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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE C
09/09/1991
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARTS, SPORT, THE ENVIRONMENT, TOURISM AND TERRITORIES
Program 1-CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT
Subprogram 1.11-National Museum of Australia

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard some questions on notice.

Leave granted.

<INC.DOC>

The questions read as follows-

What has been the cost to date of the ATSI Advisory Committee by financial year and can the Department provide a breakdown of the costs of the Committee?

How many people are on the Committee and what percentage are Aboriginal?

On what basis are members of the Committee selected?

Can the Department provide details of their aim to put in place an ` ` assessment and consultation program for secret/sacred skeletal material . . . to facilitate repatriation''?

Can the Department provide estimated cost of these consultancies by organisation and of the overall program?

</INC.DOC>

SENATOR CAMPBELL -What was the funding allocated to the strategic plan for the Museum of Australia for the next 12 months?

MS DAL BON -The funding was $1m, Senator. Of the $1m allocated, a sum of $100, 000 was set aside for acquisitions, which leaves the remainder of $900,000 for the strategic plan.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -So over the next 12 months we are going to spend $900,000. What are the specific objectives of that $900,000?

MS DAL BON -The primary objective of the planning is to present the Government with comprehensive information about the costs, both capital and recurrent, of developing the museum with a view to opening by the year 2001. That requires detailing its approach to the interpretation of themes, as well as the physical facilities that the museum will require, its management structures, et cetera. So it does require some detailed thinking about the institution and how that might be expressed in terms of physical facilities.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -Where is the $900,000 going to be spent? One would presume that consultancies will be involved. Who are the consultants? Have they been chosen yet? What disciplines are they in?

MS DAL BON -No, they have not been chosen yet. It is proposed to seek expertise in strategic planning itself. At a later date, I have no doubt that design expertise will also be involved.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -What about the actual siting of the museum? Are there any consultancies in relation to choosing an appropriate site?

MS DAL BON -I think the siting is to be addressed in the context of the strategic plan, Senator. I think it would flow from the definition of the institution itself; the appropriate site would flow from that and then the expression.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -Is there a short list of sites at the moment?

MR BLUNN -I think there is one site at the moment.

MS DAL BON -There is one site at the moment.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -So there is only one site?

MR BLUNN -At the moment there is only site for the museum. There has been a lot of speculation about another site, but there is only one site for the museum and that is the one that it is presently located on.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -What other site is under consideration?

MR BLUNN -The one that has received a lot of notoriety or discussion is the one in front of the old Parliament House.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -Is it purely speculation that there is such a site, or is there more to it?

MR BLUNN -As Ms Dal Bon has said, the process that is being gone through now will identify what the needs and the requirements of the museum are. It is premature at this stage to say how those needs would be met. It is now some considerable time since the original plans for the museum were drawn up. They need to be reviewed. I do not think anyone is making a decision about the sites yet. But at the moment, the museum is where it is.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -You have given me the figure of $900,000 and I have asked what disciplines will be involved in spending that $900,000. It is between now and the end of this fiscal year?

MR BLUNN -Yes, about a financial year.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -All I have been told so far is that we are going to have consultants. The only consultant that I have had mentioned to me is a strategic planner.

MR BLUNN -I do not think that is true, with respect.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -If you could just help me, that is all.

MR BLUNN -Ms Dal Bon said that strategic planning expertise would be required but that it would then move into design expertise. I think those were the words used- `design' was certainly used; whether `expertise' was used, I am not sure, but they would be consultancies related to design. That does not necessarily mean architectural design, but design generally. Ms Dal Bon can probably elaborate on that.

MS DAL BON -I could add another couple of specialties where the Council may well look to input from consultants. For example, it will be necessary to examine estimated visitation levels. I imagine that the Council would be looking to marketing consultants for assistance in that regard.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -You have $900,000 to spend on consultancies in 12 months and you are not really sure who they are at the moment? You cannot tell the Estimates Committee who the consultancies are?

MR BLUNN -I think the answer was that they have not been chosen. That is not surprising because, of course, until you get the money you cannot guarantee you are going to be allowed to go on it. That is what this process is in part about. But I think the Council is very actively and heavily involved in the process. I do not expect that there will be a great deal of difficulty in identifying the areas in which that expertise is needed. I do not really expect that to be a problem. I will be very disappointed if it is.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -Are you saying that you have to await the outcome of the appropriations debate before you can start planning on who your consultancies are?

