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Tuesday, 20 September 1994
Page: 974

Senator KEMP (3.05 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans), to a question without notice asked by Senator Kemp this day, relating to the Australiana Fund.

The question I asked was straightforward. It stemmed from widespread press reports about the Australiana Fund, which has been running fundraising activities for 17 years or so for the purchase of furnishings and artworks for the Lodge and other official residences of the government. The fund comprises people who have a strong faith in and commitment to the heritage of this country, people who have worked hard to assist in the purchase of many millions of dollars worth of furnishings.

  What has happened, I believe—and an honest answer to my question to Senator Gareth Evans would have revealed this—is that about 12 months ago the fund was involved in a dispute in relation to a certain Thai teak table which Mr Keating wished to purchase from his mate Paul Kenny. The fund, I think correctly, the art community and other people who are experts in the area did not feel that it was appropriate that such a table be purchased within the fund's guidelines. Hence, this request from Mr Keating was refused.

  I believe we are seeing the politics of the payback. Mr Keating is well known for his commitment to getting even with people who cross his path. We remember that just after the last election those business groups that campaigned against Mr Keating were treated shabbily and, in some cases, threatened by Mr Keating and his ministers. We are seeing part of that pattern of behaviour in this case. The difference is that the people who make up the Australiana Fund work without payment and are committed to the heritage of this country.

  For 17 years the prime ministers of this country, stretching back through Mr Hawke and Mr Whitlam—Labor prime ministers—and Mr Fraser and others, have been more than happy, and have felt it appropriate, to open the grounds and the lower quarters of the Lodge once a year to allow Australians to see the grounds and furnishings which they as Australians own—not Mr Keating. I think this has worked well. It has been quite a feature of life here in Canberra and elsewhere where these official places are located.

  Mr Keating has been wondering how he can get even in relation to the fuss over the Thai teak table. There is nothing that excites him more than the desire to get even with those who cross him. What he has done is put a blanket ban on the Australiana Fund holding these open days and charity functions in the Lodge grounds. Quite rightly, many in the press have expressed great concern and drawn attention to the fact—

Senator Alston —Payback politics.

Senator KEMP —This is a classic case, as Senator Alston says, of payback politics. I put it to Senator Evans that in answer to my question he was extremely discourteous to the very good people who have worked so hard to raise funds for the furnishings at the Lodge, which the Keatings now enjoy. He has shown no capacity to recognise the good work that they have done on behalf of this country or their commitment to the heritage of this country.

  I put it to Senator Evans that he should go to Mr Keating and tell him that the practices of the previous leaders of this country were appropriate; that they were happy to have the grounds of the Lodge and the lower quarters of the Lodge opened for inspection on open days to help raise funds. In fact, as I said, they felt it was an honour and they felt it was appropriate.

  I ask Senator Evans to suggest to Mr Keating that the practices of the previous leaders of the country were appropriate, and to think again about the politics of the payback and the good work these people have done on behalf of places like the Lodge, and allow these open days to continue.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.