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Government Federal, Indigenous

Political leaders, cultural figures and Elders urge Tanya Plibersek to reject approval for largest part of Woodside’s Burrup Hub expansion

Friends of Australian Rock Art 3 mins read

A host of political heavyweights including a former ALP Federal Opposition Leader, former ALP National Secretary and two former ALP Premiers of Western Australia have written to Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek urging her to oppose expansion of Woodside’s Burrup Hub gas project due to its emissions impact on the climate and sacred Murujuga rock art.

In the letter (attached) sent to Minister Plibersek on 15 March, more than 40 prominent Australians including senior Murujuga Elders, esteemed scientists and researchers, cultural figures and more than a dozen current and former federal politicians call on the Environment Minister to reject Woodside’s application to extend the life of the North West Shelf (Karratha Gas Plant) until 2070.

It comes after the Australian Conservation Foundation released a new report last week showing that total emissions from Woodside’s Burrup Hub expansion, which would include the Browse and Scarborough gas fields and expanded Pluto and Karratha gas plants, will generate 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and make the Burrup Hub the largest new fossil fuel project in the Southern Hemisphere.

The open letter to Tanya Plibersek, released in full today and attached to this release, emphasises that emissions from Woodside’s Burrup Hub threaten not just Australia’s global climate obligations but also Murujuga’s outstanding cultural heritage values via acid emissions which scientific studies show are eroding rock art sites, thousands of which were already destroyed during initial construction of the ageing Karratha Gas Plant in the 1980s.

The letter explains: “Aside from huge carbon pollution, the direct impacts of this project on the Murujuga rock art proposed for World Heritage listing are likely to be profound and irreversible. The Murujuga cultural landscape contains over 1 million unique and ancient petroglyphs, making it the largest and oldest outdoor art gallery on earth.”

“The outdated North West Shelf facility is by far the largest contributor to the pollution load,” the letter continues. “This pollution, and the ongoing presence and proliferation of heavy industry on the Burrup is a fundamental threat to both the heritage values and the success of the proposed Murujuga World Heritage listing.”

“Prior to any decision, it will be critical that you undertake a fresh, independent assessment of the heritage impacts which meets the requirements of Commonwealth legislation,” the letter concludes. “In closing, we urge you to take this urgent, vital historic step to save Australia’s most significant rock art heritage.”

Former WA Premier Carmen Lawrence, a signatory to the letter, said:

“Just like the Hawke Labor Government stood up with the Franklin dam decision in 1983, the Albanese Labor government has an opportunity to stand up for the national interest rather than Woodside’s interests. It’s time this government gets real about the 6 billion tonnes of emissions from Woodstide’s Burrup Hub and the threat to precious rock art and culture on Murujuga.”

Senior Yindjibarndi Elder Tootsie Daniel, a signatory to the letter, said: 

“Murujuga is very important. It is a gathering place where the people have always come together. It’s very significant. It’s a place where the Elders take the children to be closer to us. When I go there I hear the voices of my ancestors. The land is alive. The Country is alive. We want people to respect it. Nothing is to be touched. Nothing is to be removed. The site is important and it’s very dangerous to do anything to it. It is very much alive.”

Former Australian of the Year and Patron of the Telethon Kids’ Institute Prof Fiona Stanley, a signatory to the letter, said: 

“Tanya Plibersek has an opportunity to protect the unique and timeless Murujuga rock art for all of us to appreciate and to stop burning more fossil fuels that are destroying our planet. The current and future health and wellbeing of our societies and future generations depends on urgent, immediate cessation. The science is overwhelming.”

Friends of Australian Rock Art co-convenor Judith Hugo said:

“It is critical the Minister undertake a fresh, independent assessment of the heritage impacts of Woodside’s Burrup Hub, with qualified experts who are sufficiently independent of commercial and state interests. Such an assessment is required to ensure any decision Minister Plibersesk make as Commonwealth Minister is adequately informed and legally robust. We urge the Minister to take this urgent, vital historical step to save Australia’s most significant rock art heritage.“


Contact details:

Jesse Noakes
0401 233 965

Or, Dylan Quinnell, Climate Media Centre
0450 668 350


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