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Friday, 19 November 1993
Page: 3294


Senator PATTERSON (3.14 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services (Senator McMullan), to a question without notice asked by Senator Patterson this day, relating to the granting of arts fellowships.

The issue I raised in question time could not be more serious. It raises grave doubts about the propriety of the Prime Minister of Australia. Yesterday the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services (Senator McMullan) stated that the awarding of these fellowships, ironically known as the Keatings, `is resolved at arm's length from the government'. The Prime Minister's office is quoted in yesterday's Courier-Mail as saying that the grant recipients were decided by a judging panel appointed by the Australia Council with absolutely no input from the Prime Minister. I totally disagree with that.

  In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald in May 1989, Bob Evans said in relation to Mr Keating:

. . . supervised the recruitment of the seven members of the fellowship advisory panel, demanding that the nominees be non-bureaucrats with a working knowledge of the arts in Australia.

He went on to say:

Mr Keating has also stipulated how the panel is to relate to the Australia Council.

He has deliberately chosen to keep the fellowships at arm's length from the council.

It might be at arm's length from the council, but it is not at arm's length from the government. Mr Keating is quoted in the article as saying:

I do not want this thing to be part of the Australia Council because it is stale.

Later in the article, Bob Evans stated:

Mr Keating is emphatic that there should be no bureaucratic monitoring of the fellowship recipients.

He went on to say:

He vetoed a provision which would have made the award subject to reasonable progress in completing the planning project or activity.

That is the sort of thing that goes on with the Churchill fellowships; recipients have to report in. The two-time winner, Geoffrey Tozer, has admitted that he was a catalyst for the awards. There is also no doubt that he is a personal friend of the Prime Minister. The question is: who chose Mr Tozer?

  I have been informed by the Australia Council that one Paul Keating attended the meeting in 1989 at which the fellowships were decided, including the first fellowship for Mr Tozer. Who was on the advisory panel, the recruitment of which was supervised by Mr Keating? Who were the music representatives? One was Mr Ross Gengos from Abels Music in Manuka, a close personal friend of the Prime Minister, the man who has the Prime Minister's ear over CD copyright. The Prime Minister opened Mr Gengos's record shop. Mr Gengos's Abels also produced a record titled `Geoffrey Tozer in Concert' in 1987. Mr Gengos was still on the committee this year for Mr Tozer's second fellowship.

  The other music representative on the panel in 1989 was Mr Reuben Fineberg. I am led to believe that Mr Fineberg is Mr Tozer's agent. I am told by people in the music world that he has taken a keen professional interest in Mr Tozer's career for some years. We are not questioning Mr Tozer's ability as a pianist. We recognise that our artists need to be rewarded. We want to make sure that the due process of those rewards is correct and proper and is seen to be correct and proper by the community and by the arts community.

  In his submission for the first fellowship, what did Mr Tozer say he would do with his money? According to Wilson in the Sunday Herald-Sun in July 1991, Mr Tozer said that the money would be used to promote concerts by lesser-known composers, to establish a house of excellence, and to provide master classes for advanced students. He was going to use the money to turn St Benedicts Convent in Queanbeyan into a music school.

  I am informed that $200,000 of the original grant was spent on buying the building. Who was his guiding light in this project? Mr Keating. Who reportedly went with him and bought the building? Mr Keating. Who regularly inspected the work? Mr Keating. Who lent a hand when he was in exile on the back bench? Mr Keating. Where is the music school? It does not exist. The building is up for sale and will be auctioned on 27 November. Mr Tozer received a further $325,000 in an unprecedented second fellowship. The guidelines for fellowship state:

In exceptional circumstances a new Fellowship may be granted at the end of the first. This could occur if a Fellowship proved to be especially rewarding for the artist and the community at large.

Of the 175 applicants, there were nine winners. Why, in the circumstances that I have outlined, did Mr Tozer get an unprecedented second fellowship? Mr Keating must immediately answer this and all the other serious questions that relate to this affair.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.