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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 697

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister for Finance. Has his attention been drawn to comments by the Western Australian Premier about criticism of the acquisition by the Commonwealth Government of the yacht Australia II? Can the Minister for Finance provide the background of the Commonwealth's decision in this matter?

Senator WALSH —My attention has been drawn to that. I must say I was astounded by what I read because apparently the Premier is complaining that Australia II, which the Commonwealth Government made the decision last year or possibly in 1983 to purchase, is to be left in Western Australia until the proposed Museum of Australia is built and then transferred to that museum. The statements made by the Premier in the last few days indicate that he was unaware of that. On 4 November last year Mr Dix, the Chairman of the Council of the Museum of Australia, issued a Press statement, I think at a function in Canberra-at which, incidentally, I understand the Premier of Western Australia was present, although I have not been able to confirm that yet-in which he said:

After its use in the preparations for the Challenge, Australia II is expected to remain on display in Western Australia until it takes its place among the exhibits at the Museum of Australia which is to open in Canberra in 1990.

So at the very least the Premier should have been aware of the fact from 4 November last that the Commonwealth proposed to house the yacht which it bought, with Commonwealth money, in the Museum of Australia when it is completed.

Senator Walters —It is taxpayers' money.

Senator WALSH —Commonwealth taxpayers' money; precisely. I note that the West Australian newspaper reports the State Government as saying that the State was considering ways of buying Australia II for Western Australia. If the Western Australian Government wanted to have control of the ultimate resting place of Australia II and wanted it in Western Australia, it should have bought the yacht when it was being hawked around in 1983 or 1984. It is a bit late to complain, now that it has been purchased by the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth has made a decision-and publicly announced that decision many months ago-as to what it intends to do with it. If the State Government is serious about it and actually wants to make the Commonwealth an offer to buy the yacht and so be perfectly entitled to do whatever it likes with it, I cannot on behalf of the Government respond here to such an offer as, of course, it would have to be considered by Cabinet, but so far as I am concerned I would be quite happy to take the cheque.