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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6401

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (12:20): I thank the member for her question. She has not only been a fantastically strong advocate for her constituency since she has come into this place but a deep and abiding commitment to the arts and cultural policy. I am asked what we have done in this budget. We have committed another $65 million over four years for the arts, in particular a huge boost—some $40 million—for the collecting institutions. The collecting institutions, whilst they are housed in Canberra, represent collections that belong to the nation. As we approach the centenary of Canberra, what better thought can we give than how we make more accessible that which we have collected being made available to the broader community? With this $40 million for these institutions, we have also requested that they look again at their strategies for digitising their content not just for the purposes of storage, as important is that is and the potential that is opened up now in this technological age, but dissemination of material.

When you think about it, how much better is this going to be for the schools in regional Australia in particular? They will have the ability to go online and hook into any chart, any book, any volume or any document held by the National Library through that fantastic Trove initiative that it has developed in terms of the digitisation of its content. Why stop at the Library? Why not also the National Film and Sound Archive, the National Archives, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum? These hold wonderful collections. We have got to keep investing in them not only for their ability to keep functioning and putting on these fantastic displays but also to disseminate that information around the country.

We are committed to the development of a new national cultural policy. The last time we had one in this country was under a Labor government—Paul Keating's government, the Creative Nation. In that 17 years, bipartisan support remained for the arts but there was never the big step up—never the big lift, never the big understanding as to why creativity and culture is so important to this nation. We are unique in the world, because we are home to the oldest living culture on earth which is producing some of the most exciting new art forms on earth; we have also been welcoming to the most diverse group of cultures on earth in terms of our multicultural appeal and our engagement. This is unique. We have got to build upon it, but in a way that tells diverse Australian stories in Australian words. Whether it is visual, written or oral, these are all the opportunities that present themselves if we are prepared to commit again to doing something to recognise it. It is not just for the cultural dimension, important as that is. We believe firmly that investing in the arts has a social dividend because it does teach expression, respect for culture and values of team work and respect. That is the social dividend for the nation but there is also an economic dividend. We know that the nations that are creative nations are also more productive nations. Increasingly, this point that was asked by the member for Murray about downsizing and my point about needing to find new ways into competitiveness, it is no longer just going to be driven by the technology; it is also the design factor. It has to be driven by the creative approach as much as by the technology. Unless we are investing in the bodies that produce that creativity and in the people who produce that creativity, we are letting this country down. It is an investment that has to be made. The budget made such an investment, and we hope in future years that we will be getting to do much more.