Budget night came and went, and the arts community sighed in relief, it could have been worse. However on what basis is slightly less investment good news?
Jason Potts, speaking in The Conversation summed up the budget for the arts:
“The main thing that happened with the arts in the 2016 budget is that nothing happened with the arts in the 2016 budget.”
While no news can be good news, this clearly represents a missed opportunity. Industry peak body Live Performance Australia has criticised the budget’s failure to invest in the live performance industry. Chief Executive, Evelyn Richardson, said “This Budget is supposed to be focused on jobs and growth. But the live performance industry and the broader arts industry are completely missing from the Government’s vision for the Australian economy. This Budget fails to deliver jobs and growth for our industry. It fails to deliver any major new policy initiatives or programs.”
Music publication Tonedeaf published a brief roundup of budget impacts on Australian music. Grouped into winners and losers their assessment includes:
- Small business – tax cuts for small business
- Commercial radio – 25 percent reduction in license fees
- Australia Council – previous cuts have left it in an eroded state
- Community radio – a $1.4 million cut
And they find the ABC is nether winner nor loser; it’s interesting that we live in an age where a small funding cut is seen as a ‘win’!
Federal Arts Minister Mitch Fifield did not release an arts budget statement, leaving it to the budget papers to state the Government’s position.
Greens Arts spokesperson Adam Bandt said “In this Budget the government had the opportunity to end 12 months of uncertainty across the arts sector with very little impact on the Budget bottom line. Instead, the Liberal government continues to let artists and art-lovers down by failing to restore the cuts to the Australia Council, independence to public funding for the arts and stability to the sector.”
Shadow Arts Mnister Mark Dreyfus observed in Artshub, that the Federal Government “when it is not actively going after the arts in the form of cuts, doesn’t care about them at all. In a budget statement he said “Labor will return lost money to the Australia Council and rebuild the trust and confidence in the arts sector which has been trashed by the Abbott-Turnbull 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 potential and our population’s love for arts and culture.
And for an example of the kind of creative future we could believe in, we invited cultural commentator Stephen Cassidy to share his vision, you can read it here.