Authors: Ian W Taylor
Tags: #suspense, #terrorism, #political thriller, #action and adventure
They chatted for a few more minutes before
Jake took his leave of Helen and decided to take a look around.
The mine was a huge open pit where the
uranium ore was extracted and transported to the nearby plant and
processed into a concentrated uranium called yellow cake. The pit
had created a huge scar in an area of woodland. Jake noticed the
mine had an electrified fence all the way around its perimeter and
saw some German shepherd dogs tied up by chains inside the complex.
He could also see the train, its trucks loaded with yellow cake
ready to make the journey to Darwin along the newly built railway
line. He noticed some security officers guarding the train.
Among the protest groups he saw a tent with
the black, yellow and red aboriginal flag and walked up to an old
bearded man sitting on a canvas chair, brushing away flies
“G’day mate, do you know a guy called Barry
“Who wants to know?” he replied
“Jake Stafford, I’m a friend of his sister
“Oh, hey Baz, there’s a guy here who says he
knows Lizzie,” the old guy yelled into the opening of the tent.
A bearded lanky man walked out of the tent.
He looked at Jake quizzically and asked, “You know Lizzie?”
“Well, I’ve really only just met her. She
was staying with my dad, Bill, at Daly Waters when I visited there
last weekend. She told me to look you up if I got the chance when I
was up here.”
“Ah, so you’re Bill’s boy. He’s a good man
is Bill,” Barry smiled as he shook Jake’s hand, showing gleaming
white teeth. “This old bugger is Larry Wilpena,” he said pointing
to his companion.
“Come inside out of the heat, we’ve just
made a pot of billy tea”. Barry wheeled Jake into the tent.
“How do you take it?” asked Barry.
“As it comes, thanks,” replied Jake. Barry
poured the steaming tea into a cup and handed it to him. Jake could
smell the fragrance of the tea which was enhanced by eucalyptus
leaves floating in the pot.
While sipping his tea, Jake explained how he
came to meet Lizzie and what he was doing in Kakadu. Barry nodded
his head while Jake outlined the conference and the intention to
negotiate a treaty with Japan.
“Yeah all I know about treaties is that the
indigenous people can’t get one with the Australian Government, but
we sure as hell ain’t happy with this mine they’ve developed. I’m a
representative of the Binugy people on the Kakadu Land Council and
most of us are dead set against building a mine here. In the 1970’s
we had given the miners permission to build the original Ranger
mine about ten kilometres from here but once the ore petered out,
the land was supposed to revert to the National Park.”
“Now the miners have an agreement which
allows mining here. There’s been a lot of in-fighting in the Land
Council. There’s something fishy going on. The Prime Minister
himself got involved and persuaded Bert O’Shea, the Chairman of the
Land Council, to agree to let the mine go ahead, ostensibly in
return for a new school and community centre at Jabiru.”
This was news to Jake, especially about the
“Surely, it must have been above board. I
heard there was an independent report by a consultant on the land
rights and environmental issues,” responded Jack.
“Yeah, well I’ve heard a rumour that O’Shea
has an interest in the consulting company that did the work,
although it can’t be proven as it’s owned by trust companies. He
and a couple of his mates on the Council are suddenly flashing a
lot of money around.”
“Let me tell you Jake, there could be some
big problems when the Prime Ministers come here to open the mine on
Friday. This is aboriginal land and we’re not letting it go just
like that. I’d stay away from the place if I were you.”
Barry explained some of the history of
indigenous habitation at Kakadu and the introduction of mining into
aboriginal land. The area has been populated for 50,000 years by
the Binugy and other aboriginal tribes who have a deep spiritual
connection to the land. There are over 5,000 recorded rock art
sites in the Park. The traditional owners manage the park in
conjunction with the Australian Government.
