Opposition Leader and Leader of The Nationals Shane Love MLA escalated calls to halt the implementation of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage (ACH) Act 2021 by writing to the Premier, Roger Cook, seeking his intervention.
“I have written to the Premier explaining there must be a delay – the senseless rush to implement the Act after ramming it through the Parliament and rushing the consultation process is now coming at community cost, with genuine concerns being ignored.” Mr Love said.
“Ramming the Bill through the Parliament in less than a week with 24 hours notice to the Opposition was a shameless political tactic to minimise scrutiny – the community deserve better. They deserve time.
“As of 1 July this year, every landholding over 1,100 square metres will be subject to new ACH law. Which even 22 days from implementation is still news to many.
“These changes do not only impact our farmers and primary industries, they impact anyone with a bigger block, such as the half acre blocks right across the State, including rural residential areas.
“The thousands of landholders and land-users impacted will now need to demonstrate to local and planning authorities they have approval under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act when conducting certain activities on their property, such as erecting a fence, or fire hazard reduction.
“Regardless of their knowledge of the new law, they will be potentially liable for huge penalties, including prison terms.”
“Further exacerbating the problem, only a limited number of community education sessions have been held, each plagued with capacity and time issues preventing people from being involved.
“The risk in implementation before the State is ready, is many West Australian’s are exposed to significant risk of penalty because they have not been afforded the opportunity to understand their responsibilities under Labor’s ACH Act.”
Under Opposition questioning during Budget Estimates, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Tony Buti confessed 1 July was an arbitrary implementation date, and there was, in fact no need for the rush.
“The Minister himself has now said the timeline is discretionary – that he would sacrifice due education of a drastically changed process, for the sake of meeting an arbitrary timeline set in a vacuum flies in the face of reason.
“The Opposition have been questioning the Labor Government on consultation, co-design of regulations and the readiness of supporting systems for the ACH Act for two years to no avail.
“The community aren’t ready, and nor is the Minister’s Department.
“I have asked the Premier for time, and if he takes seriously the importance of getting this right, he’ll grant it.” Mr Love said.