Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


National Portrait Gallery of Australia Bill 2012, National Portrait Gallery of Australia (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2012; Second Reading

6:24 pm

Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

National Portrait Gallery of Australia Bill 2012

Australians value a rich cultural life and more than 90 per cent of us participate in cultural activities and practice. However Governments at all levels, private individuals and companies must also invest in the arts and in developing Australia's considerable creative talent because it produces important social and economic dividends.

Investment in the arts helps underpin respect for diversity and individual expression. It encourages team work, supports the development of community cohesion and shared exploration of our identity and our role internationally – these are values and commitments that this nation cherishes. There is also an economic dividend—crucial as we face today's global challenges. Our comparative advantage and strengths are going to be determined by how innovative and creative we are in increasing productivity. Investment in the arts can produce that economic dividend.

The development of a National Cultural Policy, the first in nearly twenty years, will build the base for future growth in the arts, cultural heritage and creative industries. I look forward to delivering this policy later this year and setting out a strategic framework of support for individuals, organisations and communities involved in cultural expression. As Minister for the Arts I am dedicated to finding every opportunity to tell our stories, educate and skill our workforce and enable our culture to connect with the rest of the world.

This bill, establishing the National Portrait Gallery of Australia as a statutory authority, supports and delivers on the goals of the National Cultural Policy. It will enable the home of the national portrait collection to develop and flourish as one of Australia's pre-eminent national cultural institutions.

The idea of creating a national portrait gallery for Australia is not new. In the early 1900s the painter Tom Roberts was the first to propose that Australia should have a national portrait gallery. However, it was not until the 1990s, with the generous support of Gordon and Marilyn Darling, that the idea of a national portrait gallery began to take shape.

In 1998, the National Portrait Gallery was established as a part of the Government department responsible for the Arts, and was given the brief to develop a collection of quality portraits reflecting the breadth and energy of Australian culture and endeavour. The opening of displays and programs in the refurbished spaces of Old Parliament House in 1999 signalled the Gallery's arrival as a national collecting institution. The dedicated home of the Gallery was opened to the public in 2008 and since then, the Gallery and its unique building has won over 28 local, national and international awards.

Since 2008, the Gallery has acquired an impressive collection of over 2000 works of art, encapsulating the essence of achievement and endeavour across Australia. It has become a place that brings history and art together, with the collection tracing our progress as a nation. It features portraits of the most famous Australians but also tells us about ourselves – who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be and who we'll never forget.

The Gallery has welcomed over 2.2 million visitors to view its collection in Canberra, with a similar number again participating in Gallery exhibitions, virtual activities and community outreach and engagement across Australia and overseas. The popular appeal of the National Portrait Gallery is borne out in the high satisfaction levels expressed by visitors.

As part of the 2012-13 Federal Budget, the Australian Government announced that the National Portrait Gallery would be established as an independent statutory authority. This decision acknowledged the success and significance of the Gallery and recognised that it should have a similar status to Australia's other great national collecting institutions, as a Commonwealth authority.

Establishing the Gallery as a separate statutory authority subject to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 will ensure it is able to establish governance arrangements appropriate for managing a significant national collection. It will ensure the Gallery is overseen by a governing board, provide for greater financial certainty and independence, increase its public profile and position it more effectively to attract corporate sponsorship and philanthropy.

Establishing the National Portrait Gallery of Australia as a separate statutory authority will enable its functions to be enshrined in legislation for the first time. The functions of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia will be to develop, preserve, maintain, promote and provide access to a national collection including portraits that reflect the identity, history, diversity and culture of Australia. The Gallery will continue to develop and engage a national audience by providing access to its collection, other artworks and related material through exhibitions, publications and online programs.

The national collection will hold a unique sample of quality portraits of subjects who have made a major impact on Australia and internationally. The Gallery will be in position to foster enquiry, research, discussion, interpretation, participation and enjoyment of portraiture. The Gallery's program will continue to develop and be diverse, energetic and dynamic with constantly changing collection displays, exhibitions, formal and informal learning activities delivered onsite and online.

The bill gives the Gallery a strong mandate and a clear and coherent purpose reflecting its cultural role and importance. The Gallery will be expected to be a national cultural leader, responsive to emerging national and international opportunities and challenges, including technological innovations and changing audience preferences.

From its Canberra hub, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia will provide a national portraiture collection to serve all Australians, reaching the widest possible audiences in places where future subjects for the collection make their extraordinary contributions to Australian life. It will be a source of great pride to all Australians as well as a fitting tribute to Canberra, our national capital, in its centenary year.

I commend this bill to the Senate.

National Portrait Gallery of Australia (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2012

This is a companion bill to the National Portrait Gallery of Australia Bill 2012 which is also being introduced today. The National Portrait Gallery of Australia (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2012 contains consequential amendments and transitional arrangements related to the proposed establishment of the National Portrait Gallery as a new statutory authority from 1 July 2013.

The key elements of the bill relate to transitional arrangements, including the transfer of assets and liabilities, matters in relation to the transfer of employees from the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sports to the Gallery and the closing of the National Portrait Gallery Special Account.

It is proposed that on the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia on 1 July 2013, those assets and liabilities of the Commonwealth which are related only to the National Portrait Gallery program under the Department will be transferred to the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

This bill also enables the smooth transfer of current employees to the new agency by ensuring that staff will not be disadvantaged as a result of the transfer. Transferring and new employees of the Gallery will continue to be covered by the current Departmental enterprise agreement until the National Portrait Gallery of Australia negotiates a new enterprise agreement in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009.

In line with the new governance structure, the existing National Portrait Gallery Special Account will be abolished and an equal amount will be appropriated to the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. This will ensure that the funds in this account, including donations, are retained and available to support the growth and development of the Gallery.

The bill also provides for consequential amendments to the Archives Act 1983. This includes the classification of artworks in the national collection of the Gallery as exempt material under the Archives Act, a measure that is in line with the exemptions granted to other such collections of historical and cultural material.

Establishing the National Portrait Gallery of Australia as a separate statutory authority will provide it with an appropriate governance framework to capitalise on entrepreneurial and fundraising opportunities. It will also give it commensurate standing alongside our other great national collecting institutions. This bill will ensure that the transfer is seamless.

I commend this bill to the Senate.

Debate adjourned.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.