Arts Funding - 24/08/2020

24 August 2020



I thank the member for Boothby for bringing forward this motion today. The member for Boothby clearly knows and values the arts and the arts workforce. How could she not, when she is representing the festival state here in this place? According to 2018 data, South Australia brings in over $100 million per year with its program of festivals, and this year, in its 60th year, the Adelaide Festival generated $70 million in expenditure, 286 full-time jobs, 17,105 visitors and the equivalent of 132,000 nights at hotels in Adelaide for the South Australian economy. This is an incredible economic impact and one that is echoed across the country by various festivals and arts events. Therefore, it is a pity that this government, which the member for Boothby is part of, does not value the arts and artists in the same way that she does. It is shameful that artists, creatives, performers and arts industry workers have been left completely behind by this government in its response to COVID-19. They have mostly been ineligible for JobKeeper or JobSeeker and have been left out of the response to the pandemic and to the recession. It is a disgrace that the Prime Minister wheeled out Guy Sebastian to finally announce much-needed funding, only to find out two months later that none of the money has actually been distributed—$250 million still not in the hands of the artists and creatives who need it, and there is still confusion about eligibility—and, anyway, a lot of it is loans, so that's not real support.

Worse still, the member for Boothby's claim of a record-breaking $750 million of arts funding has been debunked by senior public servants in the arts portfolio, who warned Arts Minister Fletcher that there was no sufficiently detailed data or modelling to support the claims he was making about the level of support provided by the Morrison government.

State and territory governments around the country are stepping in to fill the gaps left by the Morrison government in response to the COVID-19 economic downturn. Here in Canberra, the ACT Labor government has stepped up with $6 million in economic stimulus to support Canberra's creatives through the COVID-19 pandemic. To support our Canberra artists, grants of up to $10,000 each have been provided to local artists through the HOMEFRONT program. In the first round, 66 artists received funding, and a further 59 have received support this month. The ACT arts minister, Gordon Ramsay, has also secured a $1 million investment in Canberra's arts organisations. This is in addition to the over $10 million provided to the ACT's arts sector in annual arts funding. This is what real support looks like.

Kate Smith, an artist here in my electorate of Canberra, contacted me prior to Arts Day on the Hill, on 12 August, with data from the Australian Council for the Arts. In Canberra, 90 per cent of people participate as audience members and 51 per cent of Canberrans participate in creative activities themselves. In her email to me, Kate said, 'In this figure, half the electorate participating in creative activities—that I find the most exciting. As a local artist, I have observed firsthand how the local arts societies and centres bring together a diverse array of people and provide community and connection.'

Kate is right. This is exciting and it truly demonstrates the value of properly funding the arts in a community. Arts bring us together and tell our stories, and during COVID-19 artists have continued to do that as best they can, despite the lack of support from the Morrison government. And let's not forget how our arts community is often the first to step up in times of crisis. The bushfires were a great example of that. But this government has not supported them in a time of crisis for them, when they were one of the first sectors to be hit.

On Arts Day on the Hill I visited local Canberra artist Rosina Wainwright at her studio in the inner north. Through her art, Rosina tells the stories of not only her own life but the lives of others. COVID-19 and not being able to exhibit her work has had a significant impact on her health and wellbeing. She was also able to tell this story through beautiful pieces of art, which she showed me that day, and she also showed me how she made them. Thank you, Rosina, for inviting me to visit.

Without support from the Morrison government during this pandemic, many artists have pursued other forms of income rather than creating the works they would have been scheduled to show at the Adelaide Festival and other festivals, exhibitions and events around Australia. I call on the member for Boothby and the Morrison government to show they actually take this seriously and to step up and support this important sector of our economy and sector, our arts sector.