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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
27/05/2015
Estimates
ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO
Attorney-General's Department

Attorney-General's Department

CHAIR: I call back to order this examination by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee into the budget of 2015-16 in the portfolio of Attorney-General. We are dealing with group one relating to the ministry of arts or outcome 2, group 1.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: My next question is to both the minister and the department. In the absence of any stated arts policy from the government either before the 2013 election or since then, what evidence actually supports the establishment of this new discretionary fund?

Senator Brandis: First of all your question is based on a false premise. The arts policy of the then opposition was articulated by me in a speech I gave in Western Sydney shortly before the 2013—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, I have read that.

Senator Brandis: That was delivered for the purpose of being a statement of the approach to the arts which the opposition would take into government were we to be elected, and the values that are adumbrated in that speech are the values have guided the government. So, to suggest there wasn't an arts policy is false. And I may say, given much of the commentary I read, including some hostile commentary, I do not think anyone says that my views and attitudes towards arts policy are obscure or concealed.

In relation to the second part of your question, we are not talking about evidence; we are talking about values, we are talking about an approach to governance. And, the approach to governance, for the reasons that I have already outlined—and I do not want to be tedious or delay the committee, so I will not repeat them—is the desirability of having contestability, diversity, making arts funding available to a broader variety of organisations, festivals, individuals, groups than are able to fit within the Australia Council's current guidelines. This is, I think, when you say what evidence is there, a decision based on a philosophy of governance and a philosophy of the way in which arts funding ought to be administered.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have read the speech you directed me to on a previous occasion and, whilst it is titled the 'Coalition's Vision for the Arts', I would not describe it as a policy, but anyway. Perhaps you might like to—

Senator Brandis: You might not, but I would.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: take me in that speech to where you set out your new approach to the Australia Council.

Senator Brandis: I have not read the speech for a little while. I will have a look—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: To you it is your policy, so you should be aware of it.

Senator Brandis: I just told you what our policy is in relation to the Australia Council. We support the Australian Council remaining the principal arts funding body but not the monopoly arts funding body.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You do not cover that point at all in this speech.

Senator Brandis: Don't I?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Nothing about contestability, nothing about monopoly. There is no mention at all.

Senator Brandis: Oh really?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: In fact, if anything, there is a misleading mention accusing Mr Burke actually of being a liar, because he raised concerns about what he seemed to believe at the time was going to be a new approach by the opposition to the—

Senator Brandis: Who is Mr Burke?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Mr Tony Burke.

Senator Brandis: Oh, that is right. He was the arts minister at the time, albeit briefly.

CHAIR: We are still paying for his farewell party, so we do remember him well.

Senator Brandis: He was the arts minister who had a Medici cellar party in every capital city, I think, to celebrate the fleeting days during which he was the arts minister.

CHAIR: We will not go there.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I think we will get to Medici soon, because I think this speech actually says the most closest Medici figure in Australian politics is Malcolm Turnbull.

Senator Brandis: Yes, I remember paying that compliment to Mr Turnbull. Of course, Annabel Crabb said that Mr Turnbull should have been a doge in her very entertaining Quarterly Essay some years ago. I think Mr Turnbull would accept either descriptor.

CHAIR: Can someone tell me what a doge is?

Senator Brandis: The Doge of Venice.

Senator BILYK: Be careful, Senator Macdonald, because you might look like philistine for not knowing.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Not with an 'F' either.

Senator BILYK: Yes, not with an 'F'.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And the minister has just been in Venice with the Australia Council ahead of this announcement.

CHAIR: I confess.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is no wonder they are as annoyed as they are.

Senator BILYK: It is an ego-boosting issue.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Anyway, going back to the coalition's arts policy according to Senator Brandis, Senator Brandis accused Mr Burke of a spectacularly brazen lie because Mr Burke had been raising his concerns about whether this government would act to extend ministerial discretion and ministerial intervention into arts funding decisions. How else can you describe this new fund than a backdoor attempt to do that?

Senator Brandis: Because it is not.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is. It is obvious it is—$106,000 out of the Australia Council and into your ministerial coffers.

Senator Brandis: First of all, Senator Collins, the context in which that was said was the debate on the amendments to the Australia Council Act at the time. That assertion was made against me because of some observations I made in the Senate, in particular in relation to section 12, which we have already mentioned this morning. The statement as I recall—this was some time ago; I have not revisited it lately—Mr Burke made was entirely false. But, Senator Collins, there is no intervention by me in arts funding because, as I remind you, I am not the assessor. The process of assessment will be as is described by Ms Basser.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We do not know what the process is yet as described by Ms Basser.

