Federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett yesterday announced the introduction of an Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct.

The code is to protect Aboriginal artists against sharp practices within the industry — without first telling the board of the company established to manage the scheme.

In the latest Garrett gaffe, prominent gallery owner Beverly Knight, sitting in the audience at an industry conference at Melbourne University at which Mr Garrett was speaking, was taken by surprise when the minister suddenly declared the indigenous art scheme open.

Ms Knight had been hand-picked by the government to be a director of the Indigenous Art Code Company set up to administer the scheme. She was more bemused than angry to learn the news at the same time as 100 other art industry types.

Under the scheme, artists and galleries will be be able to apply for IACC membership to support reputable practices within the commissioning, marketing and selling of Aboriginal art.