MR BLUNN -No. You said you cannot let them until you have the money. The Council, as I am aware, has been involved in looking at the issues that are involved in it. I imagine the Council, which will be responsible for this, will have a very fair idea of some of the skills that will be needed. Now that the money is available, I imagine that process will flow fairly quickly. Ms Dal Bon may like to comment on that.

MS DAL BON -The Council has established a steering committee to oversight the process. That steering committee will, in fact, be meeting in Sydney next week to make a number of threshold decisions and let consultancies. That is why we are not in a position at this stage to name names, as it were.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -If you do have the existing site and some alternative sites, what sorts of decisions, what sort of input, would make you lean towards one site or the other?

MR BLUNN -I think that is something Ms Dal Bon may like to answer. I will just make one thing clear. Although we focused on the amount of money that will be involved in consultancies, it should not be believed that the whole of the $ 900,000 is involved in consultancies. There are some additional staff who are involved in facilitating the whole process. The money is not all for consultancies.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -I have been trying to get a bit of a breakdown of the $900, 000.

MR BLUNN -Certainly some of it is for staffing. Ms Dal Bon may be able to identify that.

MS DAL BON -Senator, are you seeking a definition of how much will be invested in consultancies, as distinct from staff?

MR BLUNN -I think Senator Campbell wants a break-up of the $900,000.

MS DAL BON -At the moment the tentative break-up is: salaries, approximately $ 216,000; administration, $684,000; and acquisitions, as I mentioned, $100,000. The administrative element includes payments to consultants. There is also some administrative cost in supporting and servicing those consultants and the additional staff.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -What proposals do you have before you at the moment for an alternative to the existing site?

MS DAL BON -The existing site at Yarramundi was gazetted some years ago following a detailed review of some 13 or 14 sites. A technical report documenting the choice of the site and the reasons for that choice was published. The National Capital Planning Authority recently proposed that consideration be given to a site in the Parliamentary Triangle. That is related to broader planning considerations within the Triangle.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -I am from Western Australia. I do not even know where Yarramundi is. Are there some problems with Yarramundi? There must be a problem for people coming from Perth to see a national museum: where is Yarramundi?

MS DAL BON -Yarramundi is on Lady Denman Drive, which may not mean a great deal more to you. If you focus your mind on Black Mountain Tower and run around the edge of the lake from there towards Scrivener Dam where the National Aquarium is, that land on the foreshore in between is Yarramundi Reach. It is an 88-hectare site.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -We have the National Gallery on the lake foreshore. Is lakeside development the idea?

MS DAL BON -On the museum side of the lake, there is the CSIRO and a range of national collections. You come through to the Botanic Gardens and then around the edge of the lake to the museum. Continuing past the museum there is the National Aquarium.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -If there were no problems with that site, no-one would be proposing alternative sites. What are the problems with that site?

MR BLUNN -If I could perhaps help with that. That site was identified for a particular concept of the museum which was involved with quite broad-space use to represent the elements that were believed to be important in the museum's development. For example, it might be argued that an Australian Rules football ground might be an appropriate element of a museum of Australia. It is those sorts of issues that the museum will be looking at to see whether that concept requiring broad space would be needed.

Even if the museum council-or the Government, on advice from the council- decided that concept was no longer necessarily the one that it would be wise to pursue, it would not necessarily mean that you would go away from Yarramundi, but it would open up a host of other possibilities that credibly were not available at the time the decision was made to put it at Yarramundi. I think the preliminary process will decide whether the original concept, based on a very expansive use of land, is appropriate and whether the objectives of the museum can now be met in better ways.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -What you are really telling the Committee is that, after all the time this has been up for consideration-I guess over many years-we now need to spend another $900,000 over the next 12 months to guess how many people are going to come here--

MR BLUNN -We are not quite saying that, Senator, because it really has not been reconsidered over all that period of time. It has been put on hold for a long period of time. The Government, as the Minister has announced, is now concerned with getting on with the development of the museum of Australia, as the last cornerstone of I guess the major cultural institutions and has decided that it is appropriate to review the conceptual basis for the museum- not the elements that will be covered but the planning and development concepts. Would that be a fair description?

