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April 17, 2013

High Court of Australia dismisses appeal against conviction, compulsory voting

High Court of Australia dismisses appeal against conviction, compulsory voting

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Australian coat of arms, used as the High Court logo.

Last Friday, following over two years of lawsuit over failure to participate in general election, Anders Holmdahl attended a High Full Court of Australia hearing with an audio-link from Canberra to Adelaide, South Australia, claiming voting is a right, not a duty, citing the Australian constitution. However the Justices dismissed the application for leave to appeal against conviction, ruling it had “no prospect of success” over a point that the Commonwealth Electoral Act was enacted within power.

Anders Holmdahl was represented by Kevin Borick, QC, the president of the Australian Criminal Lawyers Association, throughout the process.

Anders Holmdahl cited “fundamental distinction” between the words vote, which he defined as “exercise of free will”; right, “something you are privileged to be granted”; and duty, “something you are required to do”. After a 20-minute discourse with the lawyer representing the applicant, Justice Kenneth Hayne said, “An appeal to this Court would enjoy no prospect of success. Special leave to appeal is refused.” and adjourned the Court. Justices Stephen Gageler, Patrick Keane were also present at the hearing and participated in the verbal discourse, also enquiring the lawyer about their reasoning but not specifying reasons other than what Hayne J said. Wikinews contacted both Anders Holmdahl and the High Court and confirmed there was no other documentation of reasons behind the judgment.

The standard High Court procedures involve hearing each matter by a single Justice and only escalating it after a special leave to appeal is granted. The current case had been irregular, as the matter had been escalated to the Full Court (three Justices) directly.

The appeal also had exhausted lower means of appeal before being lodged in High Court; the Supreme Court of South Australia had dismissed it on September 24, 2012. It cited that the Australian Constitution allows each state to enact their own election laws, and the Federal Parliament has the power to make laws “with respect to … matters in respect of which this Constitution makes provision until the Parliament otherwise provides”. The Court concluded that the Commonwealth Electoral Act was legislation enacted within power.

Prior to escalation to the Supreme Full Court of South Australia, in May 2012, a single Justice Gray had forwarded the matter for consideration of Full Court (three Judges) at his discretion. This happened several months after a Magistrate had recorded the conviction following a trial in February 2012. Anders Holmdahl originally pleaded not guilty during his first Magistrates court appearance in December 2011 regarding the August 21, 2010 election.

The electoral system of Australia requires all citizens to enroll. Then they must vote at each general election — election of members of the House of Representatives and Senate of the Parliament of Australia. At the time of the election, Anders Holmdahl was enrolled as an elector on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll for the Division of Hindmarsh.

The High Full Court hearing was a last instance of appeal with further escalation only possible at international level. Anders Holmdahl had decided to take the case before the United Nations Human Rights Council.



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March 22, 2013

Australia\’s AAP claims government oversight of media not necessary

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Six media reform bills introduced last week before Australia‘s Parliament—including one proposing appointing Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA) to monitor print and online sectors&mdash were shelved by the Australian Labor Party with only one having passed before a seven week break for country’s governing body. On Monday, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) released a statement yesterday saying such oversight is not required.

Australia’s Parliament building in Canberra
Image: JJ Harrison.

The six bill media advocacy legislation package, which includes Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (News Media Diversity) Bill 2013 which includes provisions related to new media and PIMA, News Media (Self-regulation) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013 which would require media organisations to be registered with the government to enjoy protections traditionally enjoyed by journalists and the media, News Media (Self-regulation) Bill 2013 which creates PIMA and Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013 were introduced last Thursday before the House Standing Infrastructure and Communications and the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee.

The Parliament of Australia summarized Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013 as, “Part of a package of six bills in relation to the media sector, the bill: creates the independent statutory office of the Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA); provides for the functions, appointment, and terms and conditions of PIMA; and requires an annual report to be prepared on PIMA’s activities and other specified matters.” Other bills in the package delineate what PIMA’s role would be. Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013 has its second reading today. Unlike the other bills in the package which have not had a second reading yet, this bill deals primarily with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service.

Speaking before a Senate committee about media reform, AAP chief Bruce Davidson said, “We simply do not believe that there is a problem with the conduct of the media in Australia, and certainly not that of AAP, that warrants further oversight by a minster-appointed body. […] Any hidden perception, I believe, of government interference is simply a dangerous precedent that may lead to control, may lead to interference. […] The aims may be noble, Mr Chairman, but the potential for potential misuse and changes of that legislation as presented to us, I think, is a dangerous thing to contemplate.”

