ahead unchallenged, he will, with the stroke of a pen, effectively devalue their heritage such that developers will be able to destroy what remains of their past without any legal impediment.
·        This will be the final dispossession of Aboriginal people and will represent yet another black mark on Australia’s already disgraceful human rights record.  The fact that the indigenous population is being dispossessed of its unique history and culture in a clandestine and surreptitious manner is the most heinous aspect of this State Government ‘initiative’.
·        I would urge every responsible citizen to demand that the review process be conducted in an open and transparent manner and that full disclosure of the nature, purpose, intent and content of the review be provided immediately so that this government’s shameful devaluing and bartering of our State’s heritage can be exposed to the full and comprehensive public consultation process that was promised last year by the Minister, Peter Collier.

Woodside Has All The Rights Of People And No Responsibilities At James Price Point

What Broome is facing is the emergence of a new organizational form; the transnational corporation, larger and more powerful than most national governments, controlled by autocratic central authorities, and able to function largely beyond the reach of legal and public accountability. These corporations have all the human rights of people but no responsibilities. They do not answer to the people or can be held accountable by the law because justice is served according to what you can afford. 

So with much personal angst, I have begun to believe that the innocent and concerned residents of Broome are currently being herded down the path to a Police State, being transformed from someone who is concerned for their children’s future into wanted criminals overnight. I no longer wonder whether if there is some grand plan, I know that their master puppeteers are poised and positioning to start to pull our strings again.  

In the past few decades the extent of transnational corporations’ vast financial power has eclipsed that of our elected leaders at an alarming rate. What Broome is currently bearing witness to is the rise of corporate power, regardless of people’s wishes because all governments are susceptible to bribery, manipulation and corruption? With the current WA state government the distinction between incompetence and dishonesty is blurred.

Regardless of their political persuasion our local, state and federal governments are becoming increasingly impotent, unwilling, or unable to intervene on behalf of people or the environment and seemingly have lost any sense of moral purpose. It is hardly surprising that the electorate is no longer hoodwinked into believing that process will deliver a fair,   just or considered outcomes, that mitigation and management are not possible because extermination is forever.

In a country, like Australia that proclaims democracy as one of our greatest achievements why then does it feel like our democracy is actually owned by corporate interests. We live in the era of the ascendancy of the corporation. Endowed with the rights of man and none of the responsibilities, they have proved corrosive to human values, health and community spirit. Only when we have the courage to look at the truth about these defective manufactures, can we try to bring ethics back into this sphere of life, back into this debate.

Unlike governments that are bound by borders, corporations can operate in almost any country, and can therefore choose how they want to divide the our shared earth’s resources and allocate locations for all the production facilities. This in turn gives them all the power to toy with one government over another the same way as Woodside has toyed with our community as a means of achieving favorable economic conditions, all on their terms, and all for themselves.

Over the last four years Broome community has observed how all three tiers of government have allowed corporate interests to take precedence over our community, the environment and our iconic multicultural and tolerant town and over real fair balanced economic and common sense. 

The reality is that Woodside like all other simpler corporations are not inherently moral, and therefore profit is the main goal of their business furthering diminishing the focus on doing the right thing. 
The global economy has become like a malignant cancer, advancing the colonisation of the planet's living spaces for the benefit of powerful corporations and financial institutions, turning them into  instruments of tyranny that are focused on totalitarianism. 

Broome will continue to retain its resistance to Woodside and their government puppet bullying and has reclaimed its power to localise its own economies while globalizing its community consciousness.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My vision of the future for Broome .. by Billie McInerney (16 years old)

