WA Greens Call for Public Inquiry into Deaths in Custody

Friday, 29 August

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC has joined calls for a public inquiry into the death in custody of 22-year old Yamatji woman Julieka Dhu.

Ms Dhu was arrested on August 2 for unpaid fines and transferred to the South Hedland watch-house where despite vomiting, worsening pain and two hospital visits she remained incarcerated for more than two days until she was taken to Hedland Health Campus for a third time and pronounced dead on August 4.

Mr Chapple said the government should be doing everything in their power to figure out why this tragedy happened, and why similar tragedies continue to happen across our state.

“My deepest condolences go out to the family of Julieka Dhu, and the greater Yamatji community, for this heartbreaking loss,” he said.

“The account given by Ms Dhu’s partner in the days leading up to her death is simply horrifying; the police officers and medical staff involved have a lot to answer for.

“Whatever happened to duty of care? Primarily both of these services exist in the interest of public safety so clearly there is a very serious flaw in the system.”

Mr Chapple said a public inquiry was only the first step in resolving a long-standing, and deepening, mistrust between Aboriginal communities and state services.

“Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that this sort of thing never happens again,” he said.

“We need to take another serious look at those recommendations that have come out of other incidents such as this, especially the death of John Pat 30 years ago in Roebourne at the hands of five officers and more recently the tragic death of Mr Ward in the back of a prison van.

“More importantly, we actually need to implement a significant number of these recommendations and get some change happening in the way we treat Aboriginal people in this state.

“Incarcerating Aboriginal people, and indeed anyone, for such minor offences as an unpaid fine solves absolutely nothing, and generally costs more than the fine itself is worth; it should be a last resort option.”

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255.




City of Karratha residents forced to pay for council’s mistakes

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Concerned residents in the City of Karratha say their complaints about the Pilbara Underground Power Project (PUPP), a Royalties for Regions scheme initiated by the state government in 2010, are falling on deaf ears.

Under the scheme the City of Karratha was to receive $84 million worth of funding with a further 25 per cent, or $21 million, to be paid by ratepayers through the introduction of a council levy; an average contribution of $3,300.

The budget for PUPP has since blown out to more than $230 million and the ratepayers of Karratha, not the state or local government, are being forced to pay the difference.

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC said it was outrageous that ratepayers should have to pay for the mistakes of state, and local, governments.

“The whole Pilbara Underground Power Project is a bit of a sham really,” he said.

“It was initiated to combat the power outages Pilbara residents are faced with each year during cyclone season, however the whole Northwest is fed via massive 220kv overhead transmission lines that span the Pilbara coastline.

“The last power outage, caused by Cyclone Christine in December last year, happened because one of these transmission lines was brought down and had nothing to do with the power network of Karratha and other Pilbara towns.

Mr Chapple said the former local government had not been honest to residents about the project.

“Residents weren’t consulted, they were just told it was happening and that they would be charged a council levy,” he said.

“That’s all fine, and I don’t necessarily disagree with sinking the power in major centres across the Pilbara as an added safety net, but when costs blowout to the level they have here you can’t really expect ratepayers to sit there and take it.

Mr Chapple said Horizon Power and Royalties for Regions must now ensure that the cost of this ill researched decision is not dumped on residents.

“Horizon has not given this situation its due diligence, it’s tantamount to corruption,” he said.

“The former Director of Horizon Power was simultaneously the President of the Shire of Roebourne when this scheme was miraculously given the go ahead, yet now everyone is wondering how the residents and current council of Karratha have been left with such a mess.”

Karratha resident Dani Hage said local business owners, the backbone of the community, were being hit the hardest.

“Not all residents are earning big bucks from the mining industry,” she said.

“Most thought [the extra service charge] must have been a mistake; some land owners were slugged hundreds of thousands of dollars for work that will not be completed until 2017!”

“Commercial owners in Karratha are paying 420 per cent more than their neighbours in South Hedland for the same scheme.”

Robin Chapple MLC will be attending a rally this Saturday August 23 in Karratha to protest the cost of the PUPP scheme to residents and business owners.

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255.





Protection of Rock Art on the Dampier Archipelago

Legislative Council

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: The issue I want to raise this afternoon is funding for the protection of rock art on the Dampier Archipelago, and this concerns past governments of both persuasions and the current government. On Tuesday, 12 August, I asked a question of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs about the number of Department of Aboriginal Affairs staff who were placed on the Burrup Peninsula to manage and protect the national heritage–listed petroglyphs. The answer was that no staff were located permanently on the Burrup, the department was not aware of the recent spate of vandalism on the Burrup and that the graffiti that had been reported to date was historic in nature and outside the 12 months prosecution limit. Let us go back to what has been stated by governments, in the court and at different times. We know that vandalism has been going on in the Burrup for some considerable time. If I remember rightly, it was mentioned back in 2003, 2005 and again in 2008. It has been an ongoing problem. It was even identified in 2007 when Hon Malcolm Turnbull placed areas of the Burrup on the National Heritage List. The problem has been around for a long time.

