Prime Minister Turnbull’s decision to move the arts portfolio and appoint Victorian liberal Senator Mitch Fifield as new Communications and Arts Minister has been welcomed by many in the arts sector. As Joanna Mendelsohn noted in The Conversation: “it is a great relief that he has cauterised the bleeding in the arts by giving the gig to Fifield.” And she goes on to welcome the shift from “a very patrician approach to the arts as items to be consumed by the professions in their leisure hours” to one which aligns well administratively, and we would suggest strategically, with the digital world of communications.
While the Minister has yet to make any formal arts announcements, Artshub has interpreted his comments in a recent interview as signalling his intention to retain the controversial National Program for Excellence in the Arts. This will be funded with money the previous Minister reallocated from the Australia Council for the Arts. Arts Advocates including freethearts continue to warn about the potentially devastating impacts of this decision.
In the meantime these funds are sitting waiting to be spent. This is a real opportunity lost as we report here.
While it is early days yet, we also welcome our new Minister and wish him well in the portfolio. We hope Senator Fifield will take an inclusive and broad view of the portfolio, be responsive to sector advocacy, and minimise adverse impacts if he retains the NPEA. We also urge him to be an active advocate for the arts right across Government.
And the Minister’s own personal tastes in the arts? Seems he has a predilection for music – eighties popular music actually – specifically the New Romantics and Pet Shop Boys! He has also been an Ambassador for the not-for-profit school music organisation The Song Room.