Recently, Hands Off Country conducted a children’s writing and drawing competition based on their visions for the future of Broome, following is one of the many entries received. Old times. I’d left to Perth; I was studying in uni down there. Working to live .. with no beautiful beach to slug on and no warm clear waters to indulge in, I was surely losing my mind. Every day was a haze of stress and people, unfamiliar people. The air was crowded with things that did not belong, dangerous things. People’s faces were crippled with the weight of sky scrapers and endless stacks of paperwork. Happiness was a foreign term, and relaxation was even more foreign. For these reasons I needed to escape. I needed freedom. I needed life. So I came back to Broome. I remembered Broome as a place where life wasn’t a race. Life was clean air, white beach strips, and mountainous sand dunes, red dirt that forced you to wear daggy clothes or the howling waves that drove you to shore. It was fishing for blue bone and wearing pearls, not knowing what time or even what day of the week it was, it was bushland that never ended, cuckoo birds. Broome was culture and community. Broome was freedom. Broome was my home. Although when I returned I wasn’t in Broome anymore. The air smelt familiar. Like the air in the city. Unfamiliar faces travelled by me. Familiar faces were worried and bleached. White construction cars flooded the streets. Houses and high buildings rose from what was endless bushland. Was I home? I decided to travel outwards, in the hope to find something familiar. An old camping spot perhaps. I found something. Something beyond what I knew. Trucks the size of houses. Machinery, pipes, scrap-metal. Smoke swallowed the sky while rubble choked the earth. Remnants of pindan cliffs lay flat, centuries old rock now demolished. Once white and red sand, now tons of concrete. Aqua blue water now grey with life perishing beneath its surface. The smell was chemicals, Sour and suffocating. The loud noise from machinery and trucks was deafening. A jetty stretched beyond the horizon devouring the ocean. It seemed a distortion of reality. It was a corruption, a thief. Country was no longer country, no longer wild and thriving, it was barren. Lost. Broome had been my place. A place to come back to and forget the stresses of my life. Broome was innocent and beautiful. Now it was Karratha.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Woodside lifts revenue and flags Pluto debut | The Australian

Woodside lifts revenue and flags Pluto debut | The Australian:
Quarterly production was down 10 per cent to 14.1 million barrels of oil equivalent from 15.6 million after tropical cyclone activity in Western Australia shut projects including the North West Shelf LNG terminal.
The tracks of cyclones affecting inland Pilbara are similar to those affecting coastal communities of Broome, Port Hedland, Karratha/Dampier, and Onslow. These cyclones typically form over warm ocean waters to the north of the state and intensify before crossing the coast, by which stage they are moving in a general southerly track.
Pluto was most recently scheduled to ship its first LNG cargo last month, so investors were relieved Woodside maintained its 2012 production guidance of 56 million to 60 million barrels of oil equivalent, and another 17 million to 21 million BOE from Pluto. "The operations team is well into the start-up sequence with first LNG anticipated in the coming days," Woodside said. "LNG vessels are being readied to arrive at Dampier."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Please help us and the Kimberley: 1. We urgently need you to cut and paste and send the below message to PM Gillard that Woodside's Kimberley plans are indigestible. To send her your email go to: 2. Join us outside Woodside HQ (cnr St Georges and Milligan) from 5.30-6.30pm on Thursday for a $5.50 per head alternative dinner for the PM - "Less income but better company!" Come dressed as guest to the Mad Hatter's Tea Party and you don't have to pay at all! Thank you! The Kimberley team.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Brown resigns as Greens leader - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Brown resigns as Greens leader - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation): Brown resigns as Greens leader

Updated April 13, 2012 13:33:32

Bob Brown says he has been mulling over his decision to quit as Greens leader since the election, but says he will remain 'green forever'.

Brown's protests and causes in his trailblazing career - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Brown's protests and causes in his trailblazing career - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):
After 16 years at the helm of the party he founded, Bob Brown has retired as Greens leader and will stand down as a senator in June.

His resignation ends a trailblazing career in federal politics which saw him become Australia's first openly gay member of Parliament.

Since his early career as a doctor, Senator Brown adopted left-leaning causes and was passionate about the environment and human rights.

WA Premier rejects Browse Gas fears | social impacts | women

WA Premier rejects Browse Gas fears | social impacts | women:

 An independent report warning of adverse social impacts to women in Aboriginal communities if the controversial Browse LNG is developed at James Price Point, has been rejected by West Australian Premier Colin Barnett.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Doubts grow over $40bn Woodside project at James Price Point

Matt Chambers The Australian April 11, 2012
MORE doubts have emerged about the planned $40 billion Browse LNG project near Broome after the federal and West Australian governments agreed to give Woodside Petroleum another year to make a decision on going ahead. The move is being seen as acknowledgment a stand-alone project at James Price Point, north of Broome, is more unlikely amid growing community opposition, rising costs and the emergence of cheaper North American gas exports as a US shale-gas glut depresses domestic US gas prices.

