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Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Page: 4118


Mr DANBY (Melbourne PortsParliamentary Secretary for the Arts) (12:25): It is a great pleasure for me to rise to speak on the 2013 appropriation bills. I have spoken on many budgets since being elected to this House in 1998, in opposition and in government, but this is the first time I have been able to do so as a member of the executive, as the new Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts.

So I am delighted to be able to say that this is an excellent budget for the arts. The credit for that goes to many people, including the former Minister for the Arts Mr Crean, and the current minister, Mr Tony Burke. Above all, credit goes to the arts sector itself. Since I have been in this job, and for a long time before that, I have been impressed by the dynamism, imagination, enthusiasm and vision of the people who work in Australia's arts sector. That includes the arts practitioners themselves—Australia's visual artists, writers, classical, jazz and contemporary musicians and film and theatre people—as well as the dedicated administrators who manage the myriad of arts organisations. This budget rewards their talent and their commitment. The fact that, despite difficult economic circumstances, we stayed with our budgetary commitments to them shows that the Australian government does value their work.

There is a perception in some sections of the community that government funding for the arts is a luxury. Recently, the Institute of Public Affairs think tank, which is the ideological spear point of the Liberal Party, and which seems to get such a free ride in the media, published an article by John Roskam, Chris Berg and James Paterson called '75 radical ideas to transform Australia'. No. 62 of these radical ideas was: 'End all public subsidies to sport and the arts.'

Last week I saw an example of what it would mean if this radical anti-government agenda were to be put into practice. At Glenorchy in Hobart, I had the pleasure last Friday of opening stage 2 of the Glenorchy Arts and Sculpture Park, locally known as GASP. This project has transformed a rundown industrial area into nine hectares of recreational and environmental reserves, including a bird sanctuary, boardwalks and educational facilities, as well as a showplace for art and sculpture, linked to the legendary MONA gallery, making that whole area into an arts precinct.

GASP will provide direct employment for many people in Glenorchy, but it will also bring more visitors to Hobart and stimulate growth and employment in tourism and related industries. This was all made possible by $2 million of federal funds. If the IPA has its way under a future coalition government, arts projects like this will become much more difficult to fund, perhaps impossible. Australia, and particularly regional Australia, would be poorer if that were to happen.

Our most important arts funding organisation is the Australia Council for the Arts, founded by the Whitlam government in 1973. New funding is now being provided for the Australia Council. This investment by the Australian government will respond to the 2012 review of the Australia Council, giving it greater flexibility to meet the challenges of rapid change in music, performance, art, literature and emerging arts and increasing its base funding by $75 million over four years, or more than $18 million per annum. As the new Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts, I had the opportunity to introduce that legislation, my first. That was a great honour and this is a great development for the Australia Council, its first reform in 40 years.

New funding of over $20 million will also be provided in this budget to our national elite arts training organisations such as the Australian Ballet School and the Australian Youth Orchestra. This will sustain and increase training available to students and ensure that these organisations continue to provide leadership in the performing arts and creative industries.

New funding of over $9 million will also be provided to six major performing arts companies: Bangarra Dance Theatre and Belvoir (Company B) in New South Wales; the West Australian Ballet and the Black Swan State Theatre Company in Western Australia, and the Malthouse Theatre and Circus Oz in Victoria. This initiative will secure the financial bases of these companies. It will ensure that they are able to meet the standards of excellence, creativity and innovation expected of major performing arts companies. It will enable them to continue to deliver their core program of activities while increasing access for Australian audiences to their high-quality performances and educational services.

This government is committed—and I am personally committed—to supporting the growth of Indigenous art in Australia. I recently opened a wonderful exhibition of Indigenous women's paintings from Western Australia and the Northern Territory at Alliance Francaise in St Kilda in my own electorate. The budget includes continued funding of over $11 million over four years to support and strengthen the Indigenous visual arts industry. This supplements the government's already significant investment in this area. There is new, additional funding of nearly $14 million over four years to develop community driven digital and multimedia language resources and activities as an extension to the Indigenous Languages Support program.

I am particularly pleased that $8 million has also been provided in the budget to the Creative Young Stars program. This is a program that will encourage, support and celebrate creative young people up to 25 years old, funding available in every federal electorate. This is a completely non-partisan program, which I hope all members of the House will take part in. The great trumpeter James Morrison, when I was inducting him into the Hall of Fame at the Bell Awards recently, explained to me that 3,500 young Australians were that weekend in Mt Gambier participating in jazz training with all of the leading jazz musicians in Australia—3½ thousand young Australians out of a population of 23 million. It does say something about the yearning for creativity in this country.

Arts policy in Australia has generally not been the subject of partisan controversy and I do not wish to make it one, but I think it is fair to note that the opposition has committed itself to budget cuts of something like $70 billion. That was the figure put on it by the honourable member for North Sydney. Would the arts sector be immune from these cuts? It is hard to believe they would. Has the opposition given a commitment that would not cut arts funding? Not so.

