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Transcript
Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

3AW Morning with Ross Warneke
Thursday, 18 December 2003

Subject: Discussion on Distinctively Australian, the New National Heritage System


Compere:
What are Australia's most sacred sites? Interesting question isn't it? Bondi beach, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Birdsville Pub, Port Arthur. What do you reckon? The reason I raise that is that in Canberra today the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, is expected to announce that Anzac Cove at Gallipoli is to be nominated as the first site on a new national heritage list. After that all of us will be invited to add our own nominations to the list.

Okay I can hear many of you saying ‘hold on we've already got a Register of the National Estate' which has, as I understand it, about 13000 sites on its database. What's this new register all about?

Well, from what I gather it's going to be the mother of all heritage lists. A list of extra special places that simply cannot be touched.

Joining me on the line to talk about it Federal Environment and Heritage Minister, Dr David Kemp. Good morning.

Dr Kemp:
Good morning, Ross.

Compere:
Tell us about this new list. Why do we need it?

Dr Kemp:
Well, because up till now we've never had any way of properly identifying the heritage sites which are really of national significance and which deserve to have the full protection of the law given to them and to be properly managed for the future.

As you said, the Register of the National Estate is a very long list. It's got round about 14,000 items on it actually, and none of those are really properly protected under that list. It's simply an indicative list that tells us what items all around the country - whether they're of national significance or local significance - people think are important parts of our heritage. And that's very good as far as it goes.

But what we really need is a way of identifying those places that are of real significance to Australia's national identity. The list is going to be a much shorter list. A list of items that Australians will immediately respond to.

Compere:
Like how short?

Dr Kemp:
Well, we haven't got any arbitrary limit on it, but because each of these sites needs to be properly managed and properly protected, there's obviously a limit to how many sites can be on the list.

I would venture a guess and say that we'll be looking at perhaps 100 to 200 sites on this list rather than the 14,000 that we've got on the Register of the National Estate at the present time. And all of those sites will have proper management plans and they'll be protected by the law.

Compere:
And management plans, well that suggests that money would have to be spent on them on an ongoing basis.

Dr Kemp:
That's right. And in the last national budget the Government allocated some $13million to put together with existing heritage funds to make a fund of about $52 million for this national heritage campaign, which we're calling Distinctively Australian, and which all Australians will be asked to take part in and to identify those parts of our national heritage that they believe are so significant that they ought to be on this national list, and afforded the kinds of protections that it provides.

Compere:
What sort of protection though? I mean, I can think of say - I suggested at the start the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but at the moment we're watching some of the history of the Melbourne Cricket Ground being replaced by brand new buildings that will have no history at all, not for a long time, but the old member's stand's gone. If that was on the list how would it be protected?

Dr Kemp:
Well, that's right and it's a question then of what are the values that need to be protected? If the old stand had been on the list then obviously, there would have been a different kind of debate about it.

Now, some people may think that's good, some bad. But what we'd really want to identify here are those heritage values that are very much a part of our Australian identity so that whenever we take decisions about them in the future we can take into account what those values are and how they can be best protected.

Compere:
So using the MCG as an example, because it's familiar to our listeners in Melbourne. The Melbourne Cricket Ground may well go on to the list or might go on to the list as a venue rather than as a collection of buildings.

Dr Kemp:
Well there has to be an assessment by the Australian Heritage Council about what there is of particular heritage value that would need to be protected around the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground, as you say, has gone through huge reconstruction. It is an enormously important venue for sport, probably the most important venue for sport in the whole of Australia. Now that it has gone through this reconstruction we will have to have a really solid discussion about what is there that gives the value that really needs to be protected for the future, and is it feasible to give it the kind of protection the heritage regime would provide for it.

Compere:
If, as expected, the Prime Minister announces that Anzac Cove at Gallipoli is the first to be put on the list, or nominated for the list, I think most Australians would applaud that. I can't imagine too many disagreeing with that to be honest. But after that, as I said, members of the public will be invited to nominate sites. How will that work?

