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Friday, 15 November 2002
Page: 6477


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (9:40 AM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows

ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 2002

The Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2002 will significantly improve the conservation and management of natural, historic and Indigenous heritage in Australia. This bill forms the core of part of a package of legislation which fulfils the Howard Government's 2001 election commitment to establish, for the first time, a truly national scheme for the conservation of Australia's unique heritage assets.

The bill is based on a national consensus reflected in the outcomes of the 1997 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Agreement on Commonwealth/State Roles and Responsibilities for the Environment, which was signed by all levels of government. COAG agreed on the need to rationalise existing Commonwealth/State arrangements for the identification and protection of heritage places. In this context, COAG agreed that the Commonwealth's role should be focussed on places of National Heritage significance.

The bills also represent the culmination of six years of community discussion and consultation, including the 1998 National Heritage Convention convened by the Australian Heritage Commission. During 2000, as the legislation was being drafted, there was a national briefing program where officials conducted 76 briefings in state/territory capitals and many regional centres. The National Cultural Heritage Forum, which is comprised of key stakeholder organisations, including the Australian Council of National Trusts, played a crucial role in the development of the legislation. The Government recognises the work these organisations have put into the process and commends their commitment to improving the national heritage regime.

In establishing a new National Heritage conservation regime, the reforms implemented through the bill will address the shortcomings of the existing regime. The Australian Heritage Commission (AHC) Act provides no substantive protection for those heritage places that are of truly national significance. The limited procedural safeguards in the AHC Act fall well short of contemporary best practice in heritage conservation. Indirect triggers, such as foreign investment approval, initiate the statutory process in the AHC Act, which adds to uncertainty and delay, and limits the capacity of the AHC Act to provide any real benefit for heritage conservation. The AHC Act does not, cannot, adequately protect those places that contribute to our sense of Australian identity.

There is a gap between state regimes, which protect places of local or state significance, and the world heritage regime, which protects places of significance to the world. This bill establishes a mechanism for the identification, protection and management of heritage places of national significance. Such places will be inscribed in a National Heritage List. This List will consist of natural, historic and Indigenous places that are of outstanding National Heritage significance. The Minister will be guided in his or her decision-making by advice from a body of heritage experts—the Australian Heritage Council. The Council will be established under separate legislation as an independent advisory body to the Minister, and will also be able to promote the identification, assessment and conservation of heritage on its own initiative.

The National Heritage List creates opportunities to remember, celebrate and conserve places that recall significant themes in Australian history. We should respect and value the development of our industries by recognising and protecting early mining, industrial and pastoral sites. Our national historic built heritage includes places that give an insight into the development of our own sense of Australian identity and our sense of place and, as such, should be recognised and protected for their national heritage significance. Natural heritage places that may be considered by the Australian Heritage Council include those that tell the story of our continent's natural diversity and ancient past.

The bills move forward in the protection of the heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Indigenous cultural heritage exists throughout Australia and all aspects of the landscape may be important to Indigenous people as part of their heritage. The effective protection and conservation of this heritage is important in maintaining the identity, health and well-being of Indigenous people. These bills provide new opportunities for developing agreed strategies to protect Indigenous heritage places after consultation and discussion with traditional owners on management arrangements. The rights and interests of Indigenous people in their heritage arise from their spirituality, customary law, original ownership, custodianship, developing Indigenous traditions and recent history.

Places in the Australian heart are not only in Australia. The bill will establish the capability to list National Heritage and Commonwealth Heritage places overseas and develop co-operative arrangements with the sovereign country in which the place is located. Places such as Lone Pine in Gallipoli, Kokoda in Papua New Guinea or Australia House in London could be given protection under this regime.

The listing process will be open and transparent and includes a mechanism for the consideration of public nominations and a public consultation process. A place on the National List will be identified under the EPBC Act as a matter of national environmental significance. This will ensure that, for the first time ever, the heritage values of places of national significance receive appropriate statutory protection. A rigorous and efficient assessment and approval process will apply to actions that are likely to have a significant impact on the National Heritage values of a place on the National List. The EPBC Act provides a framework for Commonwealth/State co-operation in relation to this assessment and approval process.

In order to achieve a higher threshold of significance for listing in the National Heritage List, it is proposed that National Heritage places should be of national or other special significance. There is to be no limit on the number of places nominated to the National List. Instead the list should be built up over time from places that meet the criteria. When the Australian Heritage Council undertakes an assessment of a nominated place, for the Minister's consideration, they do so based solely on the identified heritage values of the place. It will be the Minister's responsibility, as appropriate in our parliamentary system, to consider the assessment provided by the Australian Heritage Council when deciding whether the place should be included on the National Heritage List. To ensure that all the values of the place are protected, a management plan is to be developed for each place on the National Heritage List.

