Policies

Arts

Apr 12, 2016 UniPollWatch

Labor

Labor’s main aim is to fix what it believes to be the mistakes of the Coalition Government – cutting the Australia Council’s funding and diverting funds to the Catalyst Arts and Culture Fund – what it calls the Coalition’s “slush fund”.

Shadow Minister for the Arts Mark Dreyfus has criticised the announcing of $24 million worth of grants from the fund in the two weeks before the pre-election caretaker period began. He has said that the party will recommit to its Gillard Government policy, Creative Australia, cut by the Coalition when it came into power.

POLICY SUMMARY

Abolishing the Catalyst Arts and Culture Fund
Returning all unspent funds to the Australia Council.
Recommitting to the Creative Australia policy introduced by the Gillard Government.
Rebuilding trust and confidence in the arts sector

Explanation

Labor has promised to return what it describes as the lost Australia Council funding. The funding, approximately $105 million, was taken from the council (the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body) in the 2015 budget, in part to create the Catalyst arts and culture fund.

Mr Dreyfus has said, “Australia Council is the country’s premier arts funding body.” Catalyst “has haphazardly doled out money in a way that undermines the principle of independent, arms-length arts funding in Australia”.

Labor wants to recommit to the Gillard Government’s Creative Australia policy, created in 2013 and described by Dreyfus as Creative Australia as “stillborn”, with none of its goals achieved. It was envisaged to deliver a $75.3 million increase to Australia Council funding over four years, but the Coalition was elected six months later.

Labor says that the Creative Australia policy will ensure that government support reflects the diversity of Australia. “Our policy encourages and nurtures the arts, creative industries and cultural heritage, in particular our Indigenous cultural heritage.”

Liberal Party

The Liberal Party arts policy is predominantly based on the idea of promoting “excellence" in the arts. In a 2013 speech former Minister for the Arts George Brandis described six core principles of the Coalition arts policy - excellence, integrity, artistic freedom, self-confidence, sustainability, and accessibility.

Senator Brandis made the controversial decision to have funds diverted from the Australia Council to the newly-created National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA), a program which, in essence, gave him control over the distribution of grants for the arts. In contrast, the Australia Council used a peer-reviewed model for grants.

After the 2015 leadership spill and cabinet reshuffle, the arts portfolio was given to Senator Mitch Fifield, who replaced the NPEA with the Australian Arts and Culture Fund, or Catalyst, which gives more control of grant allocation back to the recipient organisations.

POLICY SUMMARY

Forge new creative partnerships.
Stimulate novel ways to build participation by Australians in our cultural life.
Support individual artists and the small to medium sector.
Support innovative proposals from arts and cultural organisations.

Explanation

Senator Fifield has acknowledged the unhappiness with the NPEA within the arts community and expressed his desire to see the funds “rebalanced” to support small and medium artists. This rebalancing has seen $32 million of the funding originally cut over the 2014 and 2015 Federal budgets returned to the Australia Council.

Although the Ministry for the Arts still holds ultimate responsibility for the allocation of the funds, potential candidates will be assessed by internal and external assessors.

Greens

The Greens believe that the Arts are vital to our social wellbeing and economy. Greens arts spokesperson Adam Bandt MP has said that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison “closed the curtains” on the opportunity to restore funding, independence and stability to the Australian arts sector in the 2016-2017 Budget.

The Greens have pledged to continue to fight until the Catalyst program is closed and full funding is restored to the Australia Council.

POLICY SUMMARY

The closure of the Catalyst program.
Full funding restored to the Australia Council of the Arts.
Ending the uncertainty for the arts sector.

Explanation

Support for the arts is a core value for the Greens.

The controversial Catalyst Arts and Culture Fund has been criticised by Greens arts spokesman Adam Bandt. He said that in this election year, the first year of the program, the government has handed out almost half of its funding designed to last four years - an example of why arts funding should be kept at a distance from ministers.

Bandt says that The Australia Council served as the sort of middleman, free from government pressure and able to independently dole out funding. Independence of arts funding from politicians and ministers is a key pillar of the Greens' arts policy. Restoring funding to the Australia Council is a key part of this.

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