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Estimates Reply – Attorney-General Archer

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Tags: Heritage, Lake Malbena

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Deputy Chair, my colleague Dr Woodruff covered most of the issues that it is possible to in 10 minutes in her contribution. I thoroughly endorse every statement she made, particularly in relation to young people who wind up either in remand or on sentence at Ashley Youth Detention Centre. This is a matter of the human rights of these young people. They are entitled to legal representation, and we believe they are entitled to have a magistrate to hear matters that come before them but relate to young people.

I will speak particularly today about heritage matters, and the conversation we had at the Estimates table. I also remind the House that under Ms Archer's predecessor as minister, Mr Groom, a program was undertaken to cut 30 per cent - one-third - of the properties from the Heritage register. What it meant is that in places like Launceston and Hobart, whole streetscapes were removed - 37 properties from Balfour Street in Launceston, 10 properties from Charles Street in Launceston, 10 properties from Elphin Road, and on it goes. The fabric of our heritage register has been fundamentally altered because of this Government's decision to cut so many properties from the Heritage register. In North Hobart, a streetscape in George Street, Little Arthur Street, Newdegate Street, Smith Street, and on it goes again.

One of the problems is that in the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995, there is no provision for preserving streetscapes that add to our culture, our heritage and our character, which has allowed the removal of so many streetscapes from the Tasmanian Heritage Register.

One of the other issues with the legislation - I've just had another look at it - is in the establishment, functions and powers of the Tasmanian Heritage Council. The first thing I want to say is I acknowledge the great work the Heritage Council does. It is really important work, but if the Heritage Council is to fulfil its obligations under the act to encourage public interest and understanding of issues relevant to the conservation of Tasmania's historic cultural heritage and encourage and provide public education in respect of Tasmania's historic cultural heritage, there is no argument for having closed Heritage Council meetings. That was a matter that was raised by the Greens at the table. We also note that it is increasingly difficult to find the minutes of Heritage Council meetings. You need to be a bit of an IT specialist to find those minutes.

We encourage the minister to have another look at the Historic Cultural Heritage Act to contemplate how there might be better protections provided for streetscapes that are part of the fabric of our European cultural history, because at the moment, given the under-resourcing of local government in protecting that heritage, there are question marks over the status of those Heritage properties that are part of the streetscapes that are part of our European cultural identity.

We asked about the potential politicisation of decisions from within the former senior management of Heritage Tasmania, and I have to say we still have not had answers as to whether or not a decision was made, for example, to change the listing notice about former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown's property at Oura Oura at Liffey to remove reference to the previous premier's father in an historical recounting of a story which has become known as the chainsaw massacre but relates, as I understand it, to macrocarpa trees. There is also a question over whether or not reference to the Hobart Walking Club's opposition to the expressions of interest process and private development in public protected areas was removed from the listing at Mt Field. You cannot have heritage listings and decisions being politicised, if that is indeed what has happened, and it is our information that that is indeed what happened.

We also asked a question about the former Scottsdale radio station that has gone onto the real-estate market which we understand is one of the last intact radio stations in the country that contains records, materials and technologies which should be preserved for their heritage value. There is still a question mark over what happened to the interior at the Scottsdale radio station and whether or not any effort has been made to preserve some of that unique recent European heritage.

The Greens were also concerned about the state of the National Trust's funding base and the fact that because of its funding base it needs to from time to time send some parts of its collection out to an auction house to raise funds while all over Tasmania really significant European cultural heritage properties are falling into disrepair. One that comes immediately to mind to me, because I have been there most recently, is the beautiful former mine manager's home at Queenstown, Penghana, which is an outstandingly strong structure, but you can see as you walk through that lovely building that it is in sore need of some significant heritage works.

We want to see Heritage Tasmania's advice to the Heritage Council on Reg Hall's hut on Halls Island at Lake Malbena in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Reg Hall's hut, which was built in the early 1950s from memory, is a place that is very dear to Tasmanian lovers of wilderness, to bushwalkers and to fishers, and the hut and the island it is on have been completely privatised by this Government which has signed over in two lease and licences exclusive possession of Reg Hall's hut and Halls Island itself to a single private developer who is working to profit from that publicly protected area and destroy wilderness values through around 240 helicopter flights over the wilderness every year should his development get approved.

Tasmanians should be able to see the advice Heritage Tasmania has provided on the heritage values of Reg Hall's hut. There is no reason to keep that secret, so we will be requesting a copy of that advice and hope that the minister supports us in obtaining that advice from Heritage Tasmania to the Heritage Council. It will certainly be of significant interest to the now thousands and thousands of everyday Tasmanians from every walk of life, all points of the compass and all cultural backgrounds who love the wilderness and who are furious about this Government's privatisation of public protected areas and its capacity and willingness to give away Heritage treasures like Reg Hall's hut and island treasures like Halls Island at Lake Malbina. I might add, Mr Deputy Chair, that all of that was done in secret out of the public's view by, in fact, the minister's predecessor in the Heritage and Parks portfolio, Mr Groom.

There needs to be much more openness in relation to European cultural heritage. It raises a much bigger question here about how we treat heritage generally, whether it is Aboriginal or European cultural heritage, and you cannot help but feeling that for a long time for developers and complicit governments, heritage treasures have been seen as something simply in the way of progress and we are worried that is what we are seeing at Eaglehawk Neck at the site of a likely massacre, according to historian and author, Lyndall Ryan.

There needs to be a whole recalibration about the way we think about this island's history and the human history of this island that goes back 40 000-60 000 years and the European history of this island which goes back about 217 years. That is the established European history of this island; as we know, the French came here before the English invaded.

We encourage the Minister for Heritage to look at the Cultural Heritage Act and talk to the Heritage Council about making sure that their meetings are more open and to provide us with the advice on Reg Hall's hut.