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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories - 14/09/2011 - Administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928

WEIRICK, Professor James Murray, President, Walter Burley Griffin Society

WILLETT, Ms Rosemarie Elizabeth, Committee Member, Canberra Chapter, Walter Burley Griffin Society

KENT, Dr Bruce Eric, Committee Member, Canberra Chapter, Walter Burley Griffin Society

Committee met at 12:32

ACTING CHAIR ( Mr Simpkins ): I declare open this public hearing of the Joint Committee on the National Capital and External Territories.

Resolved (on motion by Acting Chair)

That the media be allowed to film the proceedings today in accordance with the rules set down for committees, which include not taking footage or still images of the members' papers or laptop screens.

That this committee authorised the publication of submissions received so far by the committee and that the attachments be received as exhibits to the inquiry.

CHAIR ( Senator Pratt ): Thank you very much, Deputy Chair. Thank you for doing those formalities for me. I would like to welcome our witnesses here today. I have a very brief opening statement as chair. As we are aware, today's hearing is about the inquiry into the administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928. We know Canberra is a very different place now from the one that was known back in those days when we know Stanley Melbourne Bruce was the Prime Minister, John Curtin and Ben Chifley entered federal parliament and the parliament had only recently moved from Melbourne to Canberra. It was occupying the building known as the Provisional Parliament House, which we know was opened back in 1927. That is the origin of the ordinance that we are inquiring into.

Canberra had very few other public buildings at the time. It would take another 35 years until Lake Burley Griffin actually existed. The question for us today, some 83 years on, is: is the ordinance that governs the management of our memorials still relevant and how appropriate is it for the 21st century?

The national capital committee has been advised that there are currently five proposed projects for sites and subject matters agreed by the National Memorials Committee. These are for memorials to Australian peacekeepers, the Boer War, Immigration Place, the National Workers Memorial and memorials to World Wars I and II.

The committee's role is not to review and approve these memorials but rather to look at the arrangements around the decision-making process. Many of the submissions that we have received have used specific memorials to illustrate deficiencies in the process, which I agree is helpful, but I would ask that evidence remain focused on the process, where possible, rather than the merits or otherwise of specific memorials. This committee intends to hold further hearings and will report to parliament later this year.

I would now like to formally welcome our witnesses. We have with us Professor James Weirick, Dr Bruce Kent and Ms Rosemarie Willett. I would now like to welcome you as representatives of the Walter Burley Griffin Society. I understand we will have time for both a statement and discussion for about half an hour. I am not sure which one of you is going to make an opening statement.

Prof. Weirick : I will make the opening statement, Madam Chair, if I may.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Prof. Weirick : I thank the committee for the opportunity of participating in this public hearing of a most important inquiry. I am here representing the Walter Burley Griffin Society. Our society has made three submissions to this inquiry, one from the Sydney based management committee, of which I am the principal author; one from the Canberra Chapter, of which Mr Brett Odgers is the principal author. Mr Odgers gives his apologies for not being here today. He is overseas. He has requested that he appear at a later hearing, if he may. Ms Rosemarie Willett has made a supplementary submission to the Canberra Chapter submission and will speak to that today.

The society notes that the current inquiry has been established in the context of widespread public concern about the role of the Canberra National Memorials Committee, which I will call the CNMC for convenience, in the approvals process for the proposed World Wars I and II memorials planned for the Rond Terraces, a much used and visually sensitive site on the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin centred on the land axis of Canberra.

The society further notes that detailed information on the membership, meeting protocols and decision making of the CNMC has become public knowledge following the release of extensive CNMC files on the proposed memorials under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The historical significance, prestige and role of the CNMC, established by Prime Minister Bruce in 1927-28 as a politically bipartisan and expert committee, has been long recognised and applauded.

The Canberra National Memorials Committee has a vital responsibility to ensure that the memorial function and nomenclature of the national capital is the 'subject of scrutiny at a high level in order to maintain the proprietary, dignity and standard necessary for a national capital', in the words of Charles Studdy Daley, a great figure in the early history of Canberra.

However, it is clear from the public record and the FOI documents that this standard has dropped in recent years. The CNMC has been managed, manipulated and marginalised in the process of initiating and procuring national memorials driven by the National Capital Authority in a way that has prevented the committee from fulfilling its responsibilities in a legitimate way.

