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Both the Queensland state government and the Brisbane council delayed responses to public demands for heritage protection in order to carry out their development plans, including office buildings in the city centre. While community groups continued to protest against the loss of the built heritage, often demolished by Deen Brothers, the trade union movement imposed no green bans such as those in NSW.11 Many nineteenth century buildings in the Brisbane city centre were lost to office development, while Bjelke-Petersen continually responded to the media and protesters with his dismissive refrain, ‘don’t you worry about that’. The state government persistently upheld private property rights, but the Brisbane City Council moderated its pro-development stance after Sally-Ann Atkinson was elected Lord Mayor in 1985.
The Bjelke-Petersen development spree ended in 1987 when a Commission of Inquiry into police affairs in Queensland, headed by Tony Fitzgerald, was established.
After an unsuccessful bid for election as Prime Minister in 1987 and facing allegations of corruption, the Premier resigned rather than face a leadership ballot in the party room.
The National Party continued in government under Premier Mike Ahern, who responded to pressure by Lord Mayor Atkinson by enacting the Cultural Record Australian, 1 January 2010, p.6.
Janice Caulfield and John Wanna (eds), Power and Politics in the City (South Melbourne:
Macmillan, 1995), p.234.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide (Landscapes Queensland and Queensland Estate) Act (1987). The Act provided very little protection to Queensland’s built heritage. Minister Leisha Harvey voiced the National Party’s principles by stating that the Act was only intended as ‘a broad policy directive … We do not want to provide ourselves with a strait-jacket’.12 In 1989, the Labor Party won a landslide victory with Wayne Goss as Premier.
The Goss government was highly focussed on the recommendations of the Fitzgerald Report, enacting legislation and introducing reforms in more than 30 administrative and environmental areas. Among the new legislation was the Queensland Heritage Act (1990), an interim measure replaced by the improved Queensland Heritage Act (1992), which finally brought Queensland into line with heritage legislation in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
New South Wales Neville Wran led a Labor government to victory in Australia’s most populous state in 1976, just six months after Whitlam’s defeat in Canberra. Wran became the longestserving Premier in NSW, with approval ratings as high as 80 per cent. He was a cultured and charming, not to say debonair, politician with ‘a verbal lash, a truly awesome instrument’13 matched only by that of his younger colleague, Paul Keating.
Wran began governing with a Whitlamite reform platform: the environment, the national estate, funding for the arts, Aboriginal land rights, child care, the status of women and anti-discrimination laws.14 However, he also heeded Hayden’s message and focussed on economic development to provide more jobs during a recession.
The reformist and environmental legislation of the Wran government was primarily the work of the Minister for Planning and Environment, Paul Landa, and AttorneyGeneral Frank Walker. Among their early achievements was the NSW Heritage Act (1977), similar to Victoria’s 1974 legislation. Heritage conservation was not a primary concern of the Premier, however. Before taking office, Wran condemned the green bans imposed on building projects by the Builders Labourers Federation, although he later conceded that ‘until there is sensible and selective planning, coupled with a positive scheme to stabilise land prices, green bans will be more in the public interest than against it’.15 Sharon Yelland, ‘Heritage Legislation in Perspective’, in Graeme Davison and Chris McConville, A Heritage Handbook (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1991), p.58.
Mike Steketee and Milton Cockburn Wran (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1986), p.18.
Graham Freudenberg, Cause for Power (Sydney: Pluto Press and NSW ALP, 1991), p.252.
Meredith Burgmann and Verity Burgmann, Green Bans, Red Union (Sydney: UNSW Press, 1998), p.48.
Australian Governments and Heritage The Premier focussed on financial management and development, courting the ‘Big End of Town’ to attract large-scale private investment.16 He may have had links with the Whitlam government in 1976, but two years later their traces were hardly found on the Premier, at least with respect to urban development. John Punter summarises city planning during the Wran years: ‘The only times that bad design was successfully resisted in the 1970s and early 1980s were when the Builders Labourers Federation’s (BLF) green bans forced developers to think again. Otherwise city planners continued to work in a vacuum without a statutory Strategic Plan, with its conservation controls unadopted, and with the state insisting on only the very broadest brush planning controls’.17 Both the state and Sydney City Council were willing to degrade heritage buildings in the CBD by retaining only their facades during the building boom, often with little attempt to blend the old remnant with the new building. The acceptance of facadism to satisfy developers in the 1970s and 1980s is widely evident in Sydney’s CBD today.
