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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19227

Mr DUTTON (2:59 PM) —Time for a real question. My question is addressed to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

Mr Tanner —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You regularly admonish opposition questioners for such comments. Why don't you admonish the member for Dickson?

The SPEAKER —The member for Oxley is warned! The member for Melbourne is right—on the other hand, if I had dealt with the matter of preambles for questions then there would have been a number of others which would have been dealt with today as well.

Mr DUTTON —My question is addressed to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Would the minister advise the House on the progress of the Howard government's programs to protect and preserve our environment and built heritage? What support has the government received for its heritage initiatives?

Dr KEMP (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I thank the honourable member for Dickson for his very substantial question. The government believes that Australia has a quite remarkable heritage. We have places of triumph and tragedy, buildings that have witnessed great events, machines that led the world in their day and an Indigenous heritage important in the whole human story. It is a heritage of which Australians are very proud. It underpins our national identity as a democratic, confident, inventive nation. Today the Senate has passed the Howard government's landmark heritage legislation that will establish, for the first time, a truly national scheme for the identification and preservation of our nationally important heritage. On the basis of this legislation, the government will be engaging the Australian people in a national effort to identify our most significant national heritage. Every major heritage organisation in Australia supported this legislation, which was negotiated, in the end, between the government and Senator Meg Lees's Australian Progressive Alliance. The Australian Council of National Trusts has called this legislation a major step forward for heritage.

The SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne is warned!

Dr KEMP —There is only one organisation which has consistently opposed this legislation, and that is the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party was deaf throughout this process to the pleas and support of Australia's heritage organisations. I think the problem is that many in the Australian Labor Party have a completely different view of our national heritage: they think that our national heritage is a cause not for pride and celebration but a cause for shame. The member for Melbourne has been good enough to put his views on national heritage on the public record in his book Open Australia. What does he think about national heritage? He thinks that our national identity is `laden with uncertainty, doubt and inferiority'. In a speech to a Young Labor conference the member for Jagajaga opined this opinion:

Australia, a nation that once embraced people in distress, has become a captive of encouraged prejudice.

The Left of the Labor Party meet every Saturday morning in their wine bars and coffee shops and tell each other how prejudiced the rest of Australia is and how ashamed they ought to be of their national heritage.

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. What does this have to do with national heritage, the environment or anything faintly connected with the minister's portfolio?

The SPEAKER —The member will resume his seat. The minister has the call.

Dr KEMP —This is a problem that the Labor Party face: they have a left wing which believes that this country should be ashamed of its heritage and its history, and we have members who are putting this on the public record. They are even out of touch with their own grassroots, and indeed with some of the state premiers. I had a letter from the Tasmanian Premier Jim Bacon urging me to include the historic Port Arthur site on the new national list under this legislation. He made his request based on the fact that this legislation would release some $13.4 million of new funding for the preservation of Australian heritage. So while we have state premiers supporting the legislation, we have the federal Labor Party opposing it right down to the wire because they do not have that pride in Australia which most Australians have and which the government has. Mr Speaker, Labor's opposition to these bills and to the distinctively Australian program just shows how out of touch they are. They are opposed to it.

The SPEAKER —The member for Ballarat is warned!

Mr Kelvin Thomson —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister is anticipating debate on the Senate amendments which are due to come back before the House. Given that he refused to allow debate on this bill when it came here the first time, he should at least—

The SPEAKER —The member for Wills has made his point of order and will resume his seat. I will listen closely to the minister's response. He is aware of the anticipation rule.

Dr KEMP —This government is proud of Australia. Crean Labor have no understanding of Australia's past, no idea of where we are now and no idea about where they want to go in the future.