Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Opposition Whip) (19:49): It would seem almost certain that the Western Australian government is to withdraw its Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act sometime this week. This is an outlandish, outrageous piece of legislation that I congratulate Western Australian farmers in particular for standing up to. I believe 650 attended a meeting at Katanning recently, and 400 apologised. It’s what you get when people with no life experience draw up legislation about things they have no idea about.
This act was so foolish as to say a farmer, or anybody, couldn’t dig a hole more than 50 centimetres deep without getting cultural clearance; indeed, that they couldn’t shift 20 kilograms of soil. You can get about 15 kilograms of soil into a 10-litre garden bucket. I’ve got a 60-year-old farm front-end loader that shifts one tonne at a time and I’ve got a slightly newer one that will do two, and many of my friends who are still farming have something that will shift four or five tonnes. Basically, any job you wanted to do on a farm would have needed cultural clearance. I’m so pleased it’s gone, but I have concerns that it’s not completely gone; that it will come back. I’m also concerned that they have been told it would be a good idea to get rid of it while the nation is considering the Voice. It comes back to getting Indigenous clearance to carry on work on properties.
The reason I bring this to the chamber is that my community too has hit an issue. Kimba has been through an eight-year program to secure the right to host the nation’s low-level radioactive waste management facility. Eight years ago I took this to my community. I said: ‘I think there are good jobs on offer here. For a small community with a declining population this could make a real difference.’ Just a few weeks ago, a Federal Court justice ruled that the minister at the time, Keith Pitt, was biased in his decision, and the project was disallowed.
My opinion is that the court was erroneous on two points. The first was in giving standing to the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation on freehold property in the first place, because we know that freehold property extinguishes native title rights. The second was in saying that the minister was biased. After a five- or six-year program to find a site in Australia where a farmer was prepared to sell their land to the Commonwealth to put the site on, after finding a community that was prepared to not only accept but welcome it—61.8 per cent of people in Kimba voted in favour of this proposal—and after two Federal Court cases saying it was okay, a third one, with a new justice, ruled it ineligible.
I am concerned that Kimba too will become a casualty of the government trying to sweep any confrontation with Indigenous groups out of the road before the Voice. I believe the minister for resources should be appealing this decision immediately. I sought a meeting with the minister last week. It was cancelled at 24 hours notice, and apparently she has no time to see me this week. I can only assume that she’s not prepared to speak with me about this issue.
Mr Brian Mitchell interjecting—
Mr RAMSEY: Well, I am the most affected member in this chamber, I point out to the member opposite, and my community—this is the community in which I live—is the most affected community in Australia. I believe they should have their voice heard, but at the moment I feel as though we’re being pushed to one side, all at the altar of the government’s plan to get a Voice for Indigenous Australia up in the referendum. I may be wrong, but there are a lot of people who agree with me. The people in my home town agree with me. The way my community has been treated in all of this is really troubling me.
On top of all that, the decision and the government’s lack of response at this stage leaves ANSTO in a position where they have nowhere to put their waste beyond 2032. I’m trying to get a legal opinion on this at the moment. I understand that ANSTO had to have a plan to manage that waste beyond 2030 in place by 2020. That plan was called Napandee. They no longer have that plan, and I’d be very pleased if the minister or someone from the department could actually inform me as to whether ANSTO are operating in breach of their operating licence at the moment. (Time expired)