The Hon Neil Thomson MLC has called on the McGowan Labor Government to clarify what impact its Aboriginal Cultural Heritage legislation will have on small landowners and ensure proper community consultation occurs before this bill is passed.
While recognising the importance of protecting cultural sites, Mr Thomson stressed that the Opposition Alliance and people of the community simply hadn’t been left with sufficient time to properly review the proposed legislation.
“We’ve had very little time to assess the bill.”
“This is bill has over 350 clauses and it’s very complex.”
Under these laws, Western Australian farmers could be required to obtain approvals for activities including but not limited to the construction of dams, tracks and any other ground disturbance.
Mr Thomson said that the Bill had been widely consulted with the mining industry and there has been some consultation with Aboriginal groups but there the farming community, contracting community and small land holders were left out of the process.
“Landowners with more than 1100 metres of land will be significantly impacted. 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.” Mr Thomson said.
Far from resolving real issues, the proposed bill only helps create further confusion and ambiguity, coupled with massive penalties (including jailing for 5 years) for those that breach the new laws.
“It is all very well for the Government to garner support from the mining sector, but WA is bigger than mining.”
Mr Thomson believes the same respect shown to miners should be shown to farmers, contractors and small landowners along with the State’s Aboriginal people.
He has called on the McGowan Labor Government to be more transparent with the community about the scope of changes this reform bring in and allow time for better community consultation before rushing this through Parliament.