Juukan Gorge inquiry chair Warren Entsch slams WA’s proposed Aboriginal heritage protection laws
WA legislation meant to prevent the destruction of Indigenous heritage sites has raised concerns in Canberra.
The chair of a parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters in the state’s Pilbara region says the legislation has major problems and won’t be effective.
Liberal MP Warren Entsch says the laws - due to pass the state’s parliament on Tuesday - don’t give Indigenous people an avenue to stop abuses of ministerial power.
“The reality is while it certainly goes some way to addressing the deficiencies in the current (law) it falls far short of the reforms that were advocated in our recommendations,” he told the ABC.
The laws would still allow the minister to make the final decision and override the traditional owners’ refusal to give consent.
“We haven’t (progressed too far),” Mr Entsch said.
“Proponents not the Aboriginal people will be able to make the decision on (due diligence assessments).”
Mr Entsch also criticised the removal of appeal rights to a key WA tribunal in the initial legislation, saying it makes it impossible for Indigenous people to challenge any decision.
The proposed laws have been criticised by Indigenous groups and the United Nation’s racial discrimination committee for being racist and not taking the views of traditional owners into account.
A key recommendation of the inquiry into the gorge’s destruction was the federal government legislating a new cultural heritage protection framework.
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