ANZAC MEMORIAL (BUILDING) AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Maroubra - Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Citizenship) [12.25 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Anzac Memorial is the principal war memorial for the people of New South Wales. In 1984 I spoke in this House on an amendment to the legislation that governs this memorial and I pointed out the significance of World War I in Australia’s history. I am proud to be a member of a Government that has underlined the importance of the study of World War I in the history syllabus for secondary school history studies. World War I remains the centre of Australia’s modern history studies and is the most important event in this century.
What about the police cutting out the 18th Battalion commemoration march in Gordon?
Let us not trivialise things. Why does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not make a constructive contribution? One reason his party is in such trouble today is that it cannot take anything seriously.
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order.
The Government has introduced legislation to protect the Anzac Memorial. In my third sentence I made reference to the study of World War I in the history syllabus because I am interested in it - all honourable members should be - and I then heard a trivial interjection from no less than the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. No wonder the Liberal Party in this State is despised. No wonder its vote percentage is lower than it was in 1978 or 1981. In fact, it is lower now than at any time in its history. I shall return to the important issue at hand. The Anzac Memorial is the principal war memorial in this State. Australia’s involvement
in wars during this century played an important part in our history and character. We have had record attendances at the Dawn Service in Martin Place and at other commemorative services. Young people are so interested in what happened to their nation that they travel to Gallipoli. Young backpackers travel to Gallipoli and contemplate what Australians of another generation experienced at that place.
The Anzac Memorial is a wonderful memorial - one of the most important and, indeed, sacred sites in our history for all of those committed to the history of this nation - and it is being defaced. The Government wants to protect the war memorial. We have crafted this legislation from a partnership we have with the RSL, the same kind of partnership that led me to initiate the renaming of the Glebe Island Bridge to the Anzac Bridge. In proper commemoration of the Anzac spirit, a New Zealand flag flies alongside the Australian flag on that bridge. We want to respect and commemorate this tradition in these ways. The Government has increased penalties for defacing this memorial in this legislation.
When originally enacted, section 9 of the Act imposed a limit of £20 as the maximum penalty for a breach of the by-laws. This was increased in 1987 to $200. By-law 12 under the Act makes it an offence to damage the memorial building or any part of the dedicated area. The maximum penalty available for a breach of this by-law is $40. The Government is bringing forward this bill to increase the penalties available under the Act for vandalism of the memorial. These penalties are in line with the maximum penalties available under the Summary Offences Act.
We propose the following three amendments: amending section 9 (3) to increase the maximum penalty that may be imposed for a breach of a by-law from $200 - set in 1987 - to 20 penalty units, currently $2,200; increasing the maximum penalty that can be imposed for a breach of by-law 12 relating to damage to the memorial to 20 penalty units, which increases the maximum penalty for other offences under the current by-laws to 10 penalty units; and inserting a new provision - section 11 - to enable a local court to order a person who has been convicted of an offence under the by-laws to pay compensation for damage caused by the commission of the offence, up to a maximum limit of 20 penalty units.
Proposed new section 11 is similar to section 33 of the Summary Offences Act. The proposed increase in penalties and provision for the payment of compensation for damage to the memorial will send a clear message to the community. Bear in mind our other action, again taken in co-operation with Rusty Priest, the State President of the RSL, to protect this place. It is sad that we have to do this, but we have allocated money for new, quite beautifully designed glass security barriers and for camera surveillance.
Original funding of $105,000 was allocated from my miscellaneous grants fund, provided by the trustees during 1998-1999, to fund night-time security, with further funding of $133,000 available for night-time security guards from 1 July this year until the new security barriers are operational and until Hyde Park comes under camera surveillance. An amount of $1 million was included in the 1999-2000 budget for construction of the barriers. Tenders for this work are now being evaluated. We are taking all appropriate action to increase security in Hyde Park. It is appropriate we do so because of the importance of the memorial in our history, in our understanding of the Australian experience and the Australian character.
Graffiti attacks on such a place are totally inexplicable. Some people in our society are totally alienated from it, its aspirations and its history. In a modest way I would like to think that our initiatives in the school system to underline the study of our history - the new compulsory history unit leading up to year 10, examinable at the end of year 10, that new cluster of external exams we have inserted at the end of year 10 - and the protection of World War I as the central part of the study of modern history will counter this. The message we send to veterans today and all Australians with an interest in their history is that we will continue to take all reasonable measures to protect this memorial, which commemorates the sacrifice of thousands. It must be protected.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr D. L. Page.