Michelle Lensink

Marble Hill (Protection) Bill

This speech is in relation to the Marble Hill (Protection) Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (21:34): In my second reading contribution, I outlined a number of aspects of this bill and why I thought it necessary. I will rebut some of the remarks that have been made by the previous speaker. First, it was said that a number of private people own heritage homes. Well, yes, that is true, but this is different, because it is a government property which is going into private hands, and that makes it quite specifically different from your average heritage residence. I did state in my second reading contribution that we support private investment for these purposes. I do know Edwin Michell and Patricia Bishop, and I know that they have been involved in significant heritage restoration and do understand the significant heritage values of this site. It was also stated that the heritage agreement would provide additional red tape. I would say that it will provide additional protections. There is no guarantee that under the ownership of any subsequent owners (unless there is some lodging of this with the parliament) those protections will be made. It is the same principle as that which was agreed to by this government in relation to Beechworth Gardens. I think the process in this whole history since the expressions of interest were first opened has been flawed. I think the Friends of Marble Hill have been treated appallingly and locked out of the process. I would like to particularly thank them as well, publicly in this place today, for the work that they have done for no benefit for themselves, and yet they have not been consulted.

The Hon. G.E. Gago: They have.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Well, we know what consultation means to you. There is a further email from Ernie McKenna which we received yesterday and which some members in this place would have received. It states:

I just wanted to let you know some further information. If the Marble Hill property is allowed to be sold the new owners have agreed with us that once they sign the purchase documents, the Friends of Marble Hill will not be able to operate on the property. The reason for this is that whilst the property is owned by the government—

Actually, I think the Hon. Sandra Kanck pointed this out, but I do reiterate that this is a very sad state of affairs. Questions were raised about the Friends of Marble Hill and whether they would eventually be locked out, and I think we know what the answer to that is. It would have been far preferable, instead of having an expression of interest where nobody was allowed to know what was going on, to have an open tender which, indeed, might have brought some commercial interests out.

We have heard about the old Treasury building and, while people may not enter all parts of that property, at least they are able to go into the courtyards and into the licensed premises when it is open. I would have envisaged that something like that would have been preferable. Also, I would reiterate that, when this property was first established, it would have cost the government of the day a very large sum of money, so it has cost the state and the people of South Australia a great deal. We think that this could have been done differently and, as the Hon. Sandra Kanck has said, we have tried to make the best of the situation, and we would just like to establish some principles that will be attached to the parliament in a similar way as the government agreed to do with Beechworth Gardens for the future benefit of all South Australians. The council divided on the second reading:

AYES (12)

Bressington, A.

Darley, J.A.

Dawkins, J.S.L.

Hood, D.G.E.

Kanck, S.M.

Lawson, R.D.

Lensink, J.M.A. (teller)

Lucas, R.I.

Parnell, M.

Ridgway, D.W.

Schaefer, C.V.

Stephens, T.J.

 

NOES (6)

Finnigan, B.V.

Gago, G.E. (teller)

Gazzola, J.M.

Holloway, P.

Hunter, I.K.

Zollo, C.

 

PAIRS (2)

Wade, S.G.

Wortley, R.P.


Majority of 6 for the ayes.

Second reading thus carried.

In committee. Clause 1.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: I would like to ask the Hon. Michelle Lensink what impact this bill—if it is passed—will have on anyone's desire to enter into any agreement to restore this building. As she is imposing a number of conditions, what impact does she believe this bill will have on the likelihood of Marble Hill eventually being restored?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It will impact on the ground floor residence principally and it may, indeed, have some restriction. We have sought information about the proposal, but it is not yet available. So, the imposition will be to have some access to the ground floor, not to the upper parts of the building. In that sense, it may encumber to a degree, depending on the ability of the architects to manage that.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: If it makes it less attractive to have the restoration, does the honourable member believe that it is preferable to leave Marble Hill as a ruin, as it is now, or to have it restored? The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The answer to that is no. As I stated in my second reading explanation, we do not believe that the outcome ought to be that it is left as a ruin.

