Page 2279 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008

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They just do not deserve to be there.” These people lovingly maintained and cared for that property. It did not cost the government anything. No, they did not pay rent; they are the first to admit that. But what they did do was preserve 80 years of history.

I suppose people would say, “There are plenty of houses like that in North Canberra.” But the very fact is—and I am surprised at the Labor Party’s position on this—that this is a classic example of working-class history of the area. I do not know whether you have seen the wonderful old photographs, Mr Barr. You may want to because you will be really pleased at the end of the day that you can crow about how you, as in the government, helped to save this place.

We hope that the heritage assessment is passed. I do hope that too much of the uniqueness of that place is not destroyed if it is handed over for community use. I further hope that the establishment of the friends of the caretaker’s cottage means you will engage with that group. They are historians. There are very notable historians who are part of that group. I will be writing to Mr Hargreaves about it and will give him the names of the people. I will send a copy to you as well so that you can be fully across it and fully informed that there are people in our community who want our heritage preserved.

Why am I interested in that? The town I came from in the UK celebrated its octa-centenary. The church is 900 years old. If we continue to knock down buildings here in Canberra, that is our history gone.

There was no great rush. What was the rush? We never got to the bottom of why we had to have this huge rush. Was it the embarrassment? Was it “we will do it now before the election and get it out of the way and then we can announce something”?

But I say well done to the community. Some 1,500 people put their names to a petition that we tabled in this place. There were actually more who came to see the place and were quite sold on the fact that we got it wrong, we thought, like everybody else, because the message had been spun so cruelly by those opposite about two decent human beings who actually are not on the dole or anything, no. Do you know what they do? They both have jobs at Galilee caring for young people, disadvantaged people. They are the gentlest, kindest, most giving people you could wish to meet.

What do we do? We cruel them with awful comments in the media. We drag down these excellent human beings, people who have contributed to this community probably more than you and I have, Mr Barr, or Mr Hargreaves when you get to read this. And we have cruelled these people mercilessly. Nobody knows what they have been through. I know in part what they have been through because I have been on the walk with them. And I applaud them for their efforts.

As for signing that they would leave, I will provide Mr Barr and Mr Hargreaves with the gut-wrenching story of why they signed that. They signed it under duress. They had no other option. They had no money to fight in the courts at that time. You heard the story. I thought you people stood up for the battlers. How wrong can I be? I am absolutely appalled at you, of all people, Mr Barr. I thought you would be the caring person who would say, “Show some humanity.” We have a human rights act in the

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