Attack on environmental laws unsustainable | Bob Brown

Attack on environmental laws unsustainable | Bob Brown:  Australia's environmental laws are weak and inadequately policed now. Let's streamline environmental laws by making them tougher and more protective of the natural values of this nation,...
Senator Bob Brown

ASIO eyes green groups

ASIO eyes green groups
: Greens leader Bob Brown said yesterday it was ''intolerable that the Labor government was spying on conservation groups'' and condemned the ''deployment of ASIO as a political weapon'' against peaceful protests.

''Martin Ferguson is incorrigible. But it's not just Ferguson. It's the cabinet, it's the Labor government that's happy to use the police and ASIO against community groups, against ordinary people, on behalf of foreign-owned mining corporations,'' he said

Broome LNG has risks - The West Australian

Broome LNG has risks - The West Australian: She warned that rises in prostitution, sexual infections, sex assaults, relationship issues, drug trafficking and alcohol problems were possible.

Dr Holden said isolating the construction workforce in an accommodation camp was justified but it was unrealistic to think the proponent or local government could stop them going out in Broome.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gov under fire over exploration leases near reefs - ABC Kimberley WA - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Gov under fire over exploration leases near reefs - ABC Kimberley WA - Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
"The whole of the Kimberley at the moment is gripped by uncertainty about the environmental future of the Kimberley under the Barnett Government," Dr Talbot said.

Woodside's incomplete, incorrect and incompetent reports on James Price Point

Only because of a Freedom of Information application did it come to light that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had deferred the finalization date of their report on the Strategic Assessment for the Browse LNG, proposed for Walmadan (James Price Point) again.

Why? Because Woodside continues to provide numerous incomplete, incorrect and incompetent reports on the proposed LNG refineries at James Price Point. This time it was their dredging reports that fell short of the truth.

Still there has not been an official media release, no open public statement nor has there been any information on their decision to defer their Report on the EPA’s website. Surely, informing the thousands of people who made submissions to the SAR about this delay would be the ethical and professional action to take, given the local, state, national and international controversies surrounding the project.

It’s been left up to the public to uncover a whole range of very valid environmental and the blatant incompetence in the majority of Woodside’s research and reports. Over two years, the Broome Community members and scientists have proven and exposed that most of Woodside’s reports on whales, dugongs, turtles, dolphins, sea grass, heritage-listed dinosaur track sites, endangered bilbies, and the ecological endangered vine thickets (remnant rainforest) have been famished for facts.

If we had the finances we could easily prove that many of their engineering and technical construction issues could also be ripped to shreads. However, just given the simple facts like Woodside are seriously considering building the nation’s largest industrialised zone on sand dunes, in a location that experiences some of the world’s largest tides, in a region has been identified as the four fastest place in the world to be effected by rising sea levels due to climate change and it’s been predicted through science (something Woodside knows little about) will be subjected to more extreme weather conditions. Surely, these particulars should sound the alarm bells in the pocket ears of their shareholders.

You only have to take a flight over the coastal strip of the Dampier Peninsula during high tides or storm activity to visible see and clearly grasp how the ocean sediment moves along this coast, how fast it travels and the distance carried. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that this sediment travels north to south, from James Price Point directly to Gantheaume Point in Broome and any dredging regime would see the staining and fouling of the ironic Cable Beach.

If we have not learn from the current anguish being experienced in Gladstone and the present fears for the Great Barrier Reef because of the dredging and dumping of highly toxic wastes, what will it take to convince people, especially the local fishing club and their members?

They can kiss their fish but they can also kiss their famously popular fishing location known as the peanut or puddle goodbye, should this lunacy be executed and a massive industrial port is built in the fishing haven.

But the dredging issue is but one of the many outstanding grim concerns that have not been adequately addressed by Woodside.
• Water use and access,
• the proposed kilometers of breakwater and jetty constructions,
• cumulative and downstream impacts,
• projected greenhouse gas emissions during and after construction (not to mention the emissions from the rigs source themselves),
• incessant marine and atmospheric contamination,
• ecological significance of local Monsoon Vine Thickets,
• source and types of toxic and noxious emissions,
• noise and light contamination,
• wastes disposal,
• nature of health problems for workers and residents (east as far as Derby, as the wind and crows fly)
• and the unbearable loss of a safe and progressive community.

