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Transcript of interview with Mark Parton: ABC 2CC: 26 May 2015: Call for National Heritage Listing of Canberra; marriage equality

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The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for the Environment


26 May 2015




Topics: Call for National Heritage Listing of Canberra, marriage equality

MARK PARTON: Greg Hunt is the Federal Environment Minister - he’s probably wearing ugg boots and a onesie now. He’s on the line. G’day Greg.


Good morning. No I’ve walked in through the very cold weather and I can give the official weather report that on the walk from Griffith to Parliament House it’s somewhere well below zero, but no I’m not wearing the onesie today.

MARK PARTON: Isn’t it funny though, that on a morning like this when it is below the zero, once you get moving, as long as your fingers and your ears are covered, it’s ok, isn’t it?


Ah, to a degree...


GREG HUNT: I’ve got to say it was pretty chilly out there and because I was just reading the morning news on the phone the fingers are objecting. But there you go.

MARK PARTON: I can imagine, I can imagine. Now we spoke with Gary Kent yesterday from the Inner South Community Council who’s one of the - well I think the few in this town - who are supportive of Canberra being on this National Heritage List. I gather that finally there’s going to be a delayed decision on this next month. You’re front and centre here on it Greg. What’s going to - where is it at, at the moment?

GREG HUNT: Sure. So just a tiny little bit of background for your listeners. The first thing is that the Labor Party in the ACT was initially pushing for a listing of Canberra under what’s called the National Heritage List and you really have three options. You can list it all, you can abandon it, or you can have a

modest listing, where it might be confined to a small area of high value historic regions. Now look I am very happy to chat with Andrew Barr - there may well be a sensible compromise. I’m not minded to sort of ride in over a Territory Government, or in other parts of the country, over a council.

I think you have to have very sensible balanced approaches to this. Broken Hill was listed but the community, the council, the State and the Commonwealth all agreed. Here the ACT ALP has reversed its previous position. I think they wanted to make a big, bold, grand gesture and realised in the end we’re kidding ourselves.

So I’m happy to sit down with Andrew Barr and make a common sense decision. I don’t think that inner Canberra is threatened. I think the National Capital Planning Authority does a very, very good job.

MARK PARTON: So, indeed, who actually makes the final call on this?

GREG HUNT: Look this comes with my job, so it’s a Federal Environment Minister’s call as to whether or not to list. But in a case like this, it makes very good sense to sit down with the relevant authority, which is exactly what we did with Broken Hill.

Broken Hill was very proud, but of course Broken Hill is, by definition, a deeply historical town and they wanted it as a part of their sense of identity, their branding to Australia and tourism around the world. In Canberra, the inner triangle is always evolving and we did say to them, be careful what you wish for and they’ve...

MARK PARTON: That’s absolutely right.

GREG HUNT: And they’ve now come back and said we may have been kidding ourselves...


GREG HUNT: It might be that there are parts that can reasonably be listed. I’m very happy to sit down with Andrew Barr, but to ride over the views of a State or Territory Government about their own land - I think you’d have to be very cautious about that.

MARK PARTON: Malcolm Turnbull’s been speaking on ABC radio this morning about same-sex marriage. He says Australia is the odd one out on same-sex marriage. I note that Joel Fitzgibbon from the other side has come out and revealed his support publicly and it’s just a matter of time before we get a change here.

The Greens are trying to push forward with this, they are bringing forward a Senate debate on it to next month and they’re talking about a vote in November. Where are we at? When are we going to see change here?

GREG HUNT: Yeah, sure. So look, I think at some stage the Party Room will address the issue. There are two different views, you know, should this be something for a referendum, but in Australia, the people alone can change the Constitution through a referendum, but the Parliament changes the laws

through legislation and this one is an issue for the Parliament, although of course you are always deeply, deeply informed by social views.

I think that the Party Room will address this issue because there’s discussion about it, frankly, at some stage in the near future - how near I can’t say. Differing views within that. I am - if we were to go to a free vote on this I’d be completely comfortable with that.

MARK PARTON: Yeah, I -we talk about this Federal Budget being a game-changer where you guys sit on an electoral basis - gee this would be a game-changer too, wouldn’t it? Whatever moves were made to get to a conscience vote it wouldn’t matter if the Prime Minister was dead-set against it once it got to the conscience vote and he voted the other way. The fact that it was able to happen would be a game-changer.

GREG HUNT: Look, I think it is very important that you allow the Party Room to put their views. I wouldn’t pre-empt how they go as to whether or not we have what’s known as a free vote, but most people call it a conscience vote, essentially where there are no rules as to how Members vote. I would be comfortable, in fact extremely comfortable, if that were the decision of the Party Room. I think there is a certain history that is evolving here and I think we can all see that emerging.

MARK PARTON: The Prime Minister seems to me to be in much more of a listening mood than he was a year ago.

GREG HUNT: Look, we never underestimate our Prime Minister on a range of issues. He...

MARK PARTON: Particularly as we get closer to an election.

GREG HUNT: He is an incredibly decent person. One of the interesting things is his sister who’s now well and truly very public about her private arrangements, yet he had been put under pressure to talk about did he know gay people and he never sought to make anything of his own family’s circumstances, had total respect and of course is completely comfortable with everybody across a range of views. And he was willing to take criticism to protect the privacy of his family and his friends.

In the end it turns out people incredibly close to him, have been living with, working with, talking with him about these issues and he wouldn’t advantage himself by taking advantage of another. So there’s a fundamental decency about the bloke and the Labor Party loves to rip into him and some journalists do. The truth is the more you know him, the better he gets. The closer you get to Tony Abbott, the more decent he is.

MARK PARTON: Greg, thanks for coming on this morning.

GREG HUNT: Thanks a lot.