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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 76


Senator MURPHY (2:33 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Kemp. Last week I asked the minister a question about the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and the Strong report recommendation to shrink it. The minister has since been reported as saying that the state will need to contribute more if the TSO is to be maintained at its current size. I ask the minister: what level of funding does he propose the state government contribute; what is the basis for proposing such an increase; and what does it mean for future funding arrangements?


Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) —Thank you to Senator Murphy for his continuing interest in this issue along with my many colleagues on this side of the chamber, including you, Mr President, who are a very strong supporter of the TSO. I spoke yesterday in the Senate, Senator Murphy, and I hope you have read my remarks in the Senate yesterday. You would have noted that I drew attention to the very large numbers of my colleagues—I did not mention you, but perhaps that was a little ungracious of me; I am happy to mention you today. I have not mentioned any Labor senators, you will note, because I do not think any have directly approached me on this matter, which is a little bit of a surprise. Let me go to the substance of it.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! You have the call, Senator Carr—Senator Kemp.


Senator KEMP —Thank you, Mr President. I thought that was a terrible mistake you had made. I am very glad that you corrected that so promptly. What I pointed out is that many of my colleagues are strongly supportive of the TSO remaining at its current size. I indicated that I have very strong sympathy with this view and I said that, in order to ensure that it does remain at the current size, clearly there are going to be additional commitments required from the two major stakeholders, one of which is the Commonwealth government and the other is the state government.

What I would like to hear now is whether the state government is prepared to make a similar commitment. I think Lara Giddings is their state minister, who, I might say, is someone who is very rapid to go on the press. What I would like to hear from Lara Giddings is that it is quite clear that the commitment that will be made to maintain the TSO at its current size will require additional commitments, I believe, from the Commonwealth government. The Commonwealth government, of course, is the major stakeholder and it will pay a major share, but the state government will also have to pay some share.

Equally, I mentioned that we need to have a very satisfactory response from the state government to the recommendations of the Strong report, which deal with a very wide range of issues. What I would like, and which has seemed to be impossible to date, is to have sensible discussions with the Tasmanian government. Unlike other state governments who, I believe, are dealing with a very difficult issue in a sensible fashion, the Tasmanian government under Minister Lara Giddings is not dealing with it in a way which, I think, will lead to a sensible outcome. I have made my commitment very clear. I have made my beliefs very clear about the need to maintain the TSO at its current size. But it is conditional on the state government making a similar commitment to the additional funds which will be needed, and we need to see a very satisfactory response to the other proposals in the Strong report.


Senator MURPHY —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I am not sure whether I should take from that that the government has actually determined a level of additional funding that will be required from the state government or whether it is just waiting for the state government to come along and say, ‘We’ll provide some additional funding.’ It seems a rather ad hoc way to deal with an institution that is very important to the state. I would have thought that the minister would have been able to give a much clearer answer in respect of where this whole thing is heading. If the Commonwealth is committed to the maintenance of the TSO, then it ought to stand up and say so, instead of this argy-bargy that seems to be coming from the minister at the moment. Again, I ask the minister: if he has an expectation that the state contribute additional funds, why can’t he inform the Senate what that expectation is? I at least hope that they have informed the state government of what the expectation is. It would be useful if the debate was progressed in a much more, if you like, sympathetic way, given the importance of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.


Senator KEMP (Minister for the arts and Sport) —If I receive a response from the Tasmanian government that Senator Murphy is their agent on the negotiations on this matter, I will be happy to have discussions with him. There are a range of issues which will need to be discussed. I look forward to very constructive discussions with the Tasmanian government, and I look forward to the outcome of those discussions being that the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra will remain at its current size.