Outgoing Kimberley MLA Carol Martin has come out swinging against Browse gas hub opponents, saying the Broome community is not divided over the proposal and it’s only a small but vocal group causing all the fuss.
Ms Martin, the first indigenous woman elected to an Australian parliament, has told the WA Parliament that she supported a Bill underpinning the Woodside-led Browse project because many indigenous people in the Kimberley region believed it would benefit them, not just state revenues.
Premier Colin Barnett has long argued that a land agreement signed with native title claimant groups, which included a substantial benefits package, was “the most significant act of self-determination by an Aboriginal group in Australian history”.
Ms Martin agreed, saying Aboriginal people needed to take control of their own destiny.
The Kimberley’s indigenous communities were still mired in abject poverty, she said, and they did not want to keep living with a welfare model that was not only humiliating and demoralising, but made some young people feel as if they did not have a future, leaving them contemplating suicide.
After being colonised by “the British“, “do-gooders“, “missionaries” and “industry“, indigenous people were now being colonised by “the bloody greenies” who opposed the hub, who should “go and check the headstones”.
“They have loud voices, they have the media on their side and they have bands,” she said, referring to a recent, free John Butler concert in Broome that anti-hub activists said had been watched online by “tens of thousands in over 65 countries”.
The organisers of the event did not ask the shire for a permit and interfered with an annual surf competition at Cable Beach, Ms Martin said.
“How disrespectful is that?” she asked.
“These people stuffed it up.”
Those who attended the concert were not necessarily opponents of the gas hub, she said.
Ms Martin said she thought it was wrong that some activists had threatened Browse staff and police had been criticised for sending officers to Broome to protect them.
“The public has a right to know what is happening; these people are being assaulted on their way to work and at work.
“It is disgraceful.
“I do not support people who break the law, get arrested, and then stand as if they are some sort of martyr.”
Ms Martin said the “200 people on the news” were not the 17,000 people who lived in the area.
Mr Barnett today said Ms Martin’s speech was one of the most moving and passionate he’d heard in parliament.
It “might not suit the politically correct media that we have“ and “an essentially urban, middle-class Australia”.
“She talked about the famous, the rich and famous who would come to the Kimberly in a self-righteous way as if only they cared about the environment or only they cared about the whales or only they cared about the dinosaur footprints,” he told Parliament.
“And implicit in that is an attitude that we see too often ... that somehow this state is a redneck environment, that we don’t care about heritage, that we don’t care about the environment, and somehow we’re not capable enough to look after marine life in the Kimberley.”