There’s been a further development to the saga of Xstrata and the McArthur River, which I wrote about earlier in the week.

I missed this when it came out last night, but Clare Martin’s legislation, which prevents traditional owners from launching legal action to stop Xstrata from diverting the river and basically digging the world’s largest zinc and lead mine on their land, was passed by the Northern Territory parliament, 17 votes to 5.

The only people to vote against this Bill – which heralds the return to European domination of indigenous peoples through the courts¹ – were two independents and three indigenous Labor MLAs, Member for Macdonnell Alison Anderson, Member for Stuart Karl Hampton and Member for Arnhem Barbara McCarthy.

Barbara McCarthy was most vocal in parliament last night, taking the floor during the final reading of the Bill as a last-ditch effort to thwart the legislation, futile as it was.

She said the people of the Gulf Region are mourning the death of a prominent leader, and to pass the Bill in the middle of sorry business is the worst sign of disrespect to them.

‘The worst sign of disrespect’. That’s a cruel understatement. This is blatant disregard of the Kurdanji people’s home, land and culture and no commercial need for lead or zinc is quite strong enough to override that. I gave this quote from Martin in my last post on this, but it seems more relevant here, especially when juxtaposed against Barbara McCarthy’s sentiments about the disrespect:

We’re doing this with the greatest respect for everyone involved.

You can stick a noxious weed in a bucket of dirt and call it a flower, Ms Martin, but it don’t make it so.


¹Sorry for editorialising, but it really infuriates me that short term economic advantage from mining companies can trump not only the imperatives of the environment, that doesn’t surprise me anymore, but also the cultural considerations of the rightful owners and custodians of the land. This is not the sort of thing that makes people proud and patriotic, flag-waving, happy little vegemites. I, for one, am increasingly ashamed to be an Australian when I hear stuff like this.


May 8: Last night The 7:30 Report carried this story, outlining the history of the case, of the mine, of the community’s protest of the mine’s expansion. They also spoke to Barbara McCarthy about her strong opposition, not only to the legislation, but the timing of it – two days before the funeral of the man who most vigorously fought Xstrata. Transcripts and video available on this page (contains footage of the deceased).