The Guardian December 6, 2000


Government's misinformation on Jabiluka

As anti-nuclear campaigner and former WA Greens Senator Jo Valentine was 
last week discharging a warrant in the Central Law Court in Perth relating 
to her arrest in 1998 at the Jabiluka uranium mine site, the Jabiluka 
Action Group was holding a vigil outside the Courts. The action was in 
solidarity with the Mirrar people, the traditional owners of Kakadu, where 
the mine is situated.

The Mirrar people's struggle against the uranium mine was a major focus of 
the World Heritage Committee meeting in Cairns last week.

At that meeting talks between the Mirrar people and the Federal Government 
over the protection of Kakadu National Park's cultural heritage broke down.

The talks were aimed at resolving the impasse on the processes for the 
protection of the living culture status of the traditional owners within 
the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

Mirrar spokesperson Jacqui Katona said the Australian Government had ruined 
any opportunity of a constructive dialogue. "We deeply regret that these 
talks have broken down", she said. 

"After 18 months of inaction the Mirrar are still prepared to pursue a 
process to protect Kakadu's living cultural heritage. Unfortunately, the 
Australian Government has not engaged with us in good faith."

Ms Katona said the sticking point in talks with the Government centred on 
the Mirrar precondition that the assistance of the UNESCO World Heritage 
Committee be part of any new process.

"We are now in a situation where the Australian Government has refused to 
allow any international observers or advisors [into Kakadu and the mine 
site].

Despite the Government's admission in the Bureau of the World Heritage 
Committee that an impasse has been reached, it insists it is above 
receiving advice on how to protect Indigenous cultural values."

The Mirrar believe UNESCO must be involved in any new process.

To date the only concessions gained by the Mirrar have been through 
dialogue during World Heritage Committee meetings.

Ms Katona added that negotiations were further strained by a campaign of 
misinformation conducted by Australian Government representatives at the 
World Heritage Committee meeting.

She said these representatives had misinformed delegates to the Committee 
that the talks were focused on financial resources to the Mirrar, rather 
than on protection of Kakadu's World Heritage values.

"The Government's campaign of misinformation has compounded our concerns 
with their approach and made any meaningful dialogue totally impossible."

Outside Perth's Central Law Courts, Jabiluka Action Group's Scott Ludlam, 
who was also arrested at Jabiluka, pointed out that although Australia is 
about to assume the chair of the World Heritage Committee, it was obvious 
to human rights and environmental groups globally that the Government's 
commitment to taking proper care of world heritage-listed sites is sadly 
lacking.

He called on the Government to take steps to reclaim Australia's once 
positive reputation.

"Firstly, we want the Government to refuse permission through the Foreign 
Investment Review Board for the French nuclear power and nuclear weapons 
producer, Cogema, or any other company, to buy the Jabiluka deposit from 
the new owners, Rio Tinto.

"Secondly, we ask the Government to listen to the Mirrar people and the 
majority of Australians and to announce that there will be no further 
mining of uranium in Kakadu once the [currently operating] Ranger mine 
closes."

Mr Ludlam said there "is deep embarrassment" in the community that the 
Australian Government was one of only three promoting nuclear energy as a 
solution to the world's greenhouse gas emission problems at the collapsed 
climate conference in The Hague a fortnight ago.

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