29/11/2021 - 16:25

Concerns grow on indigenous heritage bill

29/11/2021 - 16:25

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Calls for the state government to rethink its process on an indigenous heritage bill are growing, with criticism from both the federal Greens and WA Liberals today.

Concerns grow on indigenous heritage bill
The opposition has warned the Bill will have an unclear impact on farmers. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Calls for the state government to rethink its process on its Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021 are growing, with criticism from both the federal Greens and the Liberal Party WA today.

The government announced the Bill in mid-November, removing the Section 18 approval process which had been used in 2013 to sign off on Rio Tinto’s plans to mine Juukan Gorge.

But the Bill makes a range of other changes.

Shadow planning minister Neil Thomson said it was still unclear what the impact of the Bill would be on small landowners, as it would cover landowners with more than 1,100 square metres of property.

Mr Thomson said the opposition alliance had not been given appropriate time to consider the Bill, which he said had more than 350 clauses.

The opposition warned that farmers may be required to obtain approvals for building dams, laying tracks or any other ground disturbance.

“Landowners with more than 1,100 [square] metres of land will be significantly impacted,” Mr Thomson said.

“This legislation will increase red tape significantly and impose a great cost on our economy.

“We have to protect Aboriginal culture and we’ve had laws in place across Western Australia since 1972 that need modernisation.

“Yet these changes will create a massive self-funded bureaucracy and it is going to be a disaster for our economy.”

He said the government may have received support from the mining sector, but there was more to the state than mining.

The federal Greens also called on the state government to delay the Bill.

That would be until a new national standard was agreed by the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance announced by the federal government today.

Greens WA Senator Dorinda Cox, who is a Yamatji Noongar woman, said the national body would establish a process to genuinely protect heritage.

“If the WA government were serious about co-designing reformative cultural heritage, then they must adopt this process for establishing a national heritage standard,” Senator Cox said.

“It would go part of the way in closing the gap for First Nations people in Australia without creating more cultural heritage rubble as we saw with Juukan Gorge.

“The Commonwealth government must set a national heritage standard which would also protect current and future sites such as the ancient Murujuga rock art.”

The Murujuga rock art is present on the Burrup Peninsula, where Woodside operates two LNG processing facilities, while Yara Pilbara operates an ammonia nitrates plant.

Senator Cox said she was concerned the rock art would be damaged by the company’s newly proposed Scarborough gas project.

That comes after a senate inquiry recommended a national framework for indigenous heritage protection.

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