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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Page: 328

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (12:43): I thank members who have spoken in support of the Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Bill 202 and for the fact that there is bipartisan support for it. I also want to reiterate an aspect of the member for Canberra's speech: those members who have not seen the Lautrec exhibition at the National Gallery should do so. It is another great example of an institution that not just houses our collections but has the credibility to draw great exhibitions from all around the world.

When I introduced the bill I said that it was being introduced at a time that is exciting for the arts and culture in Australia.

We have, through the Prime Minister's Australia in the Asian century white paper, identified a key plank in that policy being cultural diplomacy. There is a recognition that it is the people-to-people links and the cultural links that are so important in building and strengthening relationships with our neighbours—and that they underpin so much of our relationships going forward. That is one of the exciting aspects and opportunities in terms of the development of the cultural exchanges.

So too is the fact that as a government we are finalising a National Cultural Policy—the first such policy in 20 years. The last time there was a creative cultural policy in this country was under another Labor government. It is true that there is bipartisan support for these things, but when you look at the big changes in history and the big changes in in terms of driving cultural policy and the importance of the arts, it was Whitlam, it was Keating and Hawke, and now it will be the Gillard government—started at the 2020 summit.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr CREAN: You just wait and see. Then get in behind it and support it rather than bag it when you get the chance.

This is the bill that further develops an opportunity for cultural wealth, experience and engagement because it directly supports international cultural exhibitions coming to this country. It does it by establishing a scheme to protect cultural objects on loan from overseas. The legislation addresses a significant obstacle, up until now, that those institutions have faced in securing loans from overseas. In the absence of legislation, it has become increasingly difficult for Australia's major cultural institutions to secure loans of cultural objects from overseas—legislation that protects them whilst they are here. The bill addresses that obstacle. It deals with objects that are normally in a foreign country that come to Australia on loan for temporary public exhibition under arrangements made by institutions approved by the minister of the day. It seeks to achieve its objective by limiting the circumstances in which the ownership, physical possession, custody or control of the objects can be affected whilst they are in Australia. The legislation therefore reassures foreign lenders that Australia is a secure destination for loans of cultural objects and enables our great cultural institutions to successfully compete for world-class exhibitions.

The legislation also aligns Australia with numerous other countries that have implemented legislation to protect cultural objects on loan from overseas. It is legislation that will ensure that Australians continue to have access to artworks and cultural objects from the great collections around the world. As I noted when I introduced legislation, many of our leading cultural institutions are planning ambitious future exhibition programs, and I know some of them would not have been able to proceed were it not for the passage of this legislation. Therefore this legislation is commendable and it comes with bipartisan support, not only in this chamber and in this parliament, but also across all governments in Australia—support that was agreed at the inaugural meeting of cultural ministers that I convened a year and half ago. It shows how expeditiously we can move on important initiatives where we secure bipartisan support. I thank the House for it, and I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.