The EPA also has a statutory duty to consider Aboriginal heritage and culture issues arising from proposals under assessment where the impacts arising from a proposal on the biophysical environment may adversely affect such matters.

Recently, the EPA in one of its assessment reports concluded that a physical place having a cultural significance to Aboriginal persons may properly fall within the definition of ‘environment’ in the EP Act. In addition, the EPA advised that if it becomes aware that Aboriginal heritage (relevant to a specific site or sites) is a potential issue, it is obliged to determine its relevance.

Joseph Roe, Goolarabooloo Law man speaking, in Country with Members of the EPA Board about his cultural heritage,and his obligations to that Law. He is explaining that the Songline is in fact one continuous site, traveling the entire length of the Dampier Peninsular, Nov 2011.

EPA may determine proposals unacceptable on the basis of impacts of heritage and culture. So when and how is the EPA going to meet these obligations in their assessment given the fact that EPA Board members were shown some of the Aboriginal Heritage Sites along the Song Cycle last year by the Goolarabooloo Traditional Owners, within the heart of this criminal proposal?

Meanwhile, Woodside’s long awaited social impacts report appears to be firmly stuck in the pipe line and like all their other supplementary reports concealed from public view. Phone polls of residents have been conducted over the last couple of weeks by a company based in Tasmania, but nothing is known as who they are working for.

No one had any idea that the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities employed Dr Annie Holden, from ImpaxSIA Consulting, in March 2011 to undertake an independent expert peer review of the Social Impact Assessment. These components of the Browse LNG Precinct Strategic Assessments were compiled by Department of State Development and the Kimberley Land Council.

So why the Broome community wasn’t informed that a peer reviewed report on the social impacts reports was undertaken and why were its findings cloak-and-dagger? Why has it taken yet another Freedom of Information application and over year since its completion to obtain access to this Report?

Well, if you read the open paragraph in the summary findings I am sure all will be made clear. Follow the link provided below to access the complete report.

Summary Findings
In relation to the SIA, the interpretation of the results and the assessment itself are inadequate. In particular, in view of the size of the construction workforce (up to 6,000 workers for two years),consideration of likely impacts and impact management associated with construction should be more clearly separated out from likely impacts and impact management during the operational phase. I am also of the view that some negative social impacts that could potentially occur at the margins of the affected communities, associated with the presence of the construction workforce, are either not identified at all or are seriously under-estimated.

So all this brings into question what other reports are being keep undisclosed and why is the EPA acting unlawfully in not releasing the many supplementary submissions, reports and information summaries to the public?

We also must remember that the EPA-approved Browse LNG Scoping Report, which clearly stated that a comprehensive Peer Review Panel would be established to assess the whole SAR because of the complexity of the project. However, now the EPA considers that this process is no longer necessary, despite the obvious and widespread flaws in the studies the proponent has provided to the EPA.

Given the seriousness of the issues at stake and the irreversible consequences of any decision to approve it, the EPA has a responsibility to Broome and its surrounding communities, the public of WA, our environment and the Goolarabooloo Traditional Owners to conduct this assessment with the utmost rigor and transparency and to report without fear or favour, however long it takes so as to ensure all the ts are crossed and the i’s dotted.

ImpaxSIA 2011 Final Peer Review Browse Basin SIA-3

McGowan walks the line on the Kimberley gas issue - ABC Kimberley WA - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

McGowan walks the line on the Kimberley gas issue - ABC Kimberley WA - Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

The leader of the opposition says that the Kimberley gas issue is complex and that he wouldn't want to give an exact yes/no answer on it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

May the month for Woodside and the end of James Price Point


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

NO ONE can accuse Peter Coleman of rushing to put his stamp on Woodside Petroleum but Slugcatcher reckons there are three days in May shaping as the invisible chief executive officer’s time to shine.

May 2 will be Coleman’s official coming out party when he fronts shareholders in Australia’s biggest pure oil and gas company at his first annual meeting of Woodside.

May 12 will be his official “birthday”, the date on which his appointment was announced last year.

May 30 will be his official “feet under the desk” day, the first anniversary of the time he slipped silently into the office previously occupied by his loud predecessor, Don Voelte.

