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Heritage

Estimates & Committees
Scott Ludlam 22 Oct 2009

Senator LUDLAM-I thought I was being quite impatient. Thank you very much. We will kick off.  Welcome back. It is like we never left. I want to put a couple of questions to you about the heritage projects that were funded through the Jobs Fund. It is very welcome seeing the spending finally hitting the ground. As the government's principal advisory body on heritage, did the Australian Heritage Council assess the relevant applications and advise the minister?

Ms Skippington-Yes, the answer to your question is that the Australian Heritage Council did provide advice to the minister on the merit of projects to be funded.

Senator LUDLAM-Was it just one of the inputs that the minister chose, or was it the principal body that was advising on the projects that were funded?

Ms Skippington-It was one of the bodies. I will just go through the process. The minister also sought advice from the Federation of Australian Historical Societies as well as the heritage minister's working group.

Senator LUDLAM-I would like to come back to that. Are you able to tell us who is on that working group?

Ms Skippington-Yes. The heritage working group for the minister comprises Ms Kristal Buckley, Dr Graeme Blackman, Professor David Throsby, Mr Tom Harley, Dr Gaye Sculthorpe, Associate Professor Don Garden, Associate Professor Peter Valentine and Mr Chris Brown.

Senator LUDLAM-What is the relationship between that working group and the Australian Heritage Council? Which body has primacy?

Ms Skippington-The Australian Heritage Council has a statutory role as the primary advisory body on heritage matters to the minister. The heritage working group is a group of heritage professionals who have no statutory role but have been brought together as a working group to work up options and ideas.

Senator LUDLAM-Has the Heritage Council been shown to not be fulfilling its role? I am not sure why we need the existence of an additional non-statutory working group if we have the Heritage Council, which has existed for some time.

Ms Skippington-Senator, I think you said at the start that the question was whether the Heritage Council is not meeting its role. Was that your question?

Senator LUDLAM-Well, essentially what is the working group for if we have a Heritage Council?

Ms Skippington-The working group is to come up with ideas. It is bringing in different expertise than the Heritage Council. It includes an economist as well as representatives from the tourism industry.

Senator LUDLAM-So they are not necessarily all heritage professionals? They have broader expertise?

Ms Skippington-No. It is broader. Sorry. My apologies.

Senator LUDLAM-In assessing the applications, was there any consideration given to the potential for applicants to make their own financial contribution to the project, such as matching funding? For example, there are quite a few state government agencies that have been given funds. Has that been assigned on the basis of matching funding?

Ms Skippington-Some of the projects nominated that there was matching funding, so that was a consideration but it was not a requirement of the projects.

Senator LUDLAM-I notice that quite a lot of the funds have been given to current or potential World Heritage sites. I am wondering why those sites did not already have access to recurrent Commonwealth funding for World Heritage and not actually need the jobs funding money.

Mr Hooy-A number of the World Heritage properties get funding annually under a competitive process, but this was an opportunity to provide additional funding to World Heritage sites, including those that normally are not eligible for Caring for our Country funds. For example, the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Exhibition Buildings would not normally be eligible under the Caring for our Country funding.

Senator LUDLAM-There are things like the director of national parks and the Mawson's Huts Foundation, which are obviously very worthy bodies, but they are receiving significant funding from the Jobs Fund which, from an outsider's point of view, looks like it is really core departmental funding responsibilities that are not being picked up.

Mr Hooy-It was a competitive process, Senator. Essentially those projects were funded on their merits.

Senator LUDLAM-At the last hearings we asked a couple of questions about core departmental funding for Heritage. Some information was provided. It looked as though there was a big apparent difference in the funding between the last financial year and the current financial year. I think I put these questions to you.

Ms Kruk-I think there was a question on notice on that, was there not?

Senator LUDLAM-You assured us that it was not a real funding cut in the heritage division. Can you provide any further information as to that apparent discrepancy?

Ms Kruk-Can I take that on notice? I certainly remember giving that assurance. If I could have a look at the response and come back to you during the course of the day, that is fine.

Senator LUDLAM-Yes.

Ms Kruk-I will echo and reinforce the comment of the officers. As we discussed last time and I think you alluded to in your questioning, a number of heritage assets have not been in receipt of any funding for an awfully long period of time. So in making decisions in relation to the list, heritage was looked at right across the board. It was a merit based process. It was a very competitive process. You mention Mawson's Huts. I think that is a good example. The whole issue was that given additional heritage moneys were tied to the stimulus building package, it was to look at the ability to provide stimulus by way of employment opportunities as well. That was an additional criterion in that regard.