The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: With respect to what the deputy leader just said about the ground floor and the first floor, I do not quite understand what she was suggesting—if they restore the first floor, that would not be subject to the restrictions that are in her bill?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The property is subject to a heritage agreement, which is being negotiated with the government. This might well be something about which the minister is able to advise, but I assume that it provides the outline that the building must be restored in a way that is sympathetic to the original building. The question from the Leader of the Government was whether this bill would make it less attractive for the proprietors or make it more difficult for them in any way. My answer to that is that there will be some access to the ground floor. So, they are quite separate issues.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: My question relates to some of the significant negotiations that took place with the proponents. As members know, expressions of interest went out and, although a number of people made inquiries, only one submission was put forward. That is, no doubt, because it is a very costly exercise to take over a ruin some 50 years of age that has deteriorated gradually over those 50 years. Significant negotiations took place, but I am not able to give the details of those. Nevertheless, the proponents made it very clear with respect to the conditions that were set down, and said that they were needed for a successful agreement regarding this proposal. Has the member inquired of the proponents as to whether they would be prepared to accept such conditions? My understanding is that they would not and, in fact, it is highly likely that they will withdraw their proposal and, again, this and successive governments would be left with an ongoing deteriorating ruin, which is a shameful situation for us all and for successive governments, when one considers the importance of this building. Has the member inquired of the proponents whether they would be prepared to accept these conditions? My understanding is that it is likely the proponents would withdraw if these conditions were imposed upon them, and we would again be left with a 50-year old declining ruin.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: At the start of her question, I think the minister referred to negotiations with the department. Obviously, not having been privy to those negotiations, I cannot answer that aspect of it. Both my leader, Martin Hamilton-Smith, and I have been in communication with Mr Michell and Dr Bishop. We have met with them and we have provided them at each stage with copies of the bill, my second reading speech and our media releases, and they have certainly not indicated to us that if this bill were passed they would withdraw from the process. So, that would be news to me. As I have stated in response to previous questions, I understand that there would be some greater encumbrances on access to the ground floor, which might impact on the way in which the design of the architecture is undertaken, but I do not believe that that is a hugely onerous issue, in terms of providing some access for future public use.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Did the proponents in those discussions indicate that they would be prepared to continue with the agreement, with these conditions imposed?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am not sure whether that is the same question asked in another way, but the answer is that they have not indicated to us that they would withdraw from this process.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: The question was: did they indicate that they would accept those agreements and continue? It is quite a simple question.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: They have not made such an indication.

The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: Will the mover indicate, if the proponents made the position clear that they would not continue with their proposed redevelopment should this bill pass, would she then withdraw the bill or would she seek to have the bill continue and be passed by both houses?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: That is a hypothetical question. The bill is before us, and I am not prepared to withdraw a bill on the basis of a hypothetical question. I fully understand that, if you were in the proponents' position, you would rather that this bill was not passed because it gives you less flexibility in terms of the architecture and so forth.

 The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: The Hon. Ms Lensink was assuring the committee that she and the Leader of the Opposition (the member Waite) in another place had had meetings with the people who have entered into this agreement, namely, the proponents of the development. I assume the purpose of meeting with them and providing them with the second reading explanation and a copy of the bill, as the honourable member indicated she did, was to assure them that this bill did not represent a threat to their plans and to their intention to develop this site. Is that why that information was provided? If the honourable member is saying that it does not really matter whether the proponents are happy or not happy with this bill, she would proceed with it, will she indicate what was the purpose of meeting with them? It seems to me that the honourable member is trying to assure the committee that, as far as she is aware, this bill does not represent a threat to the redevelopment. If that is the case, it seems to me then that the honourable member would have been meeting with the proponents with the purpose of seeking that assurance so that the development would not be jeopardised by this bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It has absolutely been provided to the proponents to ensure transparency so that they are fully aware of our intentions. I assume that, having not had any protestations from having sent through my second reading, that means there is no further comment on the issue from the proponents.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: I ask the shadow minister for environment whether, as a consequence of the passage of this bill the agreement falls through, a future Liberal government would commit any money to the restoration of Marble Hill?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: That is a highly hypothetical question, and I think that our treasurer in waiting (the member for Goyder) might have something to say before that. It is not anticipated that this deal will fall through.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: As I indicated, extensive and quite prolonged negotiations took place with the proponents in putting this agreement together. It was not a simple thing and it did take a great deal of time, and a number of different considerations were put on the table throughout these discussions. As I said, I am not at liberty to give the detail of those because of the commercial in confidence nature of the negotiations, but I am of a very strong mind, given my knowledge of those negotiations, that it is highly likely that the proponents will withdraw from this agreement if these restrictions are put in place.

