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Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) . - In connection with the estimates for the Prime Minister's Department, I wish to refer to Division No. 400 - Administrative, and particularly to subdivision 5, Grants-in-Aid. Item 09 relates to the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. 1 point out that it is some 10 years since the Trust was established in Australia for the purpose of presenting the arts to the Australian community, encouraging patronage of the arts, and creating an image of Australia through portrayal of the arts. Now, after a period of 10 years, I suggest that the Government should have a close look at the activities of the Trust, including its successes and failures.

I do not intend to labour the point at great length during this debate, but I point out to the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) that as recently as last August a "Current Affairs Bulletin" was published by the Department of Tutorial Classes in the University of Sydney. A fairly close perusal was made of the activities of the Trust in comparison with similar activities in presenting and portraying the arts in England, Canada and New Zealand. I think it is fair to say that after a comparison of the activities of the Trust with those of comparable organisations in other English speaking nations it was felt that the expenditure involved in maintaining the Trust had to be watched with some particularity.

Without reading all the relevant passages in the document, may I say that I think the views of the Department of Tutorial Classes are admirably summed up at page 125, where the following statement appears -

Frequent administrative failures have been justified by distorting the image of our existing theatre or tacitly regretting an " undiscriminating " or " inexperienced " public.

On this same subject matter, as recently as 14th August last an article appeared in the " Sydney Morning Herald " in which a comparison was made of the activities of the Trust with those of the comparable organisation in Canada, which is known as the

Canada Council. For the edification of the Minister, I shall refer to one or two short paragraphs in the article. It is stated that the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust is concerned only with the theatre arts, which I think is a fair statement, whereas the Canada Council's operations cover the broad field of all the arts, including architecture, the arts of the theatre, literature, music, painting, sculpture, the graphic arts, other similar creative and interpretive activities and, most importantly, the humanities and social sciences.

The article also points out that unlike the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, the Canada Council throughout its seven years has acted only as a subsidising body. It has left the establishment of artistic institutions to regional or group enterprise, whereas the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust is a subsidised body which spends the amount of the subsidy as it sees fit.

My remarks on this aspect of the estimates can best be summed up by referring to portion of a letter that was written as a result of the article which appeared in the " Sydney Morning Herald ". It was addressed to the " Sydney Morning Herald " by the Director of Adult Education in Victoria. He pointed out that the large subsidy, amounting to some £200,000 each financial year, encourages the Trust into increasingly lavish expenditure in the face of public indifference and into other kinds of behaviour which betray a neurotic concern to justify its existence. He went on to say -

Allthis is a threat to the proper growth of the arts of the theatre in Australia.

It is indeed high time that the Federal Government began to look carefully at this problem. . . .

I put the following question to the Minister: Are there any conditions imposed on the subsidy that has been granted during the decade since the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust came into existence? Is the Government satisfied that Australians generally are receiving value from the money that is being spent? Is the Trust really contributing to the development of the arts in Australia, or is it, in fact, catering only for the snobocracy in the community without in any way developing public patronage of the arts in the interests of Australia and of Australians generally?

I also wish to refer to Division No. 400 - Administrative, sub-division 4, item 02, Exhibitions of Australian works of art in Australia and overseas - Contributions towards expenses. I notice that the expenditure of £4,811 last financial year is to be increased this year to £10,000. Perhaps the Minister will inform me of the type of expenditure that is envisaged. How much is it intended to spend on exhibitions of Australian works of art in Australia, and how much on exhibitions of Australian works of art overseas? 1 come now to Division No. 430 - Public Service Board. Salaries and allowances are set out in a schedule. If honorable senators turn to the schedule, they will find that the central staff of the Public Service Board has been increased from 264 to 299. That is an increase of 35. However, I notice that the number of first assistant commissioners and assistant commissioners has been increased from three to the somewhat large number, comparatively speaking, of 15. The increase in respect of this item alone will rise from £12,924 to £69,675. I know that in the last financial year the growth of the Public Service has been considerable, but what is the reason for the comparatively large number of appointments to the positions of first assistant commissioner and assistant commissioner? In those positions there has been a large percentage increase, although the overall central staff of the Board has increased by only 35.

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