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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 546

Mr SHORT (Ballarat) - I am very pleased indeed to be able to join the bipartisan support for the Museum of Australia Bill which is now before the House. The Bill provides for the establishment of a national museum of Australian history. In supporting the Bill, I join with others in congratulating the members of the Pigott committee of inquiry on Museums and National Collections which, in 1975, produced a report recommending, amongst other things, the establishment of a Museum of Australia along the lines now proposed in this Bill. I would also like to congratulate the Government and particularly the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) who is sitting at the table for having picked up this recommendation and for having brought it to this stage. I am sure that we all look forward to the day when the Museum does become a reality.

In passing, I would also mention for the record that the Pigott report contained a number of other important recommendations, several of which the Government has already implemented. In particular, it has implemented the scheme on tax incentives for the arts, it has introduced the Historic Shipwrecks Act and implemented training courses in materials conservation. The latter is a very important issue in my mind. Each of these initiatives by the present Government has been significant in helping us better to preserve our heritage and to appreciate better our nation's history. The Museum of Australia will be a real and very exciting jewel in this crown. For too long we Australians neglected our past. Very fortunately, however, there has been a major shift in attitude over the past decade or so. We seem at last to have come of age in this respect. We have gotten over the tendency to pull things down and /or to belittle them because they are old. We have developed a pride in our past, a strong wish to preserve our past and a desire, very importantly to learn more about it. The Museum of Australia will allow us to further this admirable development.

It is particularly pleasing that the Museum will combine three main themes - the history of Aboriginal man, the history of non-Aboriginal man and the interaction of man with his environment. As the Minister pointed out in his second reading speech, the history of Aboriginal man is by far the longest of these three, although it is, as with the history of non-Aboriginal man, impossible to disentangle either of these from the interaction between man and his environment. It is therefore completely appropriate that the Bill should pay so much attention to the history of Aboriginal man. But it is to the implications of the latter two themes of the Museum that I wish to address my brief remarks tonight, in view of the time.

I wish to make two main points. The first is that it will be important for the Interim Council and subsequently the Council of the Museum, to recognise the role of other institutions throughout Australia in depicting the history of nonAboriginal man and his interaction with the environment. My second point is that those institutions must not be neglected by the Government in the pursuit of making the Museum of Australia the outstanding and unique attraction that we would all wish it to be. I represent the electorate of Ballarat which I am proud to say can boast the most impressive historical park in Australia. I refer, of course, to Sovereign Hill, which is essentially a re-creation of a gold mining town of the 1 860s which is one of the most important periods in Australia's history. I am pleased to note that official reports including the Pigott report have commented very favourably on the quality of Sovereign Hill and on the professionalism with which it is run. Almost half a million visitors pass through Sovereign Hill each year. Many of them are school children. The Victorian Department of Education employs three teachers there plus a fourth who runs the Red Hill National School.

This is a re-creation of a school of the 1860s. Children from all over Victoria and elsewhere come to attend it for a couple of days at a time.

The educational value of places like Sovereign Hill is enormous, not only to school children but also to adults. Not all visitors are Australians. Some five per cent of the visitors are overseas tourists and the proportion is growing. Sovereign Hill brings enormous benefits to Ballarat, just as other similar attractions do to the areas in which they are located. For example, I refer to Pioneer Village at Swan Hill and the Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach. Most of these attractions are located outside the major capitals. They are a vital part of Australia's rapidly growing tourist industry, an industry encouraged by assistance from Federal, State and local governments, lt is already one of Australia's most important industries. It certainly is the fastest growing industry.

On the further development of the industry rests the hopes and the future of many nonmetropolitan centres. The Federal Government devotes little or no direct financial assistance to attractions such as Sovereign Hill. I am not suggesting that it necessarily should. But what I am extremely anxious to avoid is the situation where major and highly desirable new attractions such as the Museum of Australia, which is fully funded by the Commonwealth, and which have other advantages accruing to them which are not available to other worthwhile and impressive depicitions of aspects of Australia's history, are provided with such resources as to positively hinder the viability of those other less privileged but no less deserving attractions. I recognise in what I have said that I am raising an issue which at this stage is hypothetical. However, if we do not anticipate possible problems in the future we will find them the more difficult to oversome satisfactorily if and when they arise.

That leads me to the proposition that in the establishment and development of the Museum of Australia there must be close co-operation between its Interim Council and subsequent council and representatives from some of the other major historical attractions throughout Australia. The Minister referred in his second reading speech to the need for the Museum of Australia to draw on the wealth of experience embodied in the operations of State museums. That is an admirable sentiment. I simply suggest to the Minister that he also not ignore the wealth of experience which by now has been gained by professional persons such as those represented in the Australian Historical and Tourist Association, and by those who run such important historical institutions as Sovereign Hill.

The final thought I wish to leave with the House and the Minister, and perhaps it is embodied in what I have already said, is that there is a strong need for the closest possible cooperation between those concerned with the establishment and development of the Museum of Australia and those involved with the running of the types of major historical attractions I have already mentioned. It is more than a matter of merely drawing on the experience of these people. Rather, it is a matter of working in harmony with them, in ways which will ensure the broadly based development of Australia's heritage and historical perspective and the continued vital and viable development of Australia's tourism industry. On this latter point, I take the opportunity to congratulate the Government, and in particular the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), for their very valuable support and encouragement of the Australian tourism industry over the past several years. 1 believe that this Government has done more than any other Federal government to put Australia on the map as a tourist destination of world renown. We have many obstacles to overcome, such as distance and the heavy wage costs due to our ridiculous system of penalty rates in the industry, but we are getting there. As a member of the former House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism and the representative of an electorate for which tourism is of tremendous importance, I am delighted to see the positive response to the Government's tourism initiatives. The number of overseas visitors to Australia is increasing rapidly, and so too is the number of Australians travelling within Australia. We must improve these figures still more, but we can do that only if we have the attractions necessary to bring people to Australia and to encourage Australians to see their own country. The proposed Museum of Australia will be an important addition to our armoury of attractions. For that reason, and for the other equally if not more important reasons I have already mentioned, I strongly support the Bill.

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