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Tasmania’s 1995 Historical Cultural Heritage Act, introduced by the Field Labor government, did not afford the same heritage protection as other states. The government poorly resourced the Act and only limited outcomes resulted in its first five years.29 South Australian State Governments Don Dunstan (Premier 1967–68, 1970–79) was the first of the new Labor leaders to form a government, preceding the Whitlam federal government by five years.
Elected leader in 1967, aged 39, Dunstan was confident, articulate, sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Like Whitlam, he entered his parliamentary leadership with a David Young, ‘The Role of the National Trust in the Conservation of Hobart Buildings’, in Ian Terry and Kathy Evans, Kathy (eds), Hobart’s History: The First Two Hundred Years: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference Held by the Professional Historians Association of Tasmania on 4 October 1997, p.5.
Scripps and McConnell, ‘Heritage Conservation’, p.2.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide reformer’s zeal. His agenda extended to social equality, Aboriginal affairs, education, electoral and industrial reform and advancement of the arts, although only his urban planning reforms are relevant here.
While his Queensland counterpart, Bjelke-Petersen, focussed on development, Dunstan demonstrated his commitment to regulating the urban planning processes in his first term of government with the passage of the South Australian Planning and Development Act (1967), which established the State Planning Authority and required local councils to zone their districts. He gained the support of residents’ associations in the 1970 election with his opposition to the Metropolitan Adelaide Transportation System (MATS) plan, which would have carved freeways through the inner city areas of Adelaide. He worked with successive lord mayors to regulate planning in the City of Adelaide and introduced the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976), which established a City of Adelaide Planning Commission (CAPC) representing key state government departments and the ACC. This Act also extended control over development in Adelaide to ACC with the provision, not available to other councils, that no demolitions could occur in Adelaide and North Adelaide without both public consultation and planning approval for a replacement building.
Premier Dunstan often intervened directly in City of Adelaide developments.
He persuaded an unwilling parliament to hand over the historic North Terrace mansion, Ayers House, to a resistant National Trust for restoration and public use, and in a characteristically dramatic gesture, in 1971 he joined a residents’ protest against demolition of the ornate ANZ Bank Building in King William Street, now the heritage-listed Edmund Wright House.
Seven years later, parliament passed with bipartisan support a piece of legislation vital to the heritage movement in South Australia, the SA Heritage Act (1978). This Act established the Register of state Heritage Items and the SA Heritage Committee, and delineated the process for protecting state heritage items.
The reformist Labor era in South Australia closed with the Premier’s sudden resignation due to illness in 1979. His deputy, Des Corcoran, lacked Dunstan’s flair and reflected the post-Whitlam focus of the ALP on economic management at a time of recession. Corcoran made a grave political misjudgement in calling an early election, limiting his term as Premier to only seven months. Liberal Premier David Tonkin (1979–82) succeeded Corcoran, while John Bannon became Opposition Leader, for a term when the first heritage buildings appeared on the register.
As this book is primarily about South Australian heritage politics from 1983 to 1995, I devote more attention here to the governments of John Bannon, first elected Australian Governments and Heritage in November 1982. SA was in a period of economic decline, with unemployment reaching 11 per cent in 1983. Not surprisingly, Premier Bannon focused mainly on economic development, taking the portfolios of Treasurer and Minister for State Development. With new public financial institutions, he was able to foster major projects, but seemed not to understand the limits to growth. The financial institutions in SA were in concert with the expanding public sector spending, substantially financed by increased public sector borrowing that occurred in all states in response to the Keating reforms and cutbacks in Commonwealth grants.
Much of the spending, both public and private, involved commercial properties in prime locations in the central business districts, threatening the built heritage of the capital cities.
During his first election campaign as leader, Bannon strove to dissociate himself from the Dunstan connection with his campaign slogan: ‘Something is happening here again. We’re in business’. In his pin-stripe suits and neatly trimmed hair, Bannon would not have been mistaken for a radical. Trevor Sykes describes Bannon positively, as voters saw him in November 1982: ‘His young, lean face made him the most photogenic of Premiers. Behind the face was a decent, intelligent, high-minded man eager to advance the welfare of his state. Here was no ranting socialist but someone genuinely dedicated to public service. He was personally frugal… Thrifty South Australians identified with him and trusted him’.30 Bannon represented the new breed of Labor leader, the breed of the 1980s inspired by Bill Hayden.
As Premier and Treasurer, Bannon concentrated on large projects jointly funded by the private and public sectors to stimulate the economy and ease unemployment.
These included the Golden Grove housing estate, the Formula One Grand Prix races in the inner city and submarine construction. He later encouraged a new State Bank Centre, the REMM-Myer retail and office developments and the Multi-Function Polis (MFP), a high-technology/residential development to be located at Gillman near the Port River. He supported the controversial Roxby Downs copper-uranium mine and proposals for marina projects at Jubilee Point and Sellick’s Beach. He faced heated criticism of all of these developments from heritage and/or environmental activists. The MFP proposal lapsed after his final term because he was unable to attract the necessary national and overseas capital for its development.
In 1983, Bannon introduced special legislation in the Legislative Assembly to enable the Adelaide Stations and Environs Redevelopment (ASER) project to progress under the direction of the state government without the usual constraints of City of Sykes, p.473.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide Adelaide planning processes or other state legislation. This use of special legislation, bypassing normal planning procedures to fast-track major projects, set the tone for planning politics in the state for the next decade and was a major target of protest by heritage lobbyists, politicians, architects, planners and other South Australians.
Chapter 6 discusses the project and its impacts. Bannon showed little patience with critics in debates regarding urban developments, from the ASER project in 1983 to the Hackney Bus Depot site in his last year in office.
The heritage protests had little effect on the Premier’s popularity. His politics of development, with cranes on the skyline and Formula One cars racing around Adelaide’s eastern parklands, appealed to the electorate and made him the longestserving Labor Premier in the state’s history, known as ‘Mr 70 percent’ for his poll rating in the middle of the decade. However, some critics have since questioned his leadership style. In writing of the ‘development versus conservation’ debates of the 1980s, Lionel Orchard comments: ‘it may be that some of the heat of the debates in the 1980s were (sic) the result of the lack of strong political leadership by the Bannon government. Premier Bannon’s reticence was an understandable political orientation given the temper of the times, but political boldness and decisiveness are essential in dealing with long-term and inherently controversial questions of urban development’.31 Former Minister for Health in the Bannon government, John Cornwall, not an unbiased observer, adds an insider’s view of the Premier’s leadership style in Cabinet: ‘The Premier’s view almost invariably prevailed. Broader policy or strategic planning issues were rarely discussed. They were confined to two or three Cabinet confidants, selected personal staff and the Party Secretary’.32 Bannon’s firm grip in the backroom suggests that he had greater involvement in urban developments than he appeared to have, and it contrasted with his public style, described accurately by Vern Marshall: ‘From the outset, Bannon presented a low-key, even self-effacing, leadership image’.33 The image succeeded with the electorate. However, those who disagreed with him confronted steely blue eyes and a firmly set jaw.34 In cutting costs to meet its increased commitments, Bannon’s razor gang reduced the staff of all government departments, none more so than the Heritage Conservation Branch (restructured as the State Heritage Branch in 1985). Staff reductions eventually Lionel Orchard, ‘Urban Policy’ in Parkin and Patience, p.156.
John Cornwall, Just for the Record (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1989), p.41.
Vern Marshall, ‘The Labor Party’ in Parkin and Patience, p.37.
Personal experience of the author.
Australian Governments and Heritage made it nearly non-functional. It consisted at first of a research team of 15 staff, who assessed nominated buildings to determine whether they merited inclusion on the Register of State Heritage Items. By 1984, the research team had fallen to nine, in 1985 to three and in 1987, at the time when the building boom was reaching its height and the threat to heritage buildings was at its greatest, to 1.5.35 The result was the loss of historic buildings because ‘the amount of time taken to adequately research and produce Reports is considerable, and leaves open the possibility that potential items will be lost or damaged before they can be evaluated’.36 Indeed, that possibility became reality during the 1980s. Demolition of the Majestic Theatre in King William Street and the Sheraton Theatre in MacKinnon Parade are but two examples.
Political control was one form of power that the Premier wielded in development matters and economic power was another. The financial reforms of the Commonwealth government in the 1980s opened the way for unrestrained property development in each state, involving state financial institutions. Those institutions and developers pressured local governments to disregard planning and heritage principles. The Treasurer relied upon the South Australian Financing Authority (SAFA),37 which he created in 1982 to coordinate all public sector borrowings both within Australia and overseas, to manage the state’s financial reserves and to provide financial advice to the
government. It became one of the largest financial institutions in the state:
The purpose of the authority was to borrow on behalf of all South Australian authorities and because of the size of its borrowings, thereby reduce the interest costs of the loans. SAFA borrowed money up to the limit of its Loan Council entitlement, whether the money was wanted by the public sector or not. The surplus funds were put into the money market. Thus SAFA, being a government-guaranteed agency, could ‘borrow’ at a lower rate and lend at full commercial rates. About 19 per cent of SAFA’s total assets were invested outside the South Australian public sector, mostly with commercial enterprises.38 Aurora Heritage Action, Inc., Newsletter, July 1987.
