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Wednesday, 21 June 2000
Page: 15362

Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (4:17 PM) —Whilst I hear the invitation, I think I should say something in response to the first part of Senator Bolkus's presentation because, whilst we may not have a large audience, it is a new audience today and there might be some misunderstanding. The government are determined to transfer these properties into a form of perpetual ownership. We are determined that they be properly conserved and presented for the benefit of future generations. If that was not our objective, we would not be here at all. That is why we are setting up a statutory trust that is going to have a 10-year time frame in which to rehabilitate these properties and ensure that they can be transferred to their ultimate recipient in good condition.

In relation to three of those properties, we have already indicated that we intend that they be transferred as part of the New South Wales national park system. There is no secret about that. With regard to the others, we have said that we think there needs to be more debate with government and within the community. Woolwich was one that we mentioned the other day. It is interesting that, from the way I heard the Australian Democrats, I thought they were conceding that, ultimately, there may be an argument for Woolwich to be in the hands of local government, yet their amendment, jointly with Senator Bolkus, would mean there was no option other than to transfer it to the state of New South Wales. We simply do not believe that that decision needs to be made at that time, and therefore to lock us in in a way that no other options can be considered would be unwise. That is what the first part of this batch of amendments is all about.

The second part of the amendments is about the compliance with New South Wales planning laws in particular. I have said to Senator Bolkus that we would like a cooperative arrangement with the New South Wales government in relation to this very important national project. That is why we have left open two seats on the interim trust. That is why our statutory formula includes seats for New South Wales, but we cannot get the New South Wales government to cooperate. It will not even nominate personnel to work with us. In those circumstances, we are not prepared to agree to provisions that would, in effect, give the New South Wales government a veto over planning issues. When it is prepared to join us in a genuine, cooperative way, in many ways that becomes irrelevant because we would want to be working within and pursuant to New South Wales planning laws. But the New South Wales government has to be prepared to put the politics aside. We all know that some aspects of this matter have not pleased it—in particular, that Federation Fund money was applied by the government towards the costs of transferring the military out of these sites. It was objected to by the New South Wales government, but that is really a matter of the past, I would respectfully suggest. It is time to move on. When the New South Wales government is prepared to put the issues of the past behind us and work constructively with us towards meeting what I think is a great objective here, we can address more sensibly some of these planning issues.

After completion of this debate—which is very much a form debate, because as I said the numbers are here for the opposition and the Democrats to transform this into their piece of legislation—we will seriously analyse the bill that has come out of this place. We will then obviously seek to modify it into a form that is acceptable to us and, if the House of Representatives agrees with what we present to it, the bill would then come back to us in that form sometime in the future.

Amendments agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Bartlett)—In light of the amendments that Senator Bolkus has just spoken about, I think we need to put Democrat-opposition amendment No. 86 separately. I put the question that clause 69 stand as printed.

Question resolved in the negative.