Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972

Greens Call on Government to end Burrup Hypocrisy

17th July 2014

World Heritage nomination of Murujuga - the Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago - is long overdue, and should be made a priority by the state and federal governments, according to Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple.

Mr Chapple said it was ridiculous that neither government had taken the lead on protecting Murujuga, the significance of which has been widely acknowledged.

“We have this situation at the moment that is essentially a deliberate stalemate,” he said.

 “The federal Minister for the Environment is calling on our Premier to take a stand, who in turn is stating it is not within his power to do so.

“Whilst in opposition Colin Barnett called Murujuga ‘the most significant heritage and anthropological site in Australia’ yet his government continues to approve, and encourage, industrial development there.

“Again, by the Premier’s own admission, as much as 20 to 25 per cent of rock art in Murujuga has already, regrettably, been destroyed by industrial interference.

“I appeal to the Premier to stop this continued vandalism once and for all, and give the Burrup Peninsula the protection it deserves.”

The Murujuga National Park, announced in January last year, was a significant step towards ensuring the protection of the Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago but at just 49.3 square kilometres it covers only 44% of the Burrup’s total area.

Mr Chapple said the government was using the successful creation of Murujuga National Park to cover up its intentions for the rest of the archipelago.

“Whilst I applaud the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation on their cooperation with the government in ensuring the protection offered by national park status, it is a great shame that the government won’t increase its protection to the archipelago in its entirety.”

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255

Greens MP calls on Minister to withdraw Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region, Robin Chapple MLC, has called on the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Peter Collier to withdraw the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill.

“These proposed changes remove any kind of community involvement in the protection of Aboriginal heritage sites and concentrate all power over these matters into the hands of one public servant, Mr Chapple explained.

“The Minister needs to scrap this outrageous piece of legislation and enter into proper negotiations to ensure there is community involvement in the protection of Aboriginal heritage sites.

“There has been enough community backlash for the Minister to see people are vehemently opposed to this bill. 

“If the Minister is true to his word and wants to design legislation that protects our unique Aboriginal heritage, then it is back to the drawing board he must go.

“The Greens are the only Party standing up for Aboriginal heritage and I urge the community to write a submission on this appalling piece of legislation to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs before 6 August 2014, added Mr Chapple.

For further information go to http://www.robinchapple.com/AHA

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255

AHA Amendments Bill replaces community consultation with ignorant executive action

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC has labelled the proposed Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Act 2014 as the most diabolical piece of racist legislation in modern times.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has claimed the amendments will implement better rules to protect heritage sites, cut red tape and, most significantly, “empower Aboriginal people”.

But Mr Chapple said the amendments remove any kind of community involvement in the protection of Aboriginal heritage sites and concentrate all power over these matters into the hands of one public servant.

“It’s an unmitigated disaster for Aboriginal heritage,” he said.

“The current Chief Executive Officer, has been made all powerful."

Mr Chapple said the amendments also made significant, and disturbing, changes to the function and power of the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC).

“Every instance of the word ‘committee’ in the old legislation, in reference to the ACMC, has been replaced with the word CEO,” he said.

“They’ve also removed the requirement for at least one member to have Anthropological expertise in the area of Aboriginal heritage.

“I’ve been pushing the government about the lack of specialists on the committee for years and now that requirement has been scrapped, with the ACMC existing only on a consultative basis at the whim of the CEO.

“The deciding force for whether or not an Aboriginal site is approved or listed on the Aboriginal Sites and Objects register now lies solely with the ‘opinion’ and ‘initiative’ of the CEO.

“There is no community consultation, no one with special knowledge of Indigenous issues or heritage, no one of Aboriginal descent involved whatsoever and essentially, no real protection for anything of Aboriginal cultural value in our state.

The State Administrative Tribunal has been given the power to review a decision but only at the request of a proponent, an Aboriginal person cannot ask for a review or appeal a decision.

This in my view breaches the fundamentals of the Racial Discrimination Act. An appalling piece of legislation,” said Mr Chapple.

Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 Ineffective and Out of Date


Thu, 27/02/2014

Serious concerns have been raised by a recent intern report about “The Effectiveness of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972”.

“Motivated by anecdotal evidence about issues with the functioning of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 I submitted this theme for detailed research in the annual parliamentary Intern program”.

