Launch Of Labor's Plan For A More Creative Australia

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

LAUNCH OF LABOR’S PLAN FOR A MORE CREATIVE AUSTRALIA

MALTHOUSE THEATRE, MELBOURNE

SATURDAY, 4 JUNE 2016

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

Thank you all for coming out on a cold Melbourne morning. 

I come from a family of musicians. My father George Dreyfus is a composer, and I’m pleased that he’s not overseas conducting orchestras today, as he sometimes is, so that he can be here with us today. Perhaps I rebelled by rejecting my family’s artistic traditions to follow the scandalous career path of a lawyer. I often think that in my family going to law school was a bit like running off to join the circus.

Although I spent much of my working life prior to politics as a lawyer, and in Opposition have often been very busy with matters in the Attorney General’s portfolio, I have been thrilled to also serve as Shadow Arts Minister. In this role I have met with artists and people involved in artistic endeavours across our nation. In this role I have had the opportunity to engage in policy development in an area that I strongly believe enriches and enlivens our nation. 

This may be something that I learned from Gough Whitlam, who described the arts as central to the lives of Australians. I agree with a statement by the great man that was quoted by Cate Blanchett at his memorial service. Gough said:

In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be seen as something remote from everyday life. Of all the objectives of my Government none had a higher priority than the encouragement of the arts, the preservation and enrichment of our cultural and intellectual heritage. Indeed I would argue that all the other objectives of a Labor Government – social reform, justice and equity in the provision of welfare services and educational opportunities - have as their goal the creation of a society in which the arts and the appreciation of spiritual and intellectual values can flourish. Our other objectives are all means to an end; the enjoyment of the arts is an end in itself.

That statement was a guiding principle of the Whitlam Labor Government, and I am confident it will continue to be a guiding principle of a Shorten Labor Government.

The arts define who we are, as a modern, innovative, confident and outward looking society, because it is through the arts that we express ourselves; explain ourselves; how to some extent at least, understand ourselves.

I also feel that the arts, and those arts that tell stories in particular, have an important part to play in helping us to understand the rapidly changing world around us, by helping us to understand and empathise with those who we may never meet in person. 

And of course, the arts are also a critically important part of our economy, because the arts are the engine that drives our creative industries. So while the arts will always have a cultural value that cannot be quantified in purely economic terms, there can be no doubt that the arts and our creative industries will play an increasingly important role in our economy in the years and decades ahead.

Now, let me be clear: the Abbott-Turnbull Government has been a disaster for the arts and for Australia’s creative industries.

Tony Abbott and his arrogant yet utterly incompetent Arts Minister Senator Brandis, came to office in 2013 with no arts policy at all. However in this Government’s first disastrous Budget in 2014 it became apparent that this Government did have an arts policy after all, and that was to rip funding from arts organisations and arts programs across our nation.

There was justified uproar from the arts community as programs were slashed and organisations shut down, and I have met with many of you over the years to hear your concerns and to start formulating a response to the arrogance and destructiveness of the Abbott-Turnbull Government.

In contrast with the Abbott Government, Labor went to the 2013 election with a fully funded and carefully designed cultural policy called Creative Australia. People across the nation, including many of you here this morning, were consulted on this policy by my Labor predecessors in this role, Peter Garrett, Simon Crean and Tony Burke, all of whom did magnificent work as Arts ministers in government.

Creative Australia aimed to ensure that the cultural sector – incorporating all aspects of arts, cultural heritage and the creative industries – had the skills, resources, and resilience to play an active role in Australia’s future.

Creative Australia reflected the diversity of modern Australia and outlined a vision for the arts, cultural heritage and creative industries that draws from the past with an ambition for the future.

I’m proud to have embedded the key principles of Creative Australia in the Australian Labor Party’s national platform. 

Labor is the party of the Arts.

And you are about to hear about our policies for the coming years from a man who it has been an absolute pleasure to work with on arts policy over these last few years.

Bill Shorten understands the importance of the arts to our nation. Time and time again he has shown leadership in this area. And today is no exception. Bill and his wife Chloe are passionate about what can be achieved by nurturing a vibrant and prosperous Australian arts community. Although we have been extremely busy with a range of critical matters over this period of Opposition, I have always had an open door when I have wanted to discuss arts policy with Bill.

The fact that Bill is here today, launching Labor’s arts policy, as well as the content of that policy, tell you a great deal about the passion he has for the arts.

Please give a warm welcome to the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, and our country’s next Prime Minister, Bill Shorten.

ENDS