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Not regulated by the Planning Act, the City of Adelaide embarked on its own scheme, known as the townscape initiative, which engendered one of the most damaging political debates in ACC’s history. In the heat of this debate, protestors staged another prolonged public protest in 1991 with the aim of saving the ‘House of Chow’ building in Hutt St, Adelaide. The Minister for Environment and Planning initially urged ACC to finalise its townscape scheme expeditiously to protect buildings such as the ‘House of Chow’. However, as opposition to townscape protection increased both within ACC and the community, the Minister for Local Government intervened and persuaded ACC to introduce a local heritage register for Adelaide with less stringent protective policies — that is, another list of individual buildings that did not satisfy heritage lobbyists, as chapter 5 shows.
In 1991, the SA government initiated a review of its planning and heritage legislation. The state Planning Review, conducted through a series of public consultations under the chairmanship of Michael Lennon, seemed to many to follow a preconceived course. The Planning Act (1982) and the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976) were replaced by the Development Act (1993), intended to streamline development application processes, allow the state government to fasttrack certain proposals as major developments outside local government processes, and to introduce local heritage registers. Implicitly, historic conservation zones would be discouraged in favour of local heritage registers, a policy made explicit by the SA Planning Department later in the decade. The Heritage Act (1993), which replaced the SA Heritage Act (1978), vested the approval of heritage places with a State Heritage Authority rather than with the Minister, but retained the register and most of the provisions of the previous Act.
Much of the source material for this book is in the form of oral history. I interviewed representatives of all interest groups involved in heritage during the 1983–93 period, including staff of the State Heritage Branch (SHB), members of the South Australian Heritage Committee (SAHC), elected members of ACC and its administration, developers, heritage activists and, informally, former Premier John Bannon. These were some of the people who both made and experienced this history.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide Each interviewee had a distinct point of view and memory of the events involved, and there were sometimes significantly differing versions between interviewees of the same sequence of events. In those circumstances, I have presented all points of view or have selected the most credible interpretation of events. I was myself actively involved in heritage politics during this period, primarily as secretary and then president of Aurora Heritage Action, Inc. While biased in favour of heritage conservation, I endeavoured to be as objective as possible in conducting the interviews and incorporating a range of content into this book.
My research also derived information from contemporary newspapers and journal articles, as well as Hansard, state government and ACC documents, minutes and reports. It also relied on the ideas and work of earlier heritage historians, particularly Davison and McConville in Victoria, Freestone and Spearritt in Sydney, Gregory and Jones in Perth, all of whom have examined the heritage issues of particular periods in their localities.11 I have combined these sources to create a detailed and systematic slice of the urban social, economic, architectural, administrative and political history of the 1978–95 period in South Australia. In combining all of these sources, I can make no significantly greater or lesser claim to the ideal of objectivity that any other serious, research-based historical account of a series of events mediated by human observation and interpretation. As Robert Perks suggests, ‘all historical sources, whether they are documentary or oral, are subject to the same influences of selectivity, interpretation and partiality’.12 See A Heritage Handbook and other works by Davison and McConville on the topic of heritage conservation; Robert Freestone, ‘Preserving Sydney’s Built Heritage in the Early Twentieth Century’, Australian Historical Studies, 112, 1999, pp.44–60; Peter Spearitt, Sydney’s Century (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2000); Jenny Gregory, City of Light (City of Perth, 2003); Brian J.
Shaw and Roy Jones, Contested Urban Heritage (Sydney: Ashgate, 1997).
Robert Perks, Oral History (London: The Historical Association, 1992), p.7.
By the time John Bannon became Premier of South Australia in 1982, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) had changed direction dramatically from its origins, a process accelerated under the federal leadership of Gough Whitlam from 1967. Previously representative largely of the working class and intelligentsia, during the 1960s the ALP embraced the middle classes as well, due in part to the unionisation of whitecollar professions and in part to the party’s strategy of broadening its base. This new constituency dominated the party leadership from the 1960s.