Ms Madisson Barnsby recently completed her report under supervision from Murdoch University. It made the following findings:

  • The responsible authorities do not seem to be consulting with the relevant people in order to provide Aboriginal sites with the appropriate protection.
  • The appeals process involved is not effective enough in order to maintain an efficient system within the Department.
  • Section 18 is the most contentious part of the Act, and the Department has time and again approved the majority of Section 18 applications that are sent to them, regardless of the recommendations made by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee (ACMC).
  • The ACMC has a complicated job, which is complicated further by its lack of membership.
  • The Site Recording Forms used by the ACMC are no longer effective, as they can actually inhibit the registration of Aboriginal sites.
  • Problems within the Department have been shown to come down to Ministerial discretion, as well as the staff and their possible lack of relevant qualifications.
  • The DAA does not effectively monitor or enforce the Act, and
  • The use of the ‘Special Defence of Lack of Knowledge’ can be reduced with increased accessibility to the Act’s Due Diligence Guidelines.

To remedy the lack of process the report also suggests six recommendations:

1.    More resources need to be put into the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in order for it to improve its appeals, monitoring and enforcement processes.

2.    The Site Recording Forms need to again be amended so that they are simpler to use, and no longer inhibit the registering of Aboriginal sites.

3.    Decisions regarding Section 18 applications need to involve the Department, and not just the Minister. These decisions should also be made after detailed consultations with the relevant groups of people have been sought and carried out.

4.    The Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee needs to increase its membership as recommended by Dawn Casey, especially to statutorily include at least one specialist anthropologist, as the Aboriginal Heritage Act dictates.

5.    Senior positions within the Department that deal with Aboriginal sites and their assessments should have the relevant qualifications in the fields of Archaeology and Anthropology.

6.    The Aboriginal Heritage Act’s ‘Due Diligence Guidelines[1]’ should be more widely distributed and promoted.

“The findings of this report match the anecdotal evidence I and others have received in the past years. Aboriginal heritage is precious and needs to be better protected. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs must become more effective at monitoring, protecting and implementing the Act.”

The report was tabled in Parliament yesterday, access it here: http://www.robinchapple.com/effectiveness-aboriginal-heritage-act-1972-maddison-barsnsby

[1]Aboriginal Heritage Due Diligence Guidelines, 30 April 2013, Version 3.0 http://www.daa.wa.gov.au/Documents/HeritageCulture/Heritage%20management...



Wed, 26/02/2014



HON ROBIN CHAPPLE(Mining and Pastoral)[9.45 pm]: I rise tonight to commend the Parliamentary Education Office for running the successful parliamentary internship program. The parliamentary internship program has been running for 16 years, and offers tertiary students of politics, law and journalism an opportunity to closely work with members of Parliament and their staff on a particular research subject and create a research report. The subject is selected by the student from a list of themes presented by some members of this place, and the students are supervised in collaboration with the respective university. I was fortunate enough to have a young woman called Maddison Barnsby from Murdoch University as an intern in my office during the second semester of 2013. Maddison wrote “The Effectiveness of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972”. After conducting literature reviews, interviews and surveys, the main findings were as follows. The responsible authorities do not seem to be consulting with the relevant people in order to provide Aboriginal sites with the appropriate protection and the appeals process involved is not effective enough to maintain an efficient system within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Section 18 is the most contentious part of the act, and the department has time and again approved the majority of section 18 applications that are sent to it, regardless of the recommendations made by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee. The Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee has a complicated job, which is complicated further by its lack of membership. The site recording forms used by the ACMC are no longer effective, as they can actually inhibit the registration of Aboriginal sites. Problems within the department have been shown to come down to ministerial discretion, as well as the staff and their possible lack of relevant qualifications. The DAA does not effectively monitor or enforce the act, and the use of the special defence of lack of knowledge can be reduced with increased accessibility to the act’s due diligence guidelines.

Maddison concluded by offering six recommendations to help remedy the above issues, which are as follows. More resources need to be put into the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in order for it to improve its appeals, monitoring and enforcement processes. The site recording forms need to again be amended so that they are simpler to use and no longer inhibit the registration of Aboriginal sites. Decisions regarding section 18 applications need to involve the department, not just the minister, and the decisions should also be made after detailed consultations with the relevant groups of people have been sought and carried out. The Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee needs to increase its membership as recommended by Dawn Casey, especially to statutorily include at least one specialist anthropologist, as the Aboriginal Heritage Act dictates. People who hold senior positions within the department that deal with Aboriginal sites and their assessments should have the relevant qualifications in the fields of archaeology and anthropology. The Aboriginal Heritage Act’s due diligence guidelines should be more widely distributed and promoted.