Given that the shadow minister for the environment is not sure whether or not the proponents will withdraw, is there nothing to be gained from deferring this motion until that information is clarified with the proponents so that we are very clear about the future of this agreement? Would the member consider deferring this amendment until the position of the proponents is clarified once and for all as to whether or not they will proceed with the agreement? As I said, there is nothing to be lost. If the proponents are in agreement—as the honourable member seems to indicate—we have lost nothing, other than a few weeks or a month. The governor's residence has been ruins for 50 years so I do not think a few weeks or a month will make much difference. We all would be very clear, once and for all, about whether or not we are back to square one, faced with a 50-year-old declining ruin. My question is: will the honourable member withdraw that to clarify the situation once and for all?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The answer is no. The minister seems to indicate that she believes that, should this bill pass, it will not proceed.

The Hon. G.E. Gago: It could jeopardise it.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: If she has any information to that effect, it would have been prudent to provide it to us because I did indicate to all members—

The Hon. G.E. Gago: It's your bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: But I am not the government. I am not privy to that information. I indicated to all members that I wished to proceed with this bill. Now the minister is asking me to delay it so that information can be obtained that she alleges she is privy to. I am not sure how that works. In relation to the significant negotiations about which the minister has been talking, a number of questions seeking detail have been asked in this parliament and we have been told, 'Don't you worry about that, we'll let you know in due course.' Frankly, had there been more transparency in relation to the negotiations or more information been provided to the parliament over the past 18 months (or however long it has been going), it would have allayed not only anxiety of the Friends of Marble Hill but also a lot of other people who have been raising concern.

I cannot help but think that the government has something to hide. In good faith I have sought to proceed with the bill and now I am being asked by the minister to delay it so that some information can come out via some other means about which she already knows.

The Hon. J.M. GAZZOLA: Will the Hon. Michelle Lensink indicate whether the proponents of the redevelopment support the bill?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am pleased that so many members in this chamber are suddenly interested in heritage matters. I assume they would rather it did not go ahead because, as I have said in answer to previous questions, it would make the arrangements for the redevelopment less flexible for them. I think on balance they would probably rather that it did not go ahead. I think that is very understandable. In my second reading explanation and again tonight I have said many times that we believe in the heritage aspects being preserved in an agreement which is protected by this parliament.

The Hon. J.M. GAZZOLA: Is the Hon. Michelle Lensink asking us to support a bill based on her assumptions?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have had no indication they would not.

The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: I apologise to the mover if, as she is indicating, she is frustrated that members are taking an interest in legislation which we are being asked to pass. Would the mover indicate whether she or the Leader of the Opposition in another place gave any assurances or indications or said anything to the proponents of this development when meeting them and in communications with them that they had nothing to fear from this bill because it would not pass the lower house as it was an opposition bill? Will the honourable member indicate whether she or the Leader of the Opposition in another place gave any assurances or indications to the proponents when meeting with them in relation to this bill that they had nothing to fear from the bill because it would not pass the lower house?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I do not recall that we had a conversation about whether it would or would not pass. Maybe the minister would like to advise whether the government will support it in the lower house. We did assure the proponents that our intentions on this were about public access and the other issues I have talked about already.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I am sure that the honourable member has researched her bill thoroughly. I wonder what the cost implications of her bill will be to the proposal that the proponents have put forward?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I do not think we are able to provide that. I did speak to Dr Bishop about this and, because it is at such an early stage, she was not able to advise. I understand that they have met with their architects, and so forth, but I do not think even the Bishops would know how much the overall cost would be for the restoration, let alone what impact this will have. I think that no-one would be able to predict that with all the best information in the world unless they happen to be a heritage architect who knew what all the current costings and so forth of specific heritage fittings would be.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Given that the honourable member has no idea of the cost implications of her bill, I would have thought it would be prudent to wait until planning had progressed to a degree where some more detailed costings might be made available and transparent to the parliament so that we can make a truly informed decision about the future of this important heritage site. Is the honourable member willing to wait until planning is more progressed so that detailed costings might be made available to inform the council?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I think, quite frankly, that is a red herring. This government is quite uncomfortable with this bill, because it is principally about putting the access and the existing heritage agreement that the government will sign with the proponents into the parliament. Why it is so scared of that and keeps raising these red-herring issues is beyond me.

