Browse and Gladstone Liquified Natural Gas: Two Very Different Native Title Act Negotiations

Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Lily O'Neill

In the last few years, traditional owners have signed off on two very different sets of land access deals for high profile liquefied natural gas (LNG) developments planning for their nearby land.

In Broome, Western Australia the agreements were described as benchmark and welcomed by Indigenous leaders as a chance for Indigenous people ‘to step up and take control’ of their lives. In contrast Traditional Owners in Gladstone, Queensland have complained of LNG companies running roughshod over them, low compensation and a lack of good faith. In Broome, the publicly available agreements were worth approximately $1.5 billion, including for education, health, employment and training.

In Gladstone, the agreements are confidential but said to be in the low millions. When asked to compare the two sets of agreements, one Gladstone LNG executive said that they were in ‘a different stratosphere’.

In this paper I present my finding from detailed case study research into these two negotiations – which included interviews with traditional owners, land council staff, LNG company employees, public servants and politicians – and discuss some of the reasons behind these very different negotiation outcomes.