SYDNEY HARBOUR FORESHORE MILITARY LAND
(Pittwater) [12.15]: I move:
That this House calls on the Government to guarantee all surplus military land on Sydney harbour foreshore is dedicated exclusively to the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
This important issue must be resolved clearly and definitively, and that can only occur by the Government supporting the motion. It is a simple, straightforward motion, and it has been worded so that there can be no equivocation, no qualification and none of the obfuscation that has come from the State and Federal governments since the issue became relevant. It is essential that the motion be supported by the House so that the air can be cleared. On the one hand the Government says it will not do anything nasty - it will do all things right and wonderful. But all its statements are qualified, compromised or obfuscated in some way, leading to wide public and community concerns about the future of these sites.
Serious concerns have been raised and have not been adequately responded to by either the State or the Federal governments. It is clear that some parts of the Sydney Harbour foreshore land are to be sold to the State Government for the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Opposition considers it outrageous that the State Government and taxpayers should be forced to pay these funds for lands which are already in the public domain. It is another example of New South Wales subsidising the rest of Australia, and it is unacceptable. At the end of the day those lands will go into the estate of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. However, it is completely and totally unacceptable that other parts of the sites will be sold for development and redevelopment. The motion calls on the Government to guarantee that all surplus military land on Sydney Harbour foreshores will be dedicated exclusively to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The honourable member for North Shore will speak further about areas that are of particular relevance to her electorate. That relates principally to Middle Head, but the same principles apply to North Head and Cockatoo Island.
The public is not as aware of Cockatoo Island as it should be. On 26 April the Minister for the Environment indicated that the National Parks and Wildlife Service was going to include Cockatoo Island in the Sydney Harbour National Park. That is what the Opposition wants. The Minister said that the National Parks and Wildlife Service had made an initial assessment of Cockatoo Island and had found that a number of buildings should be preserved as part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. The Opposition says that Cockatoo Island should be part of the National Parks and Wildlife Service estate. It should be part of the overall estate of Sydney Harbour National Park. All the land should be part of the national park, without qualifications and without hedging. I am concerned about the Minister's statement because it seems from the Federal budget papers that the Federal Government has a completely different idea. I quote from Budget Paper No. 3 at page 215 under the heading "Cockatoo Island":
There was no progress on the sale during 1994-95 due to ongoing litigation between the Department of Defence and Cockatoo Island Dockyard Pty Ltd, the former manager of the island. The sale process will not resume until proceedings have been finalised. No proceeds are expected in 1995-96.
It is clear that the sale process will resume after that litigation has been finalised. That is a direct contradiction of what the State Minister for the Environment said: that the Government is preparing to sell off Cockatoo Island. That site should be completely and wholly within the Sydney Harbour National Park. That is one of the key points in the motion. All the surplus military sites on Sydney Harbour foreshore should be within our national parks estate. Simply selling the land, redeveloping it or whatever, is completely unacceptable to the people of Sydney. The land is part of Sydney's
heritage, New South Wales heritage and Australia's heritage. It is significant that in 1979 the Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser came to an agreement with Neville Wran about some of these sites. A letter from Malcolm Fraser to the Premier of New South Wales dated 30 April 1979 made it clear that the agreement had been formally finalised. It is also significant that the annexure to the letter stated:
The State Government's intended use of the land is to add the whole of the lands . . . to the Sydney Harbour National Park under the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.
That means all the land, not some of it, not bits and pieces here and there, no qualifications and not some bits to one organisation and some bits to other bodies. That is what the motion calls for. It is a deliberately straightforward, simple and clear motion that will give the Government an unqualified opportunity to give a guarantee to the people of Sydney, of New South Wales and of Australia that the land will go to the national parks and wildlife estate, within Sydney Harbour National Park, to be preserved for our future heritage. It is essential that that be done. That is the reason the motion has been moved. We look forward to the Government's clear, wholehearted, unequivocal and unqualified support for the motion.
