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Wednesday, 7 November 1973
Page: 1573

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise) - I should like to give an answer to a question which was asked by Senator Wright and was mentioned before Estimates Committee A last night. I undertook to give it today. On 25 September this year Senator Wright asked without notice whether I would arrange for the tabling in the Senate of the papers constituting the transaction of the purchase of the painting Blue Poles' by Jackson Pollock. The Prime Minister has provided the following information in reply to the honourable senator's question:

While I would wish to respond as fully as I can to the honourable senator's request for information about the purchase of this painting, there are problems in making public the papers relating to purchases of works of art.

First, there are the difficulties associated with any commercial transaction- that publication of details of negotiations can influence the market and the outcome of further dealings. This can readily be appreciated in relation to the purchase of works of art.

Secondly, decisions to purchase works of art for the National Gallery are made by the Gallery's Acquisitions Committee. The Committee is an expert body who, with the exception of the Director of the Gallery, work part-time on this task. The Committee's decisions are reached in an atmosphere of free and frank discussion, and publication of the details of its deliberations could only inhibit such open discussion and hinder effective operation.

Again purchases are often made from private collectors and estates and there can be personal family reasons for preserving a measure of confidentiality.

Nevertheless, there are clear procedures for the purchase of works of art for the National Gallery. Money for acquisitions for the national collection is appropriated by the Parliament. The Acquisitions Committee is appointed by the Prime Minister to make purchases within the approved budget and in accordance with the terms of a charter approved by the Prime Minister.

The members of the Committee are-

Mr JamesGleeson, painter and art critic of Sydney (Chairman);

Mr LeonardFrench, painter of Melbourne;

Mr CliffordLast, sculptor of Melbourne;

Mr FrederickWilliams, painter and graphic artist of Melbourne; and

Mr JamesMollison, Director of the National Gallery.

Purchases of significance may be referred by the Committee to the Prime Minister and 'Blue Poles' was so referred and approved.

These arrangements, I might say, are of an interim nature pending the establishment of the National Gallery as a statutory authority. It is hoped that legislation for the purpose may be introduced in the Autumn session; one of its objects will be to establish a National Gallery Council to direct activities in relation to the Gallery and the national collection.

I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Charter and rules of procedure of the Acquisitions Committee for the Australian National Gallery.

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-


1.   Until such time as there is established an interim council for the Australian National Gallery or the Australian National Gallery is established by statute there shall be an Acquisitions Committee for the Australian National Gallery.

2.   The Committee shall consist of a Chairman, such other members as may from time to time be determined, and the Director of the Australian National Gallery.

A member shall be appointed by the Minister and shall hold office for such period as is specified in his instrument of appointment.

3.   A member shall be paid sitting fees for attendance at meetings of the Committee and such allowances for travelling expenses as are normally prescribed.

4.   A member who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any proposal before the Committee, otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members, shall, as soon as possible after the facts have come to his knowledge disclose the nature of his interest at a meeting of the Committee.

Such a disclosure shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the Committee, and the member-

(a)   shall not take pan after the disclosure in any deliberation or decision of the Committee with respect to that proposal; and

(b)   shall be disregarded for the purpose of constituting a quorum of the Committee for any such deliberation or decision.

5.   Meetings of the Committee shall be convened by the Director in consultation with the Chairman of if there is no Chairman by the Director.

The Chairman shall be elected from the number of members and shall preside at all meetings of the Committee at which he is present.

If the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee, the Director shall preside at that meeting.

At a meeting of the Committee, any two members and the Director shall constitute a quorum.

Subject to what follows, questions arising at a meeting of the Committee shall be determined by a majority of votes of the members present.

At a meeting of the Committee, the person presiding has a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of votes, also has a casting vote.

6.   The Committee may delegate to the Chairman and Director jointly all or any of its powers and when powers so delegated are exercised they shall be deemed to have been exercised by the Committee.

Such delegation shall not prevent the exercise of a power by the Committee.

7.   Financial provision for the Committee's activities shall be included in (he appropriation of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Moneys appropriated in this way shall be applied for the purpose of acquiring works of art for the National Collection, comprising the Australian National Gallery Exhibition Collection and the Australian Lending Collection and for other purposes as may relate to the acquisition of such works of art.

The Committee may seek special financial provision to take advantage of opportunities to acquire masterpieces or major works of art which become available at short notice and for which no provision could be made in the annual appropriation.

8.   The function of the Committee is to acquire for the Australian National Gallery Exhibition Collection-

(   1 ) Australian fine and minor arts of all periods.

(2   ) Modern fine and minor arts world-wide.

(   3 ) Primitive art world-wide.

(4)   Fine and minor arts of Asia and the Far East.

(   5 ) Graphic arts and photography world-wide.

(6)   Sculpture world-wide.

(7)   Cinematography world-wide.

(8)   Theatre arts and fashions world-wide.

(9)   Masterpieces or outstanding works or art of any country or period that may have a place in the Australian National Gallery.

The Committee shall also acquire works of contemporary Australian artists and craftsmen for inclusion in the Australian Lending Collection.

9.   The Committee may engage expert advisers to assist it in carrying out any or all of the activities mentioned in paragraph 8 and pay fees for such services as may be appropriate.

10.   Acquisitions for the National Collection for inclusion in the Australian National Gallery Exhibition Collection shall be made on the recommendation of the Committee or the Chairman and Director jointly.

Acquisitions for the National Collection for inclusion in the Australian Lending Collection may be made by the Director and shall be ratified by the Committee and shall not exceed $400 per item unless agreed to by the Committee or its delegate.

Commitments may only be entered into by the Committee or its delegate, or the Director in the case of acquisitions for the Australian Lending Collection.

The Director should be informed of any work of an that a member considers should be reserved for consideration by the Committee, and the Director alone shall be responsible for action to have the work reserved and brought before the Committee.

1   1. Acquisitions approved in accordance with the provisions of this document shall be recorded in the minutes of meetings of the Committee, and accounts shall be kept by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and shall be subject to inspection and audit by the Auditor-General.

1   2. The Committee shall, as soon as practicable after the thirtieth day of June, prepare and furnish a report on its operations during the year ended at that date, together with financial statements in respect of that year.

Senator MURPHY - As a matter of additional information to the Senate, I mentioned last night at the Senate Estimates Committee A hearing that the purchase of this painting was discussed. That discussion will continue when the Committee resumes. I said last night that I would be giving this answer in the Senate today and would be tabling the charter and rules of procedure of the Acquisition Committee for the Australian National Gallery. Senator Wright made reference to some specific papers relating to the purchase. I said that I would have the matter examined to see whether, within the terms of the Prime Minister's reply, these specific papers could be provided. The matter is being taken up with the Prime Minister and an answer will be given at the first opportunity.

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