Nicola Atchison, The Heritage Act 1978 (SA), unpub LLB Hons thesis, University of Adelaide, 1985, p.66.
SAFA was created under the Government Financing Authority Act 1982 and commenced operations in January 1983. South Australian Financing Authority, Annual Report 1989–1990 (Adelaide, 1990), p.6.
Brendan Gleeson and Nicholas Low, Australian Urban Planning (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 2000), p.84 (italics in original).
Heritage Politics in Adelaide SAFA played a key role in providing capital to the State Bank for its growth and development throughout the decade.
SAFA reported directly to the Treasurer, Mr Bannon, not to Parliament. By 1988, according to three Advertiser journalists, SAFA faced ‘a groundswell of criticism from private enterprise financial institutions about its financial performance.’ While these journalists revealed no wrongdoing on the part of SAFA, they did warn that ‘recent moves into new areas of financial dealing reveal potential problems and dangers’.
They particularly expressed concern about the Authority’s move into commercial lending and investment, including the risky share market, and added that ‘if SAFA’s role widens it becomes harder to scrutinise its conduct or discern clearly the paths by which funds are directed’. The journalists concluded with some prescience but no evidence, ‘there is a point beyond which a government should not reach’.39 Soon after SAFA’s creation in January 1983, the Bannon government passed the State Bank of South Australia Act (1983), which took effect on 1 July 1984. From that date the State Bank of South Australia (SBSA) was no longer the conservative lending institution it was when established in the previous century. It had merged with the Savings Bank of South Australia to form an enlarged State Bank that could operate in the entrepreneurial world of the 1980s. Its board appointed as managing director the son of a Sydney retailing family, Tim Marcus Clark, who had previous experience with the Commercial Bank of Australia and Westpac. Unfortunately for the state, he was neither sensible nor successful in his methods, indulging in an entrepreneurial extravaganza that continued through 1990: ‘Of all the state Banks, the State Bank of South Australia … [was] remarkable for both its growth and for the magnitude of the losses that it … generated’.40 The Premier had informed Parliament in 1984 that the relationship between the government and the bank was a ‘co-operative and consultative one’, but in fact SBSA was autonomous in its lending practices.
SBSA began its expansion a few months before the merger by acquiring Beneficial Finance Corporation Ltd (BFC) through the Savings Bank of South Australia in April 1984. BFC was the bank’s wholly owned subsidiary when the merger took effect. The large number of cross-directorships on the boards of SBSA and BFC facilitated the rapid growth of the bank group.41 BFC became one of the main vehicles through which SBSA increased its assets without reporting all Malcolm Newell, Ian Porter and Chris Milne, ‘SA Inc’, Advertiser, 15 November 1988, p.21.
Scott in Parkin and Patience, p.88.
See Royal Commission into the State Bank of South Australia, Second Report, November 1993, p.225.
Australian Governments and Heritage of its assets on its balance sheets. There was no standard format in Australia for the presentation of annual balance sheets,42 and ‘a lot of disasters occurred in BFC acquisitions which were hidden in corporate shelters off the SBSA’s balance sheet and never reported to the government’.43 Not only were the assets of subsidiaries kept off the balance sheets, but SBSA’s own takeovers were concealed through creative accounting. This meant that the bank could proceed along a path of unrestrained growth, focusing primarily on the property sector, without full disclosure to the government. The bank grew from an asset base of $2,683 million in 1984 to $17,300 million in 1990.44 In addition to its corporate growth, BFC lent heavily in Adelaide’s property market, especially as it entered a boom period in the mid-1980s: ‘Advances by Beneficial to property developers could be arranged in such a way that a loan could be transferred to an off-balance sheet company within the group if it became non-accrual’.45 From 1987, many loans did become non-accrual after the share market collapse and consequent decline in the face value of commercial properties forced commercial property developers into liquidation. SBSA too felt the sting of property speculation.
Its major exposures involving property development in Adelaide were its share of the REMM-Myer project and earlier the State Bank Centre. Both projects entailed the loss of built heritage.