Other Australian media organizations have protested the proposed legislation. Australia’s The Daily Telegraph is quoted by the Brisbane Times as saying of this legislation that it is an “aggressive attempt to silence your media.”

Former federal court judge Ray Finkelstein oversaw an inquiry into the Australian print media 2011. He told a government inquiry that, “There are no powerful groups in society that can come along to governments or anybody and say ‘we can do what we like when we like and there’s nothing you should do about it’.” Finkelstein is also on the record as stating that self regulation by the industry through their own organization has failed.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy hopes to see the media legislation packaged passed by the end of this week.



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Australian Labor Party shelves government oversight of media legislation

Australian Labor Party shelves government oversight of media legislation

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Friday, March 22, 2013

A package of six media reform bills introduced last week before Australia’s Parliament — including one proposing appointing a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA) to monitor print and online sectors — was shelved yesterday by the Australian Labor Party, with only two passed before a seven week break for the country’s legislative body. Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, had hoped to see the legislation package passed by the end of the week.

Australia’s Parliament building in Canberra
Image: JJ Harrison.

The six-bill media advocacy legislation package, including Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (News Media Diversity) Bill 2013 which includes provisions related to news media and PIMA, News Media (Self-regulation) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013 which would require media organisations to be registered with the government to enjoy protections traditionally enjoyed by journalists and the media, News Media (Self-regulation) Bill 2013 which creates PIMA, and Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2013, were introduced Thursday February 14 before the House Standing Infrastructure and Communications and the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee.

The Parliament of Australia summarized Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013 as, “Part of a package of six bills in relation to the media sector, the bill: creates the independent statutory office of the Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA); provides for the functions, appointment, and terms and conditions of PIMA; and requires an annual report to be prepared on PIMA’s activities and other specified matters.” Other bills in the package delineate what PIMA’s role would be. Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013 and Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2013 both had their second reading on Tuesday in the House and were the only bills to pass both houses of parliament. Unlike the other bills in the package which have not had a third reading before being shelved, the former bill deals primarily with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service, while the latter bill increased licensing fees for television stations.

On Monday, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) released a statement saying such government oversight is not required. Other Australian media organizations have protested the proposed legislation. Australia’s The Daily Telegraph is quoted by the Brisbane Times describing this legislation as an “aggressive attempt to silence your media.”

Speaking before a Senate committee about media reform, AAP chief Bruce Davidson said, “We simply do not believe that there is a problem with the conduct of the media in Australia, and certainly not that of AAP, that warrants further oversight by a minster-appointed body […] Any hidden perception, I believe, of government interference is simply a dangerous precedent that may lead to control, may lead to interference […] The aims may be noble, Mr Chairman, but the potential for potential misuse and changes of that legislation as presented to us, I think, is a dangerous thing to contemplate.”

Former federal court judge Ray Finkelstein oversaw an inquiry into the Australian print media in 2011. He told a government inquiry, “There are no powerful groups in society that can come along to governments or anybody and say ‘we can do what we like when we like and there’s nothing you should do about it’.” Finkelstein is also on the record as stating that self regulation by the industry through their own organization has failed.



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October 5, 2011

Australian news network under investigation over pokie reform comments

Australian news network under investigation over pokie reform comments

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Australia
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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has launched an investigation into the Nine Network over comments by its football commentators regarding the government’s planned poker machine reform.

An ACMA statement yesterday read: “ACMA has confirmed that it is investigating a complaint that Channel Nine broadcast political material without adequately identifying it as such during the NRL first preliminary final”.

The comments, made during an NRL football match on September 23, saw Nine’s commentators Ray Warren and Phil Gould criticizing the reforms, labeling pokie reform as “rubbish”. Mr Gould added “I’ve never seen a more stupid policy in all my life.”

Networks are required to acknowledge political comment when broadcast as a condition of their licenses. “The identification of political material usually takes the form of a statement following the material advising on whose behalf the material had been broadcast”, the ACMA statement noted.

Proposed reforms to poker machines will see gamblers forced to pre-commit to a limit on their losses, or instead use low-intensity poker machines with $1 bets.