The CHAIRMAN: Order! I remind opposition members introducing private member's bills that they have the same responsibility as government members who introduce bills to explain the bills. It is always handy for members to know what something is going to cost when voting to spend taxpayers' money.

The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: Just following up on a question from the Leader of the Government in relation to what the Liberal opposition's position is should this bill lead to the collapse or the withdrawal of the current agreement, the mover indicated that that was a hypothetical and so she could not address it. Can I clarify that it is the position of the honourable member and the Liberal opposition that they have no policy regarding whether Marble Hill would be restored at government expense, kept in public hands or sold or leased to a different private operator if this agreement were to fall over as a consequence of their bill?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I think that if we look over the history of this debate—

 The Hon. G.E. Gago interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: And your past inaction, minister.

The Hon. G.E. Gago interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I feel a parrot moment coming on! If we take it back to where we were prior to the election (so, when we last were in charge of this issue), the Friends of Marble Hill were providing a great deal of access, and weddings and a number of public events and so forth were being held there; so it was being used legitimately as a government property with community access. We have been presented in this government's term with a situation whereby we have been very concerned about private sale, public access and so forth. We have attempted to make the best out of this situation. I am not prepared at this point to lock a future government into saying whether or not we would provide a complete restoration. That is just foolhardy. We are going to get back into government and find all sorts of messes that we need to clean up, from the mental health system to our coastal waters.

The Hon. P. Holloway: That has a high priority, does it?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am sure it will when we are back in government.

The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: I gather that the honourable member's answer is that the Liberal opposition does not have a policy or, if the Liberal opposition does have a policy, it is to preserve the previous status quo. If that is what she is suggesting, can she indicate whether a future Liberal government would be prepared to meet the costs of the ongoing maintenance of the site as a ruin, and any costs that would arise to ensure that it is kept in a state that the public are able to access without there being a risk to their safety?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The answer to that would be yes. It is basic occupational health and safety.

The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: I am perplexed about what is going on at the moment. We had a division and the government clearly indicated that it is opposed to this bill. If it passes here tonight it will go to the House of Assembly where the government will oppose it, so that means that the bill will be defeated. It seems to me that what is going on here is some form of time-wasting by the government.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: I think we should—

The CHAIRMAN: Order!

Members interjecting:

The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: —proceed swiftly to a vote because there is no purpose—

The CHAIRMAN: Order!

The Hon. SANDRA KANCK: —in this questioning.

Members interjecting:

The CHAIRMAN: Order! I remind the Hon. Ms Kanck that it is rather ironic that she would stand up and say that when the government is not, in her opinion, responding to questions continually when it seems that the other side might be holding up the debate she says the government is not doing its job. The government has the right to question any member who brings in a private member's bill—and that is exactly what it is doing—and I will continue to allow it to do so, and any other member who wants to question the member who introduced the bill.

Clause passed.

Clause 2 passed.

Clause 3.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: Clause 3 of the bill provides:

Marble Hill must be kept reasonably available as a community facility for the benefit of South Australians and visitors to this state. What advice has the member had from parliamentary counsel as to what 'reasonably available' means? The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have not specifically sought that. It is a word that is used commonly in legislation.

Members interjecting:

The CHAIRMAN: Order!

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It has, from what I understand, well-defined meanings within the statutes and in common law.

Members interjecting:

The CHAIRMAN: Order!

The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins interjecting:

The CHAIRMAN: Order!

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: Clause 3(1) talks about Marble Hill being kept reasonably available.