The unsatisfactory protection of Aboriginal heritage sites has recently become visible again in Port Hedland. The plans for the multi-user outer harbour extension have been drawn up, and some significant information on heritage sites is missing. Better registration and easier access is imperative for protecting sites that, once destroyed, will be lost forever. We have another issue of sites that have been on the register for a very long time now being deregistered. I understand it is a complex research subject and was a challenging task for Maddison. I was deeply impressed by the professional approach that Maddison took to her analysis of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for the work she did in producing this report. I would also like to thank Maddison for the smiling face she brought to my office from time to time. On that basis, I seek leave to table the parliamentary internship report prepared by Maddison Barnsby from Murdoch University entitled “The Effectiveness of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972” and dated December 2013.

Leave granted. [See paper 1255.] (below)

Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014

On the 11th of June 2014, the State Government released the draft Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014. 

2012 13 Budget speech covering - Climate Change & the Review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act

HON ROBIN CHAPPLE(Mining and Pastoral)[3.14 pm]: I rise this afternoon to make my contribution to the 2012‑13 budget statements as handed down by the government on Thursday, 17 May 2012.

I wish to register considerable disappointment in a budget that is incredibly short-sighted in its responsibility for intergenerational equity and very transparent in its will to open the floodgates even wider to the mining and fossil fuel industries. I acknowledge that mining in or by itself is not the issue. Mining without checks and balances, however, is simply negligent. It basically says to future generations that this government cares only about its single bottom line and that it cares nothing for the health, wealth and wellbeing of our children and their children. It sends a clear message to our children that in 2012 we were either arrogant or ignorant enough to believe that our finite fossil fuel resources would go on forever and that the wealth they generated would continue to grow. We know right now in 2012 that that is not the case. I refer briefly to the comments made by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companiesin 2004. It identified that the industry was not a sustainable industry. We know that our resources are finite and that those countries that are currently buying our abundant minerals, oil and gas spoils are, at the very same time, moving faster towards renewable economies than are we in the wealthy west. We understand that we are staring down the barrel of peak oil. In our very near future, in our lifetime possibly, this boom will bust, and the legacy that our government leaves to our children will have to be interrogated. I question whether the decision makers of this government will be happy enough to tell their children that they ransomed their future to fuel our own wealth and comfort, that they gave in to industry pressure and gave away our cultural heritage and that they sold off our environmental icons and left them with only the environmental costs. If this is something that they are happy to own, let it be their conscience that owns it.

I maintain that our environmental assets are not “ownable”. They are not something that can simply be for sale to the highest bidder. It is not our right in 2012 to give away to our resource industries, or to foreign companies, the unique and diverse environment and heritage of Western Australia—yet that is exactly what this budget foreshadows. By investing heavily in fossil fuel resource industries in this state and juxtaposing that with the pathetic investment in climate change, renewable energy, sustainable transport and energy efficiency, this budget perfectly reflects the attitude of this government to best practice environmental management. It simply does not care about the legacy it leaves, not when there is money to be made. The sad thing about this is that Western Australia has so many incredible opportunities to prove itself as more than just a mining state. With renewable energy resources in huge abundance, with scientific and engineering ingenuity at an extremely high level and with so many important improvements in our lacking public transport system just waiting to be made, Western Australia could be the best sustainable state. By making comparable investment into harnessing our renewable energy resources, training and development for new “green” engineers and scientists and appropriate environmental management as into mining, resources and new infrastructure, this state could position itself perfectly for when this finite cycle of mining prospectivity does decline.

We could foster a renewable energy industry of world standard. We may not see the bust happening soon, but surely we are not so blind as to not see it happen at all. I refer to the more recent understanding that China is starting to stockpile its iron ore resources. It is also proposing to develop its own coal fields. I wish this government and the federal government would take on board the notion that we need to look after our resources and our environment and indeed our heritage.

