Poor Gov response to the 2009 Montara oil spill – ALA

20th Aug 2013

Untold human misery, suffering and a stimulation of the people smuggling trade to Australia is being created by poor Australian Government response to a massive 2009 oil spill in Australian waters, the Australian Lawyers Alliance said today.

The ALA has just spent the last week in small fishing communities in West Timor examining the continuing effects of oil pollution from the Montara oil spill, 690km west of Darwin, that is reported to have contributed to at least 18 deaths in poor fishing villages and decimated the economies of those communities. ALA found palpable evidence of a wide-reaching environmental calamity in the Timor Sea’s previously pristine waters.

The spill, Australia’s largest ever, resulted in millions of litres of oil spewing into the Timor Sea and 105 regulatory recommendations to prevent such catastrophes in future, but there is no evidence that such recommendations are being properly followed.

In fact, in one news article today the WA Supreme Court found three Environmental Protection Authority members unlawfully participated in the approval process of the James Price Point $40 billion oil project.

“The ALA is calling for action. The victor of the federal election must show a commitment to prevent further oil exploration tragedies and push for a comprehensive, independent study of the human and environmental impact of the Montara oil spill and use of dispersants,” ALA National President, Geraldine Collins, said today.

“We are also calling on the government to acknowledge and compensate poor Indonesian fishing communities affected and in doing so help stop people smugglers luring and snagging the economically desperate who are no longer able to eke out an existence from the sea,” she said.

Ms Collins said both Australian political parties’ ‘stop the boat’ asylum seeker policies failed to examine in depth of what was happening in waters around Australia and until it did, ecological disaster and people smuggling problems would worsen.

“Only last month, another oil spill, under the watch of the same parent company as the Montara spill, resulted in 50,000 litres of oil spewing into pristine Thai tourist waters,” she said.

“On Sunday night, 60 Minutes ran a story about a similar disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and that the same toxic dispersant was used in the Montara disaster. Today The New York Times questioned the accuracy of water quality samples taken by federal agencies after the Gulf disaster.

"An independent study on the aftermath of Montara must be done immediately.”

PTTEP Australasia, the subsidiary company responsible for Montara, is now expanding its operations in the Timor Sea and has resumed operations in Montara.

“In the case of Montara, which happened four years ago tomorrow, it was only the prevailing winds and currents following the spill that sent the oil to Indonesian fishing grounds rather than to Australian coastal communities.

"We have a responsibility to compensate our West Timor neighbours who were less fortunate than us following the spill. No government officials from either Canberra or Jakarta have even bothered to visit the villages affected,” she said.

“And it must be remembered that the ocean is not a stagnant resource. In 2012 after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, a Japanese boy’s soccer ball was found in Alaska.

"That gives some scope to how far the ocean can carry these pollutants, which are the asbestos of the ocean. The Australian Lawyers Alliance calls for solutions from both political parties on this issue now,” Ms Collins said.

Tags: People smuggling Indonesia Montara oil spill