Deputy Arts Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald
Cuts of more than $100 million to the arts could be “devastating”
Budget cuts of more than $100 million will have a “devastating impact” on arts and cultural activities across Australia, according to Labor.
In a scathing response to Tuesday’s federal budget, the shadow Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts, Mark Dreyfus QC, labelled his opposite number, Senator George Brandis, as one of the meanest arts ministers.
“Senator Brandis claimed in 2007 ‘the minister who had been most generous to the arts in terms of funding was me’,” Mr Dreyfus said. “Seven years later Senator Brandis has shown himself to be one of the meanest.”
More than $28 million will be cut from the Australia Council, $33.8m from arts programs ran by the Attorney-General’s department, $25.1m from Screen Australia and $9.4m from the indigenous languages support program.
The $10m Australian interactive games fund and $6.4 million Get Readding! program have been axed, but the Australian Ballet School has won an addition $1 million.
Mr Dreyfus said the Gillard government’s Creative Australia policy, released last year, had added $200 million to the arts, but “this Budget has taken most of that funding back”.
“These cuts prove that Senator Brandis is out of touch with the development of the arts and creative industries, and will leave Australia behind in the globalised digital economy,” he said.
Mr Dreyfus said more than $37 million would be taken from national cultural institutions, severely compromising their ability to function.
Budget cuts may harm the security of priceless collections and lead to another scandal like the purchase of a stolen Shiva statue for more than $5 million by the National Gallery of Australia, according to Associate Professor Joanna Mendelssohn, from the University of NSW’s College of Fine Arts.
“Any attempt to rationalise and homogenise collections management will further endanger the national collections,” she wrote in The Conversation website.
She added: “The real lesson of the National Gallery’s acquisition (and return) of the statue of Shiva is that there is no such thing as too much research prior to acquiring works for public collections. Cuts will be made here at our peril.”
The $28 million cut to the Australia Council, the federal government’s arts funding body, will hit individual artists and smaller arts organisations not on triennial or annual funding agreements, said Associate Professor Jo Caust from Melbourne University’s School of Culture and Communication.
Caust said the $5.3 million in extra funding to the Creative Partnerships Program reflected the Coalition government’s aim to encourage other sources of support for the arts apart from direct government subsidy.
“It is larger arts organisations that receive the most benefit from philanthropy and sponsorship,” she told Fairfax Media.
“The overall impact of the budget changes will be felt most keenly in the areas of the arts sector that can least afford them.”
However, the funding cut of $28 million to the Australia Council over four years does not alarm its chief executive Tony Grabowski.
Mr Grabowski said the Australia Council’s budget next financial year would be $211.7 million – a reduction of $11.4 million, including $1.8 million saved by applying the efficiency dividend that applies across the federal government.
He said the budget cuts removed some of the funding increases handed to the Australia Council last year by the Gillard government, but left the national arts funding body with more money than in the past.
“A large portion of our budget remains untouched,” he said. “In this difficult fiscal environment, it shows this government’s ongoing commitment to the arts sector.”
The Arts Minister, Senator Brandis, has been approached for comment.
Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/cuts-of-more-than-100-million-to-the-arts-could-be-devastating-20140514-zrbxh.html#ixzz3udLk5r1v
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