Australian government ministers call for the return fo the Parthenon Marbles

Two Australian government ministers have called for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece.

Ministers lose their marbles

Gemma Jones Political Reporter

July 12, 2010 12:00AM

THE state’s infrastructure is creaking, public transport is overloaded and the hospital system is sick – but two Government ministers seem more interested in 2500-year-old marbles.

Arts Minister Virginia Judge and Local Government Minister Barbara Perry have decided to dabble in foreign affairs by demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles.

The marbles are sculptures and panels that were removed from the ancient Parthenon, in Athens, by Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, in 1801.

Bruce sold them to the British government and Greece has long demanded that the “Parthenon Marbles” – as it prefers to call them – be returned from the British Museum in London, where they now reside.

Ms Judge accused the museum of acting like “some colonial power” and called on Britain to return the sculptures. Ms Perry also waded in and said: “I hope the message from this Parliament will be heard in Britain.”

But in the two weeks since they spoke in Parliament, Britain appears not to have heard their plea.

An international campaign to have Britain return the marbles has been waged for years and both ministers said they had raised the issue on behalf of their thousands of Greek constituents.

“I do not ask the British Museum to return a vase or some statue with a missing limb. I ask it to return half the Parthenon, return it to Greece so it may be reunited with the rest of itself,” Ms Judge told parliament.

“It would be like having the Mona Lisa displayed in the Louvre, in Paris, while her smile is displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

Ms Judge’s office said support for the return of the sculptures had also been raised in Federal Parliament by a Liberal MP.

A spokeswoman said 3000 Greeks lived in Ms Judge’s electorate of Strathfield and many had asked her to raise their plight in parliament.

“The president of the International Committee for the Parthenon Marbles, David Hills, also asked the Minister to raise the issue and was in Parliament when she made her speech,” she said.

Ms Perry added: “NSW has a very large Greek-Australian population, a lot of whom live in my electorate of Auburn. Many in the local Greek population are rightly concerned about this ongoing international issue. I simply put forward their views.”

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