Uranium was discovered in the 1970’s, and
despite considerable controversy and objections from traditional
owners and conservationists, approval was given to mine within
certain defined areas which were excluded from the park. The Ranger
uranium mine, which was subsequently developed near Jabiru, became
one of the most productive uranium mines in the world. However the
life of the mine had come to an end and steps were taken to
re-include the area in the national park. But then three years ago
a major new discovery was made of a rich lode of uranium and other
minerals, just ten kilometres from the original Ranger mine. The
Government had done an about-face and in fact had reneged on its
agreement to return the area to the Park confines so that
commercial exploitation could take place.
Jake finished his cup of tea, thanked Barry
for his time, walked to the car and headed back to Yellow
TUESDAY EVENING - YELLOW WATER
Back at the hotel, Jake joined the rest of the
Australian delegation for dinner. After the meal the delegates were
split up into groups to discuss ways of progressing the specific
issues. He observed Ambassador Connell dominating the discussions
pushing his hard line views of not giving in to Japanese demands
for further concessions. By 9 p.m. everyone was becoming tired and
touchy and Deputy Secretary Antrim wound up the discussions for the
As they were walking back to their rooms,
Jake drew Jenny Antrim aside and said, “Look Jenny we’re not
getting anywhere here, we’re just rehashing the old issues. We have
to come up with a break-through initiative if the Prime Ministers
are to agree.”
“Let’s sit down for a minute Jake,” Jenny
pointed to some chairs in the lounge. After settling into their
chairs Jenny said, “I know it’s a painful process, have you got
anything in mind?”
“As a matter of fact I do. Here’s what I
suggest.” Jake outlined his thoughts as to a solution. Jenny
listened for the next fifteen minutes as Jake explained his
“I think you may have something here Jake.
I’m meeting with Foreign Minister Anna Sentoro in her suite in an
hour. Could you prepare a short paper outlining your proposals and
join me at the meeting.”
Jake went back to his room and worked
furiously preparing a broadsheet outlining the issues and his
recommendations for their resolution. He then rushed up to the
Minister Sentoro’s suite and knocked on the door. Jenny answered
the door and invited Jake in. She then introduced him to Anna
Sentoro who invited him to help himself to a coffee.
Jake had met Sentoro previously. She had
visited Tokyo twice and Jake had escorted her to a number of
meetings with Japanese officials and business representatives. She
was in her mid-forties, of Italian origin, petite, olive skinned,
dark haired with a lively personality. She had grown up in rural
New South Wales in the small town of Cooma at the foot of the Snowy
Mountains. Her grandfather, as a newly arrived immigrant from
Italy, worked on the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme and her
father had also worked as an engineer at the power station. After
graduating in law at the Australian National University, Sentoro
had worked in one of the major law firms in Sydney specialising in
commercial law before returning to Cooma to open up her own law
practice. Her popularity in the community led her to be nominated
as a candidate for the local electorate when the existing federal
member retired. She was elected at her first attempt. Because of
her ability to grasp policy issues quickly and her appeal to wide
sections of the community, she was recognised as a rising star in
the party and performed well in portfolios of Minister for Social
Services and Minister for Communications. A few months ago she had
been appointed Deputy Leader and Minister for Foreign Affairs and
Trade in place of Malcolm Crichton who had to step down from both
positions due to a financial scandal.
Anna invited Jake run through his proposal.
She listened attentively and questioned him intensively about
various aspects. She leaned back in her chair.
“You have some interesting ideas here Jake.
Nothing seems to be working at the moment and we must break the
current stalemate if we are to sign an agreement. Give me time to
think it through and perhaps I’ll run it past the P.M.”
Jake strode back to his room and went
straight to bed, tired from a long and frustrating day.
TUESDAY AFTERNOON - YELLOW WATER
Japanese Prime Minister, Koshi Ogawa, and his
Defence Minister, Youichiro Kenichi, accompanied by their personal
staff and bodyguards, arrived at Darwin airport in the early
afternoon. After being ushered quickly through customs and
immigration the group set off in four armoured limousines to Kakadu
National Park. The delegation arrived at the Yellow Water Resort
after a two and a half-hour drive and was met at the steps of the
resort by the Australian Prime Minister, Neville Murray.
After welcoming the visitors, P.M. Murray
announced that he had arranged to take the Japanese delegation on a
boat cruise on Yellow Water before the official dinner. The
Japanese P.M.’s party was then issued with security passes and keys
and shown to their rooms.
