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MP accuses First Nations of ‘extortion’ over land claims

February 9, 2024 7:15 am in by
Western Victorian MP Bev McArthur (from left), John Roskam from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and Western Victoria Senator Sarah Henderson (Facebook/Bev McArthur).

Outspoken conservative MP Bev McArthur has lashed out at First Nations groups who she says are obstructing development in the state.

The member for Western Victoria claims registered Aboriginal parties are using “extortion” over land holders and managers through cultural heritage laws.

“The consequence is soaring local infrastructure costs, rising house prices and crippled construction,” she said in a fiery parliamentary speech.

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“Victorian cultural heritage laws have lost the confidence of many in the farming, development and local government sectors, who believe some registered Aboriginal parties lack oversight, professionalism, and can be guilty of obstruction, hostility and even extortion.”

The coalition complaint largely rests on delays to developments that arise from having to secure agreements with recognised First Nations groups prior to planning approval being granted for roads, homes and infrastructure projects.

“This has resulted in a system where the development process is more delayed and less certain, and where the cost is more expensive and the project less viable,” she said.

As debate around how to commemorate January 26 again swirled earlier this year, the coalition announced on the Sunday before Australia Day that it was ditching its long held support for a treaty in Victoria with First Nations people. A key reason cited for the backflip were concerns of ‘secret’ land use deals between Traditional Owners and government.

Critics within government made much of the timing, including the member for Geelong Christine Couzens who questioned if the Victorian coalition was taking its policy lead from federal opposition leader Peter Dutton, particularly in the wake of his successful sinking of the Voice referendum.

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Previous interventions into Aboriginal affairs from Bev McArthur have earnt her a rebuke from Liberal leader John Pesutto, who last year described as “hurtful” her comments suggesting Indigenous people should be grateful for the “wonderful things” brought by colonisation.

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