MS DAL BON -Yes, I think so.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -Where is the proposed site in relation to the old Parliament House?

MR BLUNN -When you say `the proposed site', do you mean the other one that has been suggested?

SENATOR CAMPBELL -Is there a written proposal for a site? Has someone done a little sketch plan?

MR BLUNN -I think there have been a number of indicative plans but it has not gone beyond the conceptualisation of it and the expression--

SENATOR CAMPBELL -Is there a file in the Department that has the Parliament House site?

MR BLUNN -I imagine that the NCPA would have done some indicative drawings of how it might be located. I think the museum itself has looked at the sites that have been suggested and there may be files there. Whether there is a file within the Department, I cannot honestly say. One of my colleagues might be able to tell me.

MR DEMPSTER -There is a file.

MR BLUNN -Would that have drawings on it?

MR DEMPSTER -Yes.

MR BLUNN -There is a file within the Department that would have those sorts of drawings.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -A Yarramundi file and an old Parliament House file? Which side of old Parliament House is it on?

MR BLUNN -It would be between the Lake and the old Parliament House, if that was the site that was eventually decided to be appropriate for whatever it is that will come out of this reconsideration.

SENATOR CAMPBELL -So there is an active file on it?

MR BLUNN -We file all papers and we have had papers on it. It means no more than that.

ACTING CHAIRMAN (Senator REYNOLDS)-Was there not an Aboriginal rejection of the proposed site? Senator Campbell asked some questions along these lines. I recall that I saw a press release put out by Aboriginal groups rejecting the location of the museum in the Parliamentary Triangle. Do you recall anything like that?

MS DAL BON -I am certainly aware of comment by Aboriginal communities on that issue, Senator. I do not think I have actually seen a press release as such. There has certainly been discussion in the media.

ACTING CHAIRMAN -From Aboriginal groups particularly?

MS DAL BON -Yes.

ACTING CHAIRMAN -Can you elaborate a little more. What were the Aboriginal concerns?

MS DAL BON -There are two concerns primarily. One relates to the symbolism of the site that has been mooted in front of old Parliament House. Allied with that was the way in which the Council had proposed to express Aboriginal culture and the view that, whereas some aspects of culture sit readily in monumental-type buildings, Aboriginal culture does not sit as readily in such settings and that a natural setting which would allow expression of Aboriginal culture in a more natural environment would be more appropriate.

ACTING CHAIRMAN -How many Aboriginal staff does the Museum have?

MS DAL BON -At the moment we are in the process of appointing one full time staff member and we have two Aboriginal cadets. The museum is also assisted by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory committee which comprises representatives from each State and Territory and we have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative on the Council itself.

ACTING CHAIRMAN -I noticed on page 76 that negotiations were commenced with representatives of the Vietnamese community in Australia with a view to establishing a research fellowship in Vietnamese cultural heritage. I presume there is something comparable in relation to Aboriginal heritage?

MS DAL BON -Not comparable in that sense, Senator. The Gallery of Aboriginal Australia is a key element of the museum and is articulated as such in the Act . The Act envisages, or certainly the policy surrounding the Act envisaged, a substantial Aboriginal involvement in the collection, documentation and interpretation of Aboriginal heritage. To that end, we are working with the Department of Employment, Education and Training, through the Aboriginal cadetship scheme. We have, in fact, had a number of cadets but, by virtue of the fact, either that our training is so good or that there is such a great demand out there, we have lost some of our cadets and, in a sense, we are seeking to replace them.

The Vietnamese initiative really arose from the belief that cultural institutions need to reflect the broader cultural diversity within Australia. While the manner in which that might be accommodated is clearly articulated in the case of Aboriginal Australia, it is not clearly articulated with respect to other forms of cultural diversity.

One way of approaching this is to increase the cultural diversity of the staff of the institution itself, which is entirely in keeping with social justice strategies. In fact, the Government has recently published a plan for cultural heritage institutions to reflect Australia's cultural diversity. That plan also articulates the need for the staffing base of institutions to reflect diversity. We are looking to the research fellowship in partnership with the Vietnamese community as a pilot model for injecting, in a sense, cultural diversity into the museum.