Dr Kemp:
Well, that's right. The Government will be making public announcements and providing people with information about how to make nominations. I imagine there'll be a great deal of discussion about this in the press and on programs such as yours as people put forward their ideas.

And there will be an opportunity then for them to make a preliminary nomination and get some idea about whether it's likely to succeed. And then if there is a possibility of it succeeding then there's a nomination form that can be filled out that invites them to list what they think are the important heritage values of that particular place.

Compere:
So when you say possibly 100, 200 sites going onto this list in the long term it may mean ten a year. They're not all going to be put on immediately.

Dr Kemp:
Absolutely not, there's going to be a proper process of assessment of all of these sites by the Australian Heritage Council and we'll obviously be looking at those first of all that are most clear, and some of those sites will already be World Heritage sites. They'll be World Heritage sites that obviously should also be part of the national list. And then beyond those World Heritage sites there'll be a careful process of scrutiny about the additional nominations.

Compere:
I read with interest that if anyone does tamper with any of these sites once they go onto the list that there are extraordinarily big fines -- $500,000 for individuals, perhaps even seven years jail. And five and a half million dollars in fines for corporations that tamper with them.

Dr Kemp:
Well, that's right and there is a reason for that, that some of these sites will be for example, significant natural heritage sites.

Now, it may be in the interests of a company that sees the possibility of making very big profits, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars to simply ignore the law and the protections and to attack the site in some way with bulldozers or whatever to try and get some development under way before the protections can be put in place.

So the fines are set at such a level that they will act as a real deterrent to that kind of activity to pre-empt the destruction of the site for a private benefit. So I think these fines will be effective because they're set at the sort of levels that you're talking about.

Compere:
As you said there'll be more details coming out the next few days. But one thing that does come to mind being a Melbournian - Point Nepean.

Now, a lot of people in Victoria are very attached to Point Nepean, there's a controversy over its future at the moment. If that were nominated for the list and was placed on the list, none of the development plans for Point Nepean could go ahead.

Dr Kemp:
Well, what it would mean is that there would have to be a proper management plan for the protection of the nationally significant heritage on that site. And I've no doubt that there will be a debate over Point Nepean and whether it should be nominated for the national heritage list. And it probably will be nominated and there will be a discussion about that.

And the Federal Government, through its national heritage regime will be looking to see that there would be proper protections in place for Point Nepean.

Compere:
But in the case of Point Nepean would some development be permitted even if it was on the list?

Dr Kemp:
Well, that would depend on whether that development was compatible with the historic heritage values of the site. The regime doesn't mean that there can never be any kind of development or change in a site. But what it does mean is that anything that occurs has to be compatible with the kinds of values that people want to see preserved.

Compere:
I can see that leading to some stoushes Minister, I really can.

Dr Kemp:
Well, I'm sure there'll be some big debates on these matters and that's good, as far as we do need as a community to realise that our national heritage is very important to our identity, and we need to identify those aspects of our national heritage that we really want our children and our grandchildren to be able to enjoy.

Compere:
Well, I think it's a good idea. We honour our national icons in terms of heroes, people. Why not honour sacred sites or national icons that are sites?

Dr Kemp:
Well, that's right because many of these are associated with people and with great achievements with pioneering efforts that we want to remember, with the remarkable indigenous heritage we've got.

We've got some of the most important history of the human race here in Australia with a lot of the rock carvings and petroglyphs around the country. There are many places, including as you mentioned earlier, Anzac Cove overseas that really have led to Australia's sense of itself as a nation. And we want to see all those properly preserved and this new national heritage regime can do that.

Compere:
All right Minister, thanks for you time.

Dr Kemp:
Thanks very much Ross.

Compere:
David Kemp, Federal Environment and Heritage Minister. I think it's a good idea. I really do. I think it's a great idea. It just depends how strong the rules are going to be.

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