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Ayers House Bill

9 April 2024

I rise to support this bill on behalf of the Greens. In so doing, I recognise that this was an election commitment from the Malinauskas government and, indeed, an election commitment of the Greens. We indicated that if the government were to move to legislate this we would support this change. We welcome the government taking this action.

Ayers House is one of Adelaide's most treasured historical landmarks. This 19th century mansion has long been under the stewardship of the National Trust of South Australia, an organisation that is dedicated to protecting our state's rich cultural heritage. It is important that we take all necessary steps to ensure that the National Trust can continue maintaining and operating out of Ayers House for the benefit of the South Australian community. South Australia's natural and built cultural heritage is a precious asset and a resource to be respected and protected for current and future generations.

As we know, the future of the National Trust's stewardship over Ayers House was threatened by the Liberal government in 2021. I want to refer to a media release from the Hon. David Speirs in April of that year, when he stated:

Iconic properties such as Ayers House and Martindale Hall will be the initial focus of our attention for possible investment and activation.

I think many members of the community, as the Hon. Connie Bonaros has alluded to, became very concerned about the potential activation of Martindale Hall, indeed the commercialisation, potentially, of Martindale Hall. If my memory serves me correctly, the Liberal government did intend to open up the prospect for that. They had a bill that was put before this place, which they abandoned because it became clear that there was not the support in the parliament to progress that.

I welcome the fact that they have abandoned that approach to our heritage buildings. I hope that we do not ever see future governments, Labor or Liberal, going down that path, because, as the Hon. Connie Bonaros has stated, what we should be doing is actually putting public money into supporting these buildings and ensuring that they are owned by the people of South Australia in common, to ensure that they are enjoyed by the whole South Australian community, not sending them on the path to privatisation, private ownership. We have seen what can happen when we do that. One only needs to walk down North Terrace and look at a beautiful building like Edmund Wright House, which has been allowed to fall into disrepair, to see some of the dangers of that approach. I hope we do not see that happen again.

Under the Marshall government, the National Trust was given a 30-day eviction notice and there was a plan to give the building to the History Trust for their offices. I should disclose that Greg Mackie of the History Trust is a friend and former colleague of mine. I have no criticism at all of the History Trust; they do good work. It was a shame that the former government pitted these two organisations against each other. That was really regrettable.

The National Trust of course is an independent organisation. There were 4,000 signatures, gathered in just three weeks, calling for the National Trust to stay at Ayers House. I recognise that the then Labor opposition committed to that campaign and, as I indicated from the outset, the Greens also supported that campaign. So we support this legislation, consistent with the commitment we made during the election.