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Thursday, 2 November 1967

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), in the course of his statement on the appointment of Dr Coombs as Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, mentioned that that gentleman will also be chairman of the proposed Australian Council lor the Arts. To my knowledge, this is the first time that this has been announced publicly. I want to raise a couple of points in relation to this .situation. I wish in no way to detract from the qualities of Dr Coombs as a central banker and public servant and one of Australia's most able public administrators. What I want to do is to bring to the Government's attention the tremendous amount of criticism that is being voiced concerning the way in which the affairs of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust have been handled and the concern of people involved in arts and letters-^-

Mr Bury - That proves nothing.

Mr HAYDEN - It does prove something. People who are involved in arts and letters have been aggrieved for a long time at the neglect of this field, and they have been expressing criticism of the way in which the Elizabethan Theatre Trust has dominated, as a sort of ruthless ogre, the affairs of arts and letters in this country. Those people have criticised the lack of qualifications of Dr Coombs for a top position in this field. We have the Government now moving into this field without having any public inquiry into the state of arts and letters in the community. One would have thought that such au inquiry would have been the starting point. The Government apparently relies on one person only to prepare recommendations for it in this field. I would like to raise certain questions as to his qualifications in this sphere. These questions should be put before the Parliament. The Government is virtually just establishing a body that will be manipulated by the same old brigade that has been running the Elizabethan Theatre Trust for too long. In addition, it is obvious that the Government's propositions in this field are related only to the performing arts. These are only one segment of the field of arts and letters in the Australian community.

Mr Irwin - Time.

Mr HAYDEN - I said that my remarks would be short, and I shall conclude with my next point. The other point that I wish to make is that the people who are involved in arts and letters in this community want to know how the proposed Australian Council for the Arts will be endowed and how it will be administered. I hope that before the Parliament rises for the recess we shall have a clear and full outline of just what is involved in the Government's policy in this field. Its policy proposals here are very important. The establishment of the Council for the Arts is a monumental step forward if in fact it represents some positive changes. But I have a terrible suspicion that unless we get details before the Parliament rises for the recess, all that will happen is that the same old system will operate through a body under. a different name and (hat that will be the only way in which the new system will differ from the old. I would like to know what endowment the Council for the Arts will have - what funds it will have to operate on. lt is not too late even at this stage for a public inquiry to be held into all facets of arts and letters in Australia today, not just the performing arts, and for the Government to act on the findings of such an inquiry. Finally, 1 ask it to confer with people in the field of arts and letters before it finalises the appointments of those persons who will administer the proposed Australian Council for the Arts.

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