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Wednesday, 21 April 1915

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) (Prime Minister and Treasurer) . - I do not agree with the criticism of the honorable member for Perth, because I consider that the portraits to which he has referred are equal to anything that could be got in the Old Country for the same money. It is one of the features of Australian criticism that it regards everything done in this country as inferior to work done elsewhere.

Mr Fowler - My remarks contained, no such insinuation. Some of the portraits to which reference has been made were painted outside Australia.

Mr FISHER - I had no wish to do the honorable member an injustice. As to the artistic quality of these paintings, I am not in a position to express an opinion, but I have visited on more than one occasion some of the most famous, picture galleries in the world, and I have the advantage of acquaintance with those who know something about art. There are in the older countries of the world galleries whose, collections consist almost wholly of masterpieces; but, taking ordinary collections, my individual opinion is that, picture for picture, the portraits that have been referred to are equal to any that will be found elsewhere.

Mr Page - Who did the portrait of Sir George Reid ?

Mr FISHER - It was done overseas, in the great art centre of London, by a leading portrait painter.

Mr Page - Thank God an Australian did not paint it ! It is the greatest abortion of a portrait that ever came to the country.

Mr FISHER - I do not think that we should say that. The efforts of Australian painters should be encouraged by the Governments and civic authorities of this country. Without the encouragement of art, a people become mere drudges, and lack ideas of an elevating character.

Mr Fowler - I have never suggested the discouragement of art.

Mr FISHER - The honorable member said that it would astonish an ordinaryminded person to be taken into the Queen's Hall and asked to consider the portraits there as works of art. I do not agree with the honorable member. I think that the portraits are works of art. They have been passed by gentlemen who were intrusted with the choosing of pictures for our best galleries.

Mr Page - The right honorable gentleman's portrait is a good one.

Mr FISHER - Those who know me will not accuse me of personal vanity. The standing for that portrait was a bore and a trouble to me. It may be that the wrong men may be painted, and, in a small way, thus acquire immortality, but future generations will be glad to have the pictures, and the amount that they cost does not weigh by comparison.

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