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Tuesday, 27 June 2000
Page: 18383

Ms ROXON (10:54 PM) —I would like to speak tonight in the adjournment debate about the situation of artists in my electorate of Gellibrand and some bigger and more important issues about our national and cultural identity. Many people would not be aware that the electorate of Gellibrand, and particularly Footscray and Yarraville, has over the last 10 to 15 years become the home for a large number of Melbourne's younger and more established and successful artists. It is something that the community is incredibly proud of. We have a large number of self-employed people—musicians, visual artists, photographers and performing artists—who have chosen to make the City of Maribyrnong their home, and they add great colour and excitement to our community.

In particular, although it is not limited to these people, I would like to mention a selection of some of our most successful and well-recognised artists and acknowledge their contribution—but just as an indication of the contribution that is made by so many other artists in the community. I would particularly like to mention the Womens Circus, which is internationally renowned and based at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, Big Fish, the Snuff Puppets, Chalk Circle, Beverley Isaac, Donna Jackson, Sharon Jones—a photographer whom I have used—and Julie Bilby, an artist whom I have also been able to use in the production of our Christmas cards. The reason I raise the pride which we have for our local artists is that the government have recently, under sustained pressure from Labor and the Democrats, seen the error of their ways in taxing low income artists. They have decided to accept a proposed amendment which was going to apply only to hobby farmers, not to anybody else. The artists community lobbied very successfully on this issue and pointed out that many successful and leading artists spend a large part of their life earning very little, and certainly well under $40,000 a year, and that, in order to be able to contribute to our cultural life and identity as a nation, they, too, needed to be able to claim an exemption in a similar way that the government were intending to allow farmers to claim their farm losses against non-farm incomes.

Our shadow minister for the arts, the member for Denison, has said in the past that there was no justification to deny low income artists the right to claim the losses of their art practices against their non-art income. If farmers are given equivalent exemption from the government's tax crackdown on non-commercial losses, there is no reason that artists should not be able to receive a similar exemption, particularly when account is taken of the vital role they play in helping to establish our cultural identity. So it is with great pleasure that I am able to speak this week, the very week that the government have indicated they will accept a change to their proposal. Although artists will, of course, have to pay a GST on many of the things they purchase for their trade, they will actually be able to offset their losses in a way that will make it much more equitable for them to do so.

I think it is a nice change to be able to speak in this House on cultural issues. It is a place that many of us know can tend to be a little devoid of culture and art at times, although we do have a fantastic art collection in the House. Some of my more cultured colleagues and I were having a discussion prior to this debate about the importance of art, particularly film making, in establishing some sort of national identity. Whilst we have some very well-known Australian film makers, we were all taken with some of the famous film makers of other countries, people like Steven Spielberg, really a quintessential American film maker who highlights American culture, Leni Reifenstahl for her portrayal of Nazi Germany and whose name is synonymous with that era through these amazing films that she produced and, perhaps, Alfred Hitchcock in the UK. If we were to stifle our artistic community and the low income earners who are often contributing greatly to not just my electorate but also the national cultural environment, I think we would be losing something that is very valuable, not just currently but in the future, in helping people to identify what it is that we stand for as a nation, which must be more than just taxes. It must also go to our cultural environment. I encourage the government to take up the amendments proposed by the Democrats and Labor. They will be of great benefit to the many artists in my electorate of Gellibrand.

Question resolved in the affirmative.