The election of the Whitlam Labor government in 1972 had reflected the effectiveness of the ALP’s broadening strategy, as well as the political weariness of the Coalition parties that had held government for the previous 23 years. While impressive in its social and environmental reforms, including the Australian Heritage Commission Act (1974), the Whitlam government showed its lack of economic experience through a series of financial blunders and lost its parliamentary majority by 1975. Whitlam’s successor as Federal Labor Leader, Bill Hayden, announced a change of tactic for the party in his ‘one great message: that Labor must achieve economic management superiority over the Liberals’ to regain office.2 Hayden’s message became the guiding principle for the next generation of Labor leaders, from Tor Hundloe, ‘Environment’ in Allan Patience (ed.), The Bjelke-Petersen Premiership 1968–83 (Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1985), p.82.
GM Scott, ‘Economic Policy’ in Andrew Parkin and Allan Patience, The Bannon Decade: The Politics of Restraint in South Australia (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1992), p.23.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide Prime Ministers Hawke and Keating to Premiers Wran, Bannon, Burke and to a lesser extent Cain, who abandoned many of the social reformist principles of their predecessors in a tough economic climate.
The Liberal-National Coalition won government decisively in the 1975 federal election, adumbrating a long-term swing to the right in the Anglosphere beginning with the 1979 election of Margaret Thatcher’s government in the United Kingdom. While many observers considered Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser (1975–83) extremely right-wing, he was surprisingly moderate in office. He demonstrated a strong commitment to multiculturalism and support for refugees, despite opposition from many in his party. While he did not overtly encourage heritage conservation, the Department of Heritage and Environment continued to maintain the Register of the National Estate, and during his governments the first Australian sites were inscribed on the World Heritage Register: stage 1 of the Kakadu National Park, the Willandra Lakes Region, Lord Howe Island and part of the Tasmanian Wilderness. Overall, however, state governments developed heritage policies at this time.
The Hawke Federal Labor Governments 1983–92 In The End of Certainty, Paul Kelly described the 1980s as ‘Australia’s decade of creative destruction’,3 referring to the reforms to the nation’s financial systems initiated by Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Treasurer Paul Keating after they took office in 1983. The Labor government responded to the 1983 stagflationary crisis by adopting Friedmanite policies of economic rationalism, inspired by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom (1979–90) and President Ronald Reagan of the United States (1981–89). The reforms were a dramatic reversal of traditional Labor policies in Australia, which held that the marketplace should be constrained by public controls on capital and interest rates, strong trade unions and a welfare system that ensured decent wages and support for the disadvantaged.
The first reform measure, in December 1983, was a float of the Australian dollar, previously tied to the US dollar, by which the government relinquished control over the exchange rate. Combined with the abandonment of restrictions on the import and export of overseas currency, the immediate impact was a tremendous influx of capital as overseas currency speculators gambled on a rise in the value of the Australian dollar.
Paul Kelly, The End of Certainty (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1992), p.13.
Australian Governments and Heritage In 1984 and 1985, the government removed the remaining interest rate ceilings, and foreign banks gained freer entry to Australia, competing with Australian banks in lending and investments. Australia had by then become more integrated into a global market, partly because the internationalisation of the world’s capital and financial markets had already proceeded so far that it was more or less impossible for a small country like Australia to resist moving in the same direction. Paul Kelly later assessed the consequences: ‘Neither Hawke nor Keating foresaw the full impact of deregulation, notably the credit explosion, asset boom and corporate crashes which the new system spawned later in the 1980s. Nobody could have foreseen these events’.4 By the late 1980s, after an enormous influx of overseas capital and wanton speculation by banks competing for market share, the public sector began to realise that the banks had panicked. The consequences for the built heritage and the property sector were disastrous.
