On June 26, IPA Deputy Executive Director Daniel Wild joined Peta Credlin to discuss agricultural red tape and regulation and how it affects the farming industry.
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Below is a transcript of the interview.
Well, that’s got a story that should have farmers, miners, landowners, all of us across Australia fuming. We discussed it on the program last week. Western Australia’s Cultural Heritage Act, which will come into force on the 1st of July. It will require farmers to pay an Aboriginal consultant up to $160 an hour to get a permit to do anything on their land that might disturb more than 50 centimeters of soil. So, that’s digging a fence, post holes, planting trees, clearing a track. You know what it’s like. Now, the new laws won’t just affect the owners of big cattle stations, but if you’re on a block of more than 1,100 meters, so that’s a suburban home block in a place like Perth, well, you are also dragged in. And the penalties can include for an individual $25,000 up to $1 million and fines of 250,000 to 10 million if you are a company, including jail time.
Now, the opposition to these new laws is strong. A significant petition by the West Australians Pastoralists and Graziers Association, 30,000 signatures in just over two weeks, making it one of the biggest petitions in WA history. A lot of concern that these sorts of laws will go across the nation if the voice gets up. Joining me now to discuss this from regional WA, deputy director at the Institute of Public Affairs, Daniel Wild. Daniel, I know you are on the ground. You’re talking to affected communities over there. I spoke to farmers last week. The rancor is significant. What’s the reaction you’ve got at these meetings?
Look, here in Katanning, where we are today, farmers feel absolutely ambushed by these changes. They haven’t been consulted properly. They don’t know how this is going to affect them, and look, ultimately these are the people that are responsible for putting food on our plates, feeding the nation, feeding the world, earning critical export revenue that then goes into schools, roads, hospitals, and other important social infrastructure that everybody benefits from. This is just more regulation, more red tape, an entirely new, massive unelected, unaccountable, bureaucratic apparatus that basically renders any notion of private property obsolete in Western Australia.
And this is only going to do one thing for food prices, push them further up because the costs are going to go up, prices will go up, feeding inflation, feeding interest rates. This is a massive cost and a massive hit to the Western Australian economy. And as you identified, Peta, this is not just a state issue, this is a matter of national economic and social significance. Western Australia is the biggest producer of barley, of canola, of wheat, a major player in the livestock game, which has already been hit with a ban on live sheep exports. So, this is going to have ramifications right across the country.
So, how did this legislation slip through? Because I don’t recall it going through the Parliament. I don’t recall any sort of debate and I certainly don’t recall it being debated at the election either, but there’s a big community debate going on, but when it’s put to the new premier, are you going to back down, are you going to extend out the consultation period? To date, he said he’s not for turning. This will come in on the 1st of July come hell or high water.
That’s right. It’s this Saturday, it’s going to come in no matter what happens, and what we’ve been hearing from the community hearing cat containing and other parts of regional WA is there’s been no proper consultation on this issue. The opposition had just two days to consider the bill when it first came in, a 250-page document and then consultation only took place after legislation was implemented, and the feedback to that consultation was so negative and the anger and the frustration of the community was so overwhelming that the government released the results of that consultation a day before Easter in order to bury any discussion of it.
And that’s the attitude they seem to have towards farmers and agriculturalists and the broader mining sector, which is the absolute basis of the economy and society in Western Australia and across the rest of Australia. Of course, McGowan was reelected and the labor government was reelected in the landslide on the back of COVID, but the problem here is they’re taking advantage of what the Western Australians voted for. This wasn’t discussed before the election. There’s been no proper consultation, and I used the word ambush before because that’s how people here in Katanning and other communities really feel.
Just before we go, I spoke to farmers, as I said, last week, a lot of them saying to me that these local Aboriginal bodies that they now need to literally get a permit from to dig a post hole and to fix a fence or any sort of thing that disturbs more than 50 centimeters of land, these bodies haven’t even been set up. They don’t know who the elders are they’re supposed to negotiate with. They’ll all be money-making enterprises now, able to charge for their permits. It’s crazy that this is happening on Saturday and the very basics aren’t even clear.
Well, that’s exactly right, and this is what happens when you don’t consult, when you don’t have a proper process, when you appear to have a government that’s not listening to the community and their concerns, and this is just layer upon layer. This is just the next thing that’s happening to agriculturalists in Western Australia and across the country. They’re already burdened with massive amounts of red tape. I mentioned before the ban on live sheep exports, which had no proper consultation around it, and it’s another example of the inner city elites that are taking everything we have in our nation for granted. Farmers represent the best of us as a nation and as a people, hardworking, independent, resilient. They earn the revenue, they make sure that we’re fed and they export that around the world to nourish those who are in much worse off conditions than us, and we’re going to be very sorry and governments are going to rue the day that they took advantage of our agriculturalists and farmers like this because this is going to be the death knell for many in this industry.
You are absolutely spot on, Daniel. Well, thank you for being there and that taking up the fight for farmers.
This transcript with Daniel Wild talking on Credlin – Sky News from 26 June 2023 has been edited for clarity.