This government talks about investing in social infrastructure through projects such as Pilbara Cities and “super towns”. I ask the government: post the mining economy, who will be living in those towns? When there are no longer hundreds of fly in, fly out workers dominating the social landscape and marginalising the local people, do we truly believe that these towns will survive? Perhaps we should look to Goldsworthy or, indeed, Shay Gap, as precedents. Are they still in existence? Are we creating a legacy of stranded assets and another asset management and maintenance backlog for local governments to deal with, because that is the sphere of government that will be lumbered with this responsibility, which will give governments yet another opportunity to beat them down for the lack of capacity to resource maintenance of these redundant assets into the future? Have we truly considered whether the sustainability of these towns will endure after the mining boom? If not, will this government take responsibility for the asset liability it leaves? Have we truly considered sustainable criteria that should be applied when developing this new infrastructure; and, if not, will this government take responsibility for the environmental footprint of these new developments? Throwing money at places to accommodate transient workforces and fossil resources industries is an untruth. It may look like this government is investing in the regions, but really it is investing in its bottom line, accommodating those who can bring money into the state in the short term, while creating a sustainability liability for the future—a market failure in the making.

We should also consider the footprint of the industries themselves. Western Australian emissions in 1990, the benchmark year for the Kyoto agreements, were at 52 —

Several members interjected.


Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: I am sorry; I am having difficulty hearing, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: So am I. The member on his feet has the call.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Western Australian emissions in 1990, the benchmark year for the Kyoto agreements, were 52 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and by 2010 this had grown to 74.3 million tonnes. Our emissions are now in the region of 85 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum. Put this in the context of the fact that new industrial development pending approval by the WA government is set to emit a further 83 million to 128 million tonnes per annum. This significant increase on top of the current rates would see our industry emissions more than double during the coming decade and more than triple from our reporting-based year of 1990. Amongst the 25 major emitters per capita, emissions vary substantially with Australia having the highest per capita emissions of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. Our per capita emissions are more than twice that of the European Union, six times those of China and 13 times those of India. WA’s average per capita greenhouse gas emissions are considerably higher than for Australia in general. This can be attributed largely to WA’s high level of economic output relative to population and the heavy emphasis this state’s economy places on resources, energy development and exports.

This government has not just watched this explosion in carbon emissions happen; this government has been actively funding and facilitating these developments to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars at the expense of the environment, with no checks and balances in place to ensure climate responsibility practices. We see in this budget as clear as day, and we see in this government, determinations to legislate for a reduction in red tape. Surely we can all call that what it really is: legislation to ensure that nothing, not culture, not heritage, not environment, not equity gets in the way of the resources boom. There can be no doubt that our transition towards a low-carbon future will be challenged by the very nature of WA’s economy, which is primarily focused on trade-exposed export industries, mostly with high emissions intensities. If little or no pressure is exerted by the state government with respect to stringent emission standards for new and existing industry, our legislative framework will continue to focus on throwing the door open to the polluting industry. The Western Australian community can assume that it will retain its disappointing status as the world’s greatest per capita carbon polluter. I do not think that that is an admirable thing to aspire to; I do not think future generations will either.

Not only is this budget not focused on reducing pollution from industry, it is also blithely blind to the need to reduce pollution from transport. It needed solid vision and financial allocation in order to expand the public transport network to meet the needs of growing demands of the population, which the government says is growing at a rate of 1 000 people a week. But despite building significant new infrastructure that will need provision for sustainable transport options and despite having outer suburban residents stranded by poor public transport options, increasing rather than reducing our reliance on the road transport and therefore our greenhouse gas emissions, this budget has failed to deliver significant new funds for major public transport projects in the draft WA transport network plan released in July 2011. Although there is a future provision for public transport associated with the new Perth stadium, the only new funding for these new projects is $3.5 million over two years for planning for light rail services. The budget papers also make it clear that the service will be planned for the northern suburbs. That is not project funding; it is merely planning funding. This government has refused to commit to building the line of the knowledge arc to reach Curtin University or the University of Western Australia; it refuses to commit to funding a rail link between the airport and the Midland line and refuses to commit a rapid transit bus route from Ellenbrook. But it is prepared to throw more than $600 million at the Roe Highway extension, facilitating more cars on roads, but it allocated less than one per cent of the sum for light rail and nothing for the airport rail link or improved bus services. The International Monetary Fund predicts that oil prices will double over the next decade and our emissions will continue to grow across all sectors. Is this an example of this government showing leadership on accessibility and emissions reduction or supporting sustainability for the residents of the outer suburbs? This government made a promise 18 months ago to bring light rail to Perth within a decade. If this is the limit of the commitment on that, I think the Western Australian public will be sorely disappointed.