In a 1991 interview with Paul Kelly, Treasury Secretary Tony Cole said: ‘The problem was that nobody predicted the Australian banks would take such risks for market share. They didn’t know how to risk-assess and nobody knew how incompetent they were’.5 According to Macintyre, the outcome was that ‘in 1985 and the first half of 1986 the dollar lost 40 per cent of its value as it plummeted to new depths. By this time the foreign debt, about half of it public borrowing and half private, represented 30 per cent of the national product, and every new fall in the exchange rate increased its cost’.6 The states followed their federal leaders by increasing dramatically their involvement in economic development through state banks and government agencies, as financial institutions expanded lending and investment recklessly, without proper
credit risk assessment. Trevor Sykes summarised the credit explosion rhetorically:
‘Never before in Australian history has so much money been channelled by so many people incompetent to lend it into the hands of so many people incompetent to manage it’.7 He described the third term of the Hawke government in which a consumption and investment boom resulted from a broad expansion of business credit, on which there were few restraints.8 ibid., p.77.
Stuart Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia (Oakleigh: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p.241.
Trevor Sykes, The Bold Riders (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1994), p.2.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide The State Governments As observed by Tor Hundloe, in all states the politics of the 1980s were the politics of development. Three states had passed heritage legislation in the 1970s, but the public rhetoric of heritage protection was often at odds with the reality of their participation in property development in the 1980s. Among those states without heritage legislation, Queensland most flagrantly disregarded public pressure for the protection of individual buildings, while the Tasmanian state government devolved protection of the built heritage to the city councils of Hobart and Launceston without providing them with the necessary funding. WA was much like Queensland in the 1980s, and some city councillors were part of Premier Burke’s WA Inc., unwilling to protect historic buildings if a development application was lodged. Other city councils too often favoured development over heritage protection, and the increased rates they gained by raising building densities must have been a factor. The pressure from developers on state and local governments was intense during the great credit boom. Below is a brief account of the heritage politics in each state during this period of rapid development.
Queensland Joh Bjelke-Petersen led Country/National Party governments from 1968 to 1987, and gained power partly through gerrymandered rural electorates, in coalition with a weak Liberal Party until his last term. An autocratic populist, Bjelke-Petersen made development the dominant theme of his governments, beginning with tourist and residential areas of the Gold Coast. His governments also oversaw the establishment of James Cook and Griffith Universities, the Brisbane Cultural Centre, dams, bridges, freeways and other public works. He worked closely with developers throughout his premiership, removing or circumventing impediments to development in the state.
For example, the state government removed the power of the Brisbane council to control demolition from its draft city plan,9 a power that the Dunstan government regarded as vital to ACC. Without this authority, ACC was unable to prevent the demolition of historic buildings. Under Bjelke-Petersen’s laissez-faire development policies, unrestrained due to the lack of an upper chamber in parliament, some ‘midnight’ demolitions took place amid strong public protest in Brisbane during the 1970s and 1980s.
Barbara Kempnich, ‘Transferable Development Rights as a Heritage Conservation Technique with Special Reference to Brisbane’s City Centre’, special study for the Graduate Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning, QIT, 1983, p.75.
Australian Governments and Heritage One notorious example was the 1979 demolition by Deen Brothers of the state government-owned Belle Vue Hotel at George and Alice Streets, a magnificent threestorey hotel with iron lacework on its wraparound verandahs, listed in the Register of the National Estate. According to Tony Koch, this demolition was commonly referred to as ‘the Bjelke-Petersen government’s greatest act of environmental vandalism’.10 Police dragged protesters from the scene as bulldozers moved in to destroy the hotel.
Such violent clashes were common in Queensland’s environmental politics.
Demolition of the 1939–40 Art Deco Cloudland Ballroom in Bowen Hills overlooking Brisbane was also notorious. Had Queensland or Brisbane approved a heritage register by 1982, the register would surely have listed Cloudland for both architectural and cultural reasons. American soldiers commandeered it, along with the rest of Lunar Park, during World War II. Later, it was the venue for historic concerts, including one by Buddy Holly in 1958 as well as many Australian bands. As a ballroom, it attracted two generations of Brisbane dancers before its demise. Again, Deen Brothers demolished the building under cover of darkness.
They cleared the hilltop area for a residential project that was part of the Brisbane council’s metropolitan plan.