It is possible that there will be other reasons for May to emerge as the month when a new-look Woodside finally emerges from what has been a pretty awful period for the accident-prone company.

A fourth red-letter event could be a keenly anticipated final exit from the Woodside share register by its biggest but politically unacceptable shareholder, Royal Dutch Shell.

A fifth red-letter day could be the first LNG shipment from the overdue and over-budget Pluto project which was to have been Woodside’s great “break-free” project but instead joined Rankin A, Goodwyn and Cossack Pioneer as just another engineering embarrassment.

Whichever way you analyse Woodside, May could be the start of a dramatic and overdue period of change which has been expected since Coleman was plucked out of ExxonMobil and charged with the job of changing the culture of an Australian business that had lost its way.

Speculation of a final Shell sell-down, which has been lurking in the background for months, got a kick along last week when the Anglo-Dutch oil giant filed an updated statement of its stake in Woodside which had slipped from 24.3% to 23.3%, a result of taking cash as dividends rather than shares available under the Woodside dividend reinvestment scheme.

The refusal to participate in the DRS sent a powerful signal that Shell really does want out and its exit is only a function of price.

Loading the first Pluto cargo could be the trigger for a revival in Woodside’s share price, which sagged alarmingly over the past year, despite the high oil price.

From a peak of $50.85 exactly 12 months ago Woodside sagged as low as $29.76 last September.

It is back to around $35.18 but that still means it is closer to its 12-month low than its 12-month high.

Of the other events scheduled for May, the twin birthdays for Coleman (his appointment and first day in the office) are of little consequence, except to serve as milestones on his career path and act as reminders that he is hardly a human dynamo.

There has been a cleaning of senior executive ranks but that’s what always happens when a new CEO is parachuted in over the heads of ambitious in-house staff.

The May 2 annual meeting could be more significant date and perhaps one that Coleman and his fellow directors really ought to use as an event to deliver good news via a significant announcement to placate an increasingly unhappy shareholder base.

Measuring just how gloomy Woodside shareholders have become over the past few years is not easy.

The only opinion poll of shareholders is when they get to vote at the annual meeting and even then it’s a charade because institutional investors dictate the events of the day.

But The Slug reckons it will take a major and very positive announcement to appease the angriest of Woodside shareholders who have watched their company stumble from crisis to crisis without any sense of urgency, or awareness on the part of directors that they are responsible for other people’s money.

The share price tells the story and while most other big oil and gas companies have lost ground over the past 12 months, Woodside has been the biggest loser with its 30.8% collapse standing out alongside a 21% fall by Origin, a 13% fall by Santos and a 5% fall by Oil Search.

Some shareholders, out of politeness, will say a few kind things about the first year of Coleman’s rein.

Others, annoyed at losing almost a third of the value of their investment, might ask what he’s going to do about it or why he is taking so long to do something.

Coleman, of course, can play the “Titanic card” and say it takes a long time to change the direction of a big ship.

But if he does that he risks being reminded about what happened to the Titanic, which was the White Star Line’s biggest ship until its skipper guided it into an iceberg 100 years ago.

Wasteful James Price Point development hits another delay | Rachel Siewert

Wasteful James Price Point development hits another delay | Rachel Siewert:
“Time, resources and money have been wasted on plans to locate the LNG factory at James Price Point,” Senator Siewert said today.

“This is despite the fact that other locations exist which are already serviced by existing communities and infrastructure.

“While it is clear the WA Government favours James Price Point as a development site in order to pave the way to further industrialisation of the Kimberley, the joint venture partners must see the inherent benefits that come from piping the gas to a more appropriate processing location.

“This development has been flawed from the outset, including the planning and consultation with Traditional Owners.

US price slide hits LNG projects as prices become more appealing | The Australian

US price slide hits LNG projects as prices become more appealing | The Australian:

AUSTRALIA'S liquefied natural gas export growth is being threatened by a continued slide in US natural gas prices that is making North American LNG projects more appealing and is set to weigh on global gas export pricing.

The continuing drop in prices comes as Britain's BG Group puts a greater emphasis on US exports than an expansion of its $20 billion Queensland Curtis LNG plant as a way to meet its medium-term LNG volume targets.