So many of the decisions we make now in this place are about how we best facilitate the exploitation of our finite natural resources, and sadly, oftentimes they are debated from different perspectives under the guise of efficiency, streamlining, economic rationalism or even regional development; the government often believing that people are too gullible or ignorant to see them for what they really are. I stand in this place to let the government know that I am neither gullible nor ignorant, and that I do see how the investments are made and how the legislative changes proposed are designed to specifically open up doors to extracting industries and how they will affect current and future generations. Unfortunately, a blind man could see this. Take the review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 and the proposals to regulate and amend the act put forward by the Western Australian Minister for Indigenous Affairs. I know that the effects of the proposed amendments will be to streamline and to expedite land access approvals for the mining industry. I have met with innumerable archaeologists, anthropologists, representative bodies and Indigenous stakeholders in this area and all of them tell me that that is the case at the cost of Western Australian’s Aboriginal heritage. I know that little consultation—five short weeks—has been given for this proposal. At this point I would like to actually thank the minister for now having extended the period for consultation as a result of a number of inputs from members of the community. Recently I was out in the central desert and I was talking to a number of Indigenous people and none of them knew of the amendments to the very act that is set to protect their heritage. The proposed amendments, if adopted, will result in Aboriginal people in Western Australia being further dispossessed of their rights and interests in their unique heritage and culture, and long after the current mining boom is over, the amendments will forever be viewed as yet another indelible disgrace on Australia’s human rights record. This government knows this too. Is this something this government will be proud of in years to come? I take a moment to refer to the intent of the Aboriginal Heritage Act from the debate in 1972. Hon W.F. Willesee, a Labor MLC who was the Leader of the House and who introduced the bill, said in this Council on 11 April 1972 that the bill was designed to provide means to protect and preserve Aboriginal sites. He said —

In recent years it has become increasingly difficult in Western Australia to find means to ensure the safety of Aboriginal sites other than by giving them legal protection. In past years the isolation of many sites has been sufficient to protect them. But during the last decade the intensive mineral exploration of even the most remote parts of the State, and the more intensive agricultural and pastoral development, have revealed many sites which were formerly unknown.

Hon W.R. Withers, the Liberal Party MLC for North, said —

In rising to support the Bill … it is very necessary that we protect the objects of heritage of the Australian Aborigines. Many of these objects are interesting not only to the Aborigines but to white laymen as well as anthropologists and archaeologists.

Mr Alan Ridge said —

We in the Liberal Party recognise the desirability of this legislation because we can see that it clearly establishes the principle that the historical cultures and traditions of the Aboriginal people are worthy of recording … because they form the basis for engendering self-respect in the Aboriginal people by encouraging them to be proud of their own life style and traditions.

Those were the promises that the Liberal Party made to the Aboriginal people of Western Australia to protect their culture and to encourage pride in their history. Their culture may be proud of its history, but if we allow these amendments that are being proposed in the draft discussion paper to occur, I am really damn sure ours will not be. To add insult to injury, the Premier and Minister for State Development, Mr Colin Barnett, recently welcomed the announcement by Burrup Nitrates Pty Ltd of its final investment decision to proceed with the building of a technical ammonium nitrate plant—an estimated investment of $800 million—on the Burrup Peninsula. This open-armed welcome can be seen only as a symbol of the hold that the mining and resource industry has on our political representatives, when just a few years ago that selfsame minister was calling for an end to development on the Burrup Peninsula. I can only express my disappointment in a government willing to override the cultural value of a place to preserve the growth of industry. Just six short years ago, I heard Colin Barnett read into Parliament a heartfelt speech on the value and significance of the rock art on the Burrup Peninsula. At the time, he called it the most significant heritage and anthropological site in Australia. He called on the government to forget other areas of the Burrup Peninsula where it proposed to develop new sites. Fast forward to today and the same minister is welcoming big, damaging, polluting industry into that area—a vulnerable area where, by Mr Colin Barnett’s own admission, as much as 20 to 25 per cent of the rock art has already been destroyed. At the time now Premier Barnett penned his speech, he alluded to a study showing that some 4 700 carvings had already been destroyed in the process of industrial development. The Burrup is a unique cultural landscape and a place of great importance to Australia and the world. I consider it a tragic moment when even those who have spoken out in the past with great integrity and conviction on the value of cultural heritage can be bought off by industry interests and swayed by political pressure. Welcoming destructive, polluting, fossil-fuel industries into the area is nothing short of hypocrisy.

