MDFF 2 December 2017


The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, or so I was told when “doing” high school geometry.

The people in power have at their beck and call, research departments, advisors, experts, PR people etc.

Us at the Front Line do not have such advice, let alone the power. We are at a tremendous disadvantage.

Some of you may be aware of the grave injustice Australia perpetrated on Timor-Leste when negotiating the boundaries that defined the respective shares of the Greater Sunrise Gas Field.

The Green’s Bob Brown was a lone voice in raising objections to Australia’s ungenerous greedy policies in relation to hydrocarbons in the Timor Gap.

Much more recently, Australia was revealed to have bugged East Timor’s Cabinet Deliberations on the negotiations. As if the Goliath and David relationship between the two nations wasn’t enough, Australia the land of the “Fair Go” resorted to dirty tricks. Goliath had been sprung and was forced to eat humble pie and offer a greater share of the pie.

ABC News 3rd September:
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague today announced the parties reached an agreement on Wednesday over the disputed territory, which contains large oil and gas deposits worth an estimated $40 billion.

As I mentioned above I don’t have expert advice at my fingertips. The following therefore has a fair deal of deductions and assumptions. I’ll gladly stand corrected if it isn’t 100% accurate.

A gas pipeline is proposed to link the North South pipeline which joins the Mereenie and Palm Valley gas fields to power generators in Darwin with power generators at Newmont’s Tanami Gold Mining Operations. The Amadeus Basin to Darwin pipeline crosses the Tanami Road around 20Km East of Napperby Creek (where Tilmouth Well Roadhouse has been built).

Newmont’s Mine at Callie near the Granites as a result of deep drilling is now believed to have a 20 year mine life in contrast to the 4 year mine life it has been operating under. “Mine life” is based on proven reserves and projected production rates which in turn are based on maximum return on investment projections.

The gas contracts with the Power and Water Authority will or already have expired as Darwin switches to gas from Impex’s huge off-shore Ichthys field.

Put simply, gas at half the cost of the diesel used by Newmont’s Tanami operations would yield far greater gas sales to the owner of the Amadeus Basin gas fields than selling no gas at all. Such is known as a win-win situation. Of course there are many other factors involved not least the cost and profitability of the pipeline.

The pipeline construction, operation and ownership is a third “business” which would join in the price negotiations. All three parties would bring experts to the table and after fierce negotiations come up with contracts which will be a win-win-win scenario.

So far so good- except sky-hooks have not yet been invented and a pipeline runs on land (or the sea floor). It just happens to be Aboriginal land. One would think a wonderful opportunity to inject some real wealth into Remote Aboriginal Australia, to enable it to be involved in defining and “Closing the Gap”. But neo-liberal capitalism doesn’t function that way. Just look at the Timor Gap.

The pipeline is proposed to run along the Tanami Road. Is this the shortest distance between the North South pipeline and power generation at the Newmont Mine?

Not by a long shot! How many millions would be saved by using the shortest route? Offering the Traditional Owners of the shortest route, say half the savings, in a perfect world would make sense. It would be a win-win-win-win situation!

Just as Australia missed the opportunity to be generous and do the right thing by the new nation of Timor-Leste, so are the proponents of the pipeline missing the opportunity to be generous and do the right thing by the unrecognised Warlpiri Nation. 

How so? you ask… The Tanami Road runs in the middle of an easement through Aboriginal Land which gives the Northern Territory Government control of access.

The people of the NT (black and white) can expect no more than peppercorn rent from access for the pipeline, and it will make no difference who is in power.

All the same the pipeline proponents are going through the motions of obtaining “consent”. So far in Yuendumu we’ve had two meetings organized by the Central Land Council. The CLC, bearers of the poison chalice.

Both meetings, I’m told, descended into noisy chaos as those attending competed for the expected bounty. I suspect the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is nothing but a pipedream.

A Notice headed “Decision Meeting for the Proposed Tanami Gas Pipeline Agreement” contained the following:

“… The CLC  held an information meeting in Yuendumu on 26 September 2017 and traditional owners told the CLC to continue talking with the company about the project. The CLC wants to present information on the discussions with the company and take instructions from traditional owners on the terms and conditions negotiated with the company.

Make of that what you will. To me it reeks of a fait accompli.

I repeat a song from the other side of the world …. Calexico’s Across the Wire….

…. Those with so much, No show of heart …

Neo-liberal capitalism is not distinguished by its generosity nor desire to “do the right thing”. It has no show of heart.


PS- Have I told you what is my favourite graffiti? From a book by my favourite Latin American writer- Eduardo Galeano-:

Basta de hechos, Queremos promesas” (Enough of deeds, we want promises!)


Gremlins disappeared the highlighted bit. (re-highlit above, in red by the postmaster)

I think most if not all of you were able to read between the lines….such being a pre-requisite skill when deriving the most from these Dispatches.

I offer further clarification:

Yuendumu is 290Km north-west of Alice Springs

Napperby creek crosses the Tanami Road 100Km south east of Yuendumu. The north-south pipeline crosses the Tanami Road on the Alice Springs side of Napperby Creek.

The Tanami Road is on Anmatjere land from the pipeline to app. 10Km east of Yuendumu. Thereafter it is on Warlpiri land all the way to Newmont’s Gold Mine and beyond.

The shortest distance new pipeline I think would be mostly if not all on Warlpiri land.   

The Granites is 260Km north-west from Yuendumu. The Callie mine is 35Km west of the Granites.

Between the Granites and the West Australian border there is a lot of Gold exploration happening by several companies.

If successful, these companies would most likely negotiate access to this supply of gas. There would be big winners. The “natives” will again be little winners.

As a Canadian drilling supervisor on an oil drilling rig I worked on used to say “Better’n a smack in tha moosh with a cold mackerel”

Chau again,