Government must go back to drawing board after frontbencher admits poor handling of ACH laws

The Cook Labor Government must go back to the drawing board following the admission by a Labor frontbencher that the government had “botched the messaging” of the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage laws.

Darren West MLC made the admission at a Katanning forum in front of more than 500 farmers concerned about the implementation of the laws and its impact on their livelihoods.

“Darren West is stating the obvious, but I’m sure many within the Labor Caucus agree with him,” WA Liberal Leader Libby Mettam said.

“Labor hasn’t just botched the messaging – they have botched the entire implementation of the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage laws which is why they need to scrap these laws and start again.”

Ms Mettam said the Opposition had forewarned the government about the potential chaos and confusion, calling for a six-month delay to the July 1 start date so Labor could make sure it were ready.

“But Roger Cook and Labor rejected our calls and ignored 30,000 Western Australians who signed our petition demanding a pause,” Ms Mettam said.

“Further, when we first raised concerns with Labor not being ready for the rollout of the laws, Roger Cook’s arrogant response was to accuse the Opposition of dog-whistling and for his backbenchers to call us racist rather than acknowledge there may be a problem.”

The Oppositions’ calls come as respected Native Title solicitor Greg McIntyre told media the laws are “unworkable” in their current form and their overly prescriptive nature is “inherently ridiculous “and “created a highly confusing process.”

“This flies in the face of Premier Cook’s comments that labelled these laws fair and simple, or Minister Tony Buti who said everything was running ‘very smoothly’,” Ms Mettam said.

“How ignorant can you be?”

Shadow Lands Minister Neil Thomson was at yesterday’s farmers’ forum and questioned why the Minister responsible was missing in action.

“Since the laws came into force almost a month ago, Minister Buti has only fronted media a couple of times,” Mr Thomson said.

“The chief architect of the laws and Minister who should be working to allay concerns of affected Western Australians has been MIA,” Mr Thomson said.

“Western Australians are rightly angry and want answers, but the Minister responsible seemingly has more pressing engagements.

“Cook and Buti hoped these laws would come in without a whimper, but they have underestimated the impacts of challenging people’s property rights.”

If elected, the WA Liberal Party has committed to go back to the drawing board on the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.

While the WA Liberal Party supports the intent of the laws and has always supported the need to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage, the new laws are fundamentally flawed and have made the process more confusing and onerous rather than streamlining it.