Consider also the proposed mining rehabilitation fund—a new act that will largely end existing requirements for mines to pay environmental bonds to cover potential remediation liabilities. Annual funding contributions, initially set at one per cent of each site’s total rehabilitation and closure liability, will replace bond requirements for all sites except those that are classified as high risk or are noncompliant with environmental conditions. In 2008, WA’s Department of Industry and Resources recommended moving to a full-cost bond system to reduce the likelihood of the government having to fund rehabilitation of abandoned mines. As I said, currently we cover about 25 per cent of the bond; however, we are going to move to this new process when the department itself was talking about going to full cost recovery. The full-cost approach would have required mining companies in Western Australia to make bond payments that would have been consistent with other jurisdictions in Australia and other developed countries. Fancy trying to force the WA mining industry to adhere to a minimum of standards upheld elsewhere—a travesty! As it is, current bonds paid by projects regulated under the WA Mining Act—a category that does not include large mining projects covered by state agreements—equate to an average of less than 25 per cent of the estimated rehabilitation and closure cost. Who pays the rest if they default? Have a guess. It is us, the taxpayers. This new proposal even goes so far as to acknowledge that the fund is not the preferred option of the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation. This department supports full-cost performance bonds. I support Minister Marmion to stand by his department on this issue, as we see our government’s proposal to make it even easier for polluting industry to shirk its responsibility for the environmental health of areas it exploits. Why? From the Department of Mines and Petroleum itself, the justification is that an advantage of the proposed mining rehabilitation fund is that it is predicted to be lower cost for industry compared with the current bonds. Another brilliant forward-thinking proposal!

Perhaps we should examine the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision to recommend that Minister for Environment Marmion conditionally approve Toro Energy Ltd’s plan to mine two uranium deposits near Wiluna. Toro Energy plans to mine up to two million tonnes of ore a year over the 14-year life of the mining operations, producing 1 200 tonnes a year of uranium oxide concentrate. Toro has not revealed estimates of future mine closure liability and has not submitted a final rehabilitation plan, yet the EPA considers it would meet its expectations. It is nothing short of extraordinary that an entity supposedly charged with environmental protection would consider a proposal that intends that post-closure liability will pass to Australian taxpayers only 10 years after mining ceases, while the impacts of the mine will endure for many centuries. Should we really ask the Western Australian public to absorb the health and liability costs that will be the legacy of a greedy government?

The Medical Association for Prevention of War recently called on Toro Energy to stop promoting the view that low-level radiation is beneficial for human health. Toro has been sponsoring a number of speaking tours by Dr Doug Boreham, who promoted radiation as an anti-carcinogenic at Paydirt’s uranium conference in Adelaide. Forty-five Australian medical doctors have written to Toro calling on it to stop promoting these marginal views. As somebody who served on the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency’s Radiation Health Committee and who has read the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation reports from America and a number of reports from France, I can clearly tell members that there is no safe level of radiation above that ascribed by background. Even our own Radiation Health and Safety Advisory Council says that we are allowed to receive only one millisievert of radiation above background levels. Here the mining industry allows its workers to receive 50 millisieverts in any one year. This is what we are opening up our country to—the kinds of companies that will actively promote self-serving science of a questionable nature to dupe the public. I urge Minister Marmion, when dealing with the objections, to make a rational call on the issue on behalf of the greater public good and not the avaricious few. Maybe we should look at the cost of deploying an inordinately large contingent of police officers to Broome to quell an almost non-existent insurrection. This is a startling example of how willing this government is to go in to bat to protect its industries and the interests of the mining industry over and above the interests of its people and the public good. The community has a right to protest and I consider the insistence of the development of an LNG processing precinct at James Price Point, despite repeated calls for the facility to be located elsewhere, a just-cause protest. Who are we really representing in this state, our people or private industry? Or can we interrogate the fact that $7.5 million of taxpayers’ money will be set aside for the establishment of a minerals research institute to promote minerals research in WA? Taxpayers, again, are being asked to foot the bill for work that will benefit the already indecently wealthy industry. The mining industry already receives $800 million of taxpayers’ money each year from the royalties for regions via the co-funded exploration incentive scheme. This is an industry that is already placing strain on other industries, businesses and service providers as well as the tourism industry, which cannot attract employees because it cannot afford to pay them a competitive rate and cannot find affordable housing for them.