Senator Brandis: You should have been listening when Ms Basser gave her evidence.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I was listening to Ms Basser and she said it is yet to be determined.

Senator Brandis: There are certain details yet to be determined, but I can assure you that it will be no part of the process that the minister will be the assessor.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Some of the reports have even suggested that a ministerial adviser will be the assessor.

Senator Brandis: I have not seen those reports, Senator Collins, but I fear that you might be one of those people who believe everything you read in newspapers.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You know that I am not, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: I do not know that, but I hope it is not the case. In any event, a ministerial adviser—and by that you mean a member of my staff; is that what you mean?—will not be an assessor.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We will get to clarifying some of those questions that have arisen since this announcement a little bit later. I am still wanting to address where you have foreshadowed this approach to the Australia Council that you have obviously now taken on three occasions in order to bolster what you want to do within the ministry of the arts.

Senator Brandis: It has always been my view that it is better that public sector decisions be contestable, particularly when they come to the allocation of funding.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: As I said, you make no mention of contestability and no mention of the Australia Council being a monopoly. All of these things have arisen in recent times and your view about contestability, unfortunately, is likely to be as damaging to the arts sector as the employment services approach taken by the former coalition government and the approach you have taken to the community legal sector.

Senator Brandis: Is there a question, Senator, or is this just a rant?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is pretty clear that we disagree on your approach to contestability, which is naive at best.

CHAIR: Is there a question? We really are here for questions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The question is: the minister is now outlining an approach to contestability and concern about the Australia Council being a monopoly; where has this been set out, because it is not in your speech—

Senator Brandis: Isn't it?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: that you have referred to me as the coalition's policy, so where is it?

Senator Brandis: Not being a narcissistic person, I have not read the speech for a very long time.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But it is your policy, you tell me.

Senator Brandis: If you tell me that it is not there then I will take you at your word on this occasion. It is a view that I have expressed often and it is a view that I am well known to hold by those who are interested in this discussion.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well I have not seen it in recent times—

Senator Brandis: Haven't you?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And if it is outlined and explained—

Senator Brandis: Perhaps you should follow my remarks even more closely than you do, Senator.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I follow your remarks very closely, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: I am flattered.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would not be too flattered because, for instance, I followed your first announcements after this budget. The first things you put out were as a patron senator in relation to pork-barrelling with the National Stronger Regions Fund. You could not say anything about your own portfolio; it is about patron electorates.

CHAIR: Senator Collins, we do need questions, not political statements. We leave those for another political party.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, if you could be as generous to identify for the committee those areas where you say you have outlined your views about contestability and the Australia Council being a monopoly that would be most helpful.

Senator Brandis: Thank you. My views are very well known.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well can you take that on notice or can the department take that on notice?

Senator Brandis: Can I direct you as well to the long Senate debate on the Australia Council Act in 2013 in which these issues were extensively canvassed. I do not recall whether you were a participant in that debate, Senator—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I was not.

Senator Brandis: but these issues were extensively canvassed in that debate.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I will have a look at that debate, but I suspect they will be a bit like your speech and they do not actually cover those issues. They do not talk about raiding the Australia Council for the book council, they do not talk about raiding the Australia Council for the Creative Partnerships Australia’s program and they do not talk about the growing pattern of behaviour of $106 million out of the Australia Council—

CHAIR: This is not a debate. It is questions of officers and the minister about the budget.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, and I am highlighting that the minister is not likely to answer my questions.

CHAIR: No, we are not here to highlight; we are here to ask questions.

Senator Brandis: I am not likely to answer your questions if you do not ask any.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The question was: would you please take on notice to provide the committee—

Senator Brandis: That was not the question. You did not ask me that before.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It was the question I asked. I will repeat it, if you like.

Senator Brandis: Could I please take it on notice. What do you want me to take on notice?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I asked: would you please take on notice, for the committee, directing us to those areas where you have outlined your views about contestability and the Australia Council as a monopoly?

Senator Brandis: Thank you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The minister has said that the new program will make funding available to a wider range of arts companies and arts practitioners. What kinds of arts organisations and artists will be included in this wider range that are not currently being considered for funding by the Australia Council?

Ms Basser : The eligibility requirements will be part of the guidelines and, as I have explained before, I am not yet in a position to advise you what they are.

