Sep 8, 2003

Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (no. 1) 2002: Consideration


8 September 2003

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.45 p.m.) —I rise to support the comments of my colleague the shadow minister and member for Banks and place on record my disappointment that Labor’s amendments were not adopted in the Senate. Labor have taken a very principled view on this bill. We have done that to retain our own heritage because, after all, the Australian Heritage Commission and the Register of the National Estate are important icons of Labor achievements of the Whitlam government and of, in particular, my good friend and mentor, the Hon. Tom Uren, who, as Minister for Urban and Regional Development, established the foundation legislation. This legislation was indeed courageous because it ensured the key point of the independence of the Australian Heritage Commission. That independence was critical because it ensured that the merits of the protection of a place and its associated values would be the key determinant factor, not politics.

As for what these changes have done, it is unfortunate that the government has made a predictable response but it is sad that the minor parties, in particular the Australian Democrats, have folded once again on this. They parade around electorates like mine as the great protectors of the environment and heritage but the truth is they are obsessed by politics and deal making and, just like the sell-out over the GST, we have seen this sell-out over this issue. The replacement of the independent Australian Heritage Commission with an advisory council, the Australian Heritage Advisory Council, will mean that in effect the minister will have ultimate power. This is a considerable watering down of the protection which has been there for the last generation of Australians. I reiterate the call of the member for Banks for the Register of the National Estate to be transferred across in full, as was promised by the Commonwealth but not delivered in this legislation. We will be vigilant in ensuring that that occurs.

I congratulate the member for Banks, the new shadow minister for heritage and territories, on his stance and the role that he has played. I also place on record my admiration of the role played by the member for Wills, the shadow minister for the environment, who took a courageous, principled stance on this bill. It is a pity that the Australian Democrats cannot learn from people such as the member for Wills regarding this issue. We in the Australian Labor Party will continue to monitor the implementation of this legislation and continue to stand up on this side of the House for the important values that we place upon the heritage of this nation.