This government has issues with funding many important social programs for those most in need, yet it sees fit to spend millions propping up the wealthiest end of town in our midst. These are the people who consistently top the rich list. They do not need taxpayers’ support to pave their road to gold. This government has turned its back on the poor and disadvantaged in our community, many of whom have been caught on the wrong side of the two-speed, or as now acknowledged almost three-speed, economy and have become economic refugees as a result of the mining industry’s dominance. I recently visited Port Hedland and saw firsthand some of the issues people are now facing in that community. People are living on the margins of society, pushed out of their homes and their home towns due to the fact that they simply can no longer afford to live there. Sure, hand some more money to the mining industry; it is obviously not capable of funding its own exploration! Gina Rinehart has just been named the world’s richest woman—we better throw the poor dear a dollar or two! I call on the government to provide moral and economic justification for the proposed new expenditure and to explain to Western Australian taxpayers why they are paying to support an industry that can easily afford to pay its own way. Not only that, those taxpayers will have to pay higher prices post-budget for the government services the state says it cannot afford, such as energy, water and gas provisions. The mining industry makes billions of dollars from exploiting the state’s resources—taxpayers’ resources—a large portion of which is sent overseas. Let us put this all in context against the measly investment into the state’s climate change. On one hand this government is building more and more climate sensitive infrastructure and investing more and more in damaging industry, while on the other hand it is refusing to adequately fund the Climate Change Unit, which is charged with researching and implementing climate-resilient strategies.

We need only compare the whopping $167 million allocated to the Perth Waterfront project, a hugely climate-sensitive development, with the Climate Change Unit budget of less than $13 million of which over 60 per cent goes to grants and we can see instantly how little this government thinks of the future. This budget for a unit of 20 staff members employed to deliver best practice climate change management across the state is a travesty. While the government throws money at the most polluting industries, at the same time it continues to whittle away the public service capable of monitoring, assessing and reducing emissions from these industries. Can we not see the irony in this? Could we examine this government’s refusal to support the development of a wind farm on Fremantle port, a development that could showcase the government’s commitment to support renewable energy industries in Western Australia, rather than consistently showcasing government support for the fossil fuel and mining industries? Perhaps we should put it in context against things that this government has seen fit to cut from the budget with little notice to those working in these programs. The hardship efficiency program, through energy advice, education and appliance upgrades, helped Western Australian households that were having difficulty paying for increasing energy bills. The Office of Energy—now the Public Utilities Office—which started the program in 2008, was charged with its oversight. It was then transitioned to the energy retailers Synergy and Horizon Power to deliver the program through a number of subprograms.

The program has helped a number of low-income households to address the root cause of their high utility bills and to reduce their energy use and their living costs. While the program under-delivered during its first phase, the replacement of an initial contractor with Environment House led to a significant improvement of the referral times, service delivery and program outcomes. Without this program there is a risk that demand for hardship utility grants will continue to grow and many of the same households—those in poor-quality housing with insufficient appliances—will continue to rely on subsidies from the state government to meet their basic energy costs. Instead of education, we are putting further burden back on the government and, indeed, taxpayers. Funds for the hardship efficiency program have been reallocated to the government’s new cost-of-living assistance payment. However, the new scheme will not adequately replace the old supply charge rebate. Even if it did, given there will be no support for families to learn how to better manage their energy needs, there is a very real risk that rising costs of utility services will continue to have an increasing impact on the government to fund against these hardship issues. Rather than making wise investments into energy efficiency for low-income households, this government is choosing to subsidise them. Evidently, it would rather feed a man for a day than teach him to fish.

I call on this government to at least make an attempt to understand what this mining boom is costing us. I am not calling for the government to pretend it believes in a utopian world where these kinds of industries are unnecessary, but I am calling on this government to balance the impacts of a mining industry both now and into the future by not being so quick to facilitate its greed of consumption for all that should, by rights, belong to all people. We should not allow the premise that money in the short term is good and forget what we are here for, which is to represent the people of Western Australia—all the people of this generation and beyond.

We are treated in this budget to a future fund into which we are channelling $1 billion, yet we cannot find adequate funds to look after our environment. If we cannot do that, we will not have a future and all the billion-dollar future funds in the world will not make any difference. That is my contribution to the debate on the 2012–13 Budget Statements.


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