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Wednesday, 13 May 1970


Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - It is a welcome relief that a decision has been made on this important topic. The delay has been much longer than the 4 year* since 1966 when the committee of inquiry deliberated on the subject of a national art gallery for Canberra. The proposal for an art gallery for Canberra is almost as old as federation. The proposal for the inclusion of an art gallery within the development of Canberra was in the list of requirements for the early master plan of the development of this city. It is 4 years since the committee of inquiry reported on this matter. For 4 years not only Canberra - the national capital - but Australia has had to wait for a positive step to be taken towards the construction of a national art gallery, which will be the property of all Australians. We have now taken only a small step.

The 1966 committee made many recommendations. It recommended the early establishment of an Australian national gallery trust fund. The idea behind that recommendation was that people who wished to support the gallery from private resources would be able to contribute money to the trust fund. The hope was expressed in the recommendations that people who made donations to the trust fund would receive a tax concession. Tha: was in 1966. Now, 4 years later, still no move has been made to establish the trust fund. The committee recommended that a body to be known as the Friends of the Gallery Society should be established. This would be a body of people interested in the national art gallery who would work in a public spirited way to assist in the development of the gallery and towards improving its standing and reputation. That society has not been formed. It was proposed that the gallery be given statutory authority. We are still a long way from that. It was further recommended that an interim council should appoint a director. That recommendation was made with some sense of urgency. In paragraph 4.02 the committee reported:

As soon as the interim council of the gallery has been appointed it should do at least the preliminary work on the task of gathering the gallery staff. One of its earliest duties will be to give thought to finding a director.

That was in 1966. Four years later or perhaps a little longer a director has not been appointed. If one can believe the rumours circulating in this national capital it would seem that the interim council has somebody in mind as director and has in fact made a recommendation to the Government. I do not know how long ago that recommendation was made but the position of director for the gallery was advertised as long ago as February 1969. In any event, the initial recommendation for a director was made with a sense of urgency by the committee in 1966. More than 2 years later a move was made to seek a gallery director by calling for applications. More than 12 months after the applications were called the gallery was still without a director. I wish to say more in a few moments about how seriously this bears upon the progress, and is an impediment to the development, of the national art gallery.

The dilatory nature of the approach of the Government to the national art gallery is reflected even in the appointment of the Interim Council. The Interim Council was not set up until 26th July 1968, that is, some 2i months after the original report. Again, this sense of urgency which runs through the whole report of 1966 was apparent in the recommendations of the Interim Council. I quote part of paragraph 315 which reads:

Little time should bc lost in setting up the Interim Council of the Gallery particularly because of the problems associated with appointing staff and with the construction of Gallery buildings.

I come back to this point and the lack of a director, as these bear upon the construction of the building, keeping in mind the general slowness with which the Government has approached this important project. This slowness cannot be justified because in the whole history of the development of the national capital and of federa tion there has always been in mind that a national gallery would be established in Canberra.

Until a director of the proposed national art gallery is appointed we cannot really set about meaningfully to provide a design and then proceed to the construction of a national art gallery at Canberra. The fact is that the architect charged with this responsibility will need to liaise closely with the director. Many factors will need to be taken into consideration by the architect. These can be conveyed to him adequately in the final analysis only by the director of the gallery. I refer especially to the functional arrangement of the gallery. We have waited 15 months after the recommendation of the Interim Council for the identification of the site of the gallery. Do we have to wait another 15 months for the appointment of a director? Mr Madigan, the architect, has travelled around the world viewing various art galleries and gathering a host of data, I should imagine, which will be used for the development of his plans for the national art gallery. But he cannot apply the concepts that he has in mind until a director is appointed.

An emergency exists in relation to the construction of the national art gallery. I refer to the 1966 report of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Art Gallery of 1966. At paragraph 5.29, it had this to say:

The Committee believes that the need for an approval to begin soon Ls urgent. The present Collection is inadequately housed and cannot be put on permanent display; its further development is not practicable without an assured prospect on housing; and, of course, buildings of this size and quality cannot be made ready for use in much under 4 years from the date of approval for planning.

