The Federal Government’s arts funding body the Australia Council has suffered a further blow with a budget cut to add to the net reduction delivered in the last two budgets. Over the past three years Australia Council funds have reduced from $211,764 million in 2014/15 to $183,424 in 2016/17.
There are two pieces of news in the latest budget update, known as the Additional Estimates Statements 2016–17.
The first is the Government has approved an unusual request by the Australia Council Board to apply $10 million from its reserves to funding for grants over two years. This effectively lessens the impact of funding cuts to date on the sector. This makes things slightly better – albeit in the short term.
However, the sting in the tail is that at the same time the Government has also applied a further budget cut which, as The Daily Review reports, “represents a 6% cut to the Australia Council’s discretionary funding”. This makes thing worse – our national arts body has fewer and fewer funds to invest.
Officially known as an ‘efficiency dividend’ which budgets papers say has “driven reform to inefficient programs and practices among Commonwealth Government agencies”, this reduces the Australia Council’s discretionary funds by $9.2 million over the next three years.
As we have previously pointed out, there are no more efficiencies to be gained from the federal cultural institutions. These ‘dividends’, intended for government departments, were never designed for cultural institutions. They are budget cuts clear and simple, and erode the ability over time of the institutions to deliver on their core functions.
The majority report of the Senate Inquiry into the 2015 arts budget recommended they be reversed, arts lobby group ArtsPeak has made a similar call, and senior arts executive Michael Lynch last year blasted the decisions, telling the Financial Review they are “a disgrace to the present government”.
For our part, while accepting that budgets must be balanced, we cannot see how Australia, with the world’s third highest wealth per adult, cannot afford to invest in a full and vibrant creative future that does justice to our talent and our population’s love for arts and culture.