Senator LUDLAM-I certainly have no argument with those criteria.

Ms Kruk-So you are not critical in terms of any particular areas?

Senator LUDLAM-Of the projects? No, not at all. Although in the absence of the documents that were provided to you by the Heritage Council and perhaps the working group-the short list-it is very difficult to evaluate what heritage professionals have said is worth funding and then what has actually been funded. I think we had an extensive discussion about this last time.

Ms Kruk-We did.

Senator LUDLAM-Without knowing what the professionals are telling us, it is difficult to evaluate. The key thing that I am trying to establish is whether the Commonwealth has put $60 million on the table on the one hand and then is withdrawing core heritage funding on the other. So what is the net increase?

Ms Kruk-Mark, do you want to add to that?

Mr Tucker-No. As the secretary has said, we will come back to you with the details in terms of those figures. I suppose as a brief explanation, when we get money to implement programs and activities, there is always a component that we use in every program to fund the accommodation the people sit in-the computers, the leave processing and the processing of pay. What you have then is a component that the division can actually spend on the ground in terms of its activities. We can give you assurances that that component has not dropped significantly, so it has not been giving with the one hand and taking with the other. But we will obviously have to come back to you with that in a bit more detail.

Senator LUDLAM-And anything that gives us some trends for core heritage funding over the last couple of years. You can take that on notice.

Mr Tucker-There certainly have been some program terminations and there have been peaks and troughs. But, in terms of the two years, no, there has not been a give and take.

Senator LUDLAM-Well, we will wait to see the figures on those. In a similar vein, can you give us the staffing levels for the heritage division in the last financial year in FTEs and comparative figures for the current financial year, again in FTEs? Is that the sort of information you can provide later today?

Ms Kruk-Yes, it certainly is. Malcolm Thompson may be able to address the issue of the budget. Is that all right, Malcolm, or am I putting you on the spot?

Mr Thompson-I think Mr Tucker has addressed it about as far as we can go. His answer is accurate.

Senator LUDLAM-I might revisit this later, once we have seen some figures. That is fine.

Ms Kruk-Okay.

Senator LUDLAM-Have there been staff cuts that you are aware of?

Ms Skippington-No, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM-That is great. Does the Australian government have a strategic vision and a plan for Australia's heritage? Is that document to be found somewhere?

Mr Hooy-No, Senator. There is nothing that you would call a strategic plan for heritage. Obviously we have an overall objective with respect to the National Heritage List and the population of the National Heritage List. The government has some clear objectives with respect to World Heritage. But there is no single document called a heritage strategy per se.

Ms Kruk-I might ask Mark Tucker to refer to the department's own strategic planning document, which I am sure you are familiar with. It actually details some of the priorities in relation to this outcome.

Mr Tucker-The department's strategic plan outcome 5 has the objectives and aims that we have for Heritage as a department. That was developed in consultation with the minister. It sets out where we want to be by 2014 and what we are trying to do in 2009 and 2010. It sets out some detail of how we will measure our success and the challenges that we have to overcome to achieve the outcomes that we are seeking.

Senator LUDLAM-I shall go back and review that. I found it curious. We have a national biodiversity strategy, an energy efficiency strategy and an arts and disability strategy which all relate to this minister's portfolios, but the national heritage strategy is a subsection of the department's strategic plan. As I say, I will review it. Is there an intention to develop a national heritage strategy to give the whole process some traction?

Mr Tucker-Ms Skippington can probably add to this. Part of the reason for that heritage working group that was described earlier is to look at ways in which, I suppose, the benefits and the story of heritage can be more widely integrated into other activities within Australia. We know, for example, that many of our heritage assets are very important attractions for our tourism industry. We know that many of our heritage assets produce significant economic benefit. So one of the pieces of work for that heritage group is how we tell a bigger story about heritage and how we bring that to people's awareness and put that into a better structure for people to understand. That is part of what that working group is working through.

Senator LUDLAM-What is the working group going to produce at the end of that process?

Mr Tucker-I will refer to my colleagues on that one, Senator. I have not been for a number of meetings.

Ms Skippington-The working group has met a number of times through this year, but their focus has been on the grants program. We have a meeting scheduled at the end of this month. There are a number of strategic topics which they will be considering and working up some recommendations for the minister about. In relation to tourism, there are strategic priorities. As Mr Tucker said, it is messaging heritage and the monitoring and evaluation of the places.

