Article by Dan Jervis-Bardy for The West Australian
The development of new federal Aboriginal cultural heritage protections is being slowed to help avoid fuelling confusion about the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and prevent the WA debacle erupting on a national scale.
Mr Lowe told The West that a decision was made to put the brakes on and take a step back after accepting that drawing up options so early on had been “pre-emptive”.
The Native Title Council chief executive said “in hindsight” it would have been better to take time to assess what was happening in the States and Territories, including WA.
He said the process also needed clean air — something that wouldn’t be possible after WA’s cultural heritage laws become entangled in debate about the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
“We had already slowed it down, so why would we speed it up when that is playing out?” he said.
“There is not enough attention to it because people are consumed by the Voice and it gets conflated.”
While Ms Plibersek’s statement about updating existing legislation appears to be a watering down of a previous commitment to new standalone laws, Mr Lowe is reserving his judgment.
“It all gets down to the detail,” he said. “What does the update look like? It could be a few words or it could be a comprehensive reform.”
Mr Lowe said the alliance wasn’t forming views about particular options at this stage.
He said any changes must be rooted in the principle of protecting First Nations heritage.
But they must also work — and be embraced by — the broader community.
“There is no interest from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to shut industry and development,” he said.
“(First Nations) Heritage should be treated as Australia’s heritage. Everyone has an interest in protecting it. Everyone values it and everyone protects it.”
In a statement to The West, Ms Plibersek’s spokeswoman reiterated that it was consulting thoroughly with First Nations groups and the process was in its “early stages”.
“We won’t be rushed, and we won’t cut corners. Everyone will get their chance to have their say,” the spokeswoman said.