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

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7540

Senator TCHEN (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Alston. Communications, information technology and the arts are all areas in which Australian talents and enterprises have excelled under the splendid leadership of Howard government ministers. Could the minister outline to the Senate the Howard government's particular commitment to the arts and Australia's cultural institutions? Further, is the minister aware of any alternative policies in this area?

Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —I am indebted to Senator Tchen for his astuteness and his interest in cultural events. He obviously recognises talent and I will pass that on to Senator Kemp in due course. As I was in the process of explaining to Senator Ridgeway not so long ago, $93 million for the film industry plus world's best practice tax offsets is not a bad start. But, of course, our major review of the performing arts sector ultimately involved $45 million from the federal government, together with contributions from all of the overwhelmingly Labor state governments. We welcome that and I think it was a very big step forward in stabilising a number of those companies, some of which were a bit unsteady.

Over the last 6½ years, the coalition government's track record in the arts has been a very impressive one. We have put $151 million, for example, into the National Museum—on time, on budget. Again, it is very good value for money in terms of a new structure. You might remember that this was the same National Museum that Labor went to the 1993 election promising to build and, as soon as they got into government, what did Mr Keating say? He said it was a mausoleum on the banks of Burley Griffin and he was not interested. That was par for the course; we all knew that. Whatever it takes to get there but, once you get there, who cares? We used the $1 billion Federation Fund for some very important capital contributions to the National Gallery of Victoria; to a number of regional art galleries around Victoria; to the National Portrait Gallery, into which we breathed new life; and to the National Institute of Circus Arts, which has been established. So it is a pretty impressive track record. I think it is recognition of the fact that the arts community understands that Labor posture but we deliver.

Labor have had a very consistent track record in this area. When they thought they were going to lose the 1993 election, Mr Keating actually said, in the depths of despair, `What have we done for the arts community? Not much.' Everyone says Labor is for the arts but Keating said, `Not much. So once we get back, if we ever get back, we will put some money on the table.' So they did, for Creative Nation, which turned out to be more about multimedia and Mr Keating's indulgences than about anything to do with delivering to the arts community. Do you remember the Keatings—$700,000 to the Keating family's personal pianist? Their idea of an arts policy was to wait until the upcoming election and round up a few people in the arts community to wave these placards saying `Arts for Labor'. That was their idea of an arts policy.

Senator Sherry —We were elected in 1993 and you've never forgotten it.

Senator ALSTON —No, you have tried it since, with singular lack of success. So it is a very stark contrast, because the arts community pay on performance. They do not pay on grandstanding. If we just look at Labor's political commitment to the arts, they had eight arts ministers in seven years prior to losing government. What have they had since then?

Senator Faulkner —All of them good.

Senator ALSTON —You are about the only one who didn't get the job. Since the election they have had Carmen Lawrence, Bob McMullan, Duncan Kerr, Bob McMullan, Carmen Lawrence again and now Bob McMullan again. Bob is quite a nice bloke and obviously he is prepared to be the default option. He does have some understanding and sympathy for the arts, but obviously no-one else would touch it with a barge pole. So now you have got this extraordinary combination of Treasury and the arts. Anyone in the arts community who is somehow apprehensive about reviews ought to imagine what would happen if you had that sort of arrangement, but presumably it is pro tem until they can find someone else to put their hand up. They all knew Carmen Lawrence was going. (Time expired)