Farmers in Western Australia are furious about sweeping new cultural heritage laws that will require them to pay an Aboriginal consultant up to $160 an hour to obtain permits to do anything on their land that might disturb more than 50 centimetres of soil.
Locals have warned that the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021, which comes into effect on July 1, could bring economic activity to a halt while empowering a vast new layer of bureaucracy to “hold businesses to ransom” with costly red tape….
Under a complex three-tiered system, anyone on more than 1100 square metres of land will be required to apply for a permit from their LACHS [Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services] before carrying out certain activities, such as digging fences, planting trees or clearing tracks.
Penalties for damaging a cultural heritage site range from $25,000 to $1 million for individuals and $250,000 to $10 million for corporations, as well as jail time. …
WA Farmers president John Hassell said landowners feared the “open-ended” system could be abused. …
“The challenge we’ve got is you can see cultural heritage when it’s a burial site or meeting place, but you can’t see spiritual stuff — that is subject to change. You can’t do a survey on your place and have it marked out forever after because someone can come along later and say this is a spiritual place.”
Mr Hassell said people were “really worried” that they could carry out normal work on their property and later be deemed to have “damaged something that’s not able to be seen”.
Ah yes, the money:
Under the fee guidelines, one senior Aboriginal consultant — defined as “an Aboriginal person who is recognised within their community as being senior and as having higher levels of knowledge, expertise, skills and authority in relation to [Aboriginal cultural heritage]” — can charge up to $160 an hour, or $1200 per day.
A LACHS chief executive can charge up to $280 an hour, while “other expert service providers” can charge up to $300 an hour. …
Really?? My shocked face needs a holiday:
Mr Hassell said farmers were concerned about the potential for the scheme to become a shakedown racket. …
Debbie Dowden, 56, owner of the 200,000-hectare Challa Station in the state’s mid-west Murchison region, said she feared the laws would be used to “hold businesses to ransom”.
“We are dreading what the cost is going to be for our property,” she said.
“We’ve got half a million acres. We want to build 10 trackyards in the next two or three years, plus rehydration, plus 60 kilometres of fencing — do we have to get a person out for every one of those sites? The cost would be absolutely prohibitive. It’s like they could hold us to ransom, it really is. We’ve got no comeback, no way of saying the Woggle Breath or whatever does not exist here — and nobody can prove it. It sounds like there’s so much room for corruption, it’s just horrifying.”
Like all scams, just watch the money flows. From productive people, to aboriginals. And bureaucrats get their cut.
The ‘reasons” given for having to pay are obvious nonsense, unprovable and whimsical at best. If blacks had to pay whites like this, the cries of racism would be deafening.
hat-tip Stephen Neil