(Moorebank - Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing) [12.23]: Before I come to the substance of my remarks I make this obvious point: the honourable member for Pittwater did what consecutive oppositions, including the previous Opposition in this State, have done for centuries. He created a large straw man, a spectre of something wrong. He built up a problem, put a notice of motion on the business paper and then explained why it was important to defend the position he created. The old trick has been used again today, and the lie will be given to what the honourable member said. The superlatives used by the honourable member with regard to the motion, including clear, simple, unqualified and definitive, smack of the old principle of simple things for simple minds. This Parliament does things on the basis of due process. Despite the fact that the honourable member may wish to have a simple solution, the issues associated with future uses of all the land require a degree of complicated, considered and thoughtful input from a broad range of people.
That's not what you told the people at Mosman.
I shall come to the honourable member for North Shore in a moment. She is on record as supporting our view. We acknowledge that the motion is nothing more than political grandstanding and opportunism. The honourable member for Pittwater is entitled to do that. However, he said that the issue had become relevant over the past couple of months. What did the previous Government do for the seven years in which it had the opportunity to enact its supposed desires? All the Opposition has done is use the straw man principle. Over the past few months Opposition members have created a problem, identified it as an issue, got a few runs in the Manly Daily
, or whatever fish and chip wrapper they use, and then come back and moved a spurious motion.
Let us consider what should happen, and what has been happening, in relation to North Head. Manly Council and the honourable member for Manly want a section 22 committee to be established under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. They want better coordination between the major stakeholders to oversee the preparation of a comprehensive management plan for North Head. If the motion is carried, the desires of the council and of the honourable member will be thrown out the door, and the wishes of the community will be ignored. In a letter dated 13 October Manly Council advised the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning that it had resolved to support the establishment of a section 22 committee under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to oversee the preparation of a comprehensive management plan for the whole of the North Head peninsula. The council wants a representative group to examine the issues associated with the establishment of a management plan.
The council wants that group to include the State member of Parliament, the Federal member of Parliament Mr Abbott, representatives of Manly Council and representatives of the Little Manly precinct committee, the Fairy Bower precinct committee, the Manly Council precinct committee, St Patrick's College in the archdiocese of Broken Bay, the Department of Defence, the Australian Institute of Police, Sydney Water and Manly District Hospital. That is a sensible and comprehensive list. I can advise the House that in the context of Manly Council's request and that of the honourable member for Manly, we will shortly be establishing a section 22 committee to prepare the comprehensive management plan requested by the community. We will involve the community. We will allow the community to participate and to have a say. We do not want this nonsense of simple solutions for simple people and grandstanding in the Parliament.
We will go through a comprehensive process to ensure that the outcomes, the future uses for the North Head peninsula, are in accord with the overwhelming desires of the community, and incorporate the views of the community in the process. Manly Council suggested that the terms of reference should include the establishment of a comprehensive integrated strategy for the whole of North Head, taking into account the competing demands of the stakeholders. The stakeholders want to determine the future development potential, having regard to the environmental, physical and financial constraints pertaining to the area, to ensure that there is extensive community consultation in the preparation of the planning strategy. There is an elected level of government that recognises the need for extensive community consultation.
In relation to Middle Head, I thought that the same principles had been established and were supported by the honourable member for North Shore. A minute noted and agreed to by the former Minister for Planning, the Hon. Robert Webster, in November last year provided an update on the process of establishing a planning strategy and plan of management for Middle Head. It says that the steering committee comprises representatives from the Department of Defence, the Defence Housing Authority, the Australian Heritage Commission, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the mayor of Mosman Council, two community representatives, the honourable member for North Shore and the local Federal member, Tony Abbott. The steering committee has had funding allocated to it and studies are proceeding on time, with extensive community consultation under way. The mayor of Mosman, Councillor Virginia Howard, has indicated that there is some disquiet in council that the mayor does not have a major role to play on the committee and that it is appropriate for her to have a greater role, given that Middle Head is located in the Mosman local government area.
She chairs the committee.