ACTING CHAIRMAN -From other cultural groups?

MS DAL BON -Yes. It also has the advantage of giving other cultural groups a sense of ownership and involvement with the museum. So in a sense it belongs to the community that it is designed to serve.

ACTING CHAIRMAN -From what you are saying, the Aboriginal component is very much built into the Act. Therefore, you do not see that a fellowship is necessary or that a research fellowship would come later?

MS DAL BON -We see that we have those structures. The difficulty that we face is that, whereas existing structures through the Department of Employment, Education and Training actually provide for the training of Aboriginal people, they do not actually provide for the training of people from other cultural backgrounds. So we are looking at other mechanisms of addressing that.

ACTING CHAIRMAN -Coming back to the question of staffing, what do you anticipate would be the percentage of Aboriginal people in the museum, given that considerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander component? What would you say is the optimum percentage for the museum in the future? I am not necessarily suggesting at this point but have you given this any thought?

MS DAL BON -Yes, we have. I would think that the museum would be looking at employing at least 80 Aboriginal people. I also add that we would hope to employ Aboriginal people in a variety of settings, so that they are not stereotyped in terms of employment in the Gallery of Aboriginal Australia. In point of fact, our cadets have expressed interest in wider experience in the social history areas of the museum, as well as in the Gallery of Aboriginal Australia.

ACTING CHAIRMAN -Would it be possible for the Committee to have a copy of the quarterly newsletter focusing on developments and matters of interest? It is probably something that many of us have seen, but you know what the paper war is like in this place. I cannot quite recall having seen it. Probably when I see it I will recognise it. I would appreciate a copy.

MS DAL BON -We would be delighted. You probably have not seen it. Originally, the newsletter was developed as a means of keeping members of our advisory committee in touch with one another. It was then extended to other Aboriginal communities and, by demand, its circulation seems to be growing at every issue . That is as it should be. We would be delighted to send you a copy.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard questions on notice from Senator Short.

Leave granted.

[The questions appear at the conclusion of today's proceedings.]

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -On page 78, you say that the number of objects lent to other organisations in 1990-91 fell from 1,037 to 200. What was the reason for this? Was it because of a bad experience with the Stockman's Hall of Fame?

MS DAL BON -The short answer is no, it does not reflect solely that. It does reflect the return of some objects from the Stockman's Hall of Fame and elsewhere. It also reflects the return of some objects for cataloguing purposes. A number of objects have been out on long term loan and are being returned for cataloguing and documentation.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Last year's annual report was in part fairly critical of shortages of funds. It seems a much more restrained report this year. Nonetheless, I notice in the draft-called `Marg's version'-that, essentially, the conservation department has had to respond to a range of shifting priorities. What are the shifting priorities and who is shifting them?

MS DAL BON -Conservation within the museum basically services other programs within the museum. For example, ATSIC decided to mount a travelling exhibition and looked to the museum to provide objects for that museum. These requests often come at short notice and we do our best to accommodate them. That would immediately have an impact on conservation.

A second reason for shifts in priorities relates to the documentation program itself. People who are accessioning and cataloguing the collection are asked to draw immediate attention to any objects that clearly need immediate conservation action. That is not programmable, in the sense that as people go through and see problems they call upon conservation to treat the item. As an end service, conservation is subject to more shifts in priorities because it is demand driven.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I accept that. Why was your revenue only $16,000 last year and expected to be only $19,000 this year? It seems a very small amount of revenue for the range of exhibitions and other things that you have put on.

MS DAL BON -We do not charge for entry to any exhibition activity that we do. Our main source of revenue derives from the sale of a small number of souvenirs through the visitors' centre at Yarramundi. We have, in fact, very limited visitor facilities at the moment.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What about the paddle-steamer-people pay to go on that, do they not?

MS DAL BON -No, we are not licensed. It is the paddle-steamer Enterprise I believe you are referring to. The Enterprise is not licensed to carry passengers, certainly not paying passengers. It steams around the lake in order to keep the engine operative. In other words, as a working exhibit the engine has to be worked in order to maintain it. The Enterprise pulls up at the banks of the lake at various points. It is open for inspection and people have a look over the boat but we do not take paying customers for a ride.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Is that because of the cost of getting a survey?

