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Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Page: 3199


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) (4:45 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

MILITARY MEMORIALS OF NATIONAL

It is my great pleasure to present legislation that will further honour those Australians who have suffered as prisoners of war and recognise the efforts of the people of Ballarat to commemorate Australia’s Prisoners of War.

This Bill will carry through the Government’s election commitment to recognise the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat as a Military Memorial of National Significance.

The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial was dedicated in Ballarat in February 2004.

The memorial was the result of an outstanding effort by the Ballarat RSL, the Ex-Prisoners of War Association and the City and people of Ballarat, to recognise the bravery and sacrifice of more than 35,000 Australian Prisoners of War held during the Boer War, the two World Wars and the Korean War.

They built this magnificent memorial with fund-raising appeals and their own hard work. They sought, and rightly received, significant funding from the previous Government in support of their project.

But, to the lasting frustration of the people who made the Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial possible, the previous Government refused repeated requests to recognise it as a national memorial.

The previous Government’s position was that it could not be legally done. They argued that national memorials were located here in Canberra and that the ordinance did not allow national status to be given to memorials established outside the Australian Capital Territory.

The Australian Labor Party, and particularly here I would recognise the efforts of the Member for Ballarat, insisted that it could be done, if the Government was willing.

And so, in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, we promised that, if we were elected to Government, it would be done.

Today, with this legislation, this Government keeps that promise.

This legislation will enable the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat to be declared a Military Memorial of National Significance.

This Bill will also establish a process, separate to the National Memorials Ordinance 1928, to recognise other Military Memorials of National Significance.

The Bill will apply to eligible memorials located outside the Australian Capital Territory and specifically will not apply to the establishment of national memorials in the National Capital.

The legislation will enable the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, with the written approval of the Prime Minister, to declare a memorial to be a Military Memorial of National Significance.

The Commonwealth will not be responsible for funding or maintaining a memorial that has been declared a Military Memorial of National Significance and so the memorial must also be owned or managed by an authority at the State, Territory or local government level.

The responsibility for ongoing maintenance or any refurbishment of a declared memorial will remain with the authority that owns or manages it.

I want to make it very clear that the purpose of this Bill is to provide an appropriate mechanism to recognise Military Memorials of National Significance, and not to allow for any provision or appropriation of financial support to be provided by the Commonwealth.

National memorial status should not be something that is taken lightly. To ensure this is the case, the Bill sets out clear criteria that must be met before a Military Memorial of National Significance can be declared.

The criteria to be met will not be easy for any memorial to achieve and include that the memorial:

  • must be of an appropriate, scale, design and standard, as well as being dignified and symbolic, in keeping with its purpose as a war memorial;
  • must be a memorial for the sole purpose of commemorating a significant aspect of Australia’s wartime history;
  • must have a major role in community commemorative activities; and
  • must observe Commonwealth flag protocols.

These criteria will ensure that the declaration of Military Memorials of National Significance is managed appropriately. A further measure will enable the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs to revoke a declaration, should a memorial cease to meet the legislated requirements.

This legislation will support the strong tradition of commemoration in Australia’s communities, recognising significant memorials that are worthy of being declared as nationally significant.

Debate (on motion by Senator Chris Evans) adjourned.