Shelly Bates, Nine Network’s compliance manager, claimed, as reported by ABC’s Media Watch, “The comments relating to the Federal Government proposed poker machine tax were purely the opinions of the commentators regarding matters directly affecting the NRL community”. Mr Warren previously told Austereo’s Triple M that the comments were “a directive from up top … [to] be read by at least somebody” adding, “I think it was done on behalf of the [National] Rugby League, who is fully supportive of the clubs.”

On Monday, independents in the Australian Parliament Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon wrote to David Gyngell, chief executive of the Nine Network, accusing the network of “attempting to mislead (and alarm) viewers”, and of breaching the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, the Broadcasting Services Act, and the Electoral Act. Nine responded with a statement yesterday, “The Nine Network will be providing Messrs Wilkie and Xenophon with a detailed and considered response on the issues they have raised, and we are confident we are not in breach of any code provisions.”

If ACMA rules Nine in breach of its license conditions the watchdog may impose a fine or further license conditions, demand action to prevent further breaches, or even suspend or cancel the network’s license.



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August 12, 2011

Australian politician Karen Overington dies aged 59

Australian politician Karen Overington dies aged 59

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Australia
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File:Kareen overington.jpg

Karen Overington in February 2011
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Former Australian Member of Parliament Karen Overington has died at the age of 59. Her death followed a long battle with ill health. Overington was the Member of Parliament for Ballarat West with the Labor Party from 1999 until she stood down in 2010. During her political career, Overington worked to improve living standards for the community’s disadvantage.

Tributes have flown in for Overington from both her political colleagues and opponents. Premier of Victoria Ted Baillieu said “On behalf of the Victorian Coalition government, I express sincere condolences to family, friends and parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the Parliament, Karen was always a passionate representative of the Labor Party, the people of Ballarat and the people of Victoria.”

Opposition leader Daniel Andrews also commented: “She stood up for her community, lobbying strongly to deliver better education, health and other services that have made a real difference to families in Ballarat West.” Sharon Knight, the woman who won the parliamentary seat in Ballarat West after Overington stood down, praised her, saying, “she epitomised a real local member.”

Overington is survived by her two children.



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April 1, 2011

Treasury reveals cost of carbon tax on Australian families

Treasury reveals cost of carbon tax on Australian families

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Image: MystifyMe Concert Photography.

Treasury documents released today under the Freedom of Information (FOI) act reveal that Australians could face up to an A$863 rise in household costs per annum if the government proceeds with its plans to put a tax on carbon emissions.

The documents reveal an a annual price rise of $218.40 for electricity, $114.40 for gas, $187.20 for petrol and $88.40 for food for the average household. The treasury modelling was based on a $30 carbon tax, but also estimated other prices such as a $40 tax which predicted a rise of over $1,100 to the average household’s annual budget. However, they do not take into account the compensation deals and offsets promised by the government if a price is put on carbon.

After viewing the treasury modelling, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet released a joint statement saying without the finalization of compensation packages it is too early to predict price rises. “No final decisions on the starting price or assistance have been taken and therefore it is far too early to speculate on any potential price impacts,” the statement said. Until the final design and modelling have been settled, anyone who uses these figures to scare families about prices is engaging in a dishonest, misleading scare campaign.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the figures demonstrated the toll a carbon tax would have on Australian families. This just demonstrates that the Government has known all along that its carbon tax won’t clean up the environment but it will clean out your wallet,” he said. That’s right and this is $863 a year in extra burden that the Australian people shouldn’t have to pay. This is an $863 a year hit on families’ cost of living. Families are doing it tough as things stand. They don’t need a bad situation made much, much worse by Julia Gillard’s carbon tax.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has also officially opposed the adoption of a carbon tax. A resolution was passed by all 30 members at their general meeting to reject the Federal government’s plan.



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February 26, 2011

Opposition Leader predicts \’people\’s revolt\’ in Australia over carbon tax

Opposition Leader predicts ‘people’s revolt’ in Australia over carbon tax

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
Image: MystifyMe Concert Photography .

Leader of the Federal Opposition in Australia Tony Abbott has made claims Thursday during Question Time in parliament that a ‘people’s revolt’ is looming based on the Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s proposal for a 2012 carbon tax.

