The creator of a statue dedicated to retiring Morrison Government Cabinet Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has made a rare public comment about his latest work in a bid to settle a dispute over its alleged “hidden meaning”.
This week the Australian Banking Association said it was funding the statue dedicated to Ms O’Dwyer who has declared she will not recontest the seat of Higgins for the Liberal Party at the coming federal election.
The statue has distinct similarities to the famous Aphrodite of Milos, a 203cm high marble statue believed to have been created in Greece around 100 BC and often referred to as the Venus de Milo.
An intense public debate erupted when ABA chief executive Anna Bligh was asked to explain the meaning behind the statue.
“People may think it’s odd for the ABA to sponsor a statue of the current Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, Minister for Women,” Ms Bligh said.
“But the ABA actually decided to fund the statue and donate it to the nation when Ms O’Dwyer was Minister for Revenue and Financial Services in Malcolm Turnbull’s government.
“The ABA very much appreciated her lack of intervention in our industry and the lengths to which she went to support others like then Treasurer Scott Morrison in criticising and stalling the Labor Party’s calls for a Royal Commission into the banking sector.
“She actively opposed the Royal Commission until the political pressure became too much and the Turnbull Government gave up the fight and established the inquiry that has seen appalling behaviour by the ABA’s members exposed that would otherwise have rightly gone unexamined as usual.
“We repeatedly warned of the damage that would be caused to the Australian economy and its financial sector if the general public ever got to know just how awful the banks are – and not just the Big Four.
“So for the big banks especially, the statue reflects the period in Ms O’Dwyer’s career when she was acting like the type of minister the ABA always encourages – one that gives off all the signs of substance and purpose, but in reality is totally ’armless,” Ms Bligh said.
President of the Bank Customers Coalition, Fifi Anmorfeez, said her group had only a slightly different interpretation.
“We see the statue as the big greedy banks essentially congratulating the former minister for her inaction when she was supposed to be the one to keep them honest,” Ms Anmorfeez said.
“We interpret the statue as symbolising Ms O’Dwyer’s completely hands-off approach to the sector.”
However, Melbourne-based sculptor Al Abaster has intervened in the public debate to set the record straight about the meaning of the statue he created.
“There’s no real secret behind it,” the normally reclusive Mr Alabaster said.
“I just happened to read somewhere, in a paper of magazine, that Kelly O’Dwyer liked Milo.
“Besides, I can’t do arms and hands very well. Feet, too, for that matter.”
Ms Bligh said the ABA wanted the statue to be sited in Melbourne’s financial district – the home of the nation’s big four banks – to act as a warning to future generations that the disgraceful actions exposed by the Royal Commission should never be exposed again.
“We must never again let the nation’s economy and the solid reputation its banking and finance sector enjoys worldwide be damaged by the truth being exposed in this way.”