Senator Brandis: But I can tell you, at risk of repeating myself, that the objective here is to expand and make more flexible access to the Commonwealth's arts grant funding. So you can expect, when the guidelines are finalised, that they will reflect that principle.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Are you able to give us examples of arts projects that have not been able to be considered by the Australia Council that might be relevant to this new, flexible, wider program?

Senator Brandis: It might be best to wait until the guidelines are published.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is an awful long time—

Senator Brandis: No, it is not.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: before this committee, to attempt to justify a new budget program—

Senator Brandis: We are not attempting to justify a new budget program. We are extremely proud of this program, as we are proud of the fact, or at least I as the Minister for the Arts am very proud of the fact, that we have maintained the arts grant program funding. None has been returned to the budget bottom line. I do not say that too loudly near my friend Senator Cormann, the finance minister. We have maintained the program funding, but we are delivering it through two streams, not one.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So, when you move forward with this new policy proposal, are you envisaging it would be attracting new funding or that it would be robbed from the Australia Council?

Senator Brandis: Well, ignoring the pejoratives and misstatements in your question, it is an operating principle of the Abbott government's budget process, unlike the budget process of the government of which you were a member, that we look for offsets before we spend money on new proposals. Now, since this was arts funding, the logical place to look for offsets for the National Program for Excellence in the Arts was from the Australia Council.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you offered this cut to the Australia Council as an offset for your new policy proposal?

Senator Brandis: Yes. Under the way this government does business, we do not spend public money. This is not the Australia Council's money and it is not the government's money; it is the public's money.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How will the transfer of funds from the Australia Council to the ministry ensure that government support is available to a broader range of arts and cultural activities? Because you will refer me to: 'You'll have to wait and see the guidelines,' I would specifically like you to address where you believe the Australia Council has been too narrow?

Senator Brandis: I did not say the Australia Council had been too narrow. What I said was that there are some arts organisations which have not been able to get funding through the Australia Council and they will now have a chance through the National Program for Excellence in the Arts.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Could you give me an example of at least one or two?

Senator Brandis: Yes I will, Senator; I will give you an example of one. The Melbourne Hebrew Congregation was interested in arts funding for a special concert—that was not something that would have been available through the Australia Council—in support of cantorial music. The Melbourne Hebrew Congregation wanted to put on a major concept of cantorial music. On their behalf, a request was made directly of me to provide to consider funding through the National Program of Excellence in the Arts. The reason I am able to tell you that is because I received that request on budget night by letter from Mr Michael Danby, the member for Melbourne Ports, who is actually the shadow parliamentary secretary for the arts, who wrote to me saying:

Under your new funding arrangements, I seek your assistance in supporting a major concert of cantorial music.

And he explained why it is that the funding of that program was so important. So perhaps I should direct you to your colleague Mr Michael Danby, who seems to be so enthusiastic about our new program that he wrote to me on budget night itself, putting in a bid for a program that he was particularly interested in. I am sorry, the budget was on 5 May; Mr Danby's letter was on 14 May. He was very swift out of the blocks, Mr Danby. I myself quite like cantorial music. I hope the department will look with favour upon the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation's application but, as I say, that is a matter for them; I am not the assessor.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Senator Brandis, I think you are ahead of yourself. The budget was not on 5 May; it was on 12 May. Maybe you were referring to a state budget.

Senator Brandis: I am sorry. I have been misinformed—so much has happened lately. The budget was 12 May and Mr Danby wrote to me on 14 May. So Mr Danby, who actually represents the opposition as the spokesman for the arts or at least is their shadow parliamentary secretary for the arts, was able to see the attractiveness of this program—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I do not think he said that.

Senator Brandis: particularly from the point of view of—I will table it if you like—the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You are verballing him now, Senator.

Senator Brandis: in seeking my assistance through the new funding arrangements in supporting a major concert of cantorial music. In fact, this was the first approach I received from any colleagues. Senator Collins, your colleague Mr Michael Danby is very enthusiastic about this program. You may not be, but others in the Labor Party are.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I think you are verballing him. He is enthusiastic about an opportunity for a constituent organisation, which is fantastic.

Senator Brandis: I think it is fantastic too.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But it does not answer the question I was about to get to before my time concluded.

Senator Brandis: Well how do you expect me to answer a question you have not yet asked?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well stop interrupting. I will just finish this last element of that question. Why, for example, could the program you bring to my attention not have come out of the Ministry for the Arts fund that already exists?

