He was such a maverick even the West Australian Labor Party expelled him but Crikey is quite happy to run truckloads of copy from Graeme Campbell as part of our push into WA politics. Here he dumps on Four Corners for chasing a hatchet job on Ken Court, the brother of Liberal Premier Richard Court.

The Chairman is Taffy Papertalk, who is the brother of Ken Papertalk. The relationship between Taffy and the rest of the family is not good.

Taffy Papertalk is active in support of the ALP in Geraldton and he is probably a member.

The Chief Legal Officer is David Ritter, son of Paul Ritter of Perth City Council fame – a left-wing lawyer. He is the President of the Labor Lawyers group, I believe – he is certainly a member.

The Anthropology Adviser is Michael Vere Robinson. His wife was a former private secretary of Peter Dowding when he was in Parliament. She is a very active ALP member and I believe Robinson is also. Robinson is also the anthropologist for the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi native title claim – the one that Dowding and his ex-wife helped to lodge in the Pilbara and that Dowding represented for some time.

The Heritage Adviser is Phillip Haydock, who once worked for Hamersley Iron and for the Land Council that Peter Dowding helped set up to run the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi claim (he was employed to do some liaison work with CALM in what appears to have been a sinecure). He also worked with Robinson before, when the W.A. Museum ran the Department of Aboriginal Sites – I believe that he was the FOI Officer there. I believe that he got his job in the Yamatji Land and Sea Council because of his links with these other people in the past.

The left-wing of the ALP is opposed to the building of a steel mill by Kingstream Steel at Oakagee.

Marcus Priest is a journalist and was appointed by the Yamatji Land and Sea Council to work in the Pilbara. Information given by Taffy Papertalk to a family member is that he and David Ritter wanted Mr Priest to “get dirt on Kingstream and O’Connor” and to put the Yamatji Land and Sea Council forward as an alternative to the Pilbara Land Council (that rumour has it will not have its Representative Body status renewed).

Marcus Priest contacted the ABC in late December (some say early January). The only story that Marcus Priest was interested in was his story, subsequently published in the “Sunday Times”, the day before the showing of the 4 Corners Programme.

That Marcus Priest approached the ABC is not denied by either Cohen or McDonnell.

Ken Papertalk said that his brother, who is the Chairman of the Yamatji Land and Sea Council told him in January “that the ABC was going to do a job on Kingstream and O’Connor”.

The Yamatji Land and Sea Council has a long history of animosity towards O’Connor. He is a total nuisance for them and to other Land Councils, as he is willing to help free of charge Aboriginal people and groups who are unpopular or who will not lie down and obey the orders of the Aboriginal affairs bureaucracy or their offshoots the Land Councils. He spent years working for no reward for the Nomads group in the Pilbara – the group that led the Pilbara Pastoral Strike in the nineteen-forties. In the Yamatji Land and Sea Council area he has helped the Mullewa Wadjari people and worked with them (long before Kingstream came to Mullewa). That group does not agree with the centralised control policy of the Land Council and are supportive of any sound and community-acceptable development that will bring employment to their area. It is therefore in the interest of the Yamatji Land and Sea Council to prevent O’Connor working in the Murchison-Gascoyne and also in the Pilbara, where they are trying to take over. The easiest way to do this is through a smear campaign.

On February 14th Janine Cohen contacted me and asked if I could find people prepared to talk about the problems of native title.

My response was that no one would trust the ABC, to which she responded “oh the ABC has changed”.

I agreed and asked if she wanted both sides and I suggested that Peter Dowding would be a good pro-advocate. She responded that they did not want to talk to Dowding. They wanted only those people who thought that native title was doing damage.

I put together an extensive list including Aborigines who were prepared to speak out.

I became suspicious when they talked to some of my recommendations. They didn’t want to put on camera anyone but Rory O’Connor. Subsequently it proved to be the case that they only used people that they could connect to their pre-conceived story.

I said to Janine Cohen that if she wanted a real understanding of the problems of native title, they should come to the Goldfields as this was by far the most involved area of activity in Australia. She told me that they did not have any money for travel and were basically doing a camera interview situation so I agreed to go to Perth.

As it turned out they travelled extensively in the Pilbara.

I went to Perth to be interviewed at my own expense. During the course of the interview Stephen McDonnell asked me if I had supported the Yaburarra claim – I said that I had never heard of it and said that I had not. They then said that Peter Dowding had said that I had and I responded that he was wrong.

I subsequently learned that this claim was what I knew as the Cosmos claim, the name by which it is usually known.

