Regulations forming part of proposed changes to the State's Aboriginal heritage laws appear, on their first reading, to be "reasonable and largely administrative" according to a State Liberal MP.
Liberal MP for the Mining and Pastoral Region, Neil Thomson, who was heavily involved in scutinising WA's Aboriginal heritage laws for more than a decade, made the comment last week following the draft regulations for the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 being released for stakeholder consultation.
The regulations set timeframes for decisions under Section 18 of the 50-year-old act, outline the administrative and management procedures of the proposed Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Committee and include a new consultation policy and application guidelines for proponents applying for a Section 18 Consent form, where works are likely to impact Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Additional technical amendments to the act also being introduced in parliament this week include the clarification of the definition of 'native title party' and the transfer of a Section 18 Consent, where there is a change in the ownership of the land.
However despite these proposed changes, Mr Thomson said many problems still remained in the 1972 act.
"The community should be rightly concerned about the capacity for further government overreach with the capacity of the regulation making powers to expand beyond the intended scope - particularly around the capacity for the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Committee to establish Guidelines (which will have the effect of law) into the future," Mr Thomson said.
"The challenge for Western Australia is that since 1972, there has been a massive proliferation of Aboriginal heritage sites with more than 30,000 now identified.
"Many of these sites are mythological including things like song lines and cover vast areas of the State...guidelines will govern how landowners can work their land on these sites into the future."
Mr Thomson said previously issues such as clearing a firebreak or paving a driveway would have never been considered in the scope of the act.
"That is why there needs to be greater distinction and clarity around tangible and intangible heritage and clarity on how those different categories of heritage can be damaged and what should be exempted from the Section 18 process," he said.
Mr Thomson was a central force behind the petition which called on the government to delay the implementation of its controversial Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 by six months and garnered more than 30,000 signatures.
Two weeks after the new laws came into effect, Premier Roger Cook said a bill would be introduced to repeal the 2021 act and restore the former Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.
With the bill being debated in parliament this week, WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti said the government was well advanced in delivering on its commitment to put alternate legislation in place.
"We have worked to keep the restored process for managing and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage simple - to focus on important amendments that will address key concerns without adding complexity and confusion," Mr Buti said.
"I am pleased to be able to share the draft regulations and policy guidance with Aboriginal organisations, industry groups, implementation group members and other key stakeholders to obtain their feedback while the Bill is under debate.
"Ultimately, our aim is to implement the new system as soon as practically possible once the bill is considered and passed by the house."
However last week The Nationals WA leader Shane Love said the opposition had not been "kept in the loop" on the regulations, to allow them time to properly analyse what the proposed changes would mean for WA people ahead of the changes being debated.
He again called on the Labor government to split the reform and amendment bill and repeal the 2021 act first, to provide more time for stakeholder consultation for the proposed amendments.
"This is a simple solution proposed by the opposition, however, the Cook Labor government is too arrogant to listen," Mr Love said.
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