Senator Brandis: I will have to look at the particular description of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation's application. But certainly Mr Danby thought that the appropriate funding vehicle was—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, Mr Danby identified a new opportunity—

Senator Brandis: this new program because he said, if I may quote him again, 'under your new funding arrangements—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, he identified a new funding opportunity.

Senator Brandis: I seek your assistance in supporting a major concert of cantorial music. As I say, I have high regard for Mr Michael Danby. I am quite fond of cantorial music although I do not know an enormous amount about it. But I have been to concerts of Hebrew cantorial music, which I found delightful.

CHAIR: We might leave that there. I like Mr Danby and I like the new program, Minister, as I indicated before so at least you have got two.

Senator Brandis: We all like Mr Danby; we all like Hebrew music and, you, Senator Collins, are the odd one out in not liking the program.

CHAIR: I support Mr Danby and you.

Senator MILNE: I would like to follow up an answer from the minister to Senator Collins a little earlier in relation to the process that will be undertaken to determine how the allocated funding that has been redirected from the Australia Council to the minister's department will be actually administered or how the decisions will be made. In particular, I want to go back to an amendment which, as the opposition spokesperson, Minister, you proposed and it was defeated by the Senate when you said, 'A direction by the minister will in all cases prevail over a direction by the board,'—referring then of course to the Australia Council board. Is the parliament to understand that you still hold the view that regardless of decisions that are made, a direction by the minister will in all cases prevail when it comes to arts funding?

Senator Brandis: Rather than accept your paraphrase of amendments that may have been made in a debate two years ago—

Senator MILNE: I am reading from the actual amendment.

Senator Brandis: I will go back and reacquaint myself with the actual words of the amendment. In any event, the rules governing the Australia Council and the relationship between the Australia Council and the government are set out in the Australia Council Act.

Senator MILNE: I am aware of that. I am not referring to that. I am referring to the fact that there is no clarity now as to how arts funding will be administered or who will be making the decisions for the money that has been reallocated, and so I am asking—

Senator Brandis: Are you talking about funding through the National Program for Excellence in the Arts?

Senator MILNE: I am.

Senator Brandis: That was addressed by Ms Besser before in your absence. We are going around the mulberry bush a bit.

Senator MILNE: No, I am just asking a specific question in relation to whether your view has changed when you moved an amendment to say that a direction by the minister will in all cases prevail over a direction by the board. It is a philosophic view. When it came to the Australia Council, that was your view of what should happen and the parliament rejected it. I am just trying to establish whether the new program will have that particular premise.

CHAIR: Before you answer, Minister; Senator Milne, we have been through this.

Senator MILNE: I reserved a question in relation to this matter.

CHAIR: It is exactly the same question: how will it work?

Senator MILNE: No, it is about the minister's predilection that a direction of the minister will in all cases prevail in arts funding.

CHAIR: Could you repeat exactly the question you are asking and who you are asking it of.

Senator MILNE: I am asking the minister: does he still hold the view that he held when the Australia Council bill came before the Senate in 2013 when he tried to insert in it at that time 'a direction by the minister will in all cases prevail over a direction by the board'. Given that was his view at the time, I am asking if it still remains his view when it comes to decisions about arts funding, over which this new program will direct funding?

CHAIR: I am not sure that is an estimates question but if the minister wants to answer it, he can.

Senator Brandis: I will have a go. Senator Milne, I have long learned not to accept at face value views attributed to me by political opponents. The view you have attributed to me is not a view that I hold or have ever held. Although it is about two years ago now, I think you will find in that debate in the Senate in about May 2013 I did say that the principle enshrined in section 12 of the Australia Council Act was a principle that I supported.

I remain of the view, as I have said numerous times in the public discussion since the budget, that the lion's share of arts funding should be through the Australia Council. About 87.7 per cent of funding will continue to be through the Australia Council. If I was of the view that the Australia Council should not be the principal arts funding body then I would not have left 88 per cent of arts funding with the Australia Council, now would I?

Nobody has suggested that there has been any ministerial intervention in the Australia Council's funding decision because there has not been nor could there be. In relation to the way in which the National Program for Excellence in the Arts works to provide a contestable alternative funding steam so that there are greater opportunities for Australian artists to be funded by the Commonwealth—as Ms Basser has explained twice now, if you had been listening—those guidelines are being developed. They will be subject to the Department of Finance's funding and program guidelines. And, for about the 10th time, let me remind you that I am not the assessor.

Senator MILNE: I just want to put on the record, Chair, that the—

CHAIR: No, this is for questions, not to put things on records. This is not a debate. Do you have a question?

