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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6322


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (9:31 AM) —I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:

That the provisions of paragraphs (5) to (7) of standing order 111 not apply to the following bills, allowing them to be considered during this period of sittings:

Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2002,

Australian Heritage Council Bill 2002, and

Australian Heritage Council (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2002.

I also table a statement of reasons justifying the need for these bills to be considered during these sittings and seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows

Purpose of the Bills

These Bills will:

· establish a Commonwealth heritage regime that will focus on matters of national significance and Commonwealth responsibility;

· list, protect and manage places of national heritage significance in a National Heritage List using a process of community consultation, expert advice and ministerial responsibility;

· list, protect and manage heritage places in Commonwealth areas in a Commonwealth Heritage List using a process of community consultation, expert advice and ministerial responsibility;

· advise Commonwealth agencies on actions in relation to places in the Commonwealth Heritage List;

· establish the Australian Heritage Council, prescribing the composition, meeting requirements and functions of the Council in relation to the protection and conservation of heritage; and

· repeal the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975, provide for transitional arrangements and amend other Commonwealth legislation as required.

Reasons for Urgency

This legislative package is the final plank in the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Commonwealth's most fundamental reform of Commonwealth environment laws. National heritage places remain the only matter of national environmental significance that has yet to be included in the EPBC Act. This represents a major anomaly that needs to be addressed in order for the legislation to be fully effective and comprehensive. The inclusion of a heritage trigger in the EPBC Act will provide stronger protection for Australian's nationally significant heritage places, Commonwealth heritage places and provide more streamlined and efficient heritage assessment and approvals processes. These Bills will implement the 1997 COAG Heads of Agreement on Commonwealth/State Roles and Responsibilities for the Environment and the Government's 2001 election commitments in relation to heritage.

Furthermore, there is currently duplication in the requirement on Commonwealth agencies to refer proposals for advice as a consequence of the concurrent operation of the EPBC Act and the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 (AHC Act). This has lead to confusion among stakeholders, an increased burden on agencies and a considerable impact on administrative resources. The expeditious passage of the new heritage legislation will lead to the repeal of the AHC Act and thus the early removal of this onerous requirement on Commonwealth agencies.

The Bills were originally introduced into Parliament in December 2000 and referred to the Senate's Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee which handed down its report in May 2001. Since that time, a number of amendments have been made to the Bills to accommodate a number of the Committee's recommendations such as retention of the Register of the National Estate and the incorporation of best practice heritage management by Commonwealth agencies.

The Bills are the result of six years of consultation with government, non-government, industry, Indigenous and community bodies. After so many years of public debate, there is a high level of community interest in the legislation and a widespread expectation that it will be passed in the current session of Parliament.

State and Territory jurisdictions have commenced work on an integrated heritage strategy which is contingent on the establishment of the new heritage regime. If passage of the legislation is delayed any further, it will lead to consequential delays in the ability of other jurisdictions to implement their reforms.

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage)