Jun 20, 2005

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2005-2006 – Heritage Issues


Consideration in Detail – Heritage Issues

20 June 2005

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.44 p.m.)—I wish to raise the issue of heritage and the appalling performance of the government when it comes to protecting Australia’s heritage. We have seen only nine sites listed on the National Heritage List. The government’s failure in this area is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that they had a special provision in the legislation to list world heritage sites and yet they chose not to simply because they were, once again, complacent.

Twelve months after becoming the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Minister Campbell still has not met with his key advisory body: the National Cultural Heritage Forum. What an extraordinary performance! This body has not met—not once. It is not surprising that the minister does not want to face his critics, because this is what forum members have been saying. Emeritus Professor John Mulvaney, Australia’s pre-eminent expert on Australia’s prehistory, said in the Canberra Times on 15 June:

The public should realise the cavalier and biased manner in which the new Heritage Act is administered.

Professor Simon Molesworth, the Chairman of the Australian Council of National Trusts, on 12 March said:

The credibility of the Government’s heritage system is in question thanks to this grinding halt—

that is, the grinding halt in protecting places. Professor Bill Logan, former chairman of the National Cultural Heritage Forum, said:

In a single act, the federal Environment and Heritage Minister—

that is, Minister Campbell—

threatens to bring the entire national heritage list into disrepute.

The Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology speaking about the Howard government’s roadworks at Anzac Cove, which perhaps best exemplify the government’s contempt for looking after our heritage, said:

… AIMA was alarmed by the recent damage to this near pristine archaeological site. The current works program has done more than compromise the archaeological integrity of fragile relics situated along the length of the effected road area … may have impacted on archaeological remains within the near-shore areas.

They continued:

If the current management practices are allowed to continue more of Australia’s and Turkey’s cultural heritage will be lost.

With regard to Anzac Cove, we saw an absolute farcical situation whereby damage was done to one of World War I’s best-preserved battlefields. During last Friday’s Senate inquiry, it became clear that the Department of Environment and Heritage was not even made aware of the Howard government’s August 2004 request for roadworks. Perhaps what is even worse is that departmental officers were not aware of the damage caused until they read about it in the Daily Telegraph—this is according to their own evidence at that hearing. Heritage considerations were not borne in mind at all—which is extraordinary.

I think it is up to the parliamentary secretary here, because he has been given the berth on this issue and Minister Truss has been exiled. It is extraordinary that the Minister for the Environment and Heritage was silent when it came to the issue of Anzac Cove and the destruction that was caused at that site. Why has the Howard government failed so appallingly when it comes to heritage protection, when it comes to the listing of sites and when it comes to meetings of the National Cultural Heritage Forum? The only time that the minister has intervened and shown some leadership was the reactionary move to intervene against the Victorian government’s decision on alpine grazing. I would be interested in the parliamentary secretary’s view of that issue and how that reflected this government’s attitude towards our heritage.