The current inquiry provides a timely opportunity to reform and revitalise the role and operations of the CNMC. The fundamental problem afflicting the memorial function of the national capital has been the power of the National Capital Authority to initiate and approve its own proposals. The result has been a series of politically embarrassing, time—wasting and totally inappropriate decisions that have deflected attention and scarce resources from the main task at hand, the planning, design and management of the national capital.

This failure of process has been demonstrated in a series of memorial ventures promoted by the NCA from the Centenary of Women's Suffrage Memorial, Federation Mall 2002-2003 and the Immigration Bridge proposal, West Basin, Lake Burley Griffin 2002-2010 to the proposed World Wars I and II memorials on Rond Terraces, which have been under discussion since 2005.

These ventures have got out of hand for the simple reason that there have been no checks and balances on the power of the NCA. In this context it is important to point out that, including the current inquiry, there have been five parliamentary inquiries and a ministerial review into the role of the NCA since 2004. It is clearly time to get the checks and balances right.

This inquiry provides the opportunity to introduce effective checks and balances on the national memorials procurement process by: (1) strengthening the power of the CNMC to determine the level of significance, commemorative intent and site of a proposed memorial; (2) transferring the power to grant development consent for a proposed memorial from the NCA to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, in the same way as the committee considers matters under the Parliament Act within the parliamentary zone; (3) limiting the role of the NCA to that of an advocate for the proposed memorial, along with the proponent and as a technical adviser to the two oversight committees; (4) facilitating timely and effective public consultation throughout the procurement process.

The society makes a series of recommendations with respect to the terms of reference of the inquiry.

First the membership of the CNMC. Ideally the CNMC should retain its political membership as established in 1928, with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and others on both sides of parliament coming together on a regular basis to make decisions on national memorials in the national interest.

However, as a return to these 1928 political arrangements appears to be unrealistic, the society supports the recommendations of our Canberra Chapter that the CNMC should be chaired by the minister responsible for the Australian Capital Territory, with political membership comprising three members of the House of Representatives, three members of the Senate, with the aim of forming a committee whose political members have an interest in Canberra and time to devote to the task. To provide balance and expertise to the CNMC from both a Canberra and a national perspective, the committee should be formally constituted with non-political members, as was originally the case: initially two distinguished historians, changed to two residents of the ACT in 1953.

Again, our Canberra Chapter has suggested that the non-political expert positions should comprise one or two residents of the ACT and one or two recognised authorities in Australian history from outside the ACT. The CNMC has had no ACT members for many years, if ever, as required under the National Memorials Ordinance 1928, and, as such, has not been legally constituted, it would appear.

The second term of reference addresses the process for decision making by the CNMC. The submission by the Canberra Chapter of the society, based on a thorough review of the FOI documents, outlines the failings in elementary principles of public administration and administrative law in the processes and proceedings of the CNMC in recent years. This assessment is supported by a June 2010 issues paper by the Territories Division of the Attorney General's Department on the operation of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928.

The decisions of the CNMC on national memorials that are found to be invalid, by not being made by a duly constituted committee or in accordance with administrative law, in the view of the society, should not be remade by executive fiat but be re-examined from first principles in strict accordance with the mandatory criteria and evaluation criteria of the NCA's Guidelines for commemorative works in the national capital 2002.

As to the mechanisms for the CNMC to seek independent expert advice, a properly constituted committee comprising federal politicians from a wide variety of backgrounds, one or two residents of the ACT, one or two eminent historians from outside the ACT, and benefitting from an effective program of public consultation through all stages of assessment, should have sufficient expertise to determine: (1) the national memorial status of a proposal; (2) the commemorative intent of proposals that meet the national memorial threshold; (3) an appropriate site for the memorial selected from a range of alternatives; (4) whether or not a design selected through a competitive process meets the commemorative intent; (5) the extent to which a memorial continues to meet its commemorative intent over time and is maintained accordingly.

The committee may need independent expert advice on the feasibility of a proponent's budget and business plan, a consideration that appears to have been ignored by the NCA in the support given to community groups seeking to build a $30 million high—span bridge over Lake Burley Griffin or twin war memorials on the Rond Terraces, estimated to cost $21 million, given that community groups in the past have struggled to raise sums in the order of $1 million to $2 million. Similarly, the committee may need independent expert advice to verify the NCA's estimates of associated infrastructure costs.

