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Image: masks and accoutrements for use in the photo booth at the Adani party. Credit: Guy Rundle.
Today’s kick in the guts came courtesy of Sky News, and was playing in the pub, during breakfast (hey). A voter forum in Brisbane, 100 undecideds, asked whether they supported Adani and the Carmichael mine. Some hands.
“What about a loan for Adani to build a rail line to the coast?” David Speers asked. No hands. Not one. South v north Queensland, a divide more brutal, for the north, than with the actual south, impossible thousands of kilometres away.
On Flagstaff Hill, you can see the whole bay, the shining lighthouse on Stone Island, the solitary shack on North Head. The cafe on the hill, run by an Aboriginal co-op, closed, since taking a hit from cyclone Debbie. The cab ride up had been terse: “think the mine will go ahead?”, “if the greenies don’t find a frill-necked gecko somewhere”, “well, or this bloated bankrupt company doesn’t take a billion in gumment cash and then fall over sideways”, and the ride continued in silence.
Ten minutes after I arrived, a small SUV barrelled up, and Kenny Dodd jumped out. Tall, wiry, in a shirt bearing a Three Rivers motif. He looks around.
“Damn I thought this place’d be open.”
There is a touch of … irritation — anger? — in his voice.
“Thought they would have re-opened it by now. Sorry, mate. Let’s go to the cake shop.”
Half-an-hour later, at Jochheims’s, Kenny lays out his view of the state of play. “I’m Birri, from the Birriah. We’re freshwater people, of the rivers. The Juru are saltwater people. We’re fighting Adani, Carmichael, the rail line, the Urannah dam, everything they want to poison the land with.”
“What’s the official resistance like?”
“Terrible. The rail line runs through the land of five peoples. Adani makes deals with whoever they can get. The official ‘traditional owners'” — he makes the phrase drip with contempt — “live in Townsville, Mackay, Brisbane, anywhere but here. We’re the real traditional owners, we live in the bend of the rivers.” Dodd runs a theatre/performance group, does consults, and the half-dozen protest campaigns on at the moment.
“What about the jobs promised?”
“Less than 1% of mining jobs have gone to Indigenous people, and these deals have been going for two decades. It’s an illusion.”
I have no way of knowing whether his acid description of Indigenous officialdom is true. The Carmichael mine has provided Native Title law with a precedent, after a series of deals with Adani were challenged by dissident groupings from those groups whose officials had signed up. To my great relief, over at New Matilda, they’re doing a useful series on the deep politics of it all. Coming up for a week’s visit, I took one look at the Indigenous politics and decided it would be like trying to cram John Julius Norwich’s thousand-page History of Venice for an exam, and gave it a miss.
“The main thing is,” Kenny says, eyeing my lamington with mild horror, “is the Adani mine doesn’t even make sense. People should be working with us, on tourism, on land care, new agriculture, that’s the future of this place.”
Gather your lefty cliches where ye may; like it or not, that is the only statement of policy all week that has made any sense.