Page 4090 - Week 11 - Thursday, 21 September 2017

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Assembly would, I am sure, have made the federal Liberals pay a lot more attention. Given the situation therefore, the Greens will reluctantly be supporting the ALP amendment.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Urban Renewal) (12.13): I thank Mr Rattenbury for his motion and the Chief Minster for his amendment and for the opportunity to discuss the importance of built heritage today. Canberra has inherited rich cultural and natural heritage assets and they reflect our history and community values. The government recognises the significance of conserving our heritage while also building a vibrant and sustainable city for the future.

People are often surprised to learn that the ACT is rich in natural and cultural heritage. There is a perception that, as a relatively young city, we cannot have many heritage places or objects. This is far from the case. Aboriginal occupation of the area has left a rich legacy spanning over 20,000 years and there are many signs of this occupation throughout the natural and built environment, including scarred trees, rock shelters and artefact scatters.

Built heritage in the ACT encompasses the 19th century pastoral history of the area, as well as many places and objects that tell our important and unique story as the national capital. The parliamentary precinct on the south side of the lake has a special significance in Canberra’s history. The precinct is home to some of Canberra’s earlier nationally significant architecture, including, as we have discussed, Old Parliament House, East Block and West Block.

I have some personal memories of both East Block and West Block, as I imagine many Canberrans may have. West Block was the national headquarters for the Australian Protective Service, in which I served for 11 years. I had many a shift at the APS station and provided security for the building and its occupants. It was always a pleasant shift, as the staff all enjoyed their work and of course you were at the centre of national operations. There were many enjoyable interactions with the national director of the APS, but as an active union delegate there were some testy moments as well.

After the election of the Howard government in 1996, the APS were up for their first EBA. It was a difficult negotiation period, as a direction had been given to agency secretaries to go hard on employees’ conditions of service. While bargaining for a wage increase, the AG’s Department were looking for savings and wanted to cut penalty rates and shift allowances for 24-hour shift workers. We battled hard to keep our conditions of employment, and this included lengthy demonstrations at the front of West Block and great supporting speeches from Senator Kate Lundy and long-term APS members that had moved across from the original ACT police, as well as union representatives. It was the first time sworn officers had taken industrial action, I believe, in Australia’s history and therefore was an important action for fairness. The EBA was finally negotiated after many years of campaigning, and I am sure that these actions assisted in a better outcome for members.

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