Having changed into casual clothing, the
Japanese party was picked up outside the resort and driven two
kilometres to the wharf at Yellow Water. P.M. Murray escorted them
onto a small boat where they were taken on an hour’s guided tour of
Their aboriginal guide explained through an
interpreter that Yellow Water is an iconic area of wetlands which
contains a unique profusion of plants, birds, crocodiles, fish and
other wildlife. Thousands of people come from all parts of the
world to see the unique flora and fauna.
All of the Japanese had cameras at the ready
as the tour guide pointed out numerous crocodiles sun-baking on the
banks of the estuaries, some as long as four metres. They also saw
a huge assortment of birds, magpie geese, whistling ducks, brolgas,
jabiru storks, black cockatoos and kingfishers.
After disembarking from the boat, the group
was taken to the nearby Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre and
given a presentation on the history of aboriginal involvement in
the area over a period of 50,000 years. This was followed by a
culture display and dances from members of the Binugy aboriginal
people telling “Dreaming” stories.
The Japanese party were by then showing
signs of fatigue and all of them dropped off to sleep in the short
ride back to the resort. Once there, they were given an hour to
freshen up before the official dinner.
The dinner was confined to the Ministers and
their senior staff and a few top level business people. The menu
was designed to show the best of local produce in the Northern
Territory with entrées of sea-food containing prawns, crab and
lobster, followed by a choice of prime beef, kangaroo or wild
barramundi for the main course. After the main course, the Prime
Ministers exchanged speeches about how they hoped fervently that
the Treaty could be signed at this conference. P.M. Murray
explained the significance of holding the conference at Kakadu, the
first time a major international conference had been held outside a
major Australian city. It was one of the most unique areas in the
globe, a world-heritage site, and the finding of uranium in the
middle of the national park not only benefitted the Australian
mining industry and the Japanese energy sector but also the
traditional owners of the land through the allocation of the mining
The Japanese P.M. Koshi responded,
expressing gratitude to Australia for hosting the conference and
for inviting his delegation to visit such an amazing part of
Australia which he had never been privileged to see before.
After a dessert of local tropical fruits,
the dinner broke up. The two P.M.’s took their coffees and went to
a private room for one-on-one talks.
WEDNESDAY- YELLOW WATER
Jake was up at 6 a.m. for a quick breakfast before
heading for the golf course to partner Koshi for the match against
Murray and Sentoro.
The golf course looked amazing, verdant
fairways lined by tropical trees and colourful flowers, ferns and
bushes; every hole had a lagoon or creek alongside the fairways
infused with water lilies and a vast array of bird species, magpie
geese, kingfishers, storks and wrens. There were several large
yellow and black “Beware of Crocodiles” warning signs around the
Jake picked out a set of golf clubs and had
some practice swings while he was waiting for the others to arrive.
The temperature was already warm as the sun rose above the horizon.
Koshi arrived with two bodyguards, bowed to Jake and shook his
hand. Jake had met Koshi a couple of times before and liked him,
although he doubted if Koshi would remember him. He was short and
thick-set, dressed in white slacks and a red golf shirt made by
UNIQLO, the Japanese fashion house. He had his own set of Taylor
Made clubs. He addressed Jake,
“Saito tells me you are good sportsman,
black belt in judo huh?”
Jake replied in Japanese “Yes but not so
good at golf, I may not be the best partner for you, Prime
“Well we will see, we must play our best
against Prime Minister Murray.”
Just then Neville Murray arrived with Anna
Sentoro, both looking immaculate in casual wear, Sentoro in a
designer pair of long pink shorts and crisp white blouse, and the
P.M. in a lime-coloured Greg Norman golf shirt and fawn slacks.
They were also escorted by two bodyguards. Murray smiled broadly,
shook hands with Koshi, wished him good luck, nodded at Jake and
headed off to the golf carts. He and Sentoro sat together in one,
Koshi and Jake in another and the two pairs of security guards each
shared a cart.