The Commonwealth is committed to demonstrating leadership in relation to the management of heritage properties it owns or controls, and for the first time, there will be a single list of Commonwealth places that have significant heritage value. The bill will provide for the development of a heritage strategy and a process for the identification and protection of heritage places in Commonwealth areas. It will provide mechanisms for the identification and management of the Commonwealth's heritage assets ensuring that we continue to meet the best practice standards as outlined in the Schofield Report on Commonwealth Owned Heritage Properties.

A public nomination and listing process similar to that for the National List will apply in relation to the Commonwealth List and the bill will also provide for the ongoing protection of Commonwealth Heritage places that move out of Commonwealth control. The Government recognises the importance of conserving Commonwealth heritage places and is committed to developing a new policy on the disposal of Commonwealth heritage properties.

Criteria for listing of National Heritage and Commonwealth Heritage places have been developed and the Government is committed to consulting stakeholders on these criteria before the bills are finally passed in this house.

The Government is committed to demonstrating leadership in the protection of Indigenous heritage values, recognising that protection will advance reconciliation and promote deeper understanding. The bills recognise the important role Indigenous people have in the management of their heritage values and provide a number of mechanisms to ensure Indigenous participation in the development of management strategies and plans, consultation processes and the protection of confidential information. The bills ensure that the rights and interests of Indigenous people are respected in relation to National and Commonwealth heritage places. It is the Government's intention that future regulations will consolidate the involvement of Indigenous people by providing up-front recognition of the need to protect Indigenous heritage values and the primary role that traditional owners and custodians play in such protection.

In line with the Government's election policy commitments, the Register of the National Estate will also be retained as an information resource for the purposes of heritage promotion and education. The Register will be streamlined and there will be an ongoing ability to add or remove places. Furthermore, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage will be required to consider information in the Register when making relevant decisions under the EPBC Act.

There will be an education program to raise awareness about the new legislation, and a web site to assist the public. The Government is committed to on-going consultation with community and heritage bodies to ensure that the new national heritage conservation regime continues to meet community expectations.

In addition, the Government is committed to the continued development of the Australian Heritage Places Inventory (AHPI) database, which will serve as the community's one-stop-shop for information on heritage places throughout Australia. Places on the Register of the National Estate form an integral part of the Inventory along with State and Territory Heritage Registers.

Through the auspices of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, the Government will also develop an Integrated National Heritage Strategy in partnership with the States, with opportunities for input by other heritage organisations.

In presenting this bill, and through the establishment of the independent statutory Australian Heritage Council, the Government is demonstrating its commitment to ongoing national leadership in relation to heritage conservation. In doing so, the bill delivers on community expectations in relation to what a contemporary heritage regime should provide for the nation.

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AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE COUNCIL BILL 2002

The Australian Heritage Council Bill 2002 establishes the Australian Heritage Council as the nation's primary heritage advisory body.

The role of the Council will be to provide independent and expert advice to the Minister on the identification, conservation and protection of places on the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List. The Council will consist of eminent experts in the fields of natural, Indigenous and historic heritage.

The Council will replace the Australian Heritage Commission as the Commonwealth's expert advisory body on heritage. The Council will assess nominations in relation to the listing of places on the National Heritage List and the Commonwealth Heritage List, advise the Minister on specified matters relating to heritage and promote the identification, assessment and conservation of heritage.

The Council will have a vital role to play in ensuring the success of the Government's new heritage protection regime. A particularly important function of the Council will be to provide advice to the Minister in relation to the identification of places, which qualify for entry on the National and Commonwealth Heritage Lists. The Minister must consider the advice of the Council in deciding whether a to add, or remove a place from the National List. Advice from the Council will also form the basis for Commonwealth involvement in the management of such places.

The Register of the National Estate is a valuable asset to the Commonwealth and under this bill it will continue as an important information resource to which the Council will be able to add places that it believes meet the prescribed criteria. The more than 13000 properties already on the Register will remain and the Register will also be used to assist the Minister in making decisions under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Australian Heritage Commission has played a pivotal role in the conservation of Australia's heritage places over the last 25 years. The Australian Heritage Council will continue the tradition of Commonwealth leadership in the field of heritage conservation and management. It will contribute to a confident Australian outlook, protecting our places and our past to move forward into the future.

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AUSTRALIAN HERITAGE COUNCIL (CONSEQUENTIAL AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS) BILL 2002

This bill is an adjunct to the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2002 and the Australian Heritage Council Bill 2002.

The Australian Heritage Council (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2002 has two primary objectives.

Firstly, the bill provides for the repeal of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 and provides for consequential amendments to other Commonwealth Acts as a result of repealing this Act.

Secondly, the bill puts in place arrangements for a smooth transition from the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 to the new scheme established by the main heritage bills.

The bill, together with the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2002 and the Australian Heritage Council Bill 2002, establishes a truly national scheme for the conservation of Australia's unique heritage assets. This national scheme harnesses the strengths of our Federation by providing for Commonwealth leadership while also respecting the role of the States in delivering on-ground management of heritage places. A centrepiece of the new regime is the creation of an independent statutory heritage body, the Australian Heritage Council.

Ordered that further consideration of these bills be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.