Institute of Public Affairs’ Deputy Executive Director Daniel Wild joined Peta Credlin to discuss the impact of Western Australia’s ill-conceived cultural heritage laws, red tape and the potential impact of the Voice to Parliament.
WA Premier Roger Cook admitted in early July that “our Aboriginal cultural heritage laws do the same thing as the Voice.” These new laws mandate that property owners must obtain permission from local Indigenous authorities before even minor works can occur on their own land if it is slightly larger than a suburban block.
IPA research has shown that West Australian farmers were already the most regulated in the nation before the cultural heritage laws came into effect, which are set to only make it worse.
To find out more about the IPA’s research visit: https://ipa.org.au/publications-ipa/research-papers/overregulation-in-western-australias-agricultural-sector
Below is a transcript of the interview.
Let’s go though first to these property right assaults in WA and that are likely to go national if federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek has her way. Now, you’ll recall about a month or so ago, I invited the president of WA’s Pastoralists and Grzier’s Association, Tony Seabrook, onto this program to discuss the state’s New Heritage Act laws, which will force landowners to pay an Aboriginal consultant up $160 an hour to get approval to dig a hole, do a fence, even clear a fire break on their land.
In response to the imposition of these laws on farmers, Seabrook started one of the state’s biggest ever petitions in history, over 30,000 people signing his call to repeal these laws. After appearing on this program, the story went national, becoming a key talking point for the No campaign against the PM’s Voice to the Parliament. Joining me now to get the latest from the ground is Tony Seabrook himself and someone who’s also joined his campaign, the Deputy Director of the Institute of Public Affairs, Daniel Wild. Gents, welcome to the program. Tony, I’ll start with you if I can. Yesterday, hundreds and hundreds of farmers gathered in the West Australian town of Katanning. The event was called Let Farmers Keep Farming. They said they’re under attack from state and federal government’s cultural heritage laws. You had some delegates there. What’s the latest? Is the anger on the ground growing or abating? Is the government listening to your concerns?
Well, Peta, it’s growing. The anger’s growing and look, since we spoke last time, I think it’s become obvious to all that this is the clunkiest piece of legislation that’s ever been dreamed of. If you wanted to write a new rule book on how a new Premier might destroy his government in the shortest time possible, Mr. Cook is your example. He’s steadfast. He stood by this particular piece of legislation and the polls have turned against him. I think he’s gradually beginning to wake up because there were a few cracks in the system that appeared this afternoon.
Unfortunately, this legislation was put in by his predecessor. I’m sure he voted for it, but he’s carrying the baby now. Daniel, of course, talk from Tanya Plibersek. She wants to take this model and roll it out right across the country, restricting all Australians about what they can do in their land. What do you think of that?
Yeah, that’s right Peta, it’s an assault on property rights. There was a review undertaken last year into indigenous cultural heritage and the government agreed to every single one of those recommendations, bar one. The one they did not agree to was a minor administrative matter. Just to give you three examples of what this would do if they go ahead with it. The first is that it would allow federal government to override state government approvals. Secondly, it would allow local indigenous groups or their representatives to undertake litigation against major projects. Thirdly, it would see the commencement of truth telling, of cultural truth telling as it’s described in the review of Maricatta. That’s part of the voice treaty truth process that’s outlined and advocated by this government.
It would be WA’s Heritage Laws on steroids nationwide. Now don’t forget, Tanya Plibersek has form in this area. As soon as she became minister, immediately, she put 18 major coal and gas projects on her hit list. These are projects that were already in or already had been approved under previous governments. We estimated that would come at a cost her over $100 billion to our economy. Looks like these heritage laws are just another step down that anti-development direction.
Tony, I want to pick up your petition and your activism because I think it’s had a huge impact in a relatively short time in the West. There was a shocker of a poll put out yesterday in Western Australia by a former labor pollster, Utting, Utting Polling Company, that says supporting WA for labor is down 20%. Did you think you’d have such an impact?
Well, Peta, we certainly hoped we might, but we were not guaranteed that, but I’d say to Tanya Plibersek, just have a good look at what’s happened over here because this is what will happen now. The farming community regardless has had a massive attack on private property rights, an intrusion that should never have occurred. It’s a vast overreach and there’s not a shadow of doubt that the government is beginning to wake up to the fact that they’ve made a rotten muck of this. The minister put out a statement which will appear in the paper tomorrow, that he’s now prepared to sit down and have a meaningful discussion about constructing a new piece or amending legislation in such a way that we might as farmers be able to work with it. We will be putting to him exactly how we feel about this. Not on free hold land. No sir. If it’s government land, that’s fine, but free hold land, is free hold land. Stop messing it out with the right to own property and to use it to the best advantage that the owner might like to use it for.
All right, my team, I’m going to put that poll back up on the screen because I said there was a 20% movement in primary, but on 2PP, there’s a 15% turnaround that would make the opposition, which is two men and a dog in the lower house of the parliament, I mean the liberal party, it literally has two state MPs in the lower house. That would put them into government. I don’t know how you run a government with two people, but there you go. The National Party, of course, are over there as well. They’ve had some improvement there, but a 15% turnaround there is unbelievable. As I said, Utting research, Utting is a former labor pollster, so this is not a Mickey Mouse poll.
Another poll too on broader national issues, Daniel, about the Voice, the Voice in Western Australia and the impact of these heritage laws. It says 54%, so a majority say, these heritage laws being played out in WA will influence them to vote no. They’re going to vote no because of what they’ve seen with these laws. Only 16% are saying these laws will make them want to vote yes. This has been a massive own goal, hasn’t it?
Yeah, it has been an own goal, Peta, and I agree with everything that Tony said then. I would just say that congratulations to the work of the PGA and Tony Seabrook and the spotlight that you’ve shone in this issue and Sky News and the IPA been in the regions making sure that this gets the proper attention. You’re 100% right, Peta. It’s an own goal. I think it’s more than that as well. It shows how brazen the left have become and how shameless they are in doing this. When I was in Katanning talking with you a few weeks ago, Peta, just before these laws came in, I made the observation that Premier Cook was basically taking advantage of the massive majority that Mark McGowan had won on the back of COVID. He didn’t win that big majority to do this. He won it because Western Australians backed him in on the handling of COVID and he’s taken advantage of the community. He’s not consulted properly. This won’t just impact farmers. It’s going to be widespread throughout the community. We also see this with the Voice, Peta, how brazen the left have become to want to insert into our constitution, brick permanently into our constitution, a race-based body, something that was unthinkable just a few years to go. It shows what leadership can do. We’re seeing the community now push back.
Tony, you got a lot of support here on Sky News. I wrote about this in the Australian newspaper, I reckon about two months ago. Huge support there as well. What can we do to keep helping you and farmers across pushing back on these laws? What could we do?
Look, I think you’re doing it right now. I think that our labor government over here was given a mandate that was way too great. The arrogance of this government, the way they ran that legislation through the parliament, they’re now waking up to the fact that we do have a voice, not a loud one, but we have the opportunity to be on programs like this and others and to highlight the stupidity of what they’re doing and the harm that it’s going to do to the whole of Australia and the divisiveness. Little country towns and these so-called LACHS that this current government wants to put in place, they don’t want to do this. This will create acrimony between the farming community and the local indigenous because there will have to be friction there.
It was so poorly thought out and we said to the minister before the Act actually came into play, don’t do this. You are going to do more harm. The flow on to the Voice, it’s been mammoth over here and other people are watching and they’re concerned that if this can happen without a Voice, what the hell is it going to look like after the Voice? As the Prime Minister said, it would be a very brave prime minister that ignored a recommendation from the Voice. It’s all tied together in such a way that he had to wake up.
You are spot on, Tony. I think what Tanya Plibersek has done by entering this debate at a national level is going to bring the pain that Labor’s seeing in WA right across the country on the Voice on this issue. Tony Seabrook, well done to you. Thank you for your time. Daniel Wild and the IPA, well done from getting go.
Daniel was over here a few months ago. We met over here. They’re a great organization. They’ve done some terrific work and it turns out the Western Australian farmers are the most over regulated in the whole of Australia and this is what happens with the sort of government that we’ve got. While I’ve got the chance, Daniel, thanks, mate. You did a great job. Peta, thank you also for the opportunity.
You’re very welcome. You’re very gracious, Tony Seabrook, and I was going to say Daniel to you and the IPA, thank you for also taking this issue nationally. Thank you both for your time tonight.
This transcript with Daniel Wild talking on Credlin – Sky News from 25 July 2023 has been edited for clarity.