Radio Blue Mountains Interview with Peter Walker











PETER WALKER: Mark Dreyfus, you’re Shadow Minister for the Arts and it’s interesting that you’ve come to the Blue Mountains this week because you wanted to talk to local people about the arts, yet we’re about to be confronted by some ten weeks of electioneering, during which the arts probably won’t get a mention. So what have you had to talk about?


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: I’m hopeful that the arts will get a mention this campaign because there’s such a stark contrast between the extraordinary cuts that the Coalition Government has wreaked on the arts sector, right across Australia, and the Blue Mountains has not been exempted from those cuts. So I’m hoping that the Arts are an issue because it’s a very big contrast between Labor and the Coalition. And what I heard today here at The Hub was more examples, as I’ve heard right across Australia, of what the impact, particularly on small and medium performing arts companies, has been of the cuts of this government.


WALKER: Are you referring to the cuts to the Arts Council?


DREYFUS: Particularly the removal of some $107 million from the Australia Council, which amounts to about 28 per cent of its discretionary funding has been devastating right across Australia. The funds were removed and put in a ministerial slush fund, and very little of those funds have since emerged.


WALKER: Is it Labor’s intention to put that money back into the Australia Council?


DREYFUS: We have already committed, last year, to directly reversing, so far as it is possible to reverse, that cut.


WALKER: Can you overcome any damage that you believe the Coalition has caused.


DREYFUS: I think it will take some time for us to get over and repair the immense disruption that has been caused to just about every parts of the arts sector, to every part of the arts community in Australia. There have been cuts to Screen Australia, the complete removal of funds to Interactive Games, the cut I mentioned to the Australia Council, and cuts to the national collecting institutions. The list goes on and on of the damage that has been wrought. It won’t be possible, I wish it was, but it won’t be possible to reverse the damage overnight. To take just one simple example, as a result of the removal of the funds from the Australia Council, they’ve had to abandon an entire funding round last year and they’ve had to abandon something that was long planned, which was moving the companies that are funded on an ongoing basis from four year funding to six year funding to give greater predictability. That’s gone, we’re going back to the four year funding. And a much smaller number of companies are going to get that funding. That will be announced apparently by the Australia Council in the second week of May.


WALKER: Oddly that?


DREYFUS: Well it is curious because it’s not actually related to the upcoming Budget on the third of May. It’s taken several months for the Australia Council to work through and reorient their programs to facing up to the fact that they’ve had 28 per cent of their discretionary funding removed.


WALKER: With us today is Susan Templeman who is the Labor candidate for the Macquarie electorate. Susan, what damage has this cut to the Australia Council caused to the Blue Mountains as far as you’re aware?


SUSAN TEMPLEMAN: Well, as Mark says, this is an area that has artists coming out of every doorway. We have musicians, we’ve got theatre people, we’ve got visual arts and all sorts of performing arts. So at every level, whenever money is taken away, every one of those levels suffers, but more than anything we’ve got small independent companies and cooperatives up here, and they’ve suffered more than anyone else. I think it’s also worth remembering that a lot of the kids from the Mountains, who may not be living here right now, who are living in Sydney, but they’re the people in bands, they’re actors, they’re the young ones trying to make it, and a lot of families are supporting their children in Sydney as they try to make their way in the arts sector. So it’s not just the local impact, it’s the impact on the whole community through the families.


WALKER: Turning a little bit away from the arts situation, we’re confronted with ten weeks of campaigning, which is going to be arduous for politicians but more so for voters, because we have a situation where, for example, the Coalition was being critical of Labor for its superannuation policy, which it described as an increased tax. Now that the Coalition had decided to do a similar sort of thing with its superannuation policy, going even further, they’re describing it as a budget saving. We as voters have to tolerate this. Can we last the distance?


DREYFUS: I feel for every voter, having to put up with a ten week campaign that’s inflicted on us by Turnbull. We didn’t ask for the Prime Minister to go to the polls early, because bear in mind he is going to the polls very substantially early. We didn’t ask for the Prime Minister to do this stunt that we had to endure in Canberra this week of two days of sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, without actually a legislative program to look at. It was meant to be a three week sitting when the Prime Minister announced it on 23 March, but it ended up being not even two full days, simply so that the Turnbull Government could get a preferred trigger. They already had a trigger for a Double Dissolution, but they wanted one that they thought they could campaign on. I don’t think that it will help them, but all of this current mess, I think it’s fair to describe it as, and a ten week campaign, that is the product of Mr Turnbull’s good work. That’s what he wants to do, that’s what he wants to inflict on the Australian people. We will be doing our best in the Labor Party to make those ten weeks an interesting period of ten weeks. We think we’ve got more than enough to interest voters because we are ready for this election, we have the policies, we have the leadership and we certainly have the talent in the Labor Party to contest this election and to form the next government.


WALKER: To many people it would seem that the Labor Party possibly came out a bit too early with its policies, which has resulted in the mimicking those policies as well and therefore the Coalition has a lot to go for in the May 3 Budget that they’re going to announce. They’re going to put all of their eggs in one basket, but they’ve already spent so much already on other promises. Can they make an issue of it this time?


DREYFUS: I wish that the Coalition would mimic more of Labor’s policies. I’m actually very proud to be part of an opposition that has spent the time since the last election consulting and working through detailed policies which we started to announce at the beginning of last year. The very first policy that we put out in the first week of March last year was our domestic violence policy, which I’m proud of and it’s stood the test of the succeeding months. It was in part followed by the Turnbull Government in October last year who adopted some of the policies we had announced in March, but not enough of them. If the Government follows the lead that we have given in relation to removing some of the overly generous concessions at the high end of superannuation, we would welcome that and I wish that they’d adopt more of our policies. I’d expected the Turnbull Government to adopt the policy that we announced, the detailed policy that we announced on negative gearing, the housing affordability policy which would change negative gearing, remove a tremendous distortion in the tax system. Regrettably the Turnbull Government has decided to run a scare campaign against that. So, if they adopt our policies, good, but I’m not anticipating that they’ll adopt too many of them.


WALKER: It’s an interesting situation where we find ourselves, where the Government is acting like an opposition and the Opposition is acting like a government. How would you comment on that?


DREYFUS: Well I’m glad you’ve noticed, because it’s a true description of the way that this government has behaved. I’ll take just one issue, what happened to tax reform from the Abbott-Turnbull Government? They came to government promising that there were going to be massive reforms, we were going to have a huge consultation process, discussion paper, green paper, white paper, none of that is to be seen. Turnbull came to office promising economic leadership for Australia and spent four months floating and then abandoning his idea for a 50 per cent increase in the GST, and was reduced before the last COAG meeting less than two weeks ago of floating the idea of double taxation for Australia. That lasted two days. And then, disgracefully, floating the idea that the Commonwealth would withdraw entirely from funding government schools. I can’t imagine a more destructive and disgraceful policy for a Prime Minister of Australia to float, but it’s still on the table, to use Turnbull’s term, and let’s see where that goes. Already from the Turnbull Government we’ve already got a cut to education that would mean just in Susan’s electorate alone, $192 million being ripped out of government schools in the form of missing Commonwealth assistance over the next ten years. That’s the sort of thing that they should be fixing in this Budget, but I’m not holding my breath.


WALKER: It’s going to be an interested Budget and an interesting next ten weeks. Thanks very much for joining us here on Afternoons, Mark Dreyfus and Susan Templeman.


DREYFUS: Thank you.




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  • published this page in Transcripts 2016-05-19 16:35:56 +1000