She does now, and I am referring to a briefing note dated 9 October 1995. As a consequence, she will be given that increased role, in recognition of the need for proper community consultation.
She has always chaired the committee.
I am stunned by the hypocrisy of the honourable member for North Shore in supporting this motion. She is a participant in a rational and sensible process that was funded by the previous Government and for which funding has been continued by this Government. That process is designed to determine the future land uses of Middle Head involving the entire community. Is that process to be jettisoned because of this motion, the terms of which are that we are to guarantee all surplus military land on Sydney Harbour foreshore is dedicated exclusively to the National Parks and Wildlife Service? The Government is not prepared to accept this simplistic notion or to join in knocking down the straw man. It will continue the processes of assessment. It will continue to involve local communities in the consultation process. It will continue to acknowledge the value of those vital areas that are obviously part of the iconography of Sydney. Those areas will be maintained by this Government, not by the Opposition moving motions for a bit of sport.
Frankly, it is tough being in Opposition and the honourable member for Pittwater is starting to come to terms with that fact by rolling in these motions and speaking on private members' motions. But the bottom line is that as a former Minister and as an aspiring Minister for the Environment he must be aware that due processes have to be observed. All the grandstanding in the world will not obviate that fact. The Government will proceed sensibly, inclusively, and cooperatively on these matters. It will consult with the stakeholders to determine the best possible outcome for these very important parts of our city and our State.
(North Shore) [12.33]: I am sure that my constituents, the mayor of Mosman and others will be very happy to hear what the Minister had to say on this matter and to know that the Government is not committed to this motion. I support this motion and so does the steering committee. The steering committee was established at a time of disquiet and rumour surrounding the possible departure of the military from Middle Head last year. Those rumours have been around for a while. I well recall that in 1984 it was very strongly believed to be the case, and the coalition, then in opposition, took a strong stand and guaranteed that it would happen if the coalition parties were in government. Another concern raised last year related to the management of the land. Not long after I was elected to Parliament I visited the site and saw that very inappropriate clearing had been undertaken by one of the services. It was understandable that the clearing was done in case of bushfire, but dreadful damage was done to the national park. I visited the site with the mayor, the local Federal member, the army and members of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Following that visit the Middle Head Steering Committee was established to oversee development of a management plan for Middle Head. After some discussions consultants were engaged to put together a management plan. For their services the consultants were paid $100,000, $80,000 provided by the Federal Government and $20,000 provided by the State Government. The Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Ray, has advised Federal Parliament that both North Head School of Artillery at Manly and the Middle Head command base will eventually be shut down. He said it was anticipated that Middle Head headquarters training command would move within 10 years but the future location is not known. We are not talking about something way off in the future. Senator Ray that said that no final decisions had been made about disposition of the land now occupied by the Department of Defence. No decision had been made to sell that land and no estimates had been given of possible revenue from such sale. The consultants in their brief in relation to developing this plan say this:
Over recent years, there has been mounting pressure on the Department of Defence to sell parcels of environmentally significant land within the study area so that they can be converted to open space use.
Our understanding is that the Department of Defence is willing to sell certain parcels of land for this purpose - primarily those which are still in a pristine or at least reasonable condition - provided it can redevelop other parcels of land . . . A secondary aim of the Department is to ensure that revenue raised from the redevelopment of land can be used to help manage those areas that are converted to open space use.
The latter part of that is very sensible. If this land is handed over to the State it should come with sufficient funding to enable the National Parks and Wildlife Service to maintain it. The mayor of Mosman went to Canberra and met with the Minister for Defence. The mayor was delighted when she came back to Sydney. I read from a letter prepared by the mayor following that meeting, and the Minister might listen to this because it supports what I am saying. It states:
Senator Ray gave his personal undertaking to the Mayor that both he and the Government were committed to the local management planning process . . .
He said further:
All bushland on Middle Head would be preserved and incorporated in the Sydney Harbour National Park . . .
