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Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6728

Senator ALLISON (3:08 PM) —I advise the minister that my office did inform his office and I move:

That the Senate take note of the minister's failure to provide either an answer or an explanation.

The questions that I referred to were all about the Commonwealth's management of heritage. The government is asking us to deal with the heritage legislation, which the Democrats are very keen to do. However, that legislation includes a very substantial and important section about the Commonwealth and its management of heritage legislation. In anticipation of that legislation coming on, the Democrats decided it would be useful for each department to indicate how it is managing its heritage. So we asked when each department had conducted the last audit of heritage values in its properties and whether that report could be made available.

We asked whether the department has policies, protocols and/or guidelines for the protection of heritage values in its properties, and if not, why not. What is the budget for maintenance and conservation works in the department for the 2001-2 financial year? How does that compare with the previous four financial years? Which properties has the department sold over the past five years and which of those have heritage value? Which of those were listed on the Register of the National Estate? Which of those have state government and/or local protection? What are the department's policy protocols and/or guidelines for archiving the documents? Does the department have a collection of art works and/or artefacts including documents of heritage value? Are these documented and is there a budget for acquisition or conservation of such work? Does the department use the National Culture-Leisure Industry's statistical framework prepared by the Cultural Ministers Council in compiling data, and if not, why not? And for those services contracted out, what arrangements, guidelines and requirements are in place to safeguard records for archiving?

I think that it is quite clear that some departments do better than others in looking after their heritage. We accepted the government's argument in fact that this was relatively complex for many departments— probably those that do not care too much for their heritage—and that the Minister's Department of the Environment and Heritage would in fact compile or coordinate the responses. That was back in February this year and still we have seen nothing. As I said earlier, the Democrats are keen to debate the heritage bills. We are not however prepared to insist and force that debate on other parties in this chamber, as we rarely are. It would be useful—

Senator Hill —You voted against them!

Senator ALLISON —No, we are certainly not against it, Senator Hill, and you know that. We did that because we do not believe that it is reasonable in this place for debate to be forced on parties that want to observe the cut-off, and I am sure you will agree that is a proper position to take. If the government was really serious, it would have answered these questions long ago. We would have been more assured about the care with which all of our Commonwealth departments are looking after heritage that is owned not just by the federal government but by everybody in this country. I think they are reasonable questions. I think they should have been answered by now, and I hope that the minister can get back at least by the next sitting week with an answer to those questions that are on notice.