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
Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 77

Senator CARR (2:39 PM) —My question without notice is to Senator Kemp, the Minister for the Arts and Sport. Does the minister recall his advice to the Senate yesterday that he hoped that the problems of the Sydney Dance Company:

... can be worked through in the discussions with the Australia Council.

Is the minister now aware that the Australia Council has already advised the company that it can provide no additional funding from its budget and that the company will need to make a special approach to the government for relief? Is the minister now aware that the Sydney Dance Company is scheduled to meet with the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Coonan, this Friday in a final attempt to gain the funding necessary to avoid insolvency? Was the minister aware at question time yesterday of the meeting or was he left out of the loop by his senior minister?

Senator KEMP (Minister for the arts and Sport) —I have to say it is not a very distinguished start for the shadow arts minister. As I mentioned yesterday, he is the seventh—or is he the eighth?—shadow arts minister for the Labor Party in nine years. Let me also make the point that Senator Coonan, to her undying credit, is a great supporter of the arts. It is always a great pleasure to work with Senator Coonan on the arts. We are a government that takes the arts very seriously. It is a pity for the Sydney Dance Company to say, ‘Who do I come to? I have to come to see Senator Kim Carr.’ It is a bit of a downer, I would have thought. Of course, some would say it is slightly better than saying, ‘Gosh, who do I go? Do I go to see Senator Kate Lundy?’ There may be some marginal improvement there but not much.

This government is very supportive of the arts. This government is supportive of the Sydney Dance Company. This government is a great admirer of Graeme Murphy. I am delighted that Graeme Murphy is seeing Senator Coonan and I am sure that Senator Coonan will again make the point about how supportive we are of the Sydney Dance Company. Negotiations are under way, I believe, between the Australia Council and the Sydney Dance Company. I would like those negotiations to continue. I would like to see that people come to the table with an open mind to see how we can work through the serious issues that are facing the Sydney Dance Company. One way to ensure that happens is by making sure that constructive discussions occur rather than attempting to politicise every issue. I might say that, when Senator Lundy was in the portfolio, she made that mistake and she did not last too long, let me tell you. I think we should see what can be achieved in the discussions between the Sydney Dance Company and the Australia Council. I and, I am sure, Senator Coonan will be taking a great interest in those discussions.

Senator CARR —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Can we now presume that, since the Australia Council has already told the Sydney Dance Company that they can no longer help the company, the minister actually misleading us yesterday? Further, does the minister recall that the Australia Council executives confirmed at the Senate estimates hearing last month that five or six major arts organisations are also facing financial difficulties? Can the minister confirm that in addition to the three state orchestras and the Sydney Theatre Company, the State Theatre Company of South Australia and Opera Queensland are also facing financial difficulties? Can the minister confirm whether these companies have also approached the Australia Council or the Australian government for a financial bailout or other changes to their funding models, including the removal of the efficiency dividend?

Senator KEMP (Minister for the arts and Sport) —If Senator Carr and the Labor Party were so worried about these organisations, why did they want to cut funding to the Australia Council in the last election? Why did they produce a policy which would have the effect of cutting funding to the Australia Council? If Senator Carr is so concerned about the efficiency dividend, why wasn’t the removal of the efficiency dividend part of the Labor Party’s arts policy in the last election? Senator, you are again, I regret to say, just speaking with a forked tongue, the way the Labor Party often does. You are misleading. When you were asked to put some money on the table, you did not do it. You treated the arts in the last election with complete contempt. This government, let me assure you, is strongly committed to the arts and to ensuring a vibrant and robust arts sector. This government will continue to work very closely with arts companies and the Australia Council.