In what Mr. Abbott describes as a “betrayal of the Australian people”, Ms. Gillard announced Thursday that a price for carbon will be put back on the national agenda, for several years, to be followed by the formation of an emissions trading scheme. In the lead up to the 2010 Federal Australian Election, Ms. Gillard claimed that while she might implement a green house gas reduction scheme, “[she would] rule out a carbon tax”.

The price on carbon will be applied to industrial and transport emissions but will not, however, affect Australia’s agriculture.

The Prime Minister’s announcement resulted in a large portion of Question Time being devoted to the issue with a Member of the Opposition being expelled from the House for disorderly conduct. Mr. Abbot then moved to censure the Prime Minister and conclude Question Time claiming “Nothing is more fake than making a promise to the Australian people before the election and breaking it after the election … I don’t believe it’s going to happen because I think there will be a people’s revolt. They will see this as an assault on their standard of living, which is exactly what it is”.

To which the Prime Minister responded “Increasingly Australians understand that the Liberal Party, under the Leader of the Opposition, is a party of the past with no real policies or plans for the nation’s future … You get judged ultimately in this Parliament by what you decide to do and what you deliver, and on this side of the Parliament we are determined that from July 1 (2012) we will price carbon.”

The Opposition claims that the proposed carbon tax will cause petrol prices to rise by A$0.065 per litre while energy bills may increase by $300 per year.



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September 8, 2010

Australian Senate Committee recommends formation of Charities Commission

Australian Senate Committee recommends formation of Charities Commission

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

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The Economics Legislation Committee of the Australian Senate reported Tuesday on their investigation into the matter of investigating the benefits of religious charities in Australia, and recommended the formation of a Charities Commission. The recommendation has received bipartisan support. The inquiry began as the result of legislation initially introduced in the Senate by Senator Nick Xenophon after he had received complaints from former members of the Scientology organization in Australia.

Australian Senate in 2006
Image: Dysprosia.

The Charities Commission recommended by the Australian Senate Committee would have responsibilities including investigating charitable organizations in order to make sure that their business dealings were forthright. Such organizations would be required to prove they were worthy of maintaining charitable status from the government.

Cquote1.svg it was as a direct result of being approached by many victims of the Church of Scientology. Their evidence, their complaints played a key role in triggering this inquiry. Cquote2.svg

—Senator Nick Xenophon

Senator Xenophon commented that the recommendation would begin a process towards increasing accountability of these organizations, “I believe reform is now inevitable. We can’t continue to have business as usual when it comes to organisations that have been beyond any reasonable level of accountability.”

He emphasized such inquiry came about due to controversial revelations from former members of the Church of Scientology, “This inquiry came about because of legislation I introduced for a public benefit test for religions and charities, and it was as a direct result of being approached by many victims of the Church of Scientology. Their evidence, their complaints played a key role in triggering this inquiry.”

Senator Xenophon said that recommendations included in the Report served as a warning to cult-like organizations such as the Church of Scientology. The Report requested that the Attorney-General of Australia investigate laws relating to cults in the country. The “Tax Laws Amendment (Public Benefit Test) Bill 2010” was introduced into the Senate by Senator Xenophon in May 2010; the Economics Legislation Committee investigated this proposed legislation and completed a report on the matter in the form of a series of recommendations for the new government in Australia to consider.

A member of the inquiry committee itself, Senator Xenophon pointed out that the recommendations of the Report went beyond the scope of his initial proposed legislation through a recommendation that a Charities Commission use a “Public Benefit Test” in order to assess non-profit organizations active in the country. Senator Xenophon provided an addendum to the Report in the form of a special notes section, wherein he wrote that due to the nature of the disturbing accounts told before the committee regarding controversial activities of organizations in the country, legislation to set up a Charities Commission should be completed before June 30, 2011.

Cquote1.svg It is … important that [religions and charities] are transparent and appropriately accountable. Cquote2.svg

—Report, Economics Legislation Committee, Australian Senate

The Committee’s Report included recommendations regarding concerns about controversial activities of cult-like organizations. The Report stated there was sufficient evidence heard before the Committee such that the activities of cults should be investigated in the country with the goal of forming policy broader than simply with respect to taxation laws. For the purposes of the Committee’s investigation, the Macquarie Dictionary was cited to define the term cult as, “A religious or pseudo-religious movement, characterised by the extreme devotion of its members, who usually form a relatively small, tightly controlled group under an authoritarian and charismatic leader.”