Woodside gets nod for Browse delay - The West Australian

Peter Coleman. Picture: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

Woodside gets nod for Browse delay - The West Australian:

Apart from high-profile opposition from environmentalists and some sections of the Broome community, some of Woodside's partners are also opposed to the James Price Point plan, arguing privately it is too expensive.

The dissenting partners want to use the Browse Basin gas as backfill for the North West Shelf LNG venture, which would require a pipeline to be laid from off the Kimberley coast to the Burrup Peninsula.

The backfill option would be substantially cheaper than the James Price Point proposal, which analysts have tipped could cost more than $30 billion.

But it would also delay development of the Browse Basin fields by several years.

Woodside had refused to comment on the cost speculation, citing the ongoing tender process.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Shell's neighbours complain of constant bright lights, noise and surveillance by 'private army' | Shell to Sea

Shell's neighbours complain of constant bright lights, noise and surveillance by 'private army' | Shell to Sea:

What the Broome Community can look forward to if the proposed controversial LNG refineries and massive port facilities are built at James Price Point.

The residents of some communities along the Scruwaddacon estuary, a special area of conservation, say they face a daily scenario of "heavy goods vehicles, vans with blacked-out windows, police vehicles and construction traffic." along a rural road.

" We are totally ignored or at best treated with contempt by Mayo County Council's personnel and the road works were forced on us" said local resident Niall King.

"The noise of huge construction machinery and bright halogen lights from the construction sites never cease. We are under constant surveillance from police and Shell's private army. Our road is not safe to walk or cycle or drive on any longer, our villages are under siege, by day and by night," said Gerry Bourke from Leenamore.

Dinosaur tracks fuel opposition to $35bn gas project near Broome | The Australian

Dinosaur tracks fuel opposition to $35bn gas project near Broome | The Australian: THE footprints are all around me, as large as spa baths or as small and delicate as a modern pawprint. It feels sacriligious to tread on them, even though I know they are firmly embedded in Broome's orange sandstone. I skip over the smaller three-toed impressions, and leap across bigger, bath-like imprints.

As far back as 130 million years ago, a huge dinosaur lumbered past this spot and left its distinctive tracks. I hastily catch up with my guide, Louise Middleton, as she traces the animal’s giant steps across a wide, pitted rock shelf. Had we been transported back in time, we might have glimpsed a procession of plant-eating giants as they squelched their way across mudflats or browsed in tropical undergrowth. Looking down at my feet, I notice an exquisite, feathery fossil that hints at the fern-like plants that might have surrounded us.

Middleton has spent years combing the rocky shores of the Dampier coast. We squat to peer at the sharp-clawed print of an ornithopod, a two-legged plant-eater. “I was sitting on one boulder the other day, looked up and down the rock platform and realised there were tracks going in each direction for 500 metres,” she tells me.

Gulf Times – Qatar’s top-selling English daily newspaper - Finance & Business

Gulf Times – Qatar’s top-selling English daily newspaper - Finance & Business: Australian liquefied-natural gas projects planned by companies from Royal Dutch Shell to Woodside Petroleum and valued at about $100bn are at risk from rising costs and cheaper US exports.
Natural gas trading at a 10-year low in the US and discoveries in Africa also threaten to slow the development of Australian LNG ventures following the approval of eight projects to meet surging demand from China, Japan and South Korea.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Country women's group joins anti-fracking lobby

Country women's group joins anti-fracking lobby: The NSW branch of the County Women's Association has endorsed the anti-fracking movement, using its Facebook site to urge members to attend a protest rally in Sydney next month.

''Yes, it's quite an unusual step for us. We usually write letters and tend to work a little more behind the scenes,'' branch president Elaine Armstrong said.

''But coal seam gas mining is a major concern for our members. It will adversely affect our future food supplies, we'll see good farming land go out of production and pressure from gas companies wanting access to farms is also adding to the stress and complications of farming.''

Friday, April 6, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

James Price Point alarm-raised-over-impact-of-gas-hub-dredging

FLIP PRIOR, The West Australian April 5, 2012, 9:06 am

A Federal Government review of Woodside’s planned dredging program at James Price Point has revealed serious concerns about the potential impact on the marine environment from toxins, including arsenic and zinc.

The Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities review was obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Wilderness Society.

