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Transcript
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

Tuesday, 18 April 2006
Neil Mitchell morning programme - 3AW

Aboriginal camp, Campaign Sovereign, Kings Domain


Mitchell:

On the line the Federal Environment and Heritage Minister. Senator Ian Campbell, good morning.

Senator Campbell:

Morning Neil.

Mitchell:

Are they right - could people be fined $50,000 for going in?

Senator Campbell:

Well I took advice on it from my Department first thing this morning when I got a call from your producer and the answer is no, they can’t. The history of this is that it was a law passed by the Hawke Government back in – I think I just heard your other reporter or someone say it was 1984, I just don’t have the Act with me – but it was done in the Hawke years, the Hawke Labor years, when John Cain was trying to get this put in place in Victoria but couldn’t because the Liberals and Nationals used to have control of the Upper House. So this is how you ended up with this set of bizarre circumstances of a federal law being administered by a state minister. It seems to me the problem has been caused because the State Government – I hear you’ve got John Thwaites coming on, he can be questioned about this I guess – what happened is that you do have to appoint an inspector (…inaudible…). What I do when I’m using the Federal law and appointing an inspector is that I make sure that the inspector is someone who is totally independent from the issue. These things obviously get incredibly emotional and heated. What I do is I make sure that the inspector that I appoint is very independent from the group that’s making the claim of heritage. For example, in the recent West Australian heritage case, where the State Government’s building a desalination plant on a local waterway there, I appointed an inspector from Sydney to do the inspection. So what your State Labor Government has done there has appointed an inspector who’s not only a member of the Wurundjeri tribe, but as I understand it has actively been involved down at the site. I’m not saying whether she’s one of the protestors or not, I simply don’t know that. But I would have thought it’s an absurd thing to do to appoint an inspector who has the power to make this declaration, who is someone who is so close to the action. It really is bad law, bad principle and bad policy and it has quite frankly created this very stupid situation.

Mitchell:

So does that mean, the fact that this person is not independent, does that mean that the $50,000 fine does not apply?

Senator Campbell:

No, that’s not…

Mitchell:

So why doesn’t the 50 grand apply?

Senator Campbell:

Because there’s no trespassing involved in this case. The land has not been declared as a heritage area. I think it’s called a declaration, it’s just to do with the fire, they’ve been given an interim order in relation to the fire, but anything outside keeping the fire alight – it’s public property – I think I read in the Herald Sun this morning, that the police said that it is public ground, you can walk through it and enjoy it, as has happened in the past, and I would say that if any action took place to try and stop you from enjoying it, regardless of whether you’re black or white, then the people who are trying to stop you would actually be creating an offence.

Mitchell:

This is becoming ridiculous, it’s become farcical hasn’t it?

Senator Campbell:

It’s a total farce, it should never have occurred, the Victorian Government should never have allowed an inspector to be appointed who was potentially compromised. The sad thing is with the approach of Anzac Day, it disturbs me that you’ve got this incredibly important Australian tradition of the Anzac Day march, commemorating our efforts at Gallipoli all those years ago, potentially coming into conflict with Aboriginals, and as I said a few days ago, this action by this small group of Aboriginals in Kings Domain has the potential to really hurt the progress that I think all Australians would like to see it trying to create.

Mitchell:

Well what would you do, how would you handle it?

Senator Campbell:

Well firstly I would have handled it by making sure the inspector wasn’t a member of the Wurundjeri tribe. It’s an appalling situation. We’re trying to get this stupidity that occurred under the Bob Hawke-John Cain deal repealed in the Senate. We will do that as soon as we possibly can. The law’s in there at the moment, we’ve got to get it through there. And I think the other thing that has got to happen, is that State Government has got to learn a lesson from this, they’ve got to have another good look at the law that they’re trying to put through their own Parliament, so this cannot happen again. In the meantime we’ve got to make sure that the declaration of this fire – I mean I am perplexed to see how someone lighting a fire in a public park that’s been a public place for decades can possibly be called heritage (…inaudible…), it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Mitchell:

Thank you very much for speaking to us, Senator Ian Campbell, the Federal Environment and Heritage Minister.

Commonwealth of Australia