With regard to behaviour of cults in the country, the Committee recommended the Attorney-General report on operations of governmental organization which investigate these groups such as the French government organization, MIVILUDES. The recommendation to the Attorney-General stated, “The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General’s Department provide a report to the Committee on the operation of Miviludes and other law enforcement agencies overseas tasked with monitoring and controlling the unacceptable and/or illegal activities of cult-like organisations who use psychological pressure and breaches of general and industrial law to maintain control over individuals.”

In the summary and recommendations section of the Report, the Committee concluded, “Religions and charities, and other not-for-profit organisations … play an important role in the community and in the economy. They receive significant tax concessions. It is therefore important that they are transparent and appropriately accountable.”



Related news

  • “Women reveal accounts of forced abortion in Scientology” — Wikinews, June 15, 2010
  • “Senator Xenophon of Australia calls for criminal investigation into Scientology” — Wikinews, November 19, 2009

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August 23, 2010

Australian federal election 2010: Parliament hung

Australian federal election 2010: Parliament hung

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Monday, August 23, 2010

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Australia’s parliament will be hung after this year’s federal election. With 73% of the nation wide vote counted, the governing Australian Labor Party has been confirmed to have 50.7% of the two party preferred votes, and predicted to win 73 seats in the House of Representatives, 3 short of majority.

The coalition of the Liberal and National parties has 70 secure seats and predicted to win 73 seats. This figure includes Queensland’s Liberal National Party and the Northern Territory’s Country Liberal Party, both of which are mergers of the local branches of the Liberal and National parties.

The Australian Greens have picked up their first seat at a general election in the House of Representatives. Adam Bandt is projected to become the member for the Division of Melbourne. The Greens vote in the Senate reached 12.95%, meaning 1.26 million Australians voted for the party in the upper house. Its predicted tally of nine senators will guarantee it the balance of power in the Senate.

Two days after the election, a handful of seats are still in doubt. Sky News and ABC report that three seats are in doubt, while the Australian Electoral Commission lists four.

Rob Oakeshott, a re-elected independent, told ABC Television that he and the other independents want a stable government. “If we can’t get that, let’s go back to the ballot box,” he said.

“At the launch of our campaign this morning we had representatives from the Opposition, the shadow minister for youth as well as the Greens spokesperson for youth showing that this is not about who people vote for, it’s about the fact that they’ve got the chance to vote,” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard as she launched the campaign five weeks ago.

The ALP came to power in 2007 after they won 83 seats in the House of Representatives under the leadership of Kevin Rudd. In July 2010, Rudd was replaced as leader of the ALP and as Prime Minister by Ms Gillard.

Tony Abbott became leader of the Liberal Party of Australia in December 2009 replacing Malcolm Turnbull, who had replaced Brendan Nelson two years previously.


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  • “Australian federal election announced for August 21” — Wikinews, July 18, 2010

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June 21, 2006

Australia\’s Old Parliament House becomes heritage listed

Australia’s Old Parliament House becomes heritage listed

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Old Parliament House – now protected under federal heritage laws

Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced on Tuesday that Old Parliament House in Canberra has been heritage listed. It is the 31st entry on the National Heritage List.

The listing acknowledges the role the building has in shaping Australia’s culture and protects it from being modified in any way which could affect its historic value.

Old Parliament House served as the home of Australia’s parliament from 1927 until 1988, when it was relocated to the present parliament house. From 1901-1927, parliament met in Melbourne in the Victorian Parliament House (the state parliament was relocated for 26 years). Before being known as Old Parliament House, the building was known as Provisional Parliament House – as it was intended to be used for 50 years before a permanent building could be built.

In the 61 years the building was used as the seat of parliament, the government changed only seven times, and several new political parties were formed (the Liberals, Anti-Communist Labor Party, and the Australian Democrats).

Mr Howard said the building played an important part in Australia’s political history. “Old Parliament House will always be an important part of our political history with its rich collection of original furniture, art and memorabilia helping to illustrate the story of Australia’s political customs and functions,” he said.

According to Mr Howard, the National Heritage List lists sites which have helped shape the country. “The National Heritage List contains places that have played an important role in the development of our nation, such as Captain Cook’s landing place in New South Wales, Port Arthur in Tasmania and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra,” said the Prime Minister.

The building currently houses Australia’s National Portrait Gallery, and serves as a venue for receptions and exhbitions.

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