By Rhiannon Hardwick
Woodside Wednesdays was a tactic used during the successful ‘Save James Price Point‘ campaign, so this will be a meaningful way to foreshadow that, just like James Price Point eight years ago, the Scarborough gas Woodside extension project will also fail.
I, personally, was ignorant of the James Price Point project and campaign until I did my research, which is a shame, because it is such an incredible example of community resilience, resourcefulness and people from all walks of life coming together to fight for a common cause. So in case anyone is in the same boat as me, I will tell you an abridged version of the James Price Point story.
In 2005, a proposal was put forward to build gas refineries on the Kimberley Coast. Three years later, the WA Government chose Walmadany, or James Price Point, as the site for Woodside and its partners to build one of the world’s largest gas refineries.
The project would have cleared 30km2 of ancient remnant rainforest containing rare and endangered plants and animals. This area has tremendous cultural significance for Traditional Owners, and is so ecologically and culturally rich that it has been recommended for National Park protection SIX times since 1962.
Furthermore, a port would have cut into the sensitive dune system and 50km2 of surrounding ocean teeming with marine life – turtles, Dugongs, Humpback whales, corals, seagrasses. 30 billion litres of wastewater was to be pumped into the ocean every year, and this healthy ecosystem would have become a marine deadzone.
If you have been lucky enough to travel to the Dampier Peninsula, or you have seen photos of James Price Point, you will know that this is an incredibly beautiful part of the world. With its iconic red cliffs jutting out over pristine white sand that blend into the bluest of oceans… But in his bid to industrialise the Kimberley, then WA Premier Colin Barnett declared in 2009 that this was ‘an unremarkable beach’.
In the years that followed, the Broome community mobilised to defend the town and the Kimberley from industrialisation, backed by environment groups from around Australia and across the world. Traditional Owners stood with nurses and tradies. Environmentalists stood with local business owners. Locals put their bodies on the line with non-violent blockades at Woodside’s pre-approval sites and were met with heavy-handed police opposition.
Support culminated in a 20,000 strong rally in February 2013, at a concert in Fremantle, with public figures speaking and signing out. The WA Greens won the popular vote in Broome as the only party to oppose the refineries outright. In April 2013, Woodside and its partners pulled out.
Of course, there are so many layers to the story that I don’t have time to go into – from legal challenges to the government’s compulsory acquisition of the land, to the EPA’s conflict of interests during their assessment process.
This was not an easy fight, but without the groundswell of opposition, the Barnett Government, Woodside and its venture partners would have industrialised the Kimberley, destroyed precious ecosystems, threatened cultural heritage and contributed significantly to climate change.
Now, Woodside would have us believe that their decision to pull out of the project had nothing to do with the environmental and social campaigns waged against it, that their decision was purely economic; but this spin seeks to undermine what we know to be true. And that is that people power works!
The James Price Point campaign was won through corporate pressure relating to direct actions, legal tactics and investor lobbying that cost the company money, time and social license.
And that is exactly what we aim to do with Scarborough.
Whilst Woodside is on record as stating that they pulled out of James Price Point for ‘economic reasons’, they also admitted that the delays and obstructions cost them significant time and money. This worked for James Price Point, it is working for Adani, and it will work here too!
In regards to James Price Point, Mr Barnett also stated ‘Woodside made it very clear to me that the protesters and the intimidation to their employees made it, for them, untenable.’
Whilst we will not be ‘intimidating’ employees – we seek an open dialogue with Woodside and BHP employees and welcome any workers to reach out to us and have a conversation – we also want to make the Scarborough gas project untenable to Woodside.
Woodside was rattled by proxy shareholders asking valid questions at their AGM and are trying to change the rules of the system in order to avoid being held publicly accountable for their actions, and inaction on climate change.
Our aim for Woodside Wednesdays is to add to Woodside’s embarrassment and take away the small amount of social license that exists for Scarborough gas. Our actions out here will add to the ever expanding list of reasons for these projects to not go ahead.
I should note that there’s a split within Woodside and BHP in regards to the Scarborough gas development, as there are people within Woodside who rightfully want them to change their entire business model.
At BHP, they are an Iron Ore company with no need to be involved in a climate wrecking, cultural heritage destroying, fossil fuel project. Over time we will shift our focus to engage with these staff members and find a way to work together.
We will build a community to rally against this climate-wrecking project and we want you to be a part of it. The lessons we have all learned from James Price Point a decade ago show that history is repeating itself.
Unfortunately the Woodside top brass appear to have short memories and are making the same mistakes. We hope that BHP’s board are getting the message that Scarborough could be just as toxic for them. We think they should be seriously considering exiting the project before their brand is damaged by it too.
Our next Woodside Wednesdays action is being held on June 23 at 12pm outside the BHP building. We hope to see you there!