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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2235

Mr DOWNER(7.55) —Tonight I wish to talk about something which is quite different from the problems of Sri Lanka. I am quite honest to admit to the House that I know very little about that country. I once paid a very brief visit to it as a child of four years of age when Sri Lanka was called Ceylon and it was part of the British Empire. I do not know a great deal about the way it changed and developed since then, but I can observe that it has changed dramatically.

Instead, I want to talk about the arts, because last Tuesday I was appointed, among other things, as the shadow Minister for the arts. When I was appointed the shadow Minister for the arts I was, naturally, delighted not only from a personal point of view but also because, throughout my life, I have taken a very great interest in the arts-indeed, a much greater interest than many honourable members. I do not say that to be disrespectful to those honourable members but just to ensure that they recognise that I have a very deep and personal interest in the arts. Two of my sisters are directly involved in the arts. One is the manager of the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney which, I think I am right in saying, is the oldest privately owned art gallery in Australia, and it is a great example of private enterprise coupling with the arts and working very successfully. However, very few honourable members would probably ever be able to buy something from the Macquarie Galleries.

I was delighted to be appointed to that position, but I was a little disappointed that some members of the Australian Labor Party and one or two people in the arts community expressed some reservations about my appointment. The explanation for their reservations was that the Waste Watch Committee, with which I proudly associate myself as a former member, made some significant attacks on selective examples of community arts boards grants from the Australia Council. I refer specifically to the $52,000 or so that the Builders Labourers Federation received to employ a muralist in residence and the grants given to the Food Preservers Union of Australia for that union to hold ceramics classes.

I think that all honourable members would agree that community arts have an important role to play. I want it to be recognised that I support the concept of community arts. I think that it is a great idea and I would like to see more and more Australians become involved in the arts. However, there has to be a limit to the grants that a government gives, even if those grants are given under the cloak of arm's length funding. To give the Builders Labourers Federation-a union that has been effectively deregistered by the Labor Government-a grant to employ a muralist in residence is taking it one step too far for the taxpayers of Australia. But that is not to say that I am opposed to community arts or that I have any antipathy to community artists.

The suggestion that appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser that one of my pet hates was community arts and people in community arts was completely and utterly wrong. Many of my friends have been involved in community arts. When they read the Advertiser's comments they were, needless to say, a little bemused and surprised and appreciated that the comment was certainly not right. The same applies to the suggestion that I have some personal antipathy to story tellers. I have no antipathy to story tellers. We all know that honourable members opposite are professional story tellers in terms of the way in which they try to justify the appalling record of this Government. Of course, they fail to do so, but they tell a very tall story in trying to justify the disgraceful record of the Hawke Government. I think that there are many professional story tellers in the community who do an outstanding job.

I have only questioned a grant given to the Trades and Labour Council in Australia-the master of the South Australian Labor Party, as we all know-to employ a story teller in residence. As it happens, the person it employed is a particularly outstanding story teller. It is no reflection on him that he should have collected stories for the Trades and Labour Council. However, it is a reflection on this Government that it allows grants to go to its friends in the trade union movement.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! It being 8 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at 8 p.m.