Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2546

Senator MICHAEL BAUME(10.15) —The comments made by Senator Grimes about the art and working life program need correcting because they were totally at odds with the truth. He said that there was no closed shop approach in the art and working life program. That is simply false and I can quote from the Senate Estimates Committee D Hansard to demonstrate its falsity. I asked Professor Yerbury, the Chief Executive of the Australia Council at the time, this question:

If there were employees of a non-union shop who took the view that they would like to join together to put out a banner which was opposed to compulsory unionism, would that be fundable through the arts and working life program?

Mr Adams interjected and responded:

I doubt it actually because I think there is quite an explicit requirement that there must be union involvement in the art and working life program. That is one of the criteria.

I asked:

In a sense, to get money out of this program there is a form of compulsory unionism?

Professor Yerbury answered:

Not at all.

I asked:

You must be in a union to get money?

Mr Adams replied:

There are many other programs that could be applied for, for the same sorts of--

In other words it is clear and uncomplicated from the testimony at the Senate Estimates Committee that the criteria involve being a member of a union and that it is not available to a non-union shop. For the Minister to come into this chamber and simply mislead the chamber is incredible in respect of this kind of program when clearly he purports to know something about it. Certainly he has opinions about it, based clearly on error. I put to Professor Yerbury that if an employer, for example, took the view that the art and working life program would be appropriate for his purposes and would enable him to employ an artist to perhaps convey in the work place the message that capitalism is good, that profit is not a dirty word and so on, would that fit within the guidelines of the art and working life program and would he receive funds. Professor Yerbury went on about how unlikely it would be that anyone would put that up in the first place.

The reason that I find this corruption of the art and working life program to be so offensive is that when the Fraser Government set out on this course of having an art and working life program, which I might say was something like one quarter the financial size of what it is today, as I understand the concept, it was wanting to use unions for the purpose of the arts. It was to convey the arts into the working place. It was to use unions for the purpose of the arts. Under this Government this program involves using the arts for the purpose of the unions, for spreading a message and for involving itself in a political polemic. To demonstrate that, let me quote what Deborah Mills, the co-ordinator of the Australia Council's art and working life program, said in publications about this very subject which clearly underlines the fact that the union movement is using this program for its own polemic purposes. Deborah Mills, from the Australia Council, was involved in a publication which had this to say:

Employer organisations have armies of public relations consultants to do the job for them. The current barrage of anti-union messages has had an effect. The art and working life program can help unions . . .

This publication, which has the support of the Australia Council and which was co-ordinated by an employee, Deborah Mills, clearly says that the purpose of the program is to counter the armies of public relations consultants from the employer organisations. Professor Yerbury's response was that that was just to encourage unions to participate in the program. One cannot get away with this sort of thing. Certainly one cannot get away with what the Minister is saying because it is simply untrue, according to the statements by the art and working life program people. I note that the Art and Working Life publication, which is a joint publication of the Community Arts Board of the Australia Council and of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, speaks of not fitting unions to artists ideals but fitting artists to trade union needs. That is stated in the publication. It seems incredible that the Minister is unaware of all that or that he is unaware of the same publication stating:

The anti-union crusades of recent years, both political and mass media, have tried to limit the role of unions, effectively denying the reality of their culture. They must first have the conditions to develop freely. An aim of the art and working life program should be to support such conditions within the labour movement.

If the art and working life program is to bring the arts into the union environment, to bring arts into the working place, that would be what the Fraser Government was all about. It was not about helping unions to combat the `current barrage of anti-union messages' as claimed by this publication. When one looks at what has been happening, there has been a clear corruption of this program so that it is not serving its initial purpose.

Let us look at what sort of money and programs are involved. I think Senator Short mentioned something like $3m. I would think in the long run the figure overall is much more than that one way or another. Under the community employment program-the long term unemployment program-as I recall it, something like $40m is being spent on the arts in one form or another. I would imagine that a very large proportion of that program, although the Government is very coy about telling us anything about it, has ended up in this and similar sorts of programs. Some $43m-odd makes the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations probably an even greater patron of the arts, after one takes out a couple of mainstream operations such as the opera, the ballet and so on, than the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment.

Senator Short —Barry Cohen himself has said that.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —As the honourable senator says, Barry Cohen has admitted that. In addition, we have been able to establish that $1.4m went direct to trade unions and made them patrons of the arts for their own purposes, not for the purposes of the arts, encouraging people to write plays and so on. I have details of one play called Insecurity, which I mentioned to the Minister the other day. We were not able to attend that play because it was an in-house play.

Senator Grimes —Is it reasonable for us to forgo revenue and to allow private companies to make tax claims for their contributions to the arts? If it is reasonable to do so, is it not reasonable to allow the trade unions to undertake activities in the arts area for their own purposes?

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —The Minister's analogy is appallingly bad.

Senator Grimes —Revenue forgone is the same as revenue expended.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Yes, and if members of the trade union movement wish to make donations to deductible artistic ventures they can get a tax deduction. The whole point is that there is a specific and clear diversion of money away from the traditional and arts-oriented arts, if you like, to the people who are using the arts as a polemic, as part of their purpose--

Senator Grimes —Knock it off.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —The Minister says `nonsense' and yet I have quoted to him what the Department is saying about the purpose of this operation. It speaks not of fitting unions to artists' ideals but of fitting artists to trade union needs. Talk about thoughtspeak! The Minister knows perfectly well that with the unions now being patrons of the arts-probably the major patrons of the arts beyond the mainstream groups because of this program-unless the artists fit the trade union, unless they go along that line, they are not acceptable under this program. There is no other possible interpretation of those words. There are many other matters I want to raise about this program but I understand that other honourable senators wish to speak very briefly. I simply conclude at the moment by saying that there are many other programs under which money is going in this area and which are not shown in the union list, for example, groups such as Side Track Theatre and many other theatres which receive funding under the art and working life program. Multi-millions of dollars are being diverted in this way for a particular polemic, and I oppose it.

Progress reported.