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Thursday, 9 March 1972
Page: 606


Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - by leave - The Opposition welcomes the statement by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), on behalf of the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson), on this matter. We on this side of the chamber believe that participation in the creative arts and crafts, including exhibition of the arts and crafts, should be actively encouraged and assisted by the Government. The Australian Labor Party, whether in Government or in Opposition, will encourage and support the arts in such a way as to maintain a freedom of expression and allow artists to exercise freely their creative and performing talents. I think we should all seek to ensure that the creative talents of Australians are promoted by providing guidance and assistance to those in not only the field of arts but also the field of crafts. We should be especially careful to see that this applies to new arts and new developments in the old arts and crafts as well as to the traditional ones. We find in the sphere of arts and crafts a tendency to vested interest and a tendency to resist new developments and new ideas. Perhaps there is as much bureaucracy and rigidity in that field as there is in any other.

Governments must be alive to the necessity of not using their finance and their other promotional means to ensure the rigidity that exists. Indeed, we feel that in many ways governmental participation in the promotion of the arts in Australia has been allowed to bolster social climbing. We notice this in some areas where the development and the promotion of the arts under governmental promotion has, I would think, been diverted and impeded by allowing the arts unduly to fall into the hands of retired colonels, stockbrokers, and so on rather, than into the hands of those creative people .who will ensure the development of the arts. .

There are a couple of curious expressions in this statement to. which I feel I should draw attention. One is in the second last paragraph of the statement. It reads:

Ultimately, I hope people in the world markets will see instinctively that the products of Australian craftsmanship, including also Aboriginal craftsmanship, are characteristically Australian, not because they are marked 'Made in Australia', but because of a high degree of artistry, skill and style enhanced by high standards of industrial design. 1 cannot see that the requirements 'high degree of artistry, skill and style enhanced by high standards of industrial design' will mean that they will be characteristically Australian. We hope that they will be characterised by a high degree of artistry, skill and style, but we are part of a world culture and to me it seems to be a little inaptly phrased as if to suggest in some way this was to be a continuance of some specific Australian motif rather than a concentration on the development of all kinds of artistic forms. No doubt some may have some Australian motiff running through them. But it may well be that we might succeed even though the products were not distinctively Australian of the highest artistic standard and of the highest craftsmanship so that we will be able to say that it is beautiful craftsmanship or that it is a beautiful form of art and perhaps not be able to tell that there was anything distinctively Australian about it.

I do not know that the aim of the development of the arts should be to produce something peculiarly or distinctively Australian. Rather is it that the great art in the world has been not distinctively national; it is so outstanding that it becomes international or beyond the bounds of national culture. However, those are mild observations upon what is in the statement. We welcome the proposal to do anything which will promote the development of the arts and crafts in this country. This is the main point on which I wish to touch. We feel that not enough has been done. However minor the action which is starting to come out of the Ministry of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, let us welcome it, because so little has happened and so little is likely to happen. Let us not rebuff the most tentative and most minor, even the most inadequate steps. We are pleased to see any signs of activity whatever.







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