Almost 30,000 people call on Cook Government to delay implementation of cultural heritage laws

The Opposition will today table one of the largest parliamentary petitions in the last 40 years highlighting the uncertainty and anxiety in the community about the shambolic implementation of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021.

The petition has attracted 29,716 signatures in just two weeks.

Shadow Lands Minister Neil Thomson said the petition was calling on the Cook Labor Government to delay the implementation of the new laws for a minimum of six months to enable the proper processes to be set up and those affected to be engaged and educated about their new obligations.

“People are worried about their future and fear being bound up in red tape which could require permits for things such as putting a new fence in, digging a dam or removing noxious vegetation,” Mr Thomson said.

“Farmers, pastoralists, and companies that provide services such as plumbing and civil contracting are all trying to work out the implications, as are hobby farmers around the metropolitan area that are deeply concerned about what they will be allowed to do on their land, without a permit.

“With the last information session scheduled to roll out on June 28 and 29, two days before the changes are brought in, it is little wonder that concerns are so high.”

Mr Thomson said delaying the implementation of the legislation would also allow time for the government to have the approvals system operational, local aboriginal cultural heritage advisory services established and any permits required to be in place before the changes are enacted to ensure business continuity.

A delay would also allow industry to familiarise themselves with the system and provide training for their staff and business teams.

“With so many people concerned about these laws, including some Aboriginal groups, mining companies, property developers, landholders and the agricultural sector, I question why the government is determined to ram this through regardless of the consequences,” Mr Thomson said.

“Instead of a reasonable dialogue, Roger Cook has resorted to divisive rhetoric, referring to the Opposition as ‘like a dog returning to its vomit’ for questioning the laws. It’s clear the government has made a dog’s breakfast of the roll out of these new laws.”

Opposition Leader Shane Love said the Premier and his Minister were putting bull-headed political goals before the due process, which is causing division across the state.

“That the WA Labor Government can choose to ignore the more than 29,000 West Australians who join the community and stakeholder groups in their significant concern about this Act is astonishing.

“It only took 17,000 survey responses to shut down the Native Forestry industry – it seems the Premier is continuing the typical WA Labor rule of ideology over community.” Mr Love Said.

WA Liberal Leader Libby Mettam said it goes without saying that the protection of key Aboriginal Cultural Heritage sites is important, and it is imperative that the new laws are given the best chance of success.

“It’s clear the government has been caught asleep at the wheel and is woefully unprepared for the changes due to be enacted in nine days,” Ms Mettam said.

“A pause while processes are cleaned up and industry becomes comfortable is not an unreasonable request and saves ongoing unnecessary public backlash and anguish.