At the same time as the debate was occurring around the Burrup’s national heritage listing, the then state minister indicated that staff would be placed permanently in Karratha to deal with those related matters of vandalism. It is interesting to note that earlier on the Leader of the House, in responding to a question put in 2011, stated that staff would be placed permanently on the Burrup to manage the issues and there was a program in place for officers to be placed there. Just prior to that, we asked how many officers were located in Karratha, Hedland and a couple of other locations. I know we got an answer that there were two officers in Karratha and two in Port Hedland. Now we have a situation in which the government will manage the process from Perth, which is against what was indicated at the time of the national heritage listing and also, interestingly enough, when the matters were before the native title hearing, the state responded to comments made in that hearing by saying that should damage occur to the rock art, the state had the responsibility to cover the rock art in plastic and/or buildings or “sheds”. If members know anything about the Burrup Peninsular, it is 114 square kilometres containing over a million and a half petroglyphs, so that would have been a very expensive process. For so long there have been so many commitments that this material is going to be protected, and it is concerning to me that consistently we have seen Aboriginal heritage values and staffing of the regions decline dramatically.

We also have the issue that in the Burrup and Maitland Industrial Estates Agreement—signed by the state and the negotiating parties: the Wong-goo-tt-oo, the Yaburara Mardudhunera, and the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi—it was stated that as part of the protection of the heritage of the Burrup, rangers would be provided, and that when the Indigenous rangers system came into being they would be trained and given prosecutorial powers over heritage matters in the area. That agreement was signed in 2003, but still, unfortunately, nothing has happened.

During the break I had the privilege of taking 30 visitors, including heritage officers or archaeologists from the United States and the eastern states, for a tour of the Burrup. We again were struck by the continuing level of vandalism. It is interesting that the minister’s answer of Tuesday, 12 August stated —

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is not aware of a “recent spate of vandalism” in the Burrup.

Why? Because it does not have any officers up there and relies on third parties to give it the information, after which it might then visit. The answer further states —

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs heritage compliance function can be effectively serviced from Perth and its five regional offices. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs continues to work with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation to ensure that damage caused by graffiti is minimised and protection of heritage is achieved.

A number of years ago vandalism occurred and a site was desecrated. DIA officers were immediately dispatched to the area and efforts were made to try to protect the site and minimise the damage. Now, because we are doing everything from Perth, it seems a long way from which to be able to do anything meaningful on the ground.

But the department has an option. It has a moral responsibility, as part of the BMIEA established in 2003, to ensure that the rock art is protected. The minister went on to state —

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs prosecutes offenders through the appropriate investigation of complaints. The proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 will significantly enhance enforcement provisions. The current draft Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill includes an increase in penalties, from $20 000 to $100 000 for an individual …

That is really interesting, because individuals can be prosecuted to the tune of $5.5 million under the current heritage legislation already. The mere lifting of the fines to that level will actually do very little, because the department already has the powers to impose very, very significant fines. The problem is that we actually have nobody up there doing the jobs that were committed to over many, many governments.

I urge the minister to get his department to look at the number of issues that have surrounded this over time and what has been done, and what was committed to be done into the future. It is quite clear from the answer in June 2011 that a number of budgets were in place to assist in the development of a ranger program, a monitoring program and the placement of officers to manage the process, and it has all fallen into one deep, dark black hole.

Suicide death at Gorgon project heart breaking

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral region Robin Chapple MLC has expressed his deep sadness at the reported suicide death of a worker on Barrow Island yesterday.

“I feel so terribly sad for the family, friends and colleagues of the person who was, I understand, a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) worker for one of the major sub-contractors to Chevron’s Gorgon project,” Mr Chapple said.

“To them I extend my heartfelt condolences.

“A person should be able to go to work and come home in safety; they should not expect to die at work, no matter what the cause or the circumstances. Their families should be able to wave them goodbye secure in the knowledge that they will return at the end of their shift, having been well looked after.

“This death must serve as a wake-up call to the Barnett Government to put better checks and balances, and mental health services, in place to service workers at remote mining and petroleum operations, especially those working in a fly-in fly-out capacity.

“Mining and Petroleum companies have a duty of care to their workers and to the workers of their sub-contractors. Neither they nor the Government should be awarding contracts to businesses whose workplace health and safety policies, procedures and methodology don’t measure up, and these should be under constant review.

“Eight suicides in 12 months in the Pilbara region tells a very bleak story indeed and I’d like to know what steps Minister Morton is taking to address this situation,” Mr Chapple said.

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255

Barrow Island

In July 2003, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) opposed the use of Barrow Island as a gas hub. In September 2003, the WA Government provided in-principle agreement to the joint venturers for restricted access to Barrow Island nature reserve for gas processing facilities, as a foundation for the development of the Gorgon gas fields. That decision required special conditions including:

Kintyre Uranium project

-Update (March 2015)-

In early March 2015,  WA Environment minister Albert Jacob granted Canadian uranium producer Cameco approval to develop the remote Kintyre deposit. The approval occured even though an investigation is still underway regarding the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Coporation's (WDLAC) operation and a mountain of appeals have been lodged against the development. 


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