Arts sector gearing up for Senate Inquiry public hearings

Media release by Free the Arts

Media release by Free the Arts
Thousands of artists across the country are eagerly awaiting the first of a series of five public Senate Inquiry hearings into the impact of the 2014 and 2015 federal budgets on the arts.

Details of the program for the first hearing were released on the Senate Committee website late yesterday.

The hearing will take place on Wednesday 5th August at the Grand Chancellor Hotel, 131 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne from 9.00am and it is open to the public. Audio of the proceedings will also be streamed online.

The hearing will be an opportunity for the arts sector to answer questions about the more than 2,200 submissions that flooded in to the inquiry, and to publicly challenge some of the illogical and hypocritical statements made by Minister Brandis in the media in recent days. Free the Arts spokesperson Norm Horton said:
“We have heard the Minister talk about the need to improve the ‘contestability’ of arts funding whilst at the very same time trying to justify his decision to insulate the major performing arts companies from his savage cuts to the Australia Council’s funding. It’s just ridiculous.
“We are not being critical of the majors here, but the hypocrisy of the Minister’s statements is just unavoidable. How can he characterise the funding for individual artists and small to medium companies as a ‘closed shop’ or a ‘club’ whilst protecting an arrangement that sees the vast majority of Australia Council funding go to just 28 companies – uncontested? The first and only round of funding delivered under the new Australia Council strategic plan resulted in twenty percent of the 273 successful projects coming from first time applicants[1]. That is not a closed shop.
“Recently we’ve also heard the Minister criticise Australia Council funded artists for - in his words - wanting to ‘protect the status quo’. What rubbish. The Australia Council has been undergoing a massive transformation over the last several years, triggered by the independent review by James and Trainor in 2012[2]. The Australia Council consulted and worked closely with the sector every step of the way and the sector actively embraced the new vision, and supported a raft of radical changes to the 40 year old structure of the Council - including the abolition of art form boards. Clearly on this evidence, the arts sector is not about resisting change and maintaining the status quo. The ‘reform’ process that Senator Brandis claims to be delivering now was already well underway before he stumbled in.
“To have witnessed Minister Brandis publicly endorse the new Australia Council strategic plan in August 2014 and then, whilst the new funding programs were being actively promoted across the country, work in secret behind the scenes setting up his own funding program has been the last straw. Now, through the flood of submissions to the senate inquiry the arts sector has said enough is enough, demanding that the money cut from the Australia Council be reinstated, so that it can get on with implementing its plan, and we can get on with our work.

“The underlying problem that we are all facing - and that Senator Brandis is doing his best to hide - is the chronic under funding of the arts in Australia. At time in which the arts sector is growing faster than ever we have seen funding slashed. Senator Brandis failed to grow investment in the arts in the last federal budget. He can only legitimately provide artists with more choice and new options if he brings new resources to the table. Otherwise he is just shifting the deck chairs”.
mob – 0407 690 444