Hidden Adani mine photos revealed to public by senator's bold act

Senator David Pocock tabled images taken around the contentious Carmichael mine site, making them available in Australia for the first time.

A series of images hidden from the Australian public are now accessible after they were tabled in parliament by David Pocock who expressed concerns Adani could be silencing journalists.

The pictures were taken around the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland by Walkley-award-winning photographer Matthew Abbott. The mining company, now known as Bravus, had warned the pictures should not be published without its permission and accused Mr Abbott and a journalist colleague of trespassing.

“We requested that the journalist and Mr Abbott did not publish materials taken on or of our Mining Lease without our consent, which is what any other law-abiding business would do,” a Bravus spokesperson confirmed with Yahoo News Australia.

Main image - David Pocock in the Senate. Inset - two images from the Abbott document.
David Pocock asked the Senate for permission to table the document containing Matthew Abbott's images. Source: Parliament/Matthew Abbott

While the images were published in Europe, Mr Abbott hesitated in making them available locally. Bravus had warned he’d “likely committed statutory offences” by entering its land “unlawfully”.

Bravus said Mr Abbott's European colleague contacted it in September but the company concluded its operations were “not the right fit for the story” so it told him “there was no need to come to the mine”.

“We advised, in writing, that we therefore did not provide our consent for that journalist or for any other contractor engaged by them to visit or enter any part of our mining or pastoral leases."

What do the photos at Adani show?

On Wednesday, Mr Pocock stood before the senate and detailed claims about Mr Abbott's interactions with Bravus. Parliamentary privilege affords senators special legal rights to share information without fear of prosecution.

During his speech, Mr Pocock highlighted that Mr Abbott is “globally renowned” and has worked for the New York Times, Washington Post, and National Geographic. He then requested leave to table the photographs, making them publicly available.

Indigenous women and children in the springs near Adani's mine.
The colour and the resolution of the images uploaded to the parliament website has been changed, but it is still possible to get a sense of their content. Source: Matthew Abbott

Uploaded to the internet the quality of the pictures is compressed but they are still beautiful. They do not appear to be particularly controversial at first glance, but simply show life at the Indigenous ceremonial camp adjacent to the Carmichael mine.

One features women and children bathing in the Doongmabulla Springs which experts believe could be negatively affected by Bravus’s operations. The company disputes this.

Several other shots show Coedie McAvoy who has led resistance to the mine since his father Adrian Burragubba lost a battle in court to stop Bravus and went bankrupt. Another shows the Wangan and Jagalingoo flag which was raised in defiance of Bravus.

Mr McAvoy, whose ancestors occupied the region for generations before white settlement argues the Queensland Government “stole” the land from his people and gave it to a foreign company.

Coedie McAvoy in front of a campfire.
In another image uploaded to the website, Coedie McAvoy can be seen conducting cultural practices at the site. Source: Matthew Abbott

He has welcomed outsiders to his camp to experience his traditional practices. However, Bravus has previously claimed Mr McAvoy and his father are part of a “minority faction” and tried to have them evicted.

On Wednesday, Bravus said “as non-traditional owners” Mr Abbott and the journalist had no right to be there.

Adani hits back after senator's speech

Quoting Mr Abbott, Mr Pocock said: “The targeted intimidation of journalists is designed to prevent the wider reporting on the Carmichael Mine operation, avoiding further public criticism of Adani’s controversial coal mine.”

Bravus responded by criticising him for making “no effort” to contact them to verify the document's claims.

“We wholly reject the embellished and incorrect claims Senator Pocock made about our business in Parliament today,” it said, before adding a personal jibe, “We do note that prior to his political career, Senator Pocock was an anti-fossil fuel activist.”

An image tabled in parliament shows a sign at the camp saying
An image tabled in parliament shows a sign at the camp saying "tribal lore" is in place. Source: Matthew Abbott

What are the details Adani contests?

Mr Pocock told parliament Mr Abbott was spotted by security minutes after he arrived.

“A patrolling security vehicle with a video camera mounted on the passenger seat filmed Matt and his colleague,” he said. “Matt thinks that they were able to run image recognition software to identify him, because when he returned home, (he) found a letter from Adani.”

Yahoo understands Bravus disputes the allegation. The company knew who he was because the journalist he was travelling with had identified him when he was seeking to enter the mine site. Bravus also claims the letter was sent only to his colleague, not Mr Abbott.

Another image shows a flag representing Indigenous people continuing traditional practices near the mine.
Another image shows a flag representing Indigenous people continuing traditional practices near the mine. Source: Matthew Abbott

Concerns about threats to journalists

Mr Pocock highlighted cultural custodian claims that two other “prominent Australian news outlets” had visited the site but failed to publish, fearing legal consequences. Bravus maintains it welcomes “legitimate media" and their questions. “We don’t welcome trespassers,” it said.

Responding to Wednesday's events, Peter Greste the chair of the Alliance for Journalists' Freedom told Yahoo it is incumbent on both individuals and corporations to respect media freedom as best they can.

“The idea that a private company can intimidate and threaten journalists in the way that (Mr Pocock) has outlined I think is deeply troubling,” he said.

He is concerned by the “bigger issue” of media freedom and allegations it appears to have been “intimidated by Adani”.

“That's something that I think is deeply troubling, and I think that's something we need to push back on,” he said. “If the allegations are true in any significant sense then that's something we've got to defend against.”

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