Legislative Council: Thursday, February 08, 2024


Aboriginal Heritage

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:36): I seek leave to make a brief explanation prior to asking a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs about the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: The opposition understands that there have been at least two section 23 requests for authorisation under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 within the same region near Hawker that have recently been decided upon by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The opposition also understands that these section 23 requests for authorisation have involved the same Aboriginal group claiming the same or similar cultural heritage values at each site.

The projects are Strikeline Resources (Taruga Minerals) Flinders Project, a low-impact exploration drilling program whose request for authorisation was rejected, and the Neuroodla Energy Project by Yadlamalka Energy, which is a large-scale infrastructure development project with far more substantial and permanent disturbance than that proposed by Strikeline Resources, which was approved. My questions are:

1. Through what process, and based on what information and recommendations to the minister, were the decisions made to either reject or approve these requests on each occasion in line with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988?

2. Were the decisions made on an equitable and merit-based approach; can the minister explain?

3. Will the minister release any details surrounding his decision?

4. Did the minister receive any independent advice from the South Australian Aboriginal Heritage Committee regarding the Flinders project, and if so, what was the nature of that advice?

5. Did the minister receive any advice from the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation division in his department regarding the Flinders project, and if so, what was the nature of that advice?

6. Did the minister receive any advice from the Crown Solicitor's Office regarding the Flinders project and Neuroodla section 23 applications? If so, please indicate that advice.

7. How long did it take to make a decision on the Flinders project application for authorisation from when they initially made their application and, given that, does the minister feel that there are any deficiencies in the section 23 request for authorisation process under the act?

8. Is the Malinauskas Labor government's focus on establishing an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament influencing decision-making at all under the Aboriginal Heritage Act?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:39): There were many questions throughout there, so I will try to answer as many as I can. I will start with the most recent: does anything in the First Nations Voice legislation that we passed last year influence considerations or decisions made under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988? The answer to that is no.

In relation to questions about was advice taken from the South Australian State Aboriginal Heritage Committee in relation to section 23 and section 13 applications, in this case yes and I think in all cases yes. Is advice received from the department in relation to such applications? I think in all my experience the answer is yes for those, as it is in this case.

The honourable member made a number of assertions and premises in coming to her questions, and I think the way she has expressed them is unfortunate and a fundamental misunderstanding of Aboriginal heritage in this nation if the honourable member thinks that two different sites, regardless of their geographic proximity, with two different projects have exactly the same Aboriginal heritage value and values to traditional owners. That is not the case, and it is a fundamental misunderstanding that I hope is accidental from the honourable member.

In relation to decisions that are made, they are made under the requirements of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 to take into account relevant information that is put forward. Relevant information is sought under a consultation process under section 13 of that act from traditional owners and other interested Aboriginal persons. It is generally a very, very extensive consultation process that does take some time. As I have said, advice is then, as is the usual course of the process, sought from the Aboriginal Heritage Committee, and eventually it finds its way for a minister to make a decision.