Is the Minister listening? He does not dare listen because he is in conflict with his Federal Minister. Senator Ray went on to say:
All areas on Middle Head of national heritage significance would be protected . . .
In other words the Federal Minister for Defence supports the motion that my colleague has moved today. We should support the motion. Furthermore, we should demand that the Federal Government not expect payment for this land from the State Government. The land should be handed over for the enjoyment of all people, not just my constituents, and I commend the motion to the House.
(Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [12.38]: In 1979 the then Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Fraser, formally endorsed the transfer of Commonwealth land to the State under the auspices of the 1979 Commonwealth-State Land Exchange Agreement. Under this agreement various Commonwealth lands within Sydney were to be handed over to the State, and in particular the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, for inclusion in Sydney Harbour National Park. The handover was to be in two phases. The first phase included lands at North Head, Dobroyd Head, Middle Head, Georges Heights, Laings Point and South Head. The first of the gazettals as national park occurred on 28 December 1979.
The second phase transfers for gazettal as national park were to include the School of Artillery and the Australian Police Staff College at North Head, the 10th Terminal Regiment at Middle Head and the Army Maritime School at Georges Heights. The Commonwealth made a clear commitment to hand over those key sections of land to New South Wales once they became vacant. In addition, the State Government made overtures to the Commonwealth Government to preserve historic sites and foreshore land on Cockatoo Island for their retention in public ownership. The National Parks and Wildlife Service made an initial assessment of Cockatoo Island and found that a number of buildings should be preserved as part of Sydney Harbour National Park.
The Government is committed to seeking to bring to a conclusion previous agreements for these land transfers in order to enhance the standard of heritage protection and management for Sydney harbour and its foreshores. The transfer of these lands is important not only for conserving their significant heritage values but also for providing public access to foreshore areas for the year 2000 Olympics. In order to progress this matter I wrote to Senator Robert Ray, Minister for Defence, and the Hon. Frank Walker, Minister for Administrative Services, seeking affirmation of the Commonwealth's ongoing commitment to earlier agreements and seeking a joint meeting to explore the issues in greater detail. I received a reply from Senator Ray dated 24 July which advised of the Prime Minister's undertaking that, even though the 1979 land exchange agreement expired in 1989, the Commonwealth was still willing to proceed with the transfer of properties on a cash settlement basis, subject to negotiation on valuation.
The Commonwealth announced in its 1995-96 budget that it would relocate the School of Artillery at North Head and relocate to Townsville the 10th Terminal Regiment which occupies land at Middle Head. The Department of Defence initiated discussions with the New South Wales Department of Planning to look at the full range of future use issues for the land at Middle Head, including the transfer of designated areas to Sydney Harbour National Park. A steering group, which has been established to oversight a Middle Head management study, has been jointly funded by the State and Commonwealth governments. It is anticipated that the outcome of the study will provide a framework for the Commonwealth and the State to develop detailed agreements to implement the foreshadowed land transfers.
Recently I offered my support to my colleague, the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing, who is in the Chamber, for the establishment of a similar group to look at land-use issues and future management arrangements for the North Head precinct. Earlier, the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing explained in detail to Opposition members how that committee would be constituted. Action is under way for that group to get on with its task. I am looking forward to those studies providing the mechanism to enable land transfers to proceed as expeditiously as possible. The motion moved by the honourable member for Pittwater is premature. The Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing has already said that it has been initiated by Opposition members who are actually involved in the process. I presume that this is just a simple case of political opportunism.
