House debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Bills

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Consideration in Detail

10:32 am

Photo of Dave SharmaDave Sharma (Wentworth, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust looks after some of the most iconic and precious sites on the Sydney Harbour foreshore—ex-defence sites that were placed into public hands for future generations in an act of considerable foresight at the time by the Howard government. In particular I'd like to acknowledge the efforts of then environment minister Robert Hill and Prime Minister John Howard in having this vision. Since its creation, the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has, to my mind, done a remarkable job in rehabilitating these sites, opening them up to the public, making them accessible, activating them and finding a way for them to generate commercial returns whilst remaining true to their purpose. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust looks after some of the amazing sites at Middle Head; former submarine base Platypus at North Head; Cockatoo Island; Woolwich Dock; and, in my own electorate, the Macquarie Lightstation in Vaucluse and the former Marine Biological Station at Camp Cove.

I'm particularly pleased that the government has helped secure the future of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust in this budget, both commissioning the independent review and now providing funding of $40 million in the 2020-21 budget to make up the approximately $50 million recommended by the review to immediately tackle urgent works. This funding will support a range of works to restore and maintain the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust's military, convict, Indigenous and industrial maritime heritage sites, including: repairs, hazardous material removal and decontamination works at 10 Terminal at Middle Head, laying the groundwork for the $10 million already committed for parklands and building restoration works to bring the precinct to life; repairs and safety works for large cranes on Cockatoo Island; upgrades to roofs and gutters and make-safe works to windows at the industrial precinct, including the turbine hall, on Cockatoo Island; restoration and conservation of the World War II era gun emplacements, observation posts and tunnels at the historic North Fort in North Head Sanctuary; restoration works to the exterior of Building 1 Other Ranks' Mess at North Head; and wharf and pontoon upgrades at Woolwich Dock. The funding will also enable the harbour trust to develop a refreshed vision for Cockatoo Island and for North Head Sanctuary.

This funding is in addition to more than $20 million that was made available to the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust earlier this year, and comments are now being sought from the community on draft legislation that will make the harbour trust an ongoing entity, rather than a remediate-and-handover entity, and ensure that its board has the right skills and experience for the future and that long-term leases are available when they support the objectives of public access and amenity.

There are two particular recommendations I wanted to touch on and which I think are worth highlighting contained in the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust Amendment Bill 2020, which is currently open for public comment. The first one is that the trust should become an ongoing entity. In my view, the trust has proven its worth and its value, and this certainty will allow the trust to plan for the proper management of some of the more difficult sites and difficult issues, including on Cockatoo Island. The second recommendation is to allow for longer leases in certain situations and with appropriate parliamentary and ministerial oversight, which will provide the commercial certainty for the scale of investment needed to rehabilitate and remediate some of these sites. The trust is a lasting legacy of the Howard government and the Morrison government is building on the coalition's strong track record with this year's budget and reaffirming our commitment to protect and preserve our iconic environment through Sydney Harbour.

I also wanted to touch upon funding for Antarctica in this year's budget, and in particular the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan, a $2.8 billion action plan which the minister mentioned in her remarks. This funding and this action plan will help us acquire a new icebreaker, will help us construct a permanent runway near Davis research station and will help us construct a year-round research station on Macquarie Island. It's unfortunately true that the status quo in Antarctica can no longer be taken for granted, with some states pushing ahead to establish a presence and facts on the ground. As an Antarctic Treaty claimant state, we have a duty in particular to help preserve our sovereignty over our Australian Antarctic Territory, to maintain Antarctica's freedom from strategic and political confrontation, to protect the Antarctic environment and to conduct world-class scientific research.

There are two other initiatives in the budget I would mention. Firstly, support to recycling and waste reduction, including the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020. Australia does have to do better in this area, and I'm very pleased the government has committed to eliminating the export of unprocessed waste, in consultation with the states and territories. Finally, the Samuel review into the EPBC Act. We've only seen the interim report of that but I think this is important to ensure that the act fulfils its purpose and does its job. My question to the minister is: can the minister please outline and reaffirm the government's commitment to protecting the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust sites and other sites into the future?

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