Music Australia News

Arts funding letter to PM – for an innovative economy follow Canada’s example!

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Nov 2015.
Chris Bowen
| March 31, 2016

Prioritise Australian arts and culture

Music Australia has joined a call for arts and culture to be prioritised as key tools in Australia’s future prosperity in an open letter to the Prime Minister. Written by advocacy group ArtsPeak, of which we are a member, the letter also called for restoration of Australia Council funding and removal of efficiency dividends on national cultural institutions.

We noted recurring themes since the arts budget decisions include:

  • the deleterious impact on small to medium organisations and independent artists
  • the deliberate weakening of the 40 year old arms-length funding principle
  • the lack of any policy framework or sector consultation prior to major funding changes
  • creation of the Catalyst Fund, appearing to duplicate the role of the Australia Council
  • imposing inappropriate efficiency dividends on national cultural institutions

We argue that this is not a sign of thought through policy, and will reduce jobs, public access to the arts, and production of creative capital so vital to an innovative economy.

You can read the full letter on our Advocacy Page here.

Prioritise arts as the Canadians are

Interestingly, our letter coincided with Canadian Government announcements to increase arts and cultural investments. The Canadian arts budget gets a boost, and their national arts funding body the Canada Council – similar to our Australia Council – will “see its annual budget of $182 million nearly doubled within five years”, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reports.

In October we reported on incoming PM Justin Trudeau’s pre-election pledge to double Canada Council funding. Seems he’s delivering.

Funding is also being restored to cultural institutions, unlike here where, as we have reported, our institutions are having their funding base progressively eroded through euphemistically titled ‘efficiency dividends’.

This is smart national policy

As we noted recently – and in our letter to the PM – this is not a plea for a handout for the arts, this is part of a powerful case to invest in a successful, modern culture and economy.

As Julianne Schultz points out in her article on global culture, the cultural sector “now accounts for about a fifth of GDP in most developed countries and is rapidly growing in others”. However here in Australia the figure is below ten percent. Schultz notes it is a: “sector in which Australia has distinctive advantages, but one in which we are in danger of falling short”.

We have work to do.

BTW – there has been an enormous response to the reported adverse impacts National Library funding cuts may have on online creative resource Trove. You can follow the campaign here.

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