Senator LUDLAM-Was that messaging?

Ms Skippington-Messaging. That is what Mr Tucker was talking about.

Senator LUDLAM-Will that plan be a public document, or is that just advice to the minister for consideration?

Ms Skippington-At this stage, it is the evolution of ideas, so it is a bit early to say what would be published and what the minister would accept.

Ms Kruk-Senator Ludlam, if I may, I encourage you to look at the strategic plan. The strategic plan also very clearly articulates where the priorities are for action. Having met with the Heritage Council very early in my term of office, I think they felt incredibly reinvigorated. There had been probably a feeling of, ‘Where to now?' So there is a huge amount of activity in the heritage space. I think the provision of not only additional funds through the stimulus package but also some additional funds into the base has been very well received. To be honest, a lot of the focus has also been put in place to ensure that the actual planning and operational documents for some of the major heritage sites are given a priority. I think you and I have both been in environments where there have been lofty strategy documents produced at the expense of actually getting the work done on the ground. Ultimately whether Minister Garrett elects to release a heritage policy is a matter for him, I think, at the end of the day. That is not a space I want to pre-empt. But I do want to point you to the
work in relation to our strategic plan, which identifies both priorities and, arguably, picks up the sort of issues you would be interested in.

Senator LUDLAM-I was not suggesting that you stop what you are doing and develop a plan.

Ms Kruk-No. Not taken as such.

Senator LUDLAM-I have one or two more questions, which are about the Commonwealth Heritage List. Can you tell us how many nominations are scheduled for assessment for the current financial year on that list?

Mr Hooy-I will have to take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM-Can you give a rough idea? More than 10? More than 20?

Mr Hooy-Only a relatively small number.

Ms Skippington-We can get back to you today. It is just a matter of counting them.

Senator LUDLAM-Do you have any idea of the total number of nominations or potential nominations for the Heritage List such as might arise from surveys undertaken by Commonwealth agencies, for example? I am trying to get an idea of the number of different projects and potential nominations that we are trying to pour into the funnel and how big the funnel is.

Ms Skippington-This is about the Commonwealth Heritage List?

Senator LUDLAM-That is right.

Ms Skippington-The Commonwealth Heritage List relates to properties that are owned or managed by the Commonwealth, so it is not a matter of nominations. It is a matter of identifying what we have there. So if the Commonwealth agencies change their property-the estate-that will change what is on the list and what needs to come on the list.

Senator LUDLAM-But is it up to the Commonwealth to propose properties for the Commonwealth Heritage List? How do they find their way on to that list?

Mr Hooy-As a result of departments preparing heritage strategies, they are required to undertake an evaluation and audit of all of their properties and their heritage values. That does throw up properties that are for evaluation and are considered to have Commonwealth heritage values. Then a formal process needs to be undertaken to put those values before the Australian Heritage Council to determine whether or not they meet the criteria. I should say with respect to Commonwealth properties on council's work plan that that list is available on the council's website.

Senator LUDLAM-I can remember the last time we had this discussion it was ascertained that agencies are actually a long way behind in providing those assessments. The minister himself made some quite critical comments in that regard. Can you provide us with an update as to how that process is going?

Mr Hooy-Yes, Senator. This is with regard to the heritage strategies?

Senator LUDLAM-Yes. That is correct.

Mr Hooy-At the moment, 15 agencies have completed heritage strategies. A further 16 are almost completed. Either they have been considered by council or the department has reviewed a draft strategy. Ten departments have yet to indicate whether or not they propose to undertake heritage strategies.

Senator LUDLAM-Can you provide for us on notice a list of the departments that have been a bit reluctant thus far?

Mr Hooy-I can do that.

Senator LUDLAM-Just on that one.

Mr Hooy-We have contacted those agencies and we have received no advice from them as to what their intentions are. So we will provide that list.

Senator LUDLAM-And a breakdown of who; that is right.

Mr Hooy-And a further 10 agencies have undertaken audits of their properties and determined that none of them has heritage values. So, in total, of the 51 agencies that we have been in communication with, we still have no idea as to the likelihood of 10 of those agencies in terms of the preparation of strategies.

Senator LUDLAM-Playing hard to get. I will be interested to see who they are. Thanks very much for your time this morning.

 

 

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