Notwithstanding this and notwithstanding the fact that several thousand pieces of art already are housed in unsuitable conditions and in accommodation that is overstretched at the present time, the Government has no really firm date for the commencement of the construction of the art gallery.

One can only feel some sympathy for the members of that Committee of Inquiry in 1966 because they were so unwise and optimistic as to believe that in 1970 the gallery would be open and would be available for public use. Paragraph 5.31 of its report states:

The Committee, having in mind that the 200th Anniversary of the discovery of eastern Australia by Captain Cook will occur in 1970, records its view that the opening of the Australian National Gallery in 1970 could provide the Government not only with a desirable national work but also with a fitting means of recognising in t.e National Capital an anniversary of great national importance.

The Government's progress on this important national responsibility has been like that of a lawyer towards heaven - at the rate of an inch on each Good Friday.

The national art gallery trust fund, which I mentioned earlier, is a topic which is raised perennially in this Parliament. On 29th September last the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) raised a query as to why this delay had occurred, in view of the recommendation in 1966 of the Committee of Inquiry. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) replied - I stress, in relation to a query on why there was a delay in setting up a national art gallery trust fund - that the Government has provided $3m this year for cultural affairs and that was a pretty fair effort. So, apparently exhausted after this contribution, he proposed to do nothing further. 1 feel that the Minister is under an obligation to announce to this Parliament today, concurrent with this announcement, what he proposes to do on these other important recommendations of the 1966 Committee regarding the establishment of the national art gallery trust fund and the body to be called the Friends of the Gallery Society. He should indicate when we will have statutory authority provided in this Parliament for discussion of these matters concerning the setting up of the gallery and, most important of all - because nothing really concrete can proceed until this is done - the Minister should answer the question as to when the appointment of a director for the gallery will be announced.

I do not wish to take much longer on this point concerning the art gallery. I did mention that there has been a long history of expectancy in the Australian Capital Territory regarding the provision of a national art gallery. It is as old as the master plans of the city. A national art gallery appeared in the requirements which were sent out to those people who participated in the design competition for the national capital. Walter Burley Griffin allowed for 2 such galleries. To bring this discussion to a more contemporary stage regarding this point I wish to quote from the September 1955 report of the select committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the development of Canberra. The members of this committee had a rather optimistic view, in the light of the slow pace at which cultural development has grown here, as to what should be done for the cultural development of Canberra. I refer to recommendations (72) and (73). These read:

(72)   Thar steps now be taken for the establishment of the following institutions in Canberra:

1.   A National Art Gallery.

2.   A School of Fine Art for the training of artists, the intention being that the Government should so endow the School to enable scholarships to be awarded for the most promising art students throughout Australia each year.

3.   A National Theatre, for presentation of drama.

4.   A School of Drama, established along similar lines to the School of Fine Art.

5.   A Conservatorium of Music.

6.   An Opera House, which should also be suitable for the presentation of Ballet.

7.   A National Museum.

(73)   That appropriate sites be immediately chosen and reserved for the various buildings that may be required in connection with these establishments, and that special consideration be given to the site originally selected by Griffin for some of these institutions.

In 1970, 4 years after the 1966 report of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Art Gallery and 15 years after the 1955 report of the Senate select committee from whose report I have just quoted, we have an announcement on 1 aspect of these recommendations to the effect that a site is being reserved for the art gallery.