I phoned the ABC’s Stephen MacDonnell and explained that I now realised what they were referring to. I also explained that I did not support their claim – I only told them what their rights were. These people had approached me, as their elected representative in Federal Parliament, and sought my assistance and advice. I was the one who suggested that they contact Rory O’Connor, as he would probably be able to help them. The ABC might find decent and ethical behaviour hard to understand, but I had a duty to represent and assist my constituents in relation to Federal legislation, even if I personally disagreed strongly with them. I have never failed in executing that duty to the best of my ability.

Stephen McDonnell asked if I wanted a further interview and I said that I would see if I could get to Perth. I subsequently phoned and said that I could not afford the time or the money, but I could do a phone interview and they could explain my position. They chose to say on the show simply that I had refused a further interview.

The Cosmos people came to me claiming that Peter Dowding who controlled the Land Council in Roebourne would not put their claim forward as he was pushing the claim that he was doing for the Ngarluma Injibandi group, which was run largely by his former wife Jill Churnside.

Dowding is on record berating a young lawyer and telling him that the Yaburarra claim had no merit.

This is a point on which I agreed, but the same is true of his Injibandi claim.

With all these claims the strategy is to extort as much money as possible before the claim goes to Court as the lawyers know that the likelihood of failing in the Court is high due to the more rigorous need for proof.

We now know that the ALP were provided with a copy of the 4 Corners Programme several days before it went to air.

The State Secretary of the ALP John Halden spoke to Nik Zuks of Kingstream and told him that he was not the target. It was Ken Court they were after. John Halden now predictably denies that he told Nic Zuks this, but it is hard to see why Zuks would invent this as he had already suffered enormous damage. Halden admitted in the 22 March “West Australian” that he visited Zuks. Halden also made the curious comment that he “said donations could not buy influence over the Parliamentary Labor Party or ALP policy”.

The 4 Corners Programme raised the matter of industrial sabotage and gave large airplay to one Mr Palmer of “Mineralogy” who was claiming that it would cost his company dearly.

The facts are that Mineralogy Mining Leases in the area were all issued before 1993 and are therefore not claimable under native title. This is totally general public knowledge and can be ascertained by a simple telephone call to the Mines Department. It is also general knowledge, and a matter of some envy, in the mining industry. If anyone was trying to practise industrial sabotage, then a native title claim in this area would be a futile action, and this would be known to anyone in the industry. It is generally known that the many problems that beset “Mineralogy” have little to do with native title and much more to do with the metallurgical problems. This is a point that any casual inquiry in the mining industry would have revealed. Mineralogy also has to deal with Aboriginal heritage issues, but that has nothing to do with native title either.

The programme contains a lot of file footage about the Swan Brewery case. This was of course nothing to do with native title as it was all to do with State Aboriginal heritage issues. When that programme was originally done it carried the usual ABC bias. All these years later it is exactly the same.

When I confronted Janine Cohen and accused her of collaborating with the ALP via the Yamatji Land and Sea Council to damage the Liberal Government, she said “no, that’s not true”, when we went to West Australia we did not know what the story would be. I have spoken widely to other journalists who say that this is obviously nonsense. I certainly don’t think that what was described to me as a low budget talking head show would be going down this road if it had not been pre-arranged.

The performance of the ALP in Parliament demonstrates that they are out to get Ken Court and to tar his brother the Premier with guilt by association. This is borne out by what John Halden says he did not say to Nik Zuks.

I have no brief for Ken Court. But as Chairman of Kingstream it is most unlikely he would have known any more than that the company was having ongoing native title negotiations.

Ken Papertalk’s wife Patricia is a daughter of the late Willy Cooper of Mardie Station. It is Willy Cooper that gave the Yaburara claim its very tenuous credibility. It was Ken Papertalk who approached Nik Zuks for help with seed money for the claim. Nik Zuks was just helping out people whom he had a good relationship with. Contrary to the 4 Corners claim it is most unlikely that Nik Zuks got back any more money than he advanced – that is something that should be taken up with him.

Rory O’Connor’s association with the Yaburara claim was terminated by the claimants who authorised payment of his account. This was the time to ask for the report that Valerie Holborough said he had not done. The truth is that he was never required to do a report. He was paid to lodge the claim, to liaise with and write on behalf of the group to Government Departments and business to get the group recognised. He also liaised with the National Native Title Tribunal for the first months of the claim and assisted them in preparing Press Releases and in preparing for television interviews. He also flew to the Pilbara once during this time to visit members of the group and assist them with a backlog of letters from the Mines Department and other agencies. His wife was their guide and driver when they were in Perth. Generally they stayed in motels, but on one occasion Mrs Holborough lived in O’Connor’s house for two weeks and was looked after by his wife. After giving these services to them he handed them over to Macdonald Rudder to take on their claim. Some time after, having paid him for his previous services, they requested him to give them a cost estimate for production of an anthropological report on their claim. Because he was too busy elsewhere, he passed the request to Yates Heritage Consultants, who asked if he would be willing to assist them in an advisory capacity. He agreed and they submitted a cost estimate. The applicants never replied to Yates Heritage Consultants and O’Connor assumed that they had found another anthropologist – as indeed they had.