The CHAIRMAN: Order! We will get through this a lot quicker if we allow the person on their feet to ask questions so that the mover of the bill can listen and answer.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: This is just a technical question.

Subclause (1) is a principal clause which provides that 'Marble Hill must be kept reasonably available as a community facility', but then subclause (3) specifically provides that the person in occupation must ensure that it is open to the public on at least 10 occasions for at least four hours between 9am and 5pm on each occasion in any calendar year. My question is: how do subclauses (1) and (3) stand together? Does subclause (1) provide an additional requirement over and above the specific requirement in subclause (3) and, if so, what is it?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I do not believe it does provide an additional requirement for public access. The reason for subclause (3) is that we believe that like-for-like access ought to be the position. We have given some ground in stating 10 occasions instead of 12, which is what it has been. Indeed, my understanding is that in the last six months Marble Hill has been open for an additional 29 days. We do not think it is reasonable that the proponents should have to deal with that number of open days, but we do believe that some form of like for like (that is, 12 days to 10 days, rather than the requirement that the government has, which is three days) is suitable.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: If you have subclause (3), which sets minimal conditions under which Marble Hill will be open, why then is subclause (1) necessary? Subclause (1) puts a general principle that it is 'reasonably available as a community facility'. If it has to be open, as a minimum, at those specific times, why is subclause (1) in this bill? What additional measures does subclause (1) provide that subclause (3) does not?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I believe that those two clauses are entirely consistent.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: But do they mean the same thing? That is the question. If subclauses (1) and (3) mean the same thing, why are we bothering to have subclause (1) included? If it does mean something different, what is that difference? The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I can only repeat the answer I have already given: that it is consistency.

Members interjecting:

The CHAIRMAN: Order! Members interjecting:

The CHAIRMAN: Order! The Hon. Ms Lensink does not need any protection from the back bench. The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: Subclause (2)(b)(ix) provides: for any other purpose approved by the heritage minister, with the concurrence of the South Australian Heritage Council. Given that paragraph (b) sets out eight fairly extensive purposes, I wonder whether the honourable member can indicate what purposes she contemplates subparagraph (ix) applying to.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: For the benefit of the honourable member, the first eight are reasonably specific and outline options. We are not saying that one of each must be done every year, and so forth. Subparagraph (ix) is really similar to provisions that are included in a number of bills which we pass every day, which anticipate things that we might not have thought of. I can try to be creative for you and say that it might be a re-enactment, or it might be a play or any number of things, but it would need to be approved; it is protected. It would not necessarily be a rock concert if the heritage minister did not deem that was appropriate.

The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: Clause 3(3), provides: The person in occupation of Marble Hill must ensure that Marble Hill is open to the public on at least 10 occasions, for at least four hours...on each occasion, in any calendar year. Can the mover indicate whether those 10 occasions can occur on 10 consecutive days? It appears to me that 'for at least four hours' could involve two occasions on a single day.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am not quite sure what was the intention of asking that question, but I think it is fairly clear; it is plain English.

Members interjecting:

The CHAIRMAN: Order! Members interjecting:

The CHAIRMAN: Order! Perhaps the Hon. Mr Stephens would like to explain the bill to us. The Hon. B.V. FINNIGAN: My last question was a relatively simple one: can the mover advise whether the 10 occasions can be on consecutive days, or whether two occasions can occur on the same day, in accordance with this clause?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I suppose the answer to that would be yes.
Clause passed. Remaining clauses (4 to 7) and title passed.

Bill reported without amendment.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (22:16): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

The council divided on the third reading:

AYES (10)

Dawkins, J.S.L.

Hood, D.G.E.

Kanck, S.M.
Lawson, R.D.

Lensink, J.M.A. (teller)

Lucas, R.I.

Parnell, M.

Ridgway, D.W.

Schaefer, C.V.

Stephens, T.J.

 

NOES (8)

Bressington, A.

Darley, J.A.

Finnigan, B.V.

Gago, G.E. (teller)

Gazzola, J.M.

Holloway, P.
Hunter, I.K.

Zollo, C.

 

PAIRS (2)

Wade, S.G.

Wortley, R.P.


Majority of 2 for the ayes.

Bill thus read a third time.

Bill passed.

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