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Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Page: 114


The PRESIDENT (8:20 PM) —The incorporated speech read as follows

I have taken the unusual step tonight to seek leave of the Senate to incorporate a statement about the future of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO). This is because I have very strong views about this matter, which is currently the subject of speculation in the press in my home state of Tasmania, and nationally.

As a Senator for Tasmania, I have received numerous representations from my fellow Tasmanians, together with interstate and overseas supporters of the TSO, since a partial disclosure of Mr James Strong’s review of orchestras was reported in the Tasmanian press late last week.

The press reports have indicated that the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra would be “downsized” to a smaller, “Chamber”-sized orchestra.

Together with my seven Tasmanian Federal Liberal colleagues, Senators Abetz, Colbeck, Barnett and Watson; Senator-elect Stephen Parry; Mr Michael Ferguson MP, Member for Bass, and Mr Mark Baker MP, Member for Braddon—I am firmly of the view that the TSO should not be downgraded in any way, shape or form.

My very strong view is that the TSO should not be facing any cuts whatsoever.

The international reputation and acclaim of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra will be lost forever if it suffers any downsizing.

And I can tell all the Senate and all Tasmanians that the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Rod Kemp, is fully aware of the importance—in so many different ways—of the TSO to our Tasmanian community.

In every communication that I have received on this matter, concerned supporters have told me the significance of these values, and the variety of different ways in which the TSO improves the quality of life for Tasmanians, and contributes to the cultural, economic and artistic fabric of our community.

While the TSO is obviously a state-based orchestra, it has developed such a culture of artistic excellence that it is no surprise it has built such a strong national, and international following.

A Taspoll survey in 2004 reported that 87% of the community felt that the TSO was a source of pride for all Tasmanians.

And I am proudly one of those individuals in the Tasmanian community who believes in the value of the TSO.

In particular, my wife is a keen lover of her TSO CDs, and we love the free regular concerts “Symphony Under the Stars”—as do so many other Tasmanians.

I am well aware of the unique nature of the TSO, and the range of contemporary and classical performances and recordings that it has brought to life in such memorable ways.

However, I would like to take a brief look tonight at the value of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra as part of the future of young Tasmanians, and the opportunities that it gives so many young Tasmanians, in many different ways.

I place it firmly on the record tonight that I am in favour of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra actively seeking to expand its horizons—not having to face the uncertainty of funding cuts and restructuring, for simple accountancy’s sake.

Mr Nicholas Heyward, the Managing Director of the TSO, said on Tasmanian radio last week:

   We need a symphony orchestra for the same reason we need a football stadium, a library, a museum and a university. People want to live in creative and inspiring places....They will go elsewhere.

Many Tasmanians will know me as a passionate advocate for our world-class sporting venue Bellerive Oval, and for encouraging, as much as I can, its fullest utilisation for national and international sporting events.

But make no mistake. Nicholas Heyward is absolutely correct. Tasmania is a creative and inspiring place. But people will go elsewhere—never in our history has labour and capital been so mobile and borderless.

Tasmania needs to attract people and retain them, for the betterment of our community—not give them reasons to stay away.

Proponents of AFL in Tasmania will tell us that our footballing young will continue to drift away from Tasmanian elite levels of competition, and school/underage football will continue to struggle simply because we remain without an AFL-level team, based in our home state.

And in the same way, any downsizing of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra will severely weaken its ability to attract and retain the top-class musicians, soloists, producers and conductors for which it is known.

It will also have a significantly stultifying effect, in my opinion, on the future development of musical creativity and talent in my home state.

As John and Marilyn from Deloraine in Tasmania said, in their email to me:

   “... the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra boasts an enviable record of Chief and Guest Conductors that in turn results in appearances by guest soloists of the highest international standing...The opening concert for the 2005 season is a perfect example of the abilities and dedication of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. A varied program with an outstanding soloist and a guest conductor at the “top of the tree”—Matthias Bamert”

Any downsizing of the TSO will further weaken the cluster of musical and cultural institutions within the immediate precinct of its home, the Federation Concert Hall in the heart of Hobart’s waterfront—a permanent home for the TSO which was built with the substantial financial support of the Australian Government.

Individual members of the TSO also play such an important role as teachers and mentors of the young, creative, artistic members of our community. These are the Tasmanian musicians of our future—and we should not be in the business of downsizing their opportunities !

The weakening of our musical community in this way can only have one effect—our young artists, composers and performers will lose sight of the top level of musical excellence, something that they can aspire to being a part of.

As is so often the case—we lose our young talented Tasmanians too early, yet again, to Melbourne, Sydney or even international opportunities.

Australian composer Ross Edwards, AM, expressed his concerns over the reported recommendation to reduce the numbers of musicians in an email to me:

   “I’m astonished and alarmed by James Strong’s proposal to cut the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra down to the size of a chamber orchestra, thus severely limiting its repertoire and minimising its cultural impact.”

Mr Edwards, who has significant international experience, is well-qualified to comment on the international reputation of our Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. He continues:

   “Just one of the very many reasons for preserving the TSO in its present form is that it has recently embarked on a series of recordings of Australian music for ABC Classics designed to take our music to the world. The project has already generated much interest both here and abroad...the quality of performance and the freshness of the music is being recognised by an expanding audience for our work. A chamber orchestra, it must be emphasised, would be quite inadequate. I urge you to disregard this truly astonishing proposal.”

I, too, have strongly urged the Minister to disregard the proposal to reduce the TSO’s size, which will reduce its ability to expand its considerable influence on the future of the cultural, economic and artistic fabric of our Tasmanian community—and on the future of our young Tasmanian artists, composers and performers.

As Don from Pipers River (the same region of North-Eastern Tasmania that gives us the famous Pipers Brook wines) put it in his email to me yesterday:

   “Unlike other states—if you deprive us of our symphony orchestra we can’t just drive to the next capital city to hear their orchestra. We—adults and children alike—will be deprived of this unique experience.”

Tonight, I place on the record my support for the young people of Tasmania, and for their opportunities and future—a future which must contain a fully-fledged, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

It is, as composer Ross Edwards put it,

   “... an excellent orchestra with a high morale. It takes pride in its achievements and its status as a cultural icon. Moreover, it is of an ideal size to achieve the goals which have been set for it, all of which have been designed to benefit Australian culture both here and abroad.”

We need a full-strength, undiluted, upsized-not-downsized Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for exactly the same reasons as we need any of the other sporting, educational, cultural and heritage institutions in my home state of Tasmania.

And, together with my Tasmanian Federal Liberal colleagues, I will continue to fight for this.

I thank the Senate for its courtesy.