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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1772

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) -I wish to speak on the same subject as Senator Wright. I think it is a bit late now to do much about the purchase but I think the Government should take some notice of what has been said by the Director of the National Gallery. It is very difficult for anyone to talk about whether this painting is worth having. It is a matter of one's point of view, and my personal view is that the painting is not worth having. I am not an artist but if the Director thinks the painting is worth having I must defer to his judgment. Having said that in regard to art, let me come down to the matter of finance which I am interested in. Is any painting worth $ 1 .3m?

Senator O'Byrne - There was a Renoir in Washington during the depression years.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - I only asked the question. There may be paintings worth that amount but this one certainly was never worth it. This painting was once offered for sale at one stage for one-third of a million dollars and suddenly without any rhyme or reason the price jumped to $1.3m. Let us accept that it is a famous painting and one which any national gallery would want to have. But surely some control must be placed on expenditure. I say to the Minister: 'Is it not time that you had a finance committee- you may have a selection committee to pick out these paintings- to inquire into costs before such a painting is bought?' I know that Mr Mollison said he referred the matter to the Prime Minister but I doubt that the Prime Minister has any more knowledge of art than I have. When the Prime Minister was informed by the Director that the painting was worth having he probably agreed. Should not a committee be formed to which purchases of this type can be referred?

I should like to be driving around in a Rolls Royce, but I have to look at my budget and all I can get is a Valiant motor car. The same applies to paintings. There are a lot of paintings I should like to own, including a Dobell, but I cannot afford to have them. The Government has unlimited money at its disposal to splash around, but I think it is completely wrong to spend a sum like this. I think the Government should do something in future about the purchase of paintings, works of art, sculptures or anything like that. The Victorian Art Gallery recently bought a sculpture that I think has been ridiculed by nearly everyone. I have a few friends in the United States and every one of them has written to me, not criticising the art, but about the absurdity of the price. We have become the laughing stock of Soho. When I refer to Soho in the United States I am referring to where Hutchinson has his gallery. All the big galleries are now drifting to Soho from Maddison Avenue. I repeat that we have become the laughing stock in Soho because we paid this sum of money. There is not one person in the United States who does not agree with that fact.

When the Opposition was in government it thought everything it did was right. The same applies to this Government; it thinks whatever it does must be right. It is much better to admit one's faults. I think the public appreciates it more. Whilst this may be a wonderful painting let us have an assurance from the Minister that there will be some financial check on Mr Mollison 's designs for the purchase of goodies for his Gallery.

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