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Mr McGowan said it would not be feasible for the state to stop all section 18 approvals until the new law was passed since many applications were uncontentious and did not always involve mining companies.

“You stop all approvals you would stop all sorts of things from footpaths, to bridges to repairs on roads and that sort of thing from taking place,” he said.

“Clearly we just need to have a balanced approach and ensure that we send the message, which we have, to industry that they need to do better in the future, industry understands that full well.

“A lot of those things, repairs to roads, repairs to bridges, are mining projects, therein is the issue. But we sent a very strong message to the industry and they accept it and they listen to it. That they need to do better. They understand that. They’re aware they are on notice.

“We look forward to bringing in laws that avoid what happened at Juukan Gorge happening again.”

The state government has been adding legislative backdoors to recent section 18 approvals this year that would mean they could be terminated once the law was passed.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt has backed a suggestion from the report that mining companies should not include gag clauses in agreements with traditional owners.

He also said on Wednesday he would not be considering applications for section 18s where native title parties had not been appropriately consulted.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA chief executive Paul Everingham said a moratorium would be a blunt instrument.

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“WA is an attractive investment destination for many industries, partly because of the confidence offered by our stable political conditions,” he said.

“Recommendations for things like moratoriums have the capacity to erode some of that confidence.”

Mr Everingham said the CME also did not agree with a recommendation to strengthen federal oversight of Aboriginal heritage.

“Imposing another layer of regulation will not ‘fix’ issues identified, nor will it deliver any improvements to heritage outcomes in WA,” he said.

The PKKP people call for broader changes in the mining sector

The report called for Rio Tinto to reconstruct the Juukan rock shelters and pay reparations to the PKKP people.

PKKP Aboriginal Corporation spokesman Burchell Hayes said they hoped the inquiry’s findings would prompt a reset in the mining sector and its interactions with Aboriginal people.

“Particularly in the relationships between traditional owners and mining companies; and pave a way forward for more equal partnerships fostered by greater respect and mutual benefit,” he said.

“This inquiry has elicited crucial new information and provided a fuller understanding of the circumstances of this tragedy – details that may have otherwise never come to light.

WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt speaks at the Business News state of the economy lunch.

WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt speaks at the Business News state of the economy lunch.Credit:Peter de Kruijff

“We have started the long road to healing and repairing our relationship with Rio Tinto, but there is still a long way to go. We remain steadfast in our conviction that a tragedy like this should never happen again; and that Rio Tinto now needs to turn its words into actions.”

Three senior Rio Tinto executives stood down in the wake of the cultural disaster and the company’s chairman Simon Thompson said it was working hard to find a remedy with the PKKP people.

“As a business, we are committed to learning from this event to ensure the destruction of heritage sites of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again,” he said.

The world’s magnifying glass is firmly on Rio Tinto and its commitment to indigenous groups around the globe, as Apache people in the US state of Arizona fight the development of one of the largest copper resources in Northern America; a joint venture between Rio and BHP.

Aboriginal Heritage Act set for change

Mr Wyatt has expressed disappointment he was not able to finish off the new Aboriginal Heritage Act before he left politics.

He is hopeful the long-delayed laws will be ratified in the near future.

“I would have liked to have gotten that through of course while I was the minister, ultimately it is unfinished business for the parliament, I think the parliament, regardless of its form next term, stands ready to deal with that,” Mr Wyatt said.

“I think the time has come and I think 2021 may well be the year it makes its way through parliament.”

The responsibility for pushing through the act will be left with a new minister, but may not be one who, like Mr Wyatt, is Aboriginal.

A returned Labor government could feature several first-time First Nations members but Mr Wyatt said he didn’t want to see someone with not as much government experience be set-up for a loss.

“It’s actually a benefit to have an Aboriginal background in the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio, but also you do need to have some experience in the parliament with government processes so you don’t want to put people into ministerial roles they may not be ready for, you set them up for failure or embarrassment,” he said.

“We can and we have seen over the years Aboriginal Affairs ministers who haven’t been Aboriginal … who have done a good job.

“It’s not a prerequisite, it’s a preference I suspect. I don’t want to have a potentially new Aboriginal person in the parliament they may not be ready for, so we need to, I guess, balance both of these things.”

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