Senator MILNE: I do have a question.

CHAIR: Then please go ahead.

Senator MILNE: Minister, did you move in the debate in 2013: 'clause 31, page 18, after line 25, at the end of the clause add (6) a direction by the minister will in all cases prevail over a direction by the board'?

CHAIR: That is really not an estimates question, I am sorry.

Senator MILNE: I will come back to it. Senator Brandis—

Senator Brandis: I do not have a recollection of the debate, but I refer you to the relevant journals of the Senate.

Senator MILNE: Minister, you have just talked about the direction of the Australia Council and the question that I have relates to your answer. I was not referring to the minister giving a direction to the Australia Council board. I was referring to the new program for excellence, and whether a direction by the minister will prevail in relation to that particular funding.

Senator Brandis: I am sorry. You obviously have never had the responsibility of being a minister running a department. The minister is responsible for his department. The minister takes responsibility, therefore, for everything done by the department, but it does not follow from that that the minister directs every particular activity in the department. As I have said, ad nauseam, under this program I am not the assessor.

CHAIR: Nothing further, Senator Milne?

Senator MILNE: No, thank you.

CHAIR: Senator O'Sullivan?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Let us get back onto some good news questions, so that we can celebrate the work that the—

Senator Brandis: More good news from the Abbott government.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: You know I have a passion for support for regional and rural Australia, Attorney.

Senator Brandis: Yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Is there any way you might be able to expand on how the government is committed to arts in regional Australia and any initiatives or programs that have been funded or supported?

Senator Brandis: Yes, I can. When I spoke to the Western Sydney Arts Forum on 20 August 2013 and gave the speech that Senator Collins has kindly already referred to, I did say in that speech that a greater emphasis, or a correction of the discrimination against regional Australia by the previous Labor government, would be one of the principles that would inform a coalition government's arts policy, and such it has been. We have tried to restore the balance so that people in regional Australia—in fact, people outside the capital cities, and particularly the big cities on the eastern seaboard—also get an opportunity to enjoy the best of Australia's arts practice, both in the performing and the visual arts.

Let me give you some examples, and some of these I referred to when I addressed the regional arts conference in Kalgoorlie-Boulder in Western Australia last year. We have the Regional Arts Fund, through which over $3 million is invested every year to support sustainable cultural development in regional and remote Australia. There are other regionally focused initiatives, including dedicated national touring programs. Some $27 million is devoted to funding organisations and activities in regional Australia. There is the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, which provides $1 million a year to support the tour of works from the national collections to regional areas. The Community Heritage Grants deliver up to $15,000 each to community groups including historical societies, regional museums, public libraries and Indigenous organisations to support the preservation of publically accessible heritage collections. The Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support scheme, which provides grants of up to $10,000 for cultural institutions and community organisations; the collection management initiatives, most of which were provided to institutions located in regional Australia; activities and projects supporting Indigenous arts, languages and culture, most of which were in regional and remote areas, including approximately $43 million in funding in 2015-16 which will be provided to Indigenous languages and arts and Indigenous visual arts industry support programs; the Bundanon Trust, through which approximately $1.6 million a year is provided to a range of functions in the Shoalhaven region; and the Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund, which provides $4 million over four years towards opportunities for Australians both in capital cities and regional locations to create and share activities that commemorate Australia's century of service. Those are specific programs, but of course I have urged the Australia Council—not by way of direction, lest you get too excited there, Senator Milne, but by way of gentle encouragement—to be a little more generous to regional Australia. In the distribution of funds under the National Program for Excellence in the Arts, I hope that concern for the interests of regional Australia will be taken into account as well.

While I am addressing that question, Senator O'Sullivan, I might acquaint you with some statistics. I know you are a senator from regional Queensland. Let me tell you that for the last year for which statistics have been published in their annual report, the Australia Council reported that of the $199.2 million in grant funding of that year $69.1 million, or 35 per cent, was spent in New South Wales; $45.6 million, or 23 per cent, was spent in Victoria; $17.4 million, or nine per cent, was spent in Queensland; $14.2 million, or seven per cent, was spent in South Australia; $13.5 million, or 6.7 per cent, was spent in Western Australia and $8.5 million, or four per cent, was spent in Tasmania. Those figures, I hasten to add, are a little misleading because the Australia Council funds the national companies like Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet, for example, which are located in the bigger cities—in Sydney in the case of Opera Australia and in Melbourne in the case of the Australian Ballet. So one would expect a proportionately greater share of the funding to be spent in New South Wales and Victoria for that reason. Those companies, of course, tour to other states, but nevertheless, Senator O'Sullivan, you might think it a little strange that only nine per cent of the Australia Council's grant funding was spent, for example, in Queensland, and only 6.7 per cent of it was spent in Western Australia.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It will be warranting further attention from myself there. Are you able to elaborate in relation to the Regional Artist Development Fellowships program?