The CNMC should be resourced to seek independent expert advice in the carrying out of its responsibilities, particularly in relation to project costings in the proponent's budget and business plan. In assessing the accuracy and adequacy of the proponent's budget and business plan, the CNMC should consider the source of funds in relation to the significance of national memorials in general and the commemorative intent of individual proposals in particular.

It is inappropriate, in the view of our society, for citizens to buy the right to have their names inscribed on a national memorial and not earn the right, as was the case with the so-called 'History Handrail' promotion undertaken by Immigration Bridge Australia. It is also inappropriate, in our view, in the case of war memorials, for funding to come from the weapons industry.

It is important for the CNMC and the general public to recognise that the NCA provides expert advice to the national memorials procurement process but not independent expert advice. The NCA fulfils a key role in the initiation of a memorial project, providing advice to a proponent in relation to the NCA's responsibilities for national land and its overall vision for the national capital.

However, on the evidence provided by the Immigration Bridge Australia and World Wars I and II memorials ventures, it is important for the CNMC and the general public to maintain a critical distance from the advice furnished by the NCA. The authority has a demonstrated tendency to fall in love with its own ideas and lead rather hapless community groups into commitments that they have no hope of fulfilling, causing much grief along the way and absorbing considerable resources of the Commonwealth in sorting out the mess through parliamentary inquiries, et cetera.

The role of the NCA in the national memorials procurement process should be made clear from the outset, with formal memoranda of understanding of the proponents made public documents from the time of their initial endorsement by the NCA board.

To ensure that NCA advice to CNMC is recognised as expert advice but not independent expert advice, the secretariat functions of the CNMC should be placed with the department of the minister responsible for the ACT, not with the NCA, and the NCA should not have formal representation on the CNMC.

The third term of reference addresses the appropriate level of parliamentary oversight for proposed national memorials. In the procurement phases leading to formal development consent, the NCA, again, as we say, must be recognised as a co-sponsor of the project with the proponent. The NCA should not be in the position of approving a project that it has initiated, managed and coordinated for years.

The parliamentary joint standing committee should determine whether or not development consent should be granted to a national memorial proposal in the form of the advice that it would normally give to both houses of parliament and through parliament to the minister for works approval. In making this determination in accordance with the National Capital Plan, the parliamentary joint standing committee should, we would suggest, conduct a full public inquiry, or a roundtable, as was held in 2007, which was a very effective forum, consult widely on all matters relating to the planning, design and management of the memorial on the basis of a joint submission from the department and the NCA and submissions from the public. The fourth term of reference addresses the level of public participation in the development of proposed national memorials. The public should be involved in the following key steps in the national memorials procurement process: (1) the determination of national memorial status and the collaborative intent against the criteria; (2) the site selection for a range of alternatives; (3) validation of the selected memorial design against the commemorative intent, the budget and business plan and infrastructure costs, all of which relate to the CNMC's role, as we see it; then finally, development consent of the proposed memorial in accordance with the national capital plan, which we would see ideally coming before this committee.

The process of public consultation adopted by the CNMC and the parliamentary joint standing committee in each of the key steps of the national memorial procurement process listed above should follow the definition of consultation in the NCA's consultation protocol of 2007—that is a commitment to inform the community and stakeholders, to listen to the community and stakeholders, to acknowledge submissions, to consider submissions and provide feedback on how submissions were addressed.

To facilitate this level of consultation and feedback, the CNMC should be made accessible, transparent and accountable by the introduction of a CNMC website similar to the parliamentary joint standing committee's website, which provides up-to-date notices of inquiries, meeting agendas, minutes and supporting documents, submission requirements and deadlines, online copies of submissions received and online copies of committee reports.

CHAIR: Professor Weirick, I am going to need to give you just five more minutes.

Prof. Weirick : Thank you, Madam Chair. I am almost finished. With regard to the transition provisions for current proposals for memorials not yet constructed, inclusion of this term of reference in the current inquiry clearly relates to failings in elementary principles of public administration and administrative law in the processes and proceedings of the CNMC in its recent years, as revealed in the FOI documents. The implications of these failings are discussed in the June 2010 issues paper by the territories division of the Attorney-General's Department on the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 in which two options to validate previous decisions made by the committee convened outside ordinance requirements are considered, one based on executive fiat, one based on revisiting the decisions by a duly constituted committee. As we stated before, the view of the society is that the latter should be adopted, given the significance of the issues at stake in the orderly planning, design and management of the national capital, and the high degree of public concern that invalid decision making by the CNMC has generated.

To validate decisions made by the CNMC convened outside the requirements of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928, the decision should be revisited by a duly constituted committee in strict accordance with the mandatory criteria and evaluation criteria of the Guidelines for commemorative works in the national capital 2002.

The most important CNMC decisions which appear to be invalid are the ones concerning the site selection, national significance, commemorative intent and design intent of the proposed World Wars I and II memorials made at CNMC meetings on 1 March 2007 and 16 August 2007. From the FOI documents, it would appear that the committee was not duly constituted and convened. Furthermore, matters under consideration did not meet the NCA guidelines for commemorative works, specifically, (1) the mandatory criterion that a commemorative proposal must not duplicate the themes or subject matter of an existing commemorative site, and the proposal clearly duplicates the role of the most important site of all, the Australian War Memorial; and (2) the site classification criterion that sites adjacent to the Rond Terraces should be reserved for non-military sacrifice, service and achievement in Australia in times of peace.

The site selection, national significance and the commemorative intent of the World Wars I and II memorials proposed for the northern lake shore of Lake Burley Griffin at the Rond Terraces do not confirm to the mandatory criteria and the evaluation criteria of the Guidelines for the commemorative works in the national capital. What appear to be invalid CNMC decisions concerning these memorials made on 1 March 2007 and 16 August 2007 should be revisited by a duly constituted Canberra National Memorials Committee and rescinded.

The society urges the adoption of these recommendations to ensure that the process of proposing and approving national memorials for the national capital enhances the symbolic landscape of Canberra with works of deep and abiding significance to the Australian people.

As I mentioned, our colleague Brett Odgers has made a powerful submission on behalf of the Canberra Chapter along similar lines, drawing on his deep knowledge of the history of Canberra, the traditions of parliament and the principles of public administration, in addition to his understanding of the national memorials process in Washington DC, on which he was briefed during a recent visit to that city by the United States National Capital Planning Commission. As I mentioned, Mr Odgers has requested that he be given the opportunity to appear before the committee in October, on his return from overseas.

In addition, Rosemarie Willett will speak on the detailed reference documents and criteria on which CNMC decisions should be made, and Dr Bruce Kent will speak about the important issues of the timing and effectiveness of expert advice in the procurement process. I thank you for your attention.

CHAIR: Thank you, Professor Weirick. You have, indeed, stuck to our terms of reference. We are going to run very short on time. Ms Willett, would you like to make some additional remarks very briefly.

Ms Willett : I would.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If I can interrupt, I do not think we have time in respect of further opening statements. There are a lot of issues that these submissions raise. If Ms Willett or Dr Kent have points that they can put in writing, we can examine them later at our leisure.

Ms Willett : I think we have some.

Senator HUMPHRIES: With respect, I do not think we have time for further statements.

Ms Willett : Each of you has a copy of my submission.

CHAIR: Yes.

Ms Willett : I really hope you will have time to read it.

CHAIR: Yes, thank you.

Ms Willett : I would very much have liked to run through it. It would take about five minutes.

CHAIR: Unfortunately we have not got the time.

Ms Willett : If you have not got the five minutes—

Senator HUMPHRIES: We will get more out of you by asking questions.

Ms Willett : Okay. Have you had a chance to read the paper?

CHAIR: I am sure that people's questions will draw on your paper, in any case.

Ms Willett : Have you had a chance to read it?

CHAIR: I will hand over to my colleagues to ask some questions. I might start with Dr Leigh and run down the table.

Dr LEIGH: Thank you very much. I wonder whether I can take you back to the fundamentals of Walter Burley Griffin's views on memorials. Since you are appearing on behalf of the society, I want to delve a little further into Griffin's view on memorials. Did he say much on what they should be about, where they should be placed?

Prof. Weirick : Yes, that is certainly a very important topic. It is more to do, I would suggest, with a merits issue than the procedural issues that I came today to address. If you go back to Griffin's original reports, you will see that he envisaged the area behind what is today the War Memorial, on the foot slopes of Mount Ainslie, as the principal site for memorials. When the Australian War Memorial was being proposed, Griffin argued strongly before the public works committee at that time that he would have preferred the Australian War Memorial to have been integrated into his Capitol to celebrate Australian achievement in general. But he did acknowledge that the sentiment in the post World War I period was so strong that the siting of the War Memorial as a separate building in its current location was appropriate.

Ms Willett : Could I add that the capital was the place to celebrate Australian aspirations and the sorts of things that were happening in many memorials for many different parts of the community, different community achievements and aspirations.

Dr LEIGH: Perhaps I can ask one further question. Your recommendation 3 is that the secretariat of the CNMC should be placed within the department of the federal minister responsible for the ACT. You have argued that on the basis of what you call conflict of interests. You also refer to the issue of expertise. I was wondering to what extent one should trade off the great expertise that the National Capital Authority has in planning issues within the Parliamentary Triangle?

Prof. Weirick : There is no question that the NMA plays a dominant role in the whole process of the making of the capital. The question is: should it simply do so without any checks and balances? This situation has led the NCA into some rather foolhardy commitments which have taken years to sort out. For that reason I think there should be a critical distance between the NCA's natural enthusiasm to build their latest idea and persuade somebody to go along with them, as distinct from setting up and overseeing the CNMC. I would see the NCA as coming before the CNMC as an expert in the same way as the other experts the committee may call.

Senator HUMPHRIES: There was an article in the CanberraTimes in October last year by Brett Odgers and Sue Wareham under the subheading 'We don't need another war monument'. I take it from the comments you made, Professor Weirick, about the armaments industry, as you called it, that this would reflect the views of the Walter Burley Griffin Society in turn?

Prof. Weirick : I am sorry, Senator, you mean the article that you are referring to?

Senator HUMPHRIES: Yes.

Prof. Weirick : I have not got that before me. I do not know whether that is exactly the case.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Could I ask you to take that on notice, because some of the things you have just had to say reflect some of the sentiments that are raised in that article. I want to understand what the Walter Burley Griffin Society thought about memorialising Australia's experience in war, and that article makes further reference to it.

Prof. Weirick : If I may reply in the same way, my understanding of the terms of reference of this committee is that they address procedural issues.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Yes.

Prof. Weirick : And they do not address the merits of particular proposals.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Indeed, which is why I said you might take this on notice. This is a view about—

Prof. Weirick : I can answer the question in general. I concluded my statement by saying that we would see the future of this process creating memorials of deep and abiding significance to the Australian people. That is our position, whether it covers the experience in war or in peace. I think the procurement of national memorials needs to be seen as a holistic contribution.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Are you implying by that that some of the memorials that have been built to Australia's involvement in particular conflicts do not represent that kind of deep and abiding interest?

Prof. Weirick : No, and I think, and I am not alone in saying this. A process initiated by the NCA in 1997—with Dr Headon engaged as cultural adviser—resulted in some background papers, an important book written by Dr Headon on the symbolic landscape of Canberra, and the 2002 NCA guidelines. That process was aimed at diversifying the memorialisation of Canberra away from what had become a concentration on military memorials and highlighted, more than 15 years ago, the need to have a whole view of Australian life.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is Dr Headon's view. Is that the view of the Walter Burley Griffin Society?

Prof. Weirick : Yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: It is, all right. It probably is not the place or the time to engage you on that issue. I have to say that I strongly disagree with your characterisation of memorials to Australia's role in various conflicts as being some sort of problem.

Prof. Weirick : Excuse me, Senator, I did not say that.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Okay. This is why I have asked you about the article.

Prof. Weirick : That is not certainly suggested—

Senator HUMPHRIES: The article—

Prof. Weirick : It is not an article from the Griffin Society.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I would appreciate, as I said, Professor Weirick, if you would take on notice, on behalf of the society, the extent to which this represents their views. The bottom line is that the article is described as coming from Mr Odgers, who was with the Walter Burley Griffin Society. So the name of the society is on this article. I would appreciate—

CHAIR: We might move on from there and say that we will make a copy of that article available to Professor Weirick. With your indulgence, would you be prepared to make a comment on it?

Prof. Weirick : I would ask our committees to review it and see whether it is adopted as an official position of our society or is the personal position of a member of the society. I should say that in my report I draw attention to two memorials that I consider great successes, and I consider them great successes because prime ministers were committed to them. That is why I think the Prime Minister should have a role on this committee in the future. One is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Hall of Memory, which I think is one of the most incredibly profound places that we have. The other is the National Emergency Services Memorial. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was supported by Prime Minister Keating. The National Emergency Services Memorial was strongly supported by Prime Minister Howard. It is a beautiful, simple, effective memorial.

CHAIR: Senator Humphries has some issue about resolving that press—

Senator HUMPHRIES: I am anxious to engage in this, but I realise we are running out of time and there is also the issue of involvement of, again, what you call the armament industry, an industry which is supporting Australia's role in peacekeeping in a number of forums around the world at the moment, in contributing to the cost of memorials. I am not sure whether you are implying that there should not be an involvement by the private sector in the costing or the funding of memorials or you simply object to that particular industry being involved in funding memorials.

Prof. Weirick : I can state that the society—and it is the view of the society—objects to that industry being involved in funding war memorials. It seems to be, if I might use the word, obscene for the names of Australians killed in service of their country to be inscribed by companies that make instruments of death.

Senator HUMPHRIES: These people also make instruments of peacekeeping in different parts of the world.

CHAIR: I did make it clear in my introductory remarks that we were sticking to the ordinance. With some indulgence, we have gone into discussion about some of the merits of the memorials, but I do not want to divert us too much further.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I accept that ruling and I will not ask any further questions. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Ms Brodtmann?

Ms BRODTMANN: Just going back to the proposal that you had for the committee, the ideas that you have got: I was interested, being the member for Canberra, to note that, in terms of your recommendations on the historians you should have on that committee, they should both be from out of town. I am just wondering why the society has that view. I understand that the Parliamentary Triangle, particularly in the area that we are talking about, is a national treasure. I do understand that, but I am just wondering why you would be so explicit on where the historical expertise should come from.

Prof. Weirick : For that very reason, that it is a national view. There is no reason why the ACT members could not also be historians. Because it is the tradition of the idea, I would urge that they are historians who understand the making of Australia. But the view from outside Canberra—and I have come from Sydney today to appear before this committee—is important. At times local issues can sway judgments. It would be wise to draw upon the widest possible expertise.

Ms BRODTMANN: There are two things on that. As you mentioned, two residents are from the ACT. Those positions have been available since the fifties and have not been filled, which is a great pity. I would see those as being community residents. I would have thought that the society would have wanted those to be members of the community, not necessarily historians but just members of the community who can provide a very broad perspective. Just in terms of members of the House of Representatives and senators, would they not provide that Australian perspective as well?

Prof. Weirick : Correct on both of those counts. What is truly remarkable about the community in Canberra is the high level of expertise across every possible area of public policy. You are in a very fortunate position to have a community as informed as that. You have a remarkable generation, which you are about to lose, whose knowledge and understanding of Australia and this city should be recognised and tapped. Instead, the public consultation processes in this city have marginalised this remarkable community. In fact, I cannot tell you how many times this committee has found that public consultation by the NCA and others has failed. It has been said over and over again. I fully support you. We should have broad community interest. The community representatives could be experts in many fields. Representation started off with historians, and they were very highly valued, particularly on the nomenclature of Canberra, which is a beautiful nomenclature and shows deep knowledge, and we should continue that tradition.

CHAIR: Ms Willett, I might ask you if you might comment on what you would see as the relationship with the EPBC Act. Clearly we have a National Memorials Committee and a National Capital Authority, which is actually only part of the approvals process. Clearly we have a number of memorials that are currently before the environmental heritage assessment that the Commonwealth would ordinarily have to undertake in any case. How do you see those things meshing together?

Ms Willett : The point I raised in this paper is that the EPBC Act often requires a heritage impact statement and there should be a conservation management plan made prior to a heritage impact statement so that the proposal can be discussed against the assessment, the significance that is ascribed from that assessment to a place, and can be assessed against opportunities, different recommendations that could be made in a conservation management plan. You will have noticed that I say that this should have happened to such an important place as the Rond Terraces, which is on the lake shore and which is on the land axis. Had a CMP been made for this place, I am sure that a lot of issues would have come forward to show that this place is very important in the conservation of Griffin's land axis, because the land axis is in fact an alignment. It is an alignment of natural monuments in our local landscape, and Mount Ainslie sets the definition of that land axis, which the NCDC took up using the width set by Griffin with his Plaisance for the 'Portal Buildings' and continuing across the lake for those government buildings that give you a full, uninterrupted vista of Parliament House. That would have come out in a conservation management plan, and then it would be seen that the war memorials on the Rond Terrace pinch that vista; they are closer in. In fact, they distract you from the full conical form of Mount Ainslie. In fact, they provide a central focal point. Years ago, when there was a proposal to put Parliament House by the lake, it was one of the reasons it was turned down, because the length of the land axis of the vista between Parliament House and Mount Ainslie was such a wonderful monumental vista. To put an intermediate focus in the middle breaks down the importance of that vista. It is enormously important for Canberra. It is one of the things that, if you say Canberra has no soul, you go to Parliament House and you look down towards the War Memorial against the form of Mount Ainslie and it is an emotional impact you get; one of the few emotional impacts that you get. I do not think anything should come between that impact and the importance of the Australian War Memorial.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Willett. Mr Simpkins?

Mr SIMPKINS: Yes, just briefly, Madam Chair. I would like to ask about a comparison between your views on these World War I and World War II proposals and probably one of my favourite war memorials, the Vietnam War Memorial. Obviously that commemorates the sacrifice and also the value that our soldiers added in the Vietnam War. What do you recall as your experiences of the process for the Vietnam Memorial, anyone who was involved?

Prof. Weirick : It is one of the most successful memorials that we have, which conforms with the original NCDC idea for Anzac Parade which, as you know, was installed in 1965, the 50th anniversary of Gallipoli, a series of sites selected along the parade for future memorials. I think the built works vary in quality. There are certainly some which combine great aesthetic power and emotional power. One of them is the Vietnam Memorial,. which was designed by the same team that designed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Hall of Memory. They are very experienced designers, also responsible for the Australian Memorial in London. With these projects we have very fine designers who have spent years thinking about these things. The Vietnam Memorial fits within a frame that the NCDC set up. There is a lot that we can learn from the past. We must not make mistakes when we go ahead with other projects.

CHAIR: We are now going to have to close your evidence. I do note that—

Senator CROSSIN: Sorry, very quickly—

CHAIR: We do have another witness to get through before two.

Senator CROSSIN: I want to ask you whether you think there is a need for the ordinance.

Prof. Weirick : Yes, I do. I strongly support the existence of the CNMC. We recommend reforming, revitalising and resourcing it to give it the public presence that it really should have. The idea that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and the leader in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and so on would make decisions in the national interest of what is important for us to memorialise—

Senator CROSSIN: Leave those positions on that committee?

Prof. Weirick : I would, yes. I can see there are real issues to do with the time of the Prime Minister and no doubt the time of the Leader of the Opposition. But I think, as we say in our submission, ideally we would like to keep that level of involvement if it is possible.

CHAIR: Senator Parry?

Senator PARRY: Thank you, Chair. I just had a question. In your opening remarks, Professor, you indicated that the CNMC has been managed and manipulated, amongst other words. Can you just describe further how it has been manipulated?

Prof. Weirick : We would need to go through the Freedom of Information material in detail to address the issue. Basically, my colleague Brett Odgers can answer in detail when he comes before you in October. If I may, issues concern the way meetings were called, how time was allocated to meetings.

Senator PARRY: Sorry, in your statement you use the word 'manipulated'. That has a connotation.

Prof. Weirick : Yes.

Senator PARRY: I really want to get to the bottom of how it has been manipulated.

Prof. Weirick : I think that the attitude has been that the CNMC is simply a rubber stamp. We go through the motions of calling a meeting on the run, as it were, meet for 17 minutes and decide two agenda items of great significance, to place memorials in the middle of the axis of Canberra and so on. I may be mistaken—I am citing from memory—but at one of those meetings when that decision was made, there were three members present. One was the CEO of the National Capital Authority, who was an advocate for the idea; another was the secretary of the veterans affairs department who had funded the group who were undertaking the study. So I would say that the full quorum was not there and the committee delivered the—

Senator PARRY: My understanding is that a quorum is three.

Prof. Weirick : Sorry, the full membership. I beg your pardon, I correct myself there. I would interpret that, as it were, as a manipulation of the committee.

Senator PARRY: 'Manipulation' means manipulated by someone or some entity. Do you know, or are you prepared to say, who or what is manipulating the committee?

Prof. Weirick : I think it was the executive of the NCA in that period.

Senator PARRY: Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you very much to our witnesses today. Dr Kent, you might have something you would like to provide us in addition.

Dr Kent : I will say something about putting muscle into the memorials committee and on a model of consultative bodies, expert bodies. Even the all-powerful NCDC used to filter proposals before they got onto it. We need powerful back-up for these memorials committee from experts, appointed properly by the minister. I will put it in writing.

CHAIR: Please do. I am inviting you to put some of those further remarks in writing to us. Thank you very much for your evidence today.