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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2581

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, refers to the purchase by Mr James Mollison of the painting Blue Poles' for $1.3m. The painting was purchased for the National Gallery from a gallery in New York. I will not ask how the painting was made or about the merits of it, which I cannot comprehend. What I do ask the Prime Minister - I would be happy to receive an answer in writing if he is not able to give it now - is: How was this choice made? Was it solely in the hands of Mr Mollison or is there a panel or a board to make a judgment? Secondly who has the responsibility for an expenditure of this magnitude? Thirdly, could the Prime Minister make available all the information regarding the dealers and the agents involved in this purchase?

Mr WHITLAM - If Australian galleries were limited by the comprehension of the right honourable gentleman they would be very bare and archaic indeed. The painting 'Blue Poles' was inspected by Mr Mollison, among others. It was recommended by Mr Mollison, among others. Mr Mollison was appointed by our predecessors. I did not cavil at his appointment then; I do not now.

Mr MacKellar - A good appointment.

Mr WHITLAM - I agree with the honourable gentleman and I believe that most members of the House would agree with him and with me about the quality of that appointment. The honourable member for Kennedy is interjecting. I welcome his interest in art. I have given an answer in writing on this matter already, in response to a question which was asked in the Senate.

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