MS DAL BON -It has all sorts of survey and safety implications because it is a historic vessel. Historic vessels do not meet contemporary safety standards.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The outcome for 1990-91 says:

Broad themes for exhibitions were developed for the proposed Museum of Political History to be established in Old Parliament House . . .

Senator Campbell has referred to that.

. . . and a User Brief detailing the Museum's requirements for space within the building was completed.

The annual report of the museum states the original proposed opening date for the old Parliament House was 1994. When has that been deferred to?

MS DAL BON -I think we are getting two different proposals confused. In earlier questions, Senator Campbell was dealing with the National Museum of Australia. The Museum of Political History relates to a proposal to redevelop the old Parliament House as a museum of political history. That is separate from the main national museum.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Yes, but the original date was 1994-what is the date now?

MS DAL BON -That is a matter for the Government to determine. We respond to requests made of us.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -So no funds were allocated in the current budget for that element of your intended activity?

MS DAL BON -No.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Has there been, to your knowledge, any discernible deterioration in the fabric of the building or its contents since it was vacated by the Parliament?

MS DAL BON -I do not consider that we are the experts in that area.

MR DEMPSTER -That is for the Department of Administrative Services.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I just wondered whether the Department may have had some concern that, as it is going to occupy part of it, it did not want it to fall down beforehand.

MR DEMPSTER -It is a good point, but we will go to the Department of Administrative Services and ask it whether it is going to fall on top us.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I am wondering whether your Department has expressed any interest and/or concern about the current state of the provisional Parliament House?

MR DEMPSTER -No.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Has anyone looked at it lately from your Department?

MS DAL BON -We have looked over it many times during the last 12 months. We have held seminars and discussions in the building about possible future uses as a museum of political history and I must say that, as a lay person, there has been no discernible deterioration to me.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -In that case, as a potential user, have you any concerns about any evident or perceived problems emerging from the long lay- off that the building has had?

CHAIRMAN -I do not mind you asking the question, Senator, but you are straining the meaning of what the Estimates are about.

MR DEMPSTER -The Government's decision is that Administrative Services has the care and maintenance responsibilities and we leave those things to it. We are in constant contact with it, but it puts those sorts of proposals to government.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -My concern simply is that no alarm bells have rung about you as potential users?

MR DEMPSTER -No, not at all.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What are your estimated costs involved in setting up that part of the old Parliament House as your museum of political history? Have you established that yet or is that still to be established?

MS DAL BON -We have not established that in the terms that you have asked the question. Again, an essential first step is to be clear on how you are going to interpret political history and how you are going to use the building and then cost the implementation of those uses. We have yet to develop the first stage in any detail and, therefore, have not got to detailed consideration of the second. The Department of Administrative Services has certainly looked in some detail at the costs of bringing parts of the building back to 1927 configuration.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -But that will be its responsibility, not yours?

MS DAL BON -Yes.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What will your responsibility and your costs be? What will you be having to face in expenditure terms? Have you decided yet what you are going to do?

CHAIRMAN -I thought we just had an answer to that question-that `we cannot know yet'.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -It is only that I received a subsequent answer that said, in fact, that a lot of the things I thought they would be doing were going to be done by Administrative Services-that is, to restore--

CHAIRMAN -I understand that part and that is outside these estimates.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I am wondering what the bits are that are left over that you are likely to be having to--

MR BLUNN -I think DAS's responsibility basically is to bring the appearance of the building back as close as possible to its 1927 configuration-if you like, the shell of the building-and probably to deal with the internal problems of the building in terms of clearing asbestos and things like that. I think then the fit-out for museum purposes would probably be the responsibility of the Museum.

MS DAL BON -And the area of the building of concern to the museum relates to the main floor-that is, the floor on which King's Hall is situated and the front element of the buildings. In other words, we will not have access to the dining rooms at the back of the building. It is a designated area on the main floor in the front of the building.

MR BLUNN -I am also sure that you are aware that the Museum would not be the only user, that there are other users proposed.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I understand that. But it will have responsibility for specific areas-the chambers, King's Hall, the President's office, the Prime Minister's old office and those sorts of things. Have you yet determined, in respect of those areas, what you are going to do and how much in current terms it is going to cost?

