A fiery war of words has broken out at a press conference designed to highlight the support of Indigenous traditional owners for Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine.
Spokesman for the Wangan and Jagalingou people of central Queensland, Patrick Malone, spoke up about the benefits of the project, including a boost to local employment alongside Resources Minister Matt Canavan at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday.
He stressed that traditional owners voted 294-to-1 in favour of establishing a land use agreement with Adani in 2016.
“They did that because there are long-term benefits for Wangan and Jagalingou people,” Mr Malone told reporters.
But he was soon interrupted by fellow Wangan and Jagalingou representative Murrawah Johnson.
“Not appropriate,” Ms Johnson declared upon arriving at the scene.
Ms Johnson accused Mr Malone of having no right to represent her people, because of a native title claim still in dispute.
But Mr Malone rejected the view, lamenting that “loud mouth people” were overshadowing the majority view of traditional owners.
“Look after country,” Ms Johnson urged Mr Malone.
“I know all about that,” he replied.
With the exchange showing no signs of cooling down, Senator Canavan swiftly wrapped up the conference, with security arriving to usher away the interrupters.
But fellow Nationals representatives, MPs George Christensen and Michelle Laundy, fronted the camera once again with Mr Malone.
“That’s what always happens, the loudest voices seem to get the media attention,” Mr Christensen said.
The stoush followed a morning protest against the Carmichael mine on parliament’s front lawn, attracting the likes of Australian rugby union player David Pocock.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale also immersed himself in the rally, using a fake lump of coal to hit protesters wearing large, comical heads of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten.