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Thursday, 1 March 2001
Page: 24864


Mr BROUGH (11:29 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The National Museum of Australia will open in 2001 as part of the celebrations of Australia's centenary as a federated nation. Just as museums around the world are rethinking their role and purpose in society as they face the new millennium, the National Museum of Australia has also been defining its role as a museum for the 21st century.

As a new museum opening in the new millennium, the National Museum of Australia cannot simply be a traditional museum concept with new technology. Both educational and entertaining, the museum will employ a fresh and exciting approach to Australian history, culture and the environment—presenting its varied subject matter through the blending of exhibits, technology, media, live performance and hands-on activities within dynamic architectural and landscape spaces.

As a modern cultural institution, the National Museum must be provided with the proper equipment and functionality to enable it to operate successfully within this new environment as a premier cultural heritage resource for the Australian nation. The National Museum's powers to undertake the range of activities it proposes require the foundation of an appropriate legal framework.

The National Museum of Australia Amendment Bill 2000 is an essential part of that framework. It makes several critical and other desirable amendments to the National Museum of Australia Act 1980 to ensure that the museum opening in March 2001 has the power to undertake the range of activities it proposes to engage in.

The bill has its origins in the need to bring the act up to date for the opening of the National Museum on March 2001 as the flagship for the Centenary of Federation. It will clarify that the National Museum can engage fully in its proposed activities.

Against this background the bill has as its main objectives:

· to allow the museum to exhibit material which relates to Australia's future as well its past;

· to clarify that the museum can undertake a range of fundraising activities;

· to allow the museum to establish a fund;

· to increase the value of historical material which may be disposed of without ministerial approval; and

· to correct a technical error to relate disclosure of pecuniary interest to the relevant sections of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997.

The functions of the museum include exhibiting historical material and holding temporary exhibitions of other material. The museum proposes to exhibit a permanent children's exhibition on the future of cities through a 3D presentation. To allow the museum to permanently exhibit material relating to Australia's future as well as its past, a new function has been added to this effect.

In relation to fundraising, the act is being amended to better reflect the commercial requirements in relation to the museum's functions. While some of the proposed activities are arguably already within power, others are not and any amendments have been modelled on those of other national cultural institutions, in particular the Australian National Maritime Museum Act 1990, as it is more recently drafted and reflects the commercial activities generally expected to be undertaken by modern cultural institutions. For those proposed activities which are arguably within power, amendments have been made to expressly confirm such powers.

These functions include the power to charge fees for services provided in relation to its functions. Such services include guided tours, lectures and audio tours. They also include the museum actively seeking to raise funds through the holding of events, acceptance of gifts, devises, bequests or assignments made to the museum and the raising of money through sponsorships.

While the museum has the power to accept such gifts, bequests and money from the disposal of property, devises, bequests and assignments, an amendment is proposed to empower the museum to establish a fund in which to deposit these funds. The clause is based on a similar provision in the National Gallery Act 1975.

An additional issue that has been addressed is the value of material for which ministerial approval is required before disposal action can be undertaken. The value of material for which ministerial approval is required was set at $20,000 when the act commenced. The amendment provides for the limits to be increased to $250,000 and is consistent with the limits set in the National Library Act 1960, to better reflect current values.

A technical error has also been addressed in the amendments to ensure a correct referral to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 as it relates to disclosure of pecuniary interests by the council.

It is critical that amendments be in place before the museum opens in March 2001. This will allow the museum to make a smooth transition from the current arrangements into the more commercial environment in which it will operate after opening. I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.