MS DAL BON -No, we have not determined to finality what we are going to do because there are a whole range of conservation issues associated with the use of those spaces that constrain the extent to which you can do `anything'. Those issues have yet to be worked through in detail.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -When do you expect to have a view about what you will do?

MR BLUNN -That is dependent on the Government decision to proceed with the old Parliament House for those uses and although that has been taken in principle , it has yet to be reflected in a way that could be made executive.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The annual report of the Museum says that it is starting to experience an acute shortage of space for high value objects and those with particular environmental tolerances. I can understand that when items went to the Stockman's Hall of Fame the temperature created problems. What sorts of items do you have here now in large volumes which suffer from this kind of environmental problem?

MS DAL BON -For a start, we have a major ethnographic collection comprising quite rare Aboriginal bark paintings and ethnographic objects. They are most sensitive to climatic conditions.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What are you doing to resolve that particular problem, which obviously sounds a fairly urgent one?

MS DAL BON -We are doing all we can in practice, which is to locate the most important objects in the best environment that we have available. We have objects stored in three warehouses, one of which is a commercial warehouse designed for commercial purposes. It has zero environmental control of any kind and is relatively unstable with great swings of temperature. We have a basement facility in Fyshwick which, while not environmentally controlled, is relatively stable because it is a basement. We have a purpose designed facility at Mitchell, part of which has a controlled environment and part of which is uncontrolled. So, basically we store our Aboriginal collection-and to all intents and purposes this is the collection we are talking about-in the environmentally controlled areas at Mitchell and in the basement facilities at Fyshwick.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -When you say it is starting to experience an acute shortage of space, how much is at risk-and this is significant-of deterioration because of this acute shortage of space? Obviously that was what prompted the concern expressed in the annual report.

MS DAL BON -Basically, I think we would be hard pressed to put another thing in the Mitchell stores. We basically keep reshifting the deck chairs and trying to find more efficient means of storage in order to accommodate more within a given square metre of floor space. We have taken that as far as we can at Mitchell.

In terms of Wollongong street, we did negotiate an extension of the area. We have fitted it out as efficiently as possible but clearly it is not made of elastic-sided walls. We have got some space in that Fyshwick store for a limited amount of additional Aboriginal material and that accepts the reality that the remainder of the collection will not be environmentally controlled conditions.

You will note from our statistics-in fact, it would probably be in the annual report rather than in the estimates explanations-that a large number of objects have been relocated to appropriate storage. We shifted 13,000 objects this year precisely to cope with that problem.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I still have a problem then. In fact, it is merely confirmed. You have an acute shortage. You talked about shuffling the deck chairs. I hope you are not considering yourself to be the Titanic?

MS DAL BON -Not quite the Titanic, I hope.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -You do not have the capacity, but you are still going to be accessioning material? You have an acute shortage; what is at risk?

MS DAL BON -It is very difficult to answer that in the terms in which it is posed. Basically, if one takes Aboriginal barks, and old bark paintings at that, changes in temperatures start shifting the ochre off the surface of the bark and it costs money to adhere it again.

CHAIRMAN -Are the Aboriginal artefacts are at risk, or something else?

MS DAL BON -They would be at the most risk.

CHAIRMAN -Is it all of the collection or only some of it?

MS DAL BON -As I tried to point out, I believe our Aboriginal collection is satisfactory at the moment. We will not be able to add greatly to that collection without comprising that situation.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Has it the potential to be at risk?

MR BLUNN -Ms Dal Bon can correct me if I am wrong, but there is no doubt that we are engaged in risk management. We are always going to be in risk management. We are trying to ensure that the high risk items are properly stored. As we get more and more high risk items, it means we move some things down. At the moment, it would be fair to say that none of the high risk items are at risk in any critical sense. We may have had to move out some items, for example-I may pick a very bad example-an item called the Horse Age Era Museum , which was donated by the ACT to the museum. It may well be that some of the items are moved into less than satisfactory storage in order to make room for other materials. The only answer is that it is a risk management area. We are making what we think are sensible risk management decisions and protecting the major items. Some will move increasingly into a risk situation until we get the museum proper.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The items most capable of being exposed to risk are receiving the greatest attention. However, there are still some, perhaps down the hierarchy of risk, that are, as a result of inadequate storage capacities or facilities, being exposed to a degree of risk?

