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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2906


Senator MICHAEL BAUME(5.24) —I draw the Minister's attention to the hiring of works of art and questions asked in Senate Estimates committee hearings in this respect. There was a substantial increase-I think it was to $180,000-in the cost of hiring works of art by the Department. The response to my question about the method employed by the Department was that art works are leased under 3-year contracts from Artbank in Sydney with lease payments made annually based on the assessed value of the works, that on expiry of the contracts the works are revalued and the lease renewed at a new, higher rate, that Artbank had advised that the assessed value is expected to increase by approximately 18 per cent in 1986-87, which would increase expenditure to more than $180,000, and that, apart from a small number of works located in the Administrative Building in Canberra, all works of art are pos- itioned in overseas missions and heads of mission residences.

In view of the increase involved, does the Department or Minister have a view as to the percentage of the capital value of the works of art which is involved in the lease payment? Is there a formula under which this $180,000 is being spent? I do not want to extend the same question to pot plants. It is not as easy to assess the capital value of a pot plant. I do not think it appreciates at the same rate as a work of art. If this kind of appreciation is going on there may be some case at least for examining whether one would save money by buying them or perhaps should stop leasing them.

Another matter I raise is about the $82,492 paid last year by the Department to former Prime Minister Whitlam in his role as an ambassador, which is made up as follows: Salary, $27,330; allowance, $18,000; representation funds, $14,000; travelling allowance in Australia $1,086; travelling allowance and accommodation costs while overseas, $16,800; cost of travel overseas, $5,200. These costs were incurred by Mr Whitlam and charged against the appropriations of the Department of Foreign Affairs during the financial year 1985-86. The point was made in the detailed response to Senate Estimates committee questions on notice-it is being raised here rather than in the Senate Estimates committee hearing because we did not have this information then-that Mr Whitlam's travel within Australia is charged to the Department of the Special Minister of State and that, in addition, Mr Whitlam is a member of the Constitutional Commission and that costs incurred by him while sitting on the Commission are charged to the authority's general department. I notice that under the heading `Constitutional Commission' air fares to transport Mr Whitlam between Paris and Australia for meetings of the Commission totalled about $30,000 for five trips.

It is also mentioned that the Department of Education has also been responsible for the payment of some travel costs and travelling allowance to Mr Whitlam, both in Australia and overseas. Would it be possible for the Department to provide us with full details of all these expenditures which total, as far as the Department is concerned, just under $83,000? One would presume that the Department would be aware of them. Otherwise, if one wishes to pursue them one must pursue them through a whole lot of other departments when presumably, they could all be collected under one heading.

I raise also the matter of International Year of Peace grants. So many of these grants seem to be extraordinary. I do not want to go through them. Is it possible for the Department not to involve itself in such an extraordinary grant as $550 for the Movement Against Toys of Violence in South Australia? As the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has said, some of these grants are matters of incredible and indefensible silliness. I hope that the Department will do something to stop this absolute nonsense.