At least one could say that the Government is consistent in its approach to the treatment of art and cultural matters within the community. I give as an example of the lacklustre attitude of the Government in this field its approach towards the promotion of Australian art, especially overseas. Australia needs to have a reputation overseas if our artists are to expect to aspire to the greatest heights of success that are available to them. A ceiling or a limit exists on what those artists can achieve in Australia. I refer to the Venice Biennale, the key to most international shows, at which pavilions were once available to various countries of the world. Australia was offered land free at the Biennale. It could use this land to establish its own pavilion. This offer was never taken up. In fact, a former Prime Minister, the then Mr Robert Menzies, now Sir Robert Menzies, rejected the offer when it was available to him. Last year the final block of this land went. So no more land is available for Australia to establish a permanent pavilion at the Venice Biennale. If we do not do this we can scarcely expect to establish an international reputation for Australian artists.

The Minister responsible for cultural matters in this country ought to investigate ways in which we might be able to establish some other arrangement, perhaps an ad hoc arrangement, whereby we could regularly see the works of one or two selected and successful Australian artists rather than try to flood an exhibition with a whole range of works of Australian artists. Most international exhibitions are by invitation only and the reputation which attracts an invitation is established at such international biennales as the one in Venice or the one at Sao Paolo. Australia's contribution at Venice and Sao Paolo was poorly promoted. As an extension of the sorts of things we ought to do to promote art internationally, we ought to have cultural attaches at our overseas legations. We do not have these at present and as a result the promotion of works of Australian artists suffers.

Another example of the lack lustre interest on the part of the Australian Government and its general overall apathy towards the promotion of cultural matters in Australia concerns the Guggenheim collection of art. Some years ago when the Lloyd Wright Gallery was being constructed part of that collection was offered on loan to Australia. Practically every other country was scrambling, shoving, pulling and clawing to try to obtain some of this collection on loan for display. Australia was one of the lucky countries which had an offer made to it but the then Prime Minister, Mr Robert Menzies, refused it

In respect of the proposed art gallery. I conclude by saying that we ought to seek to develop through the Australian National Art Gallery some great international exhibition - an Australian Biennale in Canberra. This is the sort of thing that will give us an international reputation in the art world. The Australian Labor Party, as a government, would set about establishing a national foundation for the arts and humanities so that all these loose ends, these piecemeal things which are done for the promotion of culture here, could be tied together. There would be co-ordination and a more effective, satisfactory and successful promotion of cultural matters within Australia. We would adequately fund such a foundation, but first and foremost we would not proceed on this exercise without fully informing ourselves on the need for cultural development in the Australian community. A proper national inquiry would be instituted for this purpose. This is in distinct contrast to the approach of the Government, which has consistently taken ad hoc decisions, apparently in vacuum, because we have seen no evidence yet of a survey being carried out of these particular matters.

I must hasten on to the other matter mentioned in the Minister's statement, namely, that a permanent site has been selected for the High Court of Australia building. One gasps and says: Thank God, at last'. For the full time during which there has been legislation covering the High Court of Australia, that is since 1903, there has been provision for a site to be fixed for the High Court. Nothing has been done about this until now; so the High Court has had a somewhat nomadic existence. Section 10 of the Judiciary Act 1903-1950 states and has stated since 1926, when it was amended - before that there was a similar provision - as follows:

On and after a date to be fixed by Proclamation the principal seat of the High Court shall be at the scat of Government. Until the dale so fixed, the principal seal of the High Court shall be at such place as the Governor-General from time to time appoints.

Incidentally, section 67 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-50 provides that on and after a date to be fixed by proclamation there shall be a Principal Registry situated at the seat of government. In each case no proclamation has been made. Of course, this is understandable because the Government had dragged its feet in proposing sites for the erection of the High Court of Australia and the National Art Gallery and in providing the necessary accommodation for the Principal Registry under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. All one can say is that it is about time this proposal was brought into the Parliament. I sincerely hope that in relation to the Art Gallery, before the end of this month we will have an announcement as to who the Director of the National Art Gallery will be, because no work can proceed until that is done. In relation to the building of both the Art Gallery and the High Court of Australia 1 hope that something more concrete than the extremely brief statement of the Minister will be brought into the Parliament quite soon. [Quorum formed.]

Motion (by Mr Howson) put.

That the debate be now adjourned.







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