MR BLUNN -I would certainly have to ask Ms Dal Bon to comment on this. I do not believe that any of them are decaying before her eyes at the moment, although she might like to correct me on that.

MS DAL BON -No, Senator. We are indulging in risk management, but I think we are staying ahead of the ball game.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I noticed in the annual report that the museum staff donate pre-owned clothing to an op-shop in Arnhem Land and the museum pays for the delivery of the items to Maningrida. I wondered why that one was picked out. I guess there are plenty of Aboriginal communities; what is special about that one?

MS DAL BON -It relates to an initiative of a member of staff who has done a lot of field work in that area and invited us to contribute used clothing and we have all done so.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I wondered whether there were any benefits you got from friendly relations in that area, particularly related to bark paintings and so on?

MS DAL BON -Not in that sense. There is obviously goodwill involved.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -This year's annual report shows a diminution of the concerns expressed in last year's annual report about the lack of funding. Has there been an easing of the problems or has something else has happened to result in this quite changed atmosphere.

MS DAL BON -I think the museum is gradually reaping the dividends of the additional funds allocated by the Government in the Budget before last. An additional $1m was allocated for documentation and preservation of the collection. We have used those funds to attend to a number of pressing issues and they have obviously gradually abated as a consequence.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Is it you who recommends to the Government matters like the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act. For example, the overseas--

MR BLUNN -No, Senator, it is not. Mr Dempster's division has the responsibility for that and is advised on that. If you had a question on that, perhaps Mr Dempster could give you an answer.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What is the Department's view about the proposed sale overseas of the Lancaster bomber NX622 by the Western Australian branch of the Air Force Association.

MR DEMPSTER -That matter has been looked at by the committee that advises the Minister and it has indicated that there is no reason not to allow the export.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Because there are enough Lancaster bombers in Australia ?

MR DEMPSTER -It has no particular historic significance to Australia. It is just another Lancaster bomber.

MR BLUNN -It was never flown by Australians or formed part of an Australian squadron.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -How many other Lancasters are there in Australia?

MR DEMPSTER -I understand there is one at the War Memorial.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Is the one at the War Memorial the only one?

MR DEMPSTER -Yes.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The National Air and Space Museum does not seem to have a program.

MR DEMPSTER -There is not one. We do not have anything to do with that.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -You do not fund it at all?

MR DEMPSTER -No.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What are your intentions for maritime items such as the Hong Hai, which I believe was being stored at the National Maritime Museum in Berrys Bay?

MS DAL BON -The boat was not acquired as an item of maritime history; it was acquired to demonstrate migration history. The item is in storage in Sydney, as is almost all of the museum's collection.

MR BLUNN -Of boats.

MS DAL BON -Of anything. Our collection is in storage; it is not all in Sydney . It is in storage in Canberra.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Is the eventual plan to display the boat indoors, out of water?

MS DAL BON -Yes. There were problems in displaying the vessel in water in Sydney Harbour. They relate to the effect of worm infestation on the particular timbers used in the construction of that boat. Apparently, the local Sydney marine worms relish it.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -You seem to be having bad luck with your boats. I see the Enterprise suffered two ruptured boiler tubes, despite being chuffed around the lake to keep its engine working. What is happening with that?

MS DAL BON -I am not an engineer, but I understand that is normal operation. Boiler tubes do blow during the operation of steam vessels and the vessel is designed for the boiler tubes to be replaced. It is part of ongoing wear and tear within a steam engine. I do not think my expertise would allow me to go any further.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I see what appear to be very maritime oriented things. I refer, for example, to the Sirius bilge pump. I wonder why Canberra is the ideal location for them.

MS DAL BON -I think there are some reasons of history involved here. The establishment of the National Museum of Australia preceded the establishment of the Australian National Maritime Museum. In fact, at one stage the Australian National Maritime Museum, in a sense, was a subset of the National Museum until it broke away and formed an institution of its own. The Sirius bilge pump and other items, including the Dutch shipwreck collection items, were located in the National Museum's collection at that time.

In the case of the Sirius, there has been a transfer to Norfolk Island. Other items are actually being transferred to the maritime museum because that museum now has statutory protection and it is appropriate to transfer the collection to that museum.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I see in the Budget Papers that the Government will spend some millions of dollars-I cannot remember how much-on completing the replica of the Endeavour that Mr Bond started. Who will get that? Are you going to look after that?