In the final years of the Wran Government, community anger mounted at a raft of development projects. For such projects, the government often used special legislation to avoid normal planning processes and appeals in the Land and Environment Court.18 The Darling Harbour Monorail was the most intrusive on the city’s visual amenity, and some saw alienation of Sydney Harbour foreshore land as a retreat from a liveable city. State government control of planning in the city was fully realised when it dismissed the Sydney City Council in 1986.
Wran resigned in 1985 due to ill health. His deputy Barrie Unsworth succeeded him but lost the next election to Liberal Nick Greiner in 1988. The state government’s Metropolitan Strategy acknowledged natural and built heritage conservation, but with urban consolation its principal element. The Living City Strategy followed, focussing on residential development and high-density living in Sydney. According to John Connell, ‘the evolution of the central business district has been developerdriven rather than planning-led’,19 which might be said of all capital cities of the 1980s and early 1990s.
John Punter, ‘Urban Design in Central Sydney 1945–2002’ in Progress in Planning, 63, 1, 2004, p.66.
Troy Bramston (ed.), The Wran Era (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006), p.182.
John Connell, Sydney, the Emergence of a World City (South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.137.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide Victoria As noted above, Victoria was the first state to enact protective heritage legislation.
The Liberal government of Rupert (Dick) Hamer passed the Historic Buildings Act (1974) following investigations of the Commission of Inquiry into the National Estate by Justice Hope and with pressure from the National Trust (Victoria Branch), which had strong links to the Liberal Party. Like the legislation later passed in NSW and SA, this Act only listed individually in its Register of Historic Buildings the state’s iconic architecture, selected from the National Trust A and B classifications.
While this was a beginning toward heritage protection, residential action groups in the state aimed for much more: conservation of whole precincts and streetscapes that contributed to the character of areas, as well as protection of movable artefacts of historic significance. Inner suburban groups were particularly strident, beginning with the Carlton Association in 1969. Their South Australian counterparts reacted similarly not long after passage of the SA Heritage Act (1978).
In 1972, Melbourne’s Collins Place was a major site for heritage protest, followed the next year by demonstrations led by the National Trust in an effort to save the Victorian CBA building. Graeme Davis’s A Heritage Handbook describes fully these and other heritage developments in Victoria.
The Hamer government made minor amendments to the Historic Buildings Act in 1981, before John Cain was elected Premier of Victoria in 1982. Legislative improvements were then made to the Act, but more significantly, the Planning and Environment Act (1987) provided for protection of conservation zones by local government councils.20 This placed the onus on local governments, including the City of Melbourne, to identify through heritage studies the zones that contributed to the built character of their district. Once again, Victoria was the leader in protecting the historic character of its capital city.
John Cain was re-elected for a third term in 1988, during the aftermath of the 1987 stock market crash. The State Bank of Victoria was heavily in debt, and in 1990 its subsidiary Tricontinental Bank collapsed. Cain was specifically linked to the collapse of the Farrow Group (Pyramid Building Society), which the government had supported financially, forcing him to resign as Premier in August 1990.
Western Australia West Australian urban historian Jenny Gregory marks the demise of Perth’s historic character from 1963, when parliament passed legislation to modernise the city Davison and McConville, p.53.
Australian Governments and Heritage through the Stephenson-Hepburn Plan. That year the first heritage protest took place in front of the Hotel Esplanade, a successful campaign to prevent the removal of original verandahs and posts to replace them with modern awnings.21 Later, in 1972, not even a BLF green ban on the building could save it from demolition. As in most Australian cities, the 1980s building boom brought the loss of much of old Perth, when WA had no protective heritage legislation. While the Tonkin Labor government introduced a heritage bill into the WA parliament in 1976, it foundered in the Legislative Assembly. The succeeding governments of Sir Charles Court and Brian Burke were not inclined to pass the legislation.
As in other states, the National Trust classified buildings in Perth and became involved in heritage protests, but the Trust always had limited power, as well as a narrow concept of the built heritage, and concentrated primarily on colonial buildings. For example, the Trust did not protest about the demolition of the unclassified AMP Chambers in 1972 but did attempt to save the Anglican Church’s Deanery in 1973.
Perth’s active heritage lobby of resident action groups was sometimes successful in the short term, but the campaign to save the ornate Palace Hotel in the late 1970s had an unhappy ending in 1984, when the Perth City Council agreed to retention only of the hotel’s facade fronting a modern office tower.
