Brisbane BHP Protest

“There must be some way out of here,”
Said the aboriginal elder to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Rich men, they drink my wine, miners take my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”

— adapted by Aboriginal singer at BHP protest with acknowledgement to
Bob Dylan & Jimmy Hendrix ‘All Along the Watchtower’



Old North Mine - Broken Hill

On Thursday 26 Nov 2009 there was a protest against the activities of BHP Billiton in Australia and around the world. The protest was organised by Friends of the Earth.  Over thirty years ago a group of protesters were christened ‘Friends of the Dirt’ by former premier of Qld, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, when we were stopping, no delaying,  uranium shipments from Hamilton Number 4 wharf in Brisbane with the help of Brisbane Waterside Workers and their union the WWF.

BHP stands for Broken Hill Pty Ltd which was the major Australian mining operation for most of the post war era before it merged with Billiton to become the largest mining company in the world. We should not forget the long history of BHP ripping off workers both in Australia and abroad. They ripped off Chilean copper workers under the yoke of the Dictator Pinochet after the military coup in Chile in 1973.

BHP has closed down whole towns rather than pay a decent wage to workers. Read Broken Hill Dispute — 100 years.

Some union members were present, in particular an Electrical Trades Union delegate from the Curragh mine field near Blackwater in Central Queensland. Interestingly he said that he was opposed to much of the new coal mining proposed for the Galilee basin, as was his union. They did not regard it as being viable, especially given the amount of public assets required to get it up and running. His union, the Electrical Trades Union ETU, was not represented at the protest.

BHP and Rio Tinto have recently signed an agreement to build the largest mine in Australia in the Pilbara in Western Australia. This joint venture will be the next largest company in Australia to BHP Billiton itself. Transnational capital still has much to exploit n Australia, capitalism is looking shaky in other parts of the world but here in Australia it still has room to expand and profit. It is as if the GFC has not touched its monopoly and ability to extract greater profit from Australia.

“No reason to get excited,” the squatter, he kindly spoke,
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”

Friends of the Earth (FOE) provided an alternative to the BHPbilliton’s annual report. It is called bhp billiton – undermining the future.

SourceWatch states:

BHP Billiton (BHPB) is an international mining firm which describes itself as “the world’s largest diversified resources company.” It mainly deals in minerals and petrochemicals, but also is one of the world’s leading exporters of “thermal coal,” i.e. coal used for power generation.[1] SourceWatch In 2006, BHPB’s profits exceeded US$10 billion.

BHPB is a dual listed company, made up of BHP Billiton Limited and BHP Billiton Plc – the dual company status resulting from a 2001 merger. The global headquarters are in Melbourne, Australia. [2] SourceWatch

BHPB has been accused of environmental vandalism, displacing indigenous people, and unfair union controls. [3]  SourceWatch

“All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the workers came and went, barefoot Murris, too.
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl”

I ran into an old workmate at the AGM in the great hall of the convention centre. This old workmate had kept BHP shares from the 1980s when they ‘did nothing’ as he put it. In fact the AGM was full of retirees who still held BHP shares — for many possibly a large part of their retirement income.

With all these facts in mind I am struck by how narrow the focus of the BHP protest in Brisbane was.

Ian Curr
December 2009


BHP Billiton by SourceWatch. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) publishes SourceWatch, this collaborative, specialized encyclopedia of the people, organizations, and issues shaping the public agenda


From FOE alternative annual report - bhp billiton - undermining the future

Events and Activities to get involved with:


For more information about any of these events or to get involved:

Robin – Friends of the Earth Brisbane Anti-Nuclear Collective

mbl 0411 118 737 or email: nuclearfreequeensland

4 thoughts on “Brisbane BHP Protest

  1. Traditional owners spoke out against BHPbilliton says:

    This is a recording of the public meeting at the TLC where traditional owners spoke out against BHPbilliton — organised by FOE Brisbane:

    audio @

    Please be patient for the recording takes a little time to load.

    Especial thanks to Eliza from “The Paradigm Shift” and 4ZZZ for providing the recording to WBT.

    Ian Curr
    December 2009

  2. 'Protest Song' says:


  3. 'Ethel and Beryl' says:


  4. I have already heard about the Broken Hill Pvt Ltd . This is such a nice and growing company in the world and also gives jobs to the unemployed people.

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