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Immunity Proposal Provisions

Australia’s Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Bill was introduced into Federal Parliament on 27 November 2012.  A quick overview of the provisions of the Bill is provided below:

  • The Bill will protect lenders, exhibition facilitators, exhibiting institutions and people working for them from losing ownership, physical possession, custody or control of the objects on loan because of:
    –    legal proceedings in Australian or foreign courts;
    –    the exercise of certain powers (such as powers of seizure) under Commonwealth, State and Territory laws; or
    –    the operation of such laws.
  • Class A objects under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act (human remains, bark and log coffins, secret sacred ritual material, rock art and dendroglyphs) will not be protected by the proposed legislation.
  • Other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects (eg Class B objects) will be protected under the Act.
  • A borrowing institutions under the Bill is defined as ‘an organisation in Australia that collects and publicly exhibits objects that are of interest for archaeological, artistic, ethnological, historical, literary, scientific or technological reasons.  It must also be either established by a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory (except for those laws prescribed in the regulations) or be prescribed in the regulations.  A borrowing institution could include, but is not limited to, a Commonwealth, State or Territory art gallery, museum, library or archive and it may be a legal person or not’.
  • The legislation provides for approval on an institutional (rather than a loan) basis for up to five years.
  • Institutions will need to provide a financial year report on actions under the act.
  • Loans can be for no more than 2 years (unless the Minister gives specific approval).
  • Loans are ‘only or mainly for public exhibition’ (rather than providing wider ability to secure loans for scientific, educational etc purposes) and will cover exhibition at different venues.
  • The Bill also allows the Minister to make regulations requiring borrowing institutions to consult with groups who may have an interest in proposed loans as well as requiring that borrowing institutions publish certain information on proposed loans prior to their importation into Australia.

The Office for the Arts has flagged that they intend to consult with State and Territory arts officials and other interested parties during the development of the regulations and will be in touch to organise arrangements as the legislation progresses through Parliament in 2013.

A copy of the Bill and explanatory memoranda can be seen at:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r4937

CAMD Chair, Patrick Greene, has welcomed the legislation in the following media release:

CAMD Media Release – Immunity Dec 2012