Peter Dowding expresses himself puzzled as to why anyone would want to pay for or support a native title claim. Yet Peter Dowding himself wrote to the Chamber of Mines in March 1995 suggesting that the mining industry support his plan for: “the State to concede and support the registration of native title on all Aboriginal Reserves and Aboriginal controlled pastoral leases. The State to concede and support the registration of native title on all vacant Crown land and the Central Desert area.

The State to expedite test cases through the courts to test native title claims over a standard pastoral lease with reservations for Aboriginal use and a pastoral lease issued in 1932-1935, when leases were issued without reservations for Aboriginal people”.

[I have also been given letters by Aboriginal elders which show that Dowding was also looking for a chance to lodge other native title claims for other Aboriginal people at this time].

Dowding wanted the mining industry to fund this but he got very short shift. Hamersley Iron did endeavour to provide money to his Land Council.

There is nothing new and sensational in this and it is very widespread. It is simply something that arises out of the extortion that companies face as a result of the right to negotiate before any claim has been established.

Examples of this were the Bunjima Niapaili Innawonga claim (“the Gumala claim”) placed over the Yandicoogina Mine and associated railway line organised and paid for by Hamersley Iron, albeit using a third party – Clive Senior.

Anaconda have paid out mega bucks to Aboriginal groups who use the monies to further their claims and to lodge new ones. Western Mining financed anthropological work which furthered the Gubrun claim. Gutnick has paid out in a big way. Most mining companies work through a third party to hide their involvement. Some of the things that have to be done to get a development off the ground are bizarre – a yacht club in Perth had to give free yachting lessons to Bropho’s group to get a jetty built; a mining company in the Goldfields had to pay to send a young fellow to Guildford Grammar School – he left after a short time.

Given the situation whereby numerous mining tenements held by different companies abut each other , it is inevitable that a claim assisted by one company will affect the tenements of another – for example Robe River Iron is now trying to negotiate with Aborigines to build a railway through land covered the Gumala claim that was assisted by their rival Hamersley Iron (I have lost track of this and the negotiations may now be complete). No one in their right senses would suggest that Hamersley Iron helped the Gumala group to get off the ground to make life difficult for Robe River. They did it because it was necessary in order to get Yandicoogina up and running.

In any event, is this really any different to Land Councils making ambit claims and then going out and recruiting people to them. This happens all the time. The Wadjari elders claim lodged by the Yamatji Land and Sea Council is just one example. This claim overlaps several other existing claims, which appears to violate the Council’s statutory role under Section 202 (4) (b) and 202 (6) Native Title Act. It was, however, lodged on behalf of people popular with the Council – some of whom appeared on the 4 Corners Programme, namely Ike Simpson and Boppo Simpson.

I had a call from a person who expressed a high regard for me and he told me as a Woodside employee past and present he could assure me that Macdonald Rudder had as he put it extorted $4.7 million for the Yaburara claim and not the $1.7 million reported on 4 Corners. On this basis I think that David Johnston did a very good job for his client. It must be remembered that Macdonald Rudder paid all the costs up front. Their fee would have been considerably les than $1 million when disbursements are taken into account. It seems very reasonable in return for getting $4.7 million basically for nothing. This means that there is still $3 due to the Yaburara. If that is the caser, I cannot see how they can cry poor and ask for community funding from the public purse.

I tried to confirm the figure with Mr Kernaghan from Woodside but he would not comment saying he was bound by a confidentiality agreement. I got the same response from Dave Johnston, but I have had confirmation from another source. The Yaburara, who are delaying the Syntroleum Project on the Burrup, have spent all the money they have got so far from Subsea, DRD, Woodside, BHP, Epic and a few others on vehicles, houses and ocean-going boats. I have no problem with that, but it is no reason why the public should fund their claim. All in all it looks to me as if the Yaburarra have had a very good deal. If I could start off in 1996 with nothing and end up in 2000 with all those assets that they have and also have a company owing me $3 million then I would be very grateful to the guys that helped me to get going and not try stabbing them in the back. Still, greed and human nature are as they are…


Peter Fray

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