Fracking and Aboriginal heritage opinions

Broome Advertiser

What is your policy on fracking?

Labor: Josie Farrer

WA Labor will put a moratorium on all fracking in WA until a complete and thorough public inquiry is held examining all the scientific evidence around the safety and environmental impacts as well. It is also important to note that we completely support the right of traditional owners and believe they should play a significant role in any approval process.

Liberals: Warren Greatorex

I’m not a fan of fracking. However with my experience in working in the mining sector with the legislative regulations and strict OHS policies in WA, such methods can be achieved in a safe working environment.

Nationals: Rob Houston

The WA Nationals passed a motion at our State Conference giving land-holders a right of veto in relation to fracking. I would go even further: any company wishing to frack in the Kimberley would need a social licence, which would require broad community support. The industry has some way to go before this would be the case.

I don’t think fracking is likely to be economic in the Kimberley any time soon given the price of oil and the cost and logistical challenges of getting Kimberley gas to the market. The Nationals WA are focused on supporting industries that do have strong commercial potential in the Kimberley which is why we are investing $610 million into regional tourism and $277 million in agriculture to build on the success of our Water for Food program.

Greens: Liz Vaughan

It has always been the position of the WA Greens that unconventional gas exploration and development should not be allowed anywhere in WA because the risks to our water, our land, our health and our precious places are too great.

This is most true in the Kimberley.

Here we have some of the most beautiful and untouched wilderness in the world, and yet this Liberal National Government has released tenements in Windjana Gorge National Park, Tunnel Creek National Park, Devonian Reef Conservation Park, and Brooking Gorge Conservation Park.

There must be extensive community consultation and research into the practice before any further developments can be made. It is my firm belief that community consultation at this level would demonstrate that the invasive practice of gas fracking has no community licence in WA.

Landholders, leaseholders and traditional owners should be given legally binding rights to reject gas activities on their land and communities who have already declared themselves gasfield-free should be recognised. The right to negotiate should go hand in hand with the right to oppose.

One Nation: Keith Wright

Fracking is one of those words that has crept into the modern vocabulary and in certain areas evokes emotive reactions in sectors of the community.

It is a fairly involved process as I understand and there are a vast number of professional people vastly more qualified than I when it comes to the decision-making process.

I am told the geology of our land in WA, especially in the Kimberley (and Pilbara) is structurally different to that in the eastern part of the country and as such, by its very nature, needs to be treated differently.

At all times, we should and must use the absolutely best professional advice in almost anything we as either a community or a government contemplates proceeding with. As people with the power to make important decisions, all politicians must enlist this help.

We must assess the best information placed before us and make a decision based on the relevant information. Anything new or comparatively new is always looked at with scepticism.

Independent: Kai Jones

Do I agree with it? No.

Observation indicates it’s promoted as a guaranteed, safe method for extracting oil and/or natural gas, with no adverse effects to atmosphere, geology or groundwater.

If as much money was invested in renewable energy as there is in exploiting fossil fuel resources we could transition to renewable energy a lot faster. Resource companies may hype job losses as a major factor for not adapting their traditional business model to current renewable technologies but what are they going to do when there's nothing left to dig up and sell because they've already dug it up and sold it?

Among other things my climate change and environment policy outlines adaptation mechanisms for resource companies to transition to renewable energy.

Concerns were recently raised over the DAA’s handling of an Aboriginal heritage assessment of Broome. Do you think there needs to be a review of the Aboriginal heritage assessment process? What would your policy be relating to this?

Labor: Josie Farrer

The core of the process is dysfunctional and that needs to be reformed.

The rights of traditional owners must be respected. However, there must be transparency in all applications and the DAA must be required to improve their communication with potentially affected stakeholders.

In this instance, the Shire of Broome and traditional owners were not adequately consulted over the assessment that caused “fear” and “division” in the town.

WA Labor’s plan is to reform that process so that local communities, local government, local indigenous landholders are far more in control of any such processes. If you get rid of the Perth bureaucracy running the show in relation to these things, you certainly can improve the process significantly.

I also believe protection arrangements should not be left to a bureaucracy based in Perth. If the Perth bureaucracy is not controlling the process in relation to these things, you certainly can improve the process significantly.

Liberals: Warren Greatorex

I strongly believe DAA’s Heritage Protection Assessment processes need to be a reviewed to ensure a better and effective consultation process with the relevant community stakeholders, creating transparency with the objective of having a fair outcome.

Nationals: Rob Houston

The DAA has become dysfunctional as a government agency and has consistently mismanaged and bungled heritage site application processes such as that over Broome. There’s also significant uncertainty in the legislation, which causes angst in both indigenous applicants and developers who are affected.

I would make the system more efficient and certain, ensuring that it is fair to both indigenous people with heritage interests and developers.

I would like to see an independent regulator have authority for heritage site applications, clearer definitions around the definition of a “site” and close linkages to native title.

In the Broome application, this would have meant the application to register Broome as a site would be quickly dismissed because it was not supported by Yawuru.

Greens: Liz Vaughan

It is clear the status quo is not working, and it is my position as an archaeologist and a representative of the WA Greens that we need to completely rewrite this 45-year-old piece of legislation to reflect the contemporary needs of all West Australians.

Striking a fair and balanced solution to WA’s long-contested heritage management system will create more certainty, serving to benefit all heritage stakeholders in Western Australia, including industry.

Aboriginal heritage and culture must be properly recognised, and afforded the same level of protection as European heritage.

There must be stronger rights and recourse built into the legislation for Aboriginal people and pro-heritage stakeholders as it is currently heavily weighted towards streamlining industry. This imbalance has had the opposite effect, as disaffected parties have made use of the courts and media to achieve outcomes of protection, ultimately slowing development.

The way we talk about Aboriginal heritage needs to change; it shouldn’t be seen as a barrier. As one of the world’s oldest living cultures we need legislation that both works, and respects that significance.

One Nation: Keith Wright

Aboriginal heritage assessment is also a process that is very emotive in some circles.

A few years ago, I studied law for a couple of years. At that state the Native Title Act was fairly new. Most comment that I heard was that most seemed to think the NTA was written in a manner that could be improved.

Whether this perception and opinion is still current is debatable but I do know any heritage assessment, either Aboriginal or general, is very involved and time-consuming.

The public consultation takes time, the perusing of the masses of papers and information is a huge job.

Like all process that is to be respected and worthwhile, this takes time and each and everyone as individuals tends to get frustrated with what appears undue delay.

Independent: Kai Jones

All process must be contextually fair, transparent, genuine, accountable and have appropriate community engagement.

Process must not be rushed, incomplete, inconsistent, obfuscated or have unsuitable terms of reference.

Decisions must be based on objective, appropriate and reliable information which clarifies and confirms impact (if any) on existing residential or commercial use.

Media publications must be factually and contextually accurate with no social engineering, scaremongering or selective quoting.

Contrary to existing perception, native title and heritage assessment outcomes may not always result in adverse outcome for entities within the area bound by the decision.

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