The 2011 Federal review considered the Department of State Development’s revised coastal modelling work done after it delivered the Browse strategic assessment report, in December 2010.

The 2011 review found several deficiencies in the earlier assessment.

Reviewers were concerned that the assessment had failed to address the potential for dredging to release arsenic, nickel and zinc into the water.

While all occur naturally in the environment, at high concentrations they can be toxic to marine invertebrates and phytoplankton – a major concern for aquaculture and fishing industries in the region.

The review found that while modelling was conducted over a wide area, data had only been calibrated at one point in 18m of water, which was relatively deep. Most of the dredging will occur in shallower waters.

The basic modelling had not been tested widely.

The missing information made it difficult for the Federal reviewers to have confidence in the modelling results, particularly about the cumulative effects of the dredging plume over time.

The Federal review said the assessment was based on dredging taking 12 months but it was likely to take longer, with a potentially different impact on the environment.

Other details that would normally be addressed in a dredging assessment had either not been included or not discussed in sufficient detail, the review said.

Reviewers said additional assessments must be carried out to quantify risks before any approvals were granted.

They found “sparse information” on modelling, with insufficient data and some “counter-intuitive results” from testing.

Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Authority announced it had delayed its decision on the proposed gas project from this month until late May to allow time for Woodside to deliver additional dredging data.

A Woodside spokesman said the company was providing additional information to the EPA based on revised modelling.

“This modelling has been informed by more detailed engineering design and environmental studies completed since the SAR was released in December 2010,” he said.

Wilderness Society spokesman Peter Robertson called on the Federal Government to conduct a fully independent scientific peer review of all modelling submitted by the proponents.
He said the public could have no confidence in their findings.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The case to slow down the mining boom

The case to slow down the mining boom: Would a monopolist bid against itself for scarce labour and infrastructure capacity (to get the minerals to port and onto ships)? Or would it invest in training and infrastructure before it began expanding production?

His point is not to advocate monopoly, obviously, but to make clear the potential for conflict between the interests of the miners and the interests of the nation.

Rare sea turtle nests in Kimberley at proposed gas refinery site « Earth First! Newswire

Rare sea turtle nests in Kimberley at proposed gas refinery site « Earth First! Newswire: The findings from the recent sea turtle study were released yesterday, casting further doubts over the scientific integrity of the W. Australia Government’s environmental impact assessment for the James Price Point gas hub. reported the nesting of the sea turtle in December and posted a video of the unusual sea turtle with the details here.

The peer-reviewed study into marine turtle nesting in the James Price Point area led by University of Melbourne marine biologist Malcolm Lindsay found 14 turtle nests and 38 false crawls over the 2011/2012 nesting season, including the first ever recorded hawksbill hybrid in Australia.

Traditional Goolarabooloo elder, Phillip Roe, commented yesterday: “[W.A. Premier] Barnett can try to paint James Price Point as insignificant, but we know that there are dinosaur footprints, bilbies, turtle nests, whales, songlines, registered sacred sites all here, this is a sacred site worth protecting for all Australians, black or white.”

“The hybrid hawksbill is exciting news, but even more so is the science that supports local knowledge that James Price Point is important to sea turtles,” said Teri Shore, Program Director at in California. Shore has provided expert comments and testimony on the environmental analysis of the Browse Basin natural gas projects. She has traveled to the Kimberley to help monitor flatback nesting beaches and lend support to local activists striving to halt the fossil fuel expansion.

Firey scenes at FIFO meeting in Broome about james

Firey scenes at FIFO meeting (video) Prime7 - Yahoo!7

Broome hosted the Senates House of Representatives Inquiry into the Fly-In, Fly-Out (FIFO) workforce practices in regional Australia, on Friday, over a three hour period.

These Senates representatives flew in and flew out without affording our community the time needed to form the slightest of insights into our concerns as a community around the estimated 10,000 people fly in and fly out invasion workforce and hang on hopefuls needed for the proposed LNG refineries at James Price Point (Walmadan).

There was clearly a complete lack of interest amongst the representatives to really delve into the subject matter and little or no enthusiasm to really inquire about the truth and reality of our community’s current FIFO.

No genuine empathy was shown to us as a community that is currently facing the nation’s most serious of soul destroying industrialisation of:  our community,  Cultural Heritage, heartlands and recreation havens, living teaching resources, fishing and crabbing grounds and our bush tucker and medicine vine thicket rainforests.