MR BLUNN -No, Senator, the National Maritime Museum will be the beneficiary of that project.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -You make quite a point about women's cricketing memorabilia in your annual report. I see that it is on loan to someone. To whom is it on loan? I note from your annual report that the preparation of loans to other institutions is a high priority. Eleven loans were prepared during the year, including items as large as Australia II and a Cobb and Co. coach through paintings on bark, costumes, aviation and women's cricketing memorabilia.

MS DAL BON -I cannot tell you the recipient of the loan at the moment. I can find that information for you.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -As you are aware, there is a good cricketing museum in Melbourne and another one in Sydney. What is the demarcation between your library activities and the National Library of Australia. I noticed the number of library items acquired last year in terms of monographs was 4,000. What is the dividing line?

MS DAL BON -Their roles are totally different. The library of the National Museum is like an ordinary departmental library. It services the immediate needs of the institution, whereas the National Library has a broader national role.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Public access to the national collection substantially increased the workload for the public programs during the year. Do you charge for access to the collection?

MS DAL BON -No, we do not charge. We encourage its use, particularly for research purposes because the museum gets other dividends, namely the results of the research.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -There is a long list of collections acquired during the financial year. What tax benefits are available to donors?

MS DAL BON -We operate under the taxation incentive for the arts scheme. That applies to all collecting institutions. However, the majority of gifts to the National Museum are outright donations. They are gifted without claiming any tax concession.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Those that do have a tax benefit obviously require a valuation?

MS DAL BON -Yes.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Do you have a view of the value of donations last year?

MS DAL BON -In total, or just under the tax incentives for the arts scheme?

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -In total and under tax incentives?

MS DAL BON -No, I do not have a figure to hand.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I would be grateful if you could provide the total value of estimated donations, if you can put a value on them, and the tax benefit values of those given for a tax benefit, the reason being that tax expenditures are expenditures.

MR DEMPSTER -Excuse me, Senator, I just wish to clarify something there. It is very difficult to give those tax estimates because the figures at the individual level are confidential information. But under program 1.2 on page 31 we indicated that $12m in gifts were made. We talked about this the other night. That $12m total would cover all of those donations to other institutions under the tax incentives scheme.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I am specifically looking at total tax expenditures for this museum because it seems relevant.

MR DEMPSTER -Just in case it resulted in double counting, they would all be included in that $12m.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I understand that.

MS DAL BON -I make the point that we do not value outright donations. We have no need to value them and there is a cost in valuing them.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -We had this discussion last time and I was not going to pursue it.

MS DAL BON -The difficulty that we face is that if we itemise or identify the total cost of donations under the taxation incentives for the arts scheme, by virtue of the fact that only one or two donors may be involved, we start to identify confidential information.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I was seeking it only if in fact it did not involve breaching a confidence, in the sense that it was an aggregate amount not a single one. On the question of disposals, now that you have a capacity to dispose of items by destruction, among other things, have you started on a disposal program yet or deaccessioning as the ANG referred to it.

MS DAL BON -The short answer is that we have not started deaccessioning material. As collections are catalogued-or indeed before they are catalogued- they are assessed. We have certainly identified material for deaccessioning. We do have a legal barrier to deaccessioning at the moment in that it will be essential for the criteria and guidelines for the collection to be approved before we can deaccession.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -That will do me, although I must say I have a problem with that earlier response about the National Air and Space Museum not being a Federal responsibility. I understood that the former Minister made a public, in principle commitment to provide 40 hectares of land at Laverton for such a museum. I wonder whether this has been transferred to Point Cook. What has happened about that commitment?

MR BLUNN -I would have to confirm that for you. I think the land in question is Defence land. I do not think it is under this portfolio.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I would be grateful if you could confirm that because, as I understand it, the Victorian State Government allocated a $200,000 development grant to the museum and the Federal Government has now decided to sell Laverton. I wondered what would happen to the whole fabric of this thing.

MR BLUNN -It is certainly not a museum which this portfolio is involved with at all. It is a question that we can certainly ask our colleagues in Defence and let you have any information they may have on it.

SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I would be most grateful.