Western Australia's controversial new cultural heritage laws have sparked anger and frustration among hundreds of farmers and landowners. The legislation has faced significant backlash due to its vague and confusing nature, potentially costly land surveys, and fears of accidental breaches. It is essential to consider the unintended consequences these laws may have on the agricultural sector and rural communities before they were passed, with support from the opposition, by parliament
The most concerning aspect of these laws is the Western Australia government's announcement today they will need change. Why is that concerning? Because federally the Labor government is wanting to enshrine an Aboriginal Voice to parliament in the constitution, and that cant be changed. It means that unlike in Western Australia, any federal laws like the Heritage Act can’t be undone.
Passed with Merry Applause and Assistance from Liberal and National Parties
In an astonishing turn of events, these cultural laws were passed with the support of the Liberal and National Parties. This Labor/Liberal/National coalition can only be stopped if members of parliament are elected from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation who will hold the grand coalition to account.
Proposal to Change Laws
In an astonishing about-face, the WA government has only recently admitted they may have to change these laws. One Nation will keep the pressure on the West Australian government to ensure that these laws are off the table, and not just mashed up and re-presented in the same way.
What we do know, is that the Liberal Party and National Parties can’t be trusted to scrutinise any changes.
The Problem of Vague and Confusing Laws
One of the primary criticisms voiced by farmers is the vague and confusing nature of the cultural heritage laws. The legislation's complex three-tiered system, requiring permits for various routine activities on land, has created uncertainty and confusion. Farmers are concerned about the potential consequences of unknowingly breaching these laws, which could lead to hefty fines and even jail time. The lack of clear guidelines and communication from the government has left farmers feeling anxious and unsure about how to proceed with their everyday activities.
The Burden of Costly Land Surveys
Another significant concern for farmers is the financial burden imposed by the requirement to conduct cultural heritage surveys on their land. Farmers argue that they should not bear the entire cost of these surveys. The fees charged by Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services (LACHS) for assessments and consultations can be exorbitant, putting additional strain on already struggling agricultural businesses. The prospect of paying thousands of dollars for cultural heritage surveys, even on land that has been cleared for decades, is simply untenable for many farmers.
Lack of Meaningful Consultation and Representation
Farmers also express feelings of frustration and betrayal over what they perceive as a lack of meaningful consultation during the legislative process. Many argue that their voices were not adequately heard, and they were not given the opportunity to contribute to the development of these laws. It is not uncommon for large governments with super majorities to be arrogant, and Labor’s governing style is certainly emblematic of an out-of-touch government.
A Call for Dialogue and Reevaluation
Rather than pushing forward with laws that have caused unrest and division, there is a clear need for open dialogue and re-evaluation. The Labor/Liberal/National laws must be scrapped in their entirety.
There can be no way forward other than to totally unscramble this egg.
During their life, a person may need the help of a doctor a few dozen times, an electrician half a dozen, and your hairdresser once every 8 weeks. But a farmer, a farmer is a person we rely on to give us nutrition morning, noon, and night, from when we wake to when we fall asleep.
We can’t live without farmers. And these cultural laws are making life for farmers impossible.
Western Australia's cultural heritage laws were introduced by an arrogant government that rarely thinks of the unintended consequences of their actions. Their implementation has created a deep rift between the government and the agricultural community. The concerns raised by farmers and landowners are valid and warrant serious attention.