Broome and all the outlining Dampier communities are looking down the barrel of: complete devastation of our multicultural tolerant communities, a heighten intensification of local economic disparity with unimaginable and intolerable environmental and health impacts.

The committee’s lack of interest was highlighted by the of quality questions asked, lack of follow-up to the answers given and no real open free or informative discussion took place.

The Senate Committee flew in at great expense to the taxpayer and yet as far as dollar for value goes Broome had their attention for the grand total of three hours. Two and a half hours was allocated to Small Business West Kimberley, Broome Shire Council, Broome Chamber of Commerce, and Ron Johnston.

Which gives rises to the most obvious question, how did a private business man, (Ron) whose principle source of income is accommodation units and who clearly has an enormous financial interest in the FIFO industry manage to get the privilege of half an hour to speak to this Senate Committee?

No representatives from any state government attended these hearings, such as the health, education & training, social welfare and justice, local police, or Indigenous departments or service agencies. Why, when it will be these very state government departments who will be forced into mitigating all the social dissection of our community with the infiltration of thousands of FIFO workers?. It is these very same departments that are currently struggling to cope in Karrartha and Port Hedland and who are at their wits end to retain staff, secure accommodation for them and offer some service in an ever increasing demanding situation.

It was very disappointing that non-government agencies did not submitted a paper or address this Hearing. Indigenous organisations, community service providers, health and education advisors, environmental, youth, women, men and community organistions did not attend and given the facts that it will be these very same locally cash strapped organisations who will have to deal with the forecast arrivals of the additional calamity on their already stretched and struggling services.

However, in all reality, it is right to say that the general community were not adequately informed of this Hearing and it is dubious as to why the Shire did not use their established community networks to notify the community of this Hearing, either on its website or their weekly update in the local paper. Given the level of community concern centred on this issue, it was the very least the shire could have done. It was left up to a number of concerned Broome residents, who were given less than thirty (30) minutes, in sum total, to raise all the social and environmental associated concerns, as the economic issues had been adequately addressed by the selected few beforehand.

Community speakers, were given three 3 minutes each in which to convey the immense apprehensions that we have as a community in regards to the proposed LNG refineries at James Price Point and the fly-in, fly-out ramifications and consequences that a project of this size and nature would bring to our town.  There was little or no time to touch on the recent past experiences and the present situation the Broome community currently faces with the few FIFO workers that are currently based in town.

Matters such as health, affordable housing, homelessness rates, housing waiting lists, the suicide issue, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health, limited capacity, resourses, and services, under age prostitution and the sense of loss of community and place and all the other vital issues that were barely touched on. Environmental issues arising from mass FIFO invasion like water use, the creation of massive rubbish dumps for construction and toxic wastes pit, air quality and many other matters of environmental concerns were given no exposure or voiced in this Hearing.

However, what this standing committee did do was clearly illustrate the exact reasons why  fly in and fly out practices do not work. They fly in with little or no knowledge about our community’s: antiquity, social temperament, shared principles and our expectations and anxieties for our future. They gain a very superficial, narrow and staged managed perspective of our community and the current social, economic or environmental issues we face.

The emotional stress caused, the economic hardships, the intolerable corporate bullying and the attempted buying of community loyalty, corrupt and irresponsible authorities, separation and segregation of our families and community and the complete and total lack of honest governance and accountability, are all part of the impacts and ramifications we have and are experiencing since Woodside flew into town. We were also subjected to a fly in and fly out police force last year, that came into our community to try and degrade and humiliate and which really only resulted in taking  good community policing back twenty 20 years.

The fact, that it is already necessary to accommodate Woodside and their contractors FIFO in a tourist resort and a fortified compound in a residential area, next to a school, is highly questionable. However, the local primary age school children are currently targeting this compound with stones and verbals. Why, because even the children feel their unfriendly alien nature and smell their airs of white superiority that seeps out onto the street and trickles into their neighborhood.

They fly in and then they fly out that’s why Broome coined its very own phrase, seagulls, years ago, they usually fly in a flock, dress in grey, squawk around, pick up crumbs of information that have been hand feed to them and then they fly away, thinking their job is done and what easy pickings.