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Australia Council Amendment Bill 1990
To allow the Minister to give general policy directions to the Australia Council (the Council) and to alter the membership of the Council and its Boards.
In 1975, the Council was established as a statutory authority to formulate and carry out policies aimed at raising the standard of the arts in Australia. The Council has a membership of fourteen part-time members plus a full-time General Manager. Members of the Council are appointed by the Governor-General and include a number of persons who practise, have practised, or are associated with the arts.
Subordinate to the Council are five Boards. The five Boards operate the Councils arts support programs - Aboriginal Arts, Literature, Performing Arts, Visual Arts/Craft (including Design) and the Community Cultural Development Committee which maintains both support for community arts programs and a broader role in promoting active and wider community involvement in arts development. Board members are appointed by the Minister and a majority of Board members must be persons who practise the arts or are associated with them. The Boards develop policy and administer grants for their respective art-form under powers delegated by the Council. The Commonwealth Government assigns a single annual appropriation to the Council for support of arts activities. Appropriations for the Council in 1987-88 totalled $51.81 million, $58.18 million in 1988-89, $55.09 million in 1989-90 and are estimated to total $57.91 million in 1990-91 (1).
Government control over Council policy is relatively limited. Although the practice has generally not been for Ministers to provide the Council with specific directions, the Australia Council Act 1975 (the Principal Act) provides the Minister with powers to direct the Council in the exercise of its delegations (i.e. how and when the Council may delegate its powers to a Board, a Committee or a Council officer), and to approve the form and content of the Councils estimates of expenditure.
In September 1986, the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure Inquiry into Commonwealth Assistance to the Arts, entitled Patronage, Power and the Muse, was released (the McLeay Report). The principal recommendations of the report included that communications links between the Minister and the Council should be clarified and that the membership of the Council and Boards be broadly based to reflect public interest.
`Community interest representative' is defined in clause 2 to be a person who is not a professional artist and whom, in the Ministers opinion, understands the interests of the general community in relation to the arts.
Clause 3 will insert new sections 6A and 6B into the Principal Act. Proposed section 6A provides that the Council, in the performance of its functions, is to have regard to the arts policies of Commonwealth and State Governments, and to any matter the Minister specifies. Proposed section 6B provides that the Minister may, if satisfied that it is desirable in the public interest to do so, give directions to the Council with respect to the performance of its functions or the exercise of its powers.
Proposed sub-section 6B(4) provides that the power of Ministerial direction is not to apply to decisions of the Council with respect to individual grants, the lending of money or the provision of a scholarship or other benefit.
Clause 4 will amend section 9 of the Principal Act to remove the requirement for two Commonwealth Government officers to be members of the Council and to allow for the appointment of members representing the general community interest.
Clause 11 will amend section 20 of the Principal Act to provide for the establishment of a special co-ordinating Board.
Clause 12 will amend section 22 of the Principal Act to provide that the Minister may appoint the Chairperson and members of the Council, and the Chairperson and members of Boards, to the new co-ordinating Board created under clause 11. Clause 12 also provides that Boards are to have at least one community interest representative. In selecting persons to be appointed as members of a Board, the Minister is to give consideration to Council advice on Board appointments.
Clause 16 will amend section 34 of the Principal Act to require Ministerial approval to enter into contracts of more than $100 000.
REFERENCES 1. Australia Council, Annual Report 1988-89, p. 70, and Portfolio Program
Estimates 1990-91, Budget Paper No. 3, p. 52.
Bills Digest Service 19 September 1990 Parliamentary Research Service
For further information, if required, contact the Economics and Commerce Group on 06 2772460.
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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1990.