The most prolonged and complicated of Perth’s heritage debates involved the Swan Brewery in the mid-1980s. Purchased by the Burke Labor government for redevelopment of the site, with retention of the brewery building, Aboriginal protesters halted the work with claims to the land in 1987, raising a debate over the relative value of Aboriginal and European heritage.22 Ultimately the brewery was listed on the WA heritage register, and converted into the Old Swan Brewery apartment complex.
The corruption within the Burke government have been well documented.23 As Beresford puts it, ‘a royal commission exposed the layers in which Burke concealed his reckless and secretive dealings with high-profile entrepreneurs, bypassing the proper processes of government and the WA Inc. scandal. The after-effects of these deals were staggering: billion-dollar losses to the taxpayers while, at the same time, the Jenny Gregory, City of Light (City of Perth, 2003), p.113. Examples in this section are mainly from this invaluable source, pp. 113–213.
Brian J. Shaw and Roy Jones (eds), Contested Urban Heritage (Sydney: Ashgate, 1997), p.144.
See, for example, Patrick O’Brien and Martyn Webb (eds) The Executive State (Perth:
Constitutional Press, 1991).
Heritage Politics in Adelaide Labor Party had received multi-million-dollar donations’.24 As described by O’Brien and Webb, ‘fast money from mining was invested in the stockmarket and multiplied on the bull run. Quick and huge fortunes were made and tax minimisation schemes abounded. In brief, a new breed of entrepreneurial chancers grasped the opportunity to project themselves as the new power élite on borrowed money’.25 WA and Queensland may have been the most corrupt states during the overheated economy of the 1980s, but all states suffered from the improvident lending by banks through the ‘recession we had to have’ from the late 1980s. However, Brian Burke was the only Premier who was imprisoned because of his corrupt practices in government.
Parliament finally passed the Heritage of Western Australia Act in 1990, and now the websites of the government’s department Heritage Perth extol the benefits of heritage conservation.
Tasmania Tasmania was the last state to enact heritage legislation, the Historical Cultural Heritage Act (1995). The Lowe Labor government had drafted a protection bill in 1981, but it lapsed when Premier Gray took office that year. Like many premiers of the 1980s, Gray promoted building development, and the role of the state government in heritage protection was minimal. However, unlike other states, the Tasmanian government had granted demolition control to the key city councils of Hobart and Launceston as early as 1963. The state governments then relied on those inadequately funded councils and on NGOs to preserve the built heritage.
The formation of the National Trust of Tasmania in 1960 boosted interest in the built heritage. The Trust initially focussed on restoring degraded historic buildings it did not have the funds to purchase, beginning with Franklin House in 1962.26 The National Trust also compiled the first classified list of heritage structures, based largely on aesthetic and architectural criteria, and ‘for the next two decades the National Trust was effectively the key body for heritage matters’ in Tasmania.27 Quentin Beresford, The Godfather: The Life of Brian Burke (Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2008), p. xii.
O’Brien and Webb, p. 85.
For a complete list of the National Trust’s restoration activities during this period, see JND Harrison, The National Trust in Tasmania (Adelaide: Rigby, 1977).
Lindy Scripps and Anne McConnell, ‘Heritage Conservation’, Companion to Tasmanian History www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/H/Heritage%20Conservation.
htm last accessed 5 July 2010.
Australian Governments and Heritage The Royal Society of Tasmania also began to identify and conserve archaeological sites from the 1960s with grants from the National Estate Grants Program and the state government. These were mainly convict and other colonial sites.
The inadequacy of the councils’ protective powers became clear in the 1960s.
Without funding for purchase and compensation, the councils were loath to place conservation orders on historic buildings. At the instigation of the Hobart City Council, a fund was set up in 1965 to save ‘A’ classified buildings. Under an agreement, the state government, the council and National Trust were each to contribute £5000 per year for five years toward the fund. However, the fund grew too slowly to be effective, and the scheme was used only once in each city.28 One successful case involved warehouses at the historic Battery Point in 1973.
The BLF imposed a green ban on the warehouses in Salamanca Place to support the Battery Point Society’s picket at the site. The BLF’s action convinced the state government to purchase the buildings in what is now a premier tourist site. Public protests against the demolition of historic buildings continued in the 1970s and 1980s in the face of indifferent state governments and constrained city councils. The National Trust played its part in Hobart, notably to save the International Hotel in 1984, but also outside the capital city. The North Hobart Residents Group fought for heritage conservation in the 1970s, as did the Sullivans Cove Citizens Committee in the 1980s. As in most capital cities, the inner suburbs were the battleground for resident action groups.