The honourable member for Pittwater and other honourable members thought it appropriate to move such a motion today. It is not. Verbal and written guarantees have been given by this Government that it is committed to maximising areas that will become available from the
Commonwealth for inclusion in the Sydney Harbour National Park and for other appropriate uses. There may well be other appropriate uses. That issue does not seem to have been taken on board by the initiators of this motion. It is vitally important to keep inappropriate development out of Sydney Harbour and to protect harbour foreshore land. This is particularly relevant given public interest in this matter in relation to the Olympic Games. [Time expired
(Gladesville) [12.43]: I have been a member of Parliament for only a short time, but I have already learned a great deal from members of the Opposition. I thank them for that. They have taught me a lot about political hypocrisy. They have demonstrated on many occasions that they are able to say things that they do not believe and they call on this Government to do things that they would not do, that they never intended to do, or that they never had the courage to do. When one believes in nothing it is easy to change one's mind. This Government has taken, and will continue to take, historic steps to protect the environment of New South Wales, including inland rivers, coasts, forests and harbour foreshores. The election of the Labor Government this year came at a critical time in our environment. Without the urgent steps that this Government has taken, much would have been lost, in particular, along our coastline and our harbour foreshores.
This motion, which has been moved by the honourable member for Pittwater, is further evidence of the hypocrisy of the Opposition. The Government recognises that Sydney Harbour and its environs are resources that should be protected in perpetuity. We will do that. But what is the record of the former coalition Government? We need look no further than my harbourside electorate of Gladesville for any evidence. Every time a harbourside land protection matter had to be dealt with the former Government failed. Forestry Commission land in Putney was handed over to Ryde City Council in the former Government's first term of office. Six years later that land, which was handed over without conditions, is still enclosed by a fence three metres high. Ryde City Council is still determining whether to allow development, in the form of gyms and restaurants, on that property.
On a point of order: quite clearly, this motion is about Sydney Harbour foreshores and not land in the honourable member's electorate.
On the point of order: I do not want to offer the honourable member for Pittwater a road map, but I thought most people would have been aware that the electorate of the honourable member for Gladesville has access to harbour foreshores.
Further to the point of order: the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing said that access to Sydney Harbour is not the same as a reference to Sydney Harbour foreshores. It also has nothing to do with surplus military land. My motion is quite clear.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gaudry):
Order! The point taken by the honourable member for Pittwater has some validity. The honourable member for Gladesville was seeking to draw the attention of the House to a similar situation and complications that have arisen in that case. However, I ask him to return to the subject matter of the question.
Mr Speaker, I am happy to do so. As there is Australian Defence Industries land at Putney in my electorate I expect it to be handed over to the State very soon. If Labor were not in power in New South Wales it would be a waste for that land to be handed over. Gladesville Hospital is on harbour foreshore. Part of that foreshore land was sold. At present, the local council is looking at redeveloping that land and building units that will each cost between $300,000 and $500,000. The former Government allowed a precious resource to be lost, a matter to which I will refer on another occasion. The former Government failed to protect our harbour foreshores, which is proof of the hypocrisy of this motion.
It is relevant to consider my electorate as that is the area I know best, but I presume mistakes like this are being mirrored right around Sydney Harbour. The people of my electorate and New South Wales are lucky that the Labor Party will be in government when this land is handed over. We are acting in this matter. We are bringing to a swift conclusion land transfers to protect heritage and bushland values on Sydney Harbour. We will conserve heritage values and provide public access. Negotiations with Federal Ministers are continuing to ensure that outcome. An integrated land-use study is being carried out in the Middle Head and North Head areas and negotiations are continuing in regard to Cockatoo Island. This Government has a responsibility to preserve the precious resources of Sydney Harbour. It is interesting to note that the environmental movement began in Sydney at Kellys Bush in Hunters Hill when green bans were placed on that area. This Government will continue to do the work that is required - [Time expired
(Pittwater) [12.48], in reply: Today the Government has been exposed as having a secret agenda to sell off Sydney Harbour foreshore land. The Government's refusal to guarantee all surplus military land on Sydney Harbour foreshores to be dedicated exclusively to the National Parks and Wildlife Service exposes its sell-off plans. It is clear that the State and Federal governments have been in collusion to deceive the public about the future of these sites in the lead-up to the Federal election. By voting against this simple proposition the Government's lies concerning North Head, Middle Head and Cockatoo Island in particular have been made public at last. All those foreshore sites should be added to the Sydney Harbour National Park. They are part of the heritage of Sydney and Australia and to do otherwise than to include these areas in the national park is an act of vandalism.
