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Labor to oppose Howard's attempt to strip back heritage protection.



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Nick Bolkus - Labor To Oppose Howard's Attempts To Strip Back Heritage Protection http://www.alp.org.au//media/0501/nbmsahc080501.html Wednesday, 09 May 2001

Labor To Oppose Howard's Attempts To Strip Back Heritage Protection Nick Bolkus - Shadow Minister for Environment

Media Statement - 8 May 2001

The Howard Government is seeking to dramatically reduce heritage protection at the very time we are commemorating our constitutional heritage, according to a Senate Inquiry report tabled today.

"The Government's legislation is completely unacceptable" said Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Bolkus.

"The Government is walking away from 25 years of experience of the Heritage Commission, which has revolutionised the way in which Australian heritage is managed and protected and set standards in international best practice.

"The Government is gutting the Australian Heritage Commission, replacing it with an advisory council with significantly reduced powers and independence. "The Government is also set to discard the Register of the National Estate as a statutory register, consigning the 13,000 places currently listed on the Register to an uncertain future.

"Only a few hundred of the 13,000 places will be protected under the proposed National List. Thousands of places will lose their heritage status and the associated protection.

"Mr Howard is selective in his heritage protection and betrays our heritage in doing so. The loss of the statutory Register means that only an elite list of no more than a few hundred places will be protected under the new legislation."

By incorporating heritage in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Government can delegate assessment and approval powers for actions that have a significant impact on heritage values under bilateral agreements with the states.

"It is ironic that even as we celebrate 100 years as a nation, Mr Howard is still seeking to return national powers to the states" said Senator Bolkus.

The protection of indigenous heritage is also under question. On the Prime Minister's direction, Senator

Hill recently abandoned amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Bill that had been agreed with indigenous representatives and had the support of the Labor party.

Labor will oppose the legislation at its second reading and seek to significantly amend the legislation if there is a committee stage.

Overview of concerns raised during the Inquiry

Significant concerns have been raised during the Senate Inquiry into the proposed heritage legislation. These include:

Whether the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is an appropriate framework for heritage protection ●

The loss of the statutory Register of National Estate ● The need for the separation of listing and management decisions ● The significant downgrading of the role of the Australian Heritage Commission ● The protection of Indigenous heritage ●

Lack of public consultation on the listing criteria for the new lists and the management principles for heritage management ●

Labor's approach to heritage protection

Labor's preferred approach to heritage protection is to maintain and strengthen the existing Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975. This is considered a more appropriate framework for heritage protection than the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Labor supports retaining the Register of National Estate as a comprehensive statutory register to be updated and maintained at a national level. Labor agrees that there is a need for stronger protection provisions in the existing regime for protection of heritage places with national significance, but that this should be achieved through amendment to the existing legislation.

There needs to be better coordination between the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Bill. To ensure that indigenous heritage is adequately protected, strengthening of the two regimes should ideally be implemented together.

The Labor party will oppose the heritage legislation at the second reading. However, if there is a committee stage and the legislation is debated, the Labor party will move significant amendments to address the critical flaws in the legislation.

This includes amendments to:

Retain the Register of National Estate as a statutory register ● Ensure that the Council is an independent statutory authority with responsibilities and powers equivalent to those under the existing Commission ●

Separate decisions of listing and management of heritage places ● Ensure adequate public consultation on listing criteria and management principles ● Ensure that indigenous heritage is adequately protected and that indigenous people are adequately ●

represented on any decision making body. Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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