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Hill misses historic opportunity.



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Press release

Senator Nick Bolkus

Shadow Minister for Environment and Heritage

 

26 November 1999

 

 

Hill misses historic opportunity

 

The Government today missed its last opportunity to enter the new millennium with a credible approach to indigenous heri tage protection.

 

In a profoundly disappointing move, and in full knowledge of the consequences, the Howard Government has today rejected a package of amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Bill that would ensure the protection of indigenous heritage.

 

“The protection of the living cultural heritage of Australia’s indigenous peoples, together with a willingness to ensure its continued transmission, is central to their survival as a distinct social and cultural entity’ said Senator Bolkus, opposition spokesperson in the Senate on indigenous affairs.

 

“The alternative to effective and comprehensive indigenous heritage protection is indeed cultural genocide, the erosion, desecration, degradation and destruction of indigenous cultures that continue to take place today.’

 

The 1984 act has offered little in the way of effective protection and the states have improved their performance in heritage protection only marginally since that time.

 

In a pathetic attempt to address this, the Government has blatantly ignored key recommendations of the Evatt report a widely recognised benchmark for reform of Commonwealth and State/Territory heritage laws, and the result of extensive consultations throughout Australia with indigenous and non-Indigenous interests.

 

‘The amendments proposed by the ALP and the Democrats represent a careful compromise between development concerns and indigenous heritage protection’ said Senator Bolkus.

 

These amendments can be grouped in to three packages, each of which is essential for adequate heritage protection:

1. Establishment of an independent Commonwealth Heritage Protection Agency - a depoliticised, independent expert body.

2. Retention of the Commonwealth as a genuine and real option of fast resort in he ritage protection.

3. Strengthening the: minimum standards for accreditation of state heritage protection regimes.

 

“This bill displays the same indecent desire to. abandon the fate of indigenous heritage to the whims of the states - the same desire that w as the Howard government’s answer to the so-called problem of native title’ said Senator Bolkus. ‘The Government’s proposed standards are. so low, that if they were to come into law, they would present the opportunity for some states to lower existing standards.

 

“Our proposed enhanced standards will include a requirement for states to effectively integrate heritage and planning laws regulations and procedures. Heritage will always be at risk without the whole of government approach implicit in this measure.’

 

“How will history judge Howard’s government in its discharge of responsibilities for indigenous Australians, their heritage and the protection and. preservation of their culture?’

 

 

Contact: Michael Megaw 02 6277 4022 or 0417 992 402

Alex Gordon 02 6277 3388 or 0417 243 742

 

 

jk  1999-11-29  09:52