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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2949

Senator MICHAEL BAUME(11.15) —I rise on the first opportunity I have to defend my friend and colleague the honourable member for Mayo, Mr Alexander Downer, from a totally false, totally inaccurate, totally nonsensical attack in this place today by the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh), who maintained his normal standards of decency and accuracy in that attack. In other words, the attack was totally incorrect. He alleged falsely that Mr Downer sought from the Government this year $14.4m to establish a national motor museum at Birdwood Mill in South Australia. In fact, what Mr Downer did was to write in support of a submission from the History Trust of South Australia to the Commonwealth Government. He wrote to support in principle that proposal. This is all reported, by the way, in the local newspaper. Senator Walsh has no excuse for misrepresenting what was said. I quote what Mr Downer said:

While the request for $14.4 million is ambitious in the current economic climate; the Federal Government should at least designate Birdwood as the National Motor Museum.

If it were to do that, then the museum would have a greater capacity to attract sponsorship from the business sector.

There is no suggestion of demanding $14.4m out of the Federal Government right now. On the contrary, Mr Downer simply wanted the museum to be designated so it could attract sponsorship from the business sector.

Senator Messner —What the Minister has done is absolutely disgraceful.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —As the honourable senator says, it is disgraceful, but it is typical of that Minister's behaviour. Mr Downer went on:

Whilst these plans have a great deal of merit--

I am quoting Mr Downer, and this is material which the Minister himself had available to him, but which he chose to distort when he chose to present a totally false picture of what Mr Downer was saying-

and the cost would probably be recouped over time, it should be recognised that the Government may not be able to afford to fund such a project at this time because of Australia's economic woes and the ever increasing Budget deficit.

This is absolutely contrary to what Mr Downer, according to Senator Walsh, is purported to have said. Mr Downer went on:

However, that should not inhibit the Government from making a decision to confirm the Birdwood Mill as the National Motor Museum with a commitment that it will provide what assistance it can.

We know that the Government is allocating money under the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment for this sort of project and we know that the Government's review of funding for museums will be completed in February 1987. All Mr Downer was asking for was a slice of that available money to the extent that the Government felt able to provide it. Specifically, he wanted the Birdwood Mill designated as the national museum. He was not after $14.4m, because, as he said, the Government obviously would not be able to afford it. My concern is that this Minister gets up in this place and continually blackguards people in other parliaments around Australia with no regard for the truth. I do not mind him blackguarding me; I am used to it. I regard it as an accolade when I am attacked by Senator Walsh. It does not bother me. But it certainly is a misuse of his status and standing in this place deliberately to set out on a course like that when he knows what the facts are, nonetheless proceeding, quite improperly, to denigrate a valued Opposition colleague of mine in another chamber.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 11.19 p.m.