May 31, 2006

“That is Right” – Campbell admits he broke the law

“That is Right” – Campbell admits he broke the law


31 May 2006

The Environment and Heritage Minister, Senator Campbell, has admitted at Senate Estimates he broke the laws governing heritage protection.

Under section 324J of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Minister must gazette a decision to list a place on the National Heritage List within 20 business days of receiving advice from the Australian Heritage Council. There is no discretion in the Act – the Minister cannot just delay announcing decisions for his own political benefit.

At Estimates, Senator Campbell did not deny he decided in October 2005 to place Old Parliament House on the National Heritage List.

So far it’s been more than 200 days since the decision and the clock is ticking – but he still hasn’t announced his heritage decision over Old Parliament House. Senator Campbell is clearly waiting for a politically opportunistic moment.

The Minister seems unconcerned he’s broken the law, telling Senate Estimates “a number of decisions have not met those timelines. That is right.”

Old Parliament House is a critical part of Australia’s heritage, and deserves protection through the National Heritage List. It was the home of Australia’s Federal Parliament for more than 60 years, and is now recognised as one of Australia’s premier cultural heritage tourist attractions.

Old Parliament House was witness to much of Australia’s political history. It reverberates with memories of Whitlam’s dismissal, John Curtin’s wartime leadership and the days when the Liberal and National Parties were separate entities.

The Environment and Heritage Minister has always used his portfolio as a political plaything.

He tried to protect cattle grazing in the Victorian Alps against advice from his own Department, he stopped a $220 million renewable energy project in Victoria to potentially protect one parrot every 667 years and suppressed the recommendations of a major climate change report.

At the same time, he has presided over Australia’s greatest heritage scandal – the desecration of Anzac Cove.