The Opposition has condemned the Labor Government for rushing through yet another important piece of legislation, after the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021 passed through the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday night.

Opposition Leader Mia Davies said she was disappointed Labor would work to ram through a Bill of such sensitivity and significance, without public consultation on the final version.

“There are 353 clauses, spread over more than 250 pages, with almost 100 changes from the Bill that was used to consult with stakeholders,” Ms Davies said.

“We have had no real opportunity to read, digest, consult or scrutinize this important legislation, because Labor wanted it done and dusted by the end of the Parliamentary year.

“That is entirely unnecessary and frankly, it’s insensitive, for what is such a complex and important piece of legislation.”

Ms Davies said the Opposition supports updating the outdated Act to reflect the empowerment of Aboriginal people in managing and preserving cultural heritage.

“Instead of ensuring the changes were supported by everyone involved and impacted, Labor decided to ram it through, using its massive majority in Parliament.

“This happened with electoral reform, designed to rip regional voices from Parliament, and now it has happened again – this is just another arrogant abuse of power by Labor.”

Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Vince Catania said the Opposition was only provided with an overview of the Bill in the briefing provided by Government the day before they forced debate in the House to start.

“If the Government had confidence in the legislation, they should have followed due process in Parliament and allowed the bill to progress without any urgency,” Mr Catania said.

“In the short time we had to consider the new laws, we raised questions around the application of the law to anyone disturbing land on a property over 1,100 square metres in size, and the final decision on any dispute resting with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

“We also raised concerns much of the detail is yet to be determined through the development of regulations, which will be critical in determining how the laws work in practice.

“Labor has once again thrown their weight of numbers about and played politics with what is an incredibly sensitive and important piece of legislation, and missed their opportunity to co-design a Bill that strikes the right balance.”

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