The Cliffe - removal from register of heritage places

Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Wednesday, 16 March 2011]
Hon Kate Doust; Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Giz Watson


Resumed from 23 February on the following motion moved by Hon Giz Watson —
That this house considers as a matter of grave concern the information withheld from this house when
considering the removal of The Cliffe from the Register of Heritage Places.

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [2.24 pm]: I want to make just a couple of comments in
favour of the motion before us and to thank Hon Giz Watson for putting it on the notice paper because we might
not otherwise have had the opportunity to bring some scrutiny to this issue.

I want to also give members probably the opposite point of view from that which Hon Kate Doust has just put
before us that a heritage place is perhaps of a lesser value. I think that for many people the heritage listing of a
property can be an asset and it is a very good point-of-sale quality. Heritage is highly valued by many members
in the community and can be an added bonus for a property when people purchase it. Therefore, along the lines
of Hon Kate Doust, I hope that we could have a method of advising buyers at the point of sale whether a
property is heritage-listed because, personally, I think it is an asset. Likewise, Hon Kate Doust mentioned that if
there are any other extenuating circumstances relating to a property, such as asbestos, that need to be dealt with
in an environmentally sensitive manner, that also should be a part of that point-of-sale advice, as should energy
efficiency ratings, which we are pushing for throughout Australia. An energy efficiency rating is very valuable;
in fact, in the Australian Capital Territory property has been calculated to be worth $10 000 more for
each energy efficiency star. Perhaps one day we will become aware enough of heritage values in Western
Australia that we can also calculate that value accurately.

Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to carefully look at heritage legislation in Western Australia when the
heritage review occurs as promised midyear. That will be an opportunity to again discuss the points that Hon Giz
Watson has raised; namely, this house should not make a decision about heritage without the advice of the
Heritage Council. I thought that was a very rational argument and hopefully members will support that. Another
point that could come out of that heritage act review is how we look at the National Trust of Australia, how that
organisation operates to inform the house, and whether that body, to which many of our heritage properties are
entrusted, is adequately funded to do the job that we rely upon it to do. Therefore, with those brief comments, I
support the motion.

HON GIZ WATSON (North Metropolitan) [2.28 pm] — in reply: I want to make a few comments and to
thank members for their contribution to the debate on this motion. Just to remind members, the motion is —
That this house considers as a matter of grave concern the information withheld from this house when
considering the removal of The Cliffe from the Register of Heritage Places.

Therefore, it is quite a simple motion.

I will respond to some of the contributions that we have heard and reiterate that it is my contention that we have
a very poor track record in conserving the built heritage of Western Australia. We are kind of this boom state
that knocks everything down and builds something new pretty much every other week, and we do not do very
well in protecting those very few significant built heritage structures that we do recognise. I remind members of
the ongoing debate on the Sunset Hospital site, which I have been discussing in this place ever since I first
became a member of Parliament. That is still not resolved so that that site can be adequately protected and given
a good community use and be valued and enjoyed by the community; the hospital still sits there, locked up, the
issue unresolved. Of course, we have examples in this state that are even more problematic in that heritage
buildings simply have lit matches thrown into them. It is very hard to prove why fires occur, particularly in
historic buildings, but putting a match to an old building is certainly one way of resolving the issue about what
someone will do on a site; I am thinking of hotels in Guildford in particular. But that is not the case with The
Cliffe. I acknowledge that the owners are continuing to make the effort to find a resolution for this building.

I touch on an issue raised by a number of members, in particular Hon Peter Collier, about his site visit to The
Cliffe, and we had an exchange on that during his contribution. The point that I made by way of interjection, but
that I will now make more formally, is that I do not think that a number of members of Parliament, accompanied
by the owners of a building, are representative or experienced people to make an assessment of the building. Had
they been accompanied by independent heritage architects or the like, they might have had a balanced view put
to them. Why have a Heritage Council if we do not heed its advice? The Heritage Council has sought
independent advice and has formulated that advice into a report. That report states that this building has not
deteriorated to a point at which its heritage value is compromised; and, in fact, it should be conserved. If the
building was in poor condition, surely it was up to the minister of the day to have acted to prevent this
deterioration. As we should know, section 78 of the Heritage of Western Australia Act contains provisions for
penalties and sanctions for people or organisations that fail to meet their obligations under this legislation.

Notably, section 78 allows the state to acquire heritage assets that are being “demolished by neglect”. Whichever
way we look at this, if the building was in poor condition and subject to what is referred to as “demolition by
neglect”, the minister should have acted.

My other point, which has become clear from this debate, is that the former opposition was briefed on this matter
and shown a copy of the Heritage Council’s advice, however, other members of the Legislative Council were
not. Why did Hon Peter Collier, when he was provided with Heritage Council’s advice, fail to provide it to all
the members of the Council, and indeed, other members? Hon Kate Doust has said that she believes that I said
that the then Minister for Heritage, Michelle Roberts, had lied. I have just checked my comments and I certainly
did not say that.

Hon Norman Moore: You came pretty close.

Hon GIZ WATSON: I might have come close. The question I ask the members of the Council is: do they
believe that withholding advice is lying? Do they believe that there is an obligation to provide a balance of
information in any particular debate? I argue that the members who had that information could have said, “The
Heritage Council had said this, but we have decided to take an alternative path and these are the reasons.” I
would have had some respect for that approach, because it says that they acknowledge that we have a body paid
from the public purse to do this job, that it has been charged with that job and that it has come up with some
independent advice. The minister of the day, in her wisdom, may have made a different recommendation, and
Hon Colin Barnett, representing his constituent, may have made a different recommendation again. That would
have been a fair and reasonable thing to do. Therefore, I put to members that by withholding information, they
are depriving the Council of the ability to come to a fair and balanced conclusion. Whether that is lying is for
others to decide, but it deprived the house of information that it was entitled to.

Hence, we need to amend the Heritage of Western Australia Act so that this cannot happen in the future, and the
advice of the Heritage Council should be provided to Parliament in such circumstances as a motion to delist.
Arguably, the Heritage Council should have the capacity to report to Parliament whenever it sees fit. I hope that
when we look at making amendments to the act, these matters are considered very seriously.

I conclude my comments on this motion. I thank members for their contributions. I think it has been useful to put
clearly on the record some matters that needed to be put there; and, if nothing else, I encourage members to be
vigilant on heritage matters in this state and to participate and engage with any changes that we need for heritage
protection in WA. I also hope that the owners of The Cliffe and the Shire of Peppermint Grove continue to try to
find a resolution that does not result in the demolition of this building, because that would be a great loss to the
state. I am still hopeful that some positive resolution can be found.

Question put and a division taken with the following result —

Ayes (4)
Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Giz Watson; Hon Alison Xamon; Hon Robin Chapple (Teller)

Noes (28)

Hon Liz Behjat; Hon Wendy Duncan; Hon Philip Gardiner; Hon Simon O’Brien; Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm; Hon Phil Edman;

Hon Nigel Hallett; Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich; Hon Helen Bullock; Hon Sue Ellery; Hon Col Holt; Hon Linda Savage; Hon Jim Chown;

Hon Brian Ellis; Hon Robyn McSweeney; Hon Sally Talbot; Hon Peter Collier; Hon Donna Faragher; Hon Michael Mischin;

Hon Ken Travers; Hon Mia Davies; Hon Adele Farina; Hon Norman Moore; Hon Max Trenorden; Hon Ed Dermer; Hon Jon Ford;

Hon Helen Morton; Hon Ken Baston (Teller).

Question thus negatived.