As I noted earlier, the IPA, which is becoming increasingly the theoretical arm of the Liberal Party, suggests cutting off funding to the arts, taking us back to the 1930s. I do not expect the opposition would go that far, but the IPA's radical agenda gives us an indication of where conservative thinking on arts policy—and, indeed, on other policy—is heading. It is headed back to an era where only the wealthy had access to the arts, when artists were solely dependent on patronage. I am pretty sure that that is not where the arts sector wants to go and not where the Australian people want to go.

I want to reflect on some of the comments made just briefly by the member for Cowan, talking about the excellent work that ASIO does and some critique of my dear old friend, the member for Holt, the 'M', the chairman of the intelligence committee, in the budget. Within its budget it is true that ASIO does excellent work. We have had seven groups of people arrested, charged and convicted—jailed—for attempting terrorism within Australia. There have been no effective attacks in mainland Australia. Of course, 88 of our countrymen were foully murdered in Bali. But ASIO is doing an excellent job and there is no evidence—the member for Cowan was talking about ASIO's checking of overseas people—that any of the people who were involved in these terrible potential crimes against the Australian people were boat refugees. It is absolute nonsense. Of course, the major threat to the activities of ASIO comes from the very ideological zealots in the Institute of Public Affairs that I have pointed to time and time again and who should really have been the focus of the intelligence committee's report to this parliament, because the ideological zealots in the Institute of Public Affairs are very influential in the Liberal Party, very influential on people like Mr Ciobo and Mr Turnbull—some people would even suggest Senator Brandis—who have said that they do not support the security services' concern about the fact that they are 'going dark'. This is an expression which explains the security services' concern with the fact that they have less and less ability to intercept telephones and telecommunications compared to what they were able to do in the past when we all had more primitive forms of technology—one telephone line, one fax line. If the security services are not able to fulfil their tasks because of the influence of the IPA and its influence on the Liberal Party that will be the real reason, Member for Cowan, why we cannot prevent attacks on mainland Australia, as we have successfully to date. That will be the real reason. Be assured that, if I am the only person in this place who remembers these facts, I will slate it home to the Liberal Party and the IPA for their wilful neglect of the requests of all of the different security services to have the ability to see that there is a fair policy of data retention.

Any serious person interested in the issue of privacy, unlike the ideological zealots of the IPA and some of the people in the coalition who are influenced by them, would know that in New Zealand and other countries there is a piece of legislation called 'data breach legislation'. If you are really concerned about privacy you could pass legislation with the extra ability of the security services to retain data and examine data under warrant with the same kinds of conditions they are forced to undergo now. You could safeguard against commercial people or terrorists accessing Australians' private data by having a severe program of data breach, which exists in other countries. There are fair ways of addressing privacy.

There is a severe interest in the ability of the security services to continue to perform their tasks and to keep Australians safe, but it is not being addressed by the IPA through the great influence they have over the Liberal Party. If anything happens in this country as a result of the security services not being able to intercept these people before they commit their act, the blame should be slated home to the people preventing this legislation. That is the issue which the intelligence committee should have been primarily concerned about, and I hope the government will take it up.

In the remaining time I will make some comments about the budget as it affects my electorate. The government and I are proud to present the fully funded National Disability Insurance Scheme, DisabilityCare. Around 1,980 carers in Melbourne Ports will now receive a $600 carer's supplement boost to assist with financial pressures associated with caring for a loved one. Those who care for a child with disability will now receive an extra $1,000 per year. Over 1,600 local people with disability may be eligible for Labor's DisabilityCare Australia scheme, giving people with significant disability and their carers lifetime support and the care they need.

We recognise working parents for how much they put into their families; working, caring for children, managing cost-of-living pressures and often supporting ageing parents. We are making sure that new families can spend time with each other through the Dads and Partner Pay initiative, providing two weeks leave to spend time with the new child and their family. Indeed, someone in my office has had the opportunity to experience that program, and I congratulate Sean Carroll and Natalie on their baby, Duncan. Mazel tov from all of your friends in the office: well done. Also, 6,170 local families will benefit from the childcare rebate, which will deliver up to $7½ thousand a year to assist with the cost of full-time child care.

We are also looking after older people on fixed incomes and those with disability, as well as their carers. More than 9,200 local pensioners in my electorate are now benefiting from the biggest increase in the pension in 100 years. We have over $200 more being received per fortnight.

This budget will keep the economy smart by making investments in education. More than 2,850 eligible families in my electorate, with 5,000 schoolkids, will get help with Labor's Schoolkids Bonus, with $410 per primary school kid and $820 for each high school kid. Of course, Mr Abbott has pledged to abolish those assistances to families with primary and high school students, and this will affect 5,000 children in my electorate.

Labor's balanced approach supports both jobs and economic growth with real local rewards such as the one I have outlined. The budget is about making the right choices for Australia's economic growth while keeping Australia fair and supportive of those most in need. The average Australian family with a mortgage of $300,000—not an enormous mortgage these days—is $3½ thousand better off in annual interest rate payments than they were in the last days of the Howard government. That is a measure of which the Treasurer and this government can be very proud. It is a budget which I am proud to present to Melbourne Ports with a government I am proud to be part of.