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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1525


Senator COOK —Has the Minister for Finance seen newspaper reports that the Brian Westwood, $7,500, official portrait of the former Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, is still owned by the Commonwealth, while another portrait of Mr Fraser is being offered for acquisition to the Historic Memorials Committee? Are the reports true? Specifically, is the asking price for the second portrait $10,000? What reasons have been given for rejecting the official portrait? Could the reason be that in the official portrait Mr Fraser is cut off at his ankles and is, therefore, standing on his record? Would the Government be able to recover the costs, in the event of a purchase of the second portrait, by selling the first one, or is there no market for rejected paintings of Fraser? At a time in which the Government is cutting expenditure, could a second purchase be justified?


Senator WALSH —I am, of course, concerned about unnecessary government expenditure, whether it be at the instigation of a former Prime Minister or by some judge who decrees that $400,000 worth of legal aid ought to be provided by the taxpayer for an agent who facilitated the evasion of $100m-plus in income tax. On the other matters, I understand that-this is subject to confirmation-the Historic Memorials Committee, of which you, Mr President, are a member, in its normal practice had commissioned a portrait and subsequently it was discovered that Mr Fraser had himself arranged for a Mr Ivor Hele to do a portrait which he now wants the Committee to purchase. I am not sure whether the cost was $10,000. I thought it was in the vicinity of $7,500. I will try to have the figure checked.

I am not sure why Mr Fraser did not like the portrait which the HMC had commissioned or whether it was that he was cut off at the ankles. I think it would be highly speculative to consider whether the portrait could be sold again. Although rejected portraits of Mr Fraser may not have much value, it looked as if significant sections of the Liberal Party wanted him to come back as leader of the Liberal Party because they were keen on rejecting the one they already have.

I understand that there is at least one precedent for a former public official having commissioned, at public expense, two portraits because he did not like the first one. That was, of course, Sir John Kerr, who has had common interests and common infamies with Mr Fraser in the past, although to be fair to Mr Fraser, to the best of my knowledge, Mr Fraser has never lurched around the enclosure at Flemington racecourse during a Melbourne Cup race, fallen in the mud at country shows or endangered sensitive equipment by lurching around the Chifley Square offices.