The North Head and Middle Head sites were proposed as additions to the national park by Malcolm Fraser in 1979 and agreed to by Neville Wran. There should be no backtracking on this bipartisan agreement, yet Premier Carr and Prime Minister Keating are selling us out and stealing our children's heritage. I call on the State Government to reverse its position and provide this guarantee. Even if the Federal Labor Government reneges, the State Government should use its environmental planning powers to keep these sites in our national parks. The Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning made a number of comments to which I want to respond. He said complicated issues were involved. Yes, complicated issues are involved, but this motion talks simply about dedicating land to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Yes, there are complicated issues underlying that, but we are talking about a straightforward commitment to dedicate land. There is no relevance in talking about those complicated issues because they are quite separate. The Minister asked why the matter had been raised only over the last several months. The reason is that over the last several months the Federal Labor Government has been wanting to sell off the land.
The Minister referred to North Head and said the people want to establish a section 22 committee. That is perfectly correct. The reason for establishing a committee is to ensure that the sites are included in the national park. In fact, what the Minister said is in support of the motion. He spoke of continuing the assessment and involving the community. These are laudable and appropriate sentiments, but quite irrelevant to the motion. The Minister can continue the assessment and involve the community and at the same time support the motion. The Minister spoke also about due process, and about being sensible, inclusive and cooperative. Again, they are all good and laudable things to look forward to, if they ever happen. They will happen if the Government supports the motion. Government support of the motion will allow for issues of concern to be put to one side and for a sensible, cooperative and consultative approach to proceed. That is what this motion is about.
The Minister for the Environment said the motion was premature. It is not premature for the simple reason that assessment, consultation and planning can proceed. If the Government were to dedicate these lands as national park lands, public concern could be put to rest, and a process of appropriate consultation, cooperation, assessment and planning could take place. But the real agenda was given away by the Minister for the Environment. She said she wanted to maximise the areas for inclusion in the national park. She wanted to avoid inappropriate development on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour National Park. What does she mean by inappropriate development? What does she mean by maximising the areas? Surely all these areas should be in our national parks. Surely, there is no reasonable rationale for multistorey developments to be permitted on historic areas. [Time expired
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr Blackmore Mr D. L. Page
Mr Causley Mr Peacocke
Mr Chappell Mr Phillips
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Photios
Mr Cochran Mr Richardson
Mr Collins Mr Rozzoli
Mr Downy Mr Schipp
Mr Ellis Mr Schultz
Mr Fahey Mrs Skinner
Ms Ficarra Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Fraser Mr Small
Mr Glachan Mr Smith
Mr Hartcher Mr Souris
Mr Hazzard Mr Tink
Mr Humpherson Mr Turner
Mr Kinross Mr West
Mr Longley Mr Windsor
Ms Machin Mr Zammit
Ms Moore Tellers
Mr O'Doherty Mr Debnam
Mr O'Farrell Mr Jeffery
Ms Allan Mr McManus
Mr Amery Mr Markham
Mr Anderson Ms Meagher
Ms Andrews Mr Mills
Mr Aquilina Mr Moss
Mr Carr Mr Nagle
Mr Clough Mr Neilly
Mr Crittenden Ms Nori
Mr Debus Mr Price
Mr Face Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Mr Rogan
Mr Gibson Mr Rumble
Mrs Grusovin Mr Scully
Ms Harrison Mr Stewart
Mr Hunter Mr Sullivan
Mr Iemma Mr Tripodi
Mr Knight Mr Watkins
Mr Knowles Mr Whelan
Mr Langton Mr Yeadon
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr Lynch Tellers
Mr McBride Mr Beckroge
Dr Macdonald Mr Thompson
Mr Armstrong Mrs Beamer
Mr Beck Ms Hall
Mr Cruickshank Mr Harrison
Dr Kernohan Mr Martin
Mr Kerr Mr E. T. Page
Mr Rixon Mr Shedden
Question so resolved in the negative.