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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13874


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (12:12): 'Monuments and archaeological pieces,' said former Mexican President Vicente Fox, 'serve as testimonies of man's greatness and establish a dialogue between civilizations showing the extent to which human beings are linked.' How very true. The German playwright Frank Wedekind said it best: 'Monuments are for the living, not the dead.' Across Australia, particularly in state capitals and the regional cities made rich in the mining booms of the 19th century, stone monuments literally glorify a golden age. Ballarat and Bendigo have some outstanding monumental pieces and architecture, preserving a heritage and history which made these Victorian centres great.

Queen Victoria, Britain's longest serving monarch, still reigns over our metropolitan cities, including those in the two states named in her honour: Queensland and Victoria. Particularly striking is Sydney's larger-than-life bronze statue of Captain James Cook, standing on a cylindrical granite shaft and tiered granite base. The Hyde Park memorial to the mighty English cartographer and navigator, whose greatness should always be accurately depicted in the school curriculum, faces towards the Sydney Heads and shows Cook holding a telescope in his left hand whilst proudly pointing his right hand skywards.

Perhaps the most common of all the monuments dotted across this wide, brown land are those that stand as proud yet sombre tributes to those who fell on the battlefields and in the trenches of the Great War of 1914-18. Memorials evoking the spirit of Anzac are everywhere, from the acclaimed design masterpieces of the magnificent Australian War Memorial here in Canberra and those in the capital cities through to the stone soldiers—silent sentinels—gazing off into the distance atop columns of names of men who never made it home to their rural, regional and remote towns. It seems that every city, town, village and district has a war memorial in some shape or form, and that is wholly appropriate. Memorials are important.

'What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others,' Greek statesman Pericles said nearly 2,500 years ago. He was right of course. There are plenty of great people who do not have great statues to ensure that their actions echo across the centuries. Nonetheless, monuments play a significant cultural and historical role in guaranteeing that tradition survives, perpetuating those deemed by their peers worthy of perpetuating and honouring causes and battles won and lost. To this end the parliament's National Capital and External Territories Committee has recommended a completely new process for approving national memorials. This is a noble venture.

The committee's report, Etched in stone?, following the committee's inquiry into the management of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928, recommends that the ordinance be repealed and replaced with a commemorative works act. This would follow the same lines as those operating in Washington DC. The main features of the new legislation are: a definition of commemorative work covering both national memorials and national monuments; the formation of a national memorials advisory committee, a committee of historical, cultural and subject experts to consider commemorative intent; the establishment of new and binding criteria for commemorative works to underpin the assessment process; the development of a memorials master plan to guide future works; and a two-pass approvals process for commemorative works.

At the first pass, memorial proponents must meet commemorative criteria and have an achievable budget. Proposals for commemorative intent are to start by motions in both houses of parliament and be approved on the recommendation of the National Capital and External Territories Committee. At the second pass, design and location are to be agreed upon. Approval to proceed is to be given by the National Capital and External Territories Committee on the proviso that heritage and environment assessments and realistic financial budgets have been reached and community consultation has been made. This approval is to be final and binding. The committee has fulfilled its task.

Australia's history is a rich tapestry of interesting people and events. In my home town there are significant landmarks documenting Wagga Wagga's remarkable past. There is the Wagga Wagga beach monument to the intrepid explorer Charles Sturt, who visited the area on his trek of discovery in 1829. In Collins Park, a white concrete and marble obelisk, generally surrounded by colourful flowers, is dedicated to the memory of Saddler Joseph Palazzi, the first man of the 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles regiment to be killed in action in the Boer War of 1899-1902. Thoroughbred horse racing enthusiast Barney Hyams approached me some time ago with the idea of erecting a suitable local monument to the memory of Arthur 'Scobie' Breasley, the Wagga Wagga boy who became the Queen's jockey and who won the 'blue riband of the turf', the Epsom Derby Stakes, twice—1964 and 1966. It is a suggestion which has merit.

After this morning's extraordinary and historic events just after parliament began, you can be sure there will be no statues moulded to the memory of how the present Prime Minister will do anything and say anything to keep her job.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Careful. I am being kind, but not that kind.

Mr McCORMACK: I just want to make the point that the Speaker, Harry Jenkins, did a splendid job in difficult and trying circumstances and that, given his sacrifice today, perhaps a bronze bust of him ought to be made and placed at the ALP's Sussex Street headquarters in Sydney, where so many of Labor's faceless powerbrokers plan and plot to keep this crisis government in power so that they can forever remember what he gave up to stay true to the party.

Dr Leigh interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Fraser will resume his seat. The member for Riverina has been given a great deal of indulgence and so he either finishes or sits down, because I am not in the mood.

Mr McCORMACK: Finally, I concur with the view of the Chair of t he Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, Senator Louise Pratt, who said:

National memorials are a permanent representation of the nation's history and culture. We need a sound mechanism in place to ensure that national memorials are rigorously assessed for their commemorative intent, design and location before people commit money and resources to the final outcome. The committee believes that the National Memorials Ordinance is past its time and that the proposed Commemorative Works Act will provide a simple, modern and effective mechanism to take its place.

Etched in stone? fulfils its objectives and I commend it to the House. Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question is that the report be noted. I call the member for Fraser. I remind the member for Riverina that he can't leave!