I'm currently in Darwin covering the APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association) conference. Each year they hold a huge event for around 1500 industry bigwigs and politicians. Each year they go to extraordinary lengths to make peace with whichever indigenous population they have most recently demoralised through various destructive means such as digging the crap out of sacred ground, confusing local communities with bombast or pumping waste in every form and in every direction.
The opening ceremony featured aboriginal dancers, a spokesperson from the local indigenous people and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu who was, I have to say, an outstanding singer and left-handed guitarist. And he's blind.
I felt a great deal of sympathy for the spokesperson. He stood before 1500 people and 'welcomed' the mining industry to his native land. Trouble was, he was clearly and utterly saddened to make the announcement. He was a broken man. The welcome was said with such reluctance, such obvious pain, that I nearly cried. Yet 1500 people applauded rapturously, completely missing the emotion in the delivery and only hearing the words.
Industry spokespeople, as well as the NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson and Federal Minister for industry, Martin Ferguson, have been talking about protecting the environment, ensuring safety for workers and protecting local aboriginal communities, with great gusto and vehemence. Still, I just don't buy it.