Turnbull Clueless On His Own Arts Policy

Last night on the ABC’s Q & A program it became painfully clear that Malcolm Turnbull places just as low a priority on the arts as his predecessor Tony Abbott. In fact, he has not even bothered to correctly inform himself of the facts.

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


TURNBULL CLUELESS ON HIS OWN ARTS POLICY

Last night on the ABC’s Q & A program it became painfully clear that Malcolm Turnbull places just as low a priority on the arts as his predecessor Tony Abbott. In fact, he has not even bothered to correctly inform himself of the facts.

When questioned by singer Katie Noonan about whether he would restore the independence of arts funding through the Australia Council, Mr Turnbull not only refused to answer the question but made a number of egregious errors.

Error

“The Australia Council is getting more funding now than it did under the Labor Government”

Truth

This is absolutely wrong. Labor budgeted for $912 million for the Australia Council over four years in our last Budget, while the Government has budgeted $793 million over the same period in its most recent Budget. That is before you take into account the $105 million that was ripped from the Australia Council in the 2015 Budget to create the ministerial slush fund, Catalyst.

Error

“[Catalyst] has almost entirely gone to regional companies”

Truth

This is also entirely wrong. As the Department of Communications and the Arts own website states, 38 per cent of funding has gone to projects in metropolitan areas, 24 per cent to international activities and the remaining 37 per cent has gone to regional areas.

Some of the biggest individual grants from the fund have gone to cities. This includes $1 million to redevelop the Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre on Melbourne’s Southbank.

Mr Turnbull has backed in Tony Abbott and George Brandis’s $300 million cuts to the arts and the destruction of independence in the arts grant process. And he doesn’t even know how the ministerial slush fund Mitch Fifield is running works. This is disgraceful.

Labor has never sought to pass judgement on the artistic merit of the projects that have received funding under the Catalyst program, which was created from the $105 million ripped away from the Australia Council.

Rather, our concern has always been the introduction of ministerial discretion into the grant-making process, and the haphazard way the funding has been doled out.

The creation of Catalyst has come at the expense of the Australia Council. Last month 62 arts organisations were defunded, including long-running literary journal Meanjin and dance company Legs on the Wall. In some cases the removal of this funding threatens their ongoing existence.

Mr Turnbull has injured the arts community through his cuts, and has now insulted them by forgetting how they have been harmed.

It’s not right. Australian arts and creative industries deserve a government that actually understands their sector and treats them with respect.

A Shorten Labor Government will restore Australia’s arts and creative industries with a suite of policies that include:

  • Restoring the standing, independence and resources of the Australia Council for the Arts.
  • Growing regional arts with a significant new investment of funds.
  • Strengthening live music as the foundation of one of our great creative industries.
  • Boosting the teaching of music in schools.
  • Investing $60 million in the production of new Australian drama through the ABC.
  • Carefully consulting on copyright to ensure the ongoing success of our local publishing industry and our great Australian writers.

A vote for Labor on July 2 is a vote for the arts and Australian artists.

TUESDAY, 21 JUNE 2016