Senator Brandis: Yes, I can. This is what I announced at the Regional Arts Australia annual conference at Kalgoorlie-Boulder last year. The Australian government is providing $150,000 for five new regional artist development fellowships. They are designed to support the professional development of artists specifically in regional communities. They will provide artists and arts workers from regional communities with new and valuable experiences for their career development. It is quite hard—as you can imagine, Senator, coming from a regional city yourself—for people to as readily access these programs that are administered in the capital cities, as it is, if they come from regional Australia. So these fellowships are tailor-made to enable people from regional Australia who are arts practitioners to build on their careers and enhance their arts practice. That is what the Regional Artist Development Fellowships—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Do you happen to have at hand any details on the National Program for Excellence in the Arts?

Senator Brandis: We have discussed that, and, as I said, the National Program for Excellence in the Arts will provide approximately $107 million—

Ms Basser : The actual program will be $19 million funding—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: That is what I was looking for.

Senator Brandis: No, sorry; it is $107 million including the administrative costs, but, in terms of the grant funding that will be administered in the first year of the program—that is, the 2015-16 year—there will be $19 million distributed, and, as I said in answer to your earlier question, I hope that those who are within my department who administer this funding will be mindful of the government's policy to provide a fair share of arts funding for people who live in regional Australia.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Minister, are you able to elaborate on this: quite beyond the delivery of the arts, which is important—and I think you have articulated the fine track record of the government in that space—are you in a position to make reference to the impact on the economy? Does it underpin and support employment and economic investment in regional and rural communities as a result?

Senator Brandis: Yes, I can. But, before I do, I should add to my earlier answer that, although I went through certain particular programs, let me emphasise that the Regional Arts Fund base funding, which is the largest vehicle for the delivery of Commonwealth funding to regional arts, will be $12.544 million between 2012-13 and 2015-16. In the earlier of those years, that reflects the deprioritisation of regional arts funding by the former Labor government, but, in the out years, or in the latter of those—the last year, I should say, of the triennium—we have built back some additional capacity for arts funding in regional Australia. So that aggregates to $12.5 million. In coming more directly to your question, let me come at it philosophically. I believe—and I have said this many, many times—that the creative arts are as vibrant and important and appreciated in regional Australia as they are in the capital cities.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Indeed.

Senator Brandis: And major performing arts companies based in the states have a wonderful record of outreach to regional Australia. It is a coincidence that the coalition senators who happen to be in the room at the moment are all from Queensland, so you would be aware, I am sure, that Opera Queensland last year had this marvellous program called the Puccini project, which took opera to many regional cities in Queensland, including to your city, Senator O'Sullivan, Toowoomba. The Queensland Ballet have done the same. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra does the same. We spoke before about Bell Shakespeare, which is a Sydney based arts company, and its outreach program to regional schools, and there are others as well; I am just focusing on Queensland for the moment because you are a Queensland senator. So our arts companies do make a very conscious effort to reach out to regional Australia. It is a shame that the previous government provided less funding to enable them to do that. It is one of my goals as arts minister to restore that funding so that they are better able to do that. So that is the philosophy on the basis of which I operate on this issue.

As to the economic benefits, well, of course, economic benefits in regional Australia from the arts sector are enormous. The creative economy, generally, which includes arts in the broader sense, has been assessed by various economic modellers to represent about nine per cent of gross domestic product. That is the case in regional Australia as much as it is in the capital cities.

In regional centres, like Toowoomba where you come from, Senator O'Sullivan, do you know that there is a very vibrant arts sector in your city augmented by tourings by the capital city based arts companies. As well as that, I should not fail to mention one of the great, great, not just national, but international success stories in Australia art in the last 30 years or so, and that is Indigenous art. The Indigenous arts communities in Western Australia, in the Pilbara, in the Northern Territory, in South Australia, in the Tiwi Islands, in East Arnhem Land, in Queensland and in western New South Wales, Indigenous art has experienced burgeoning growth in the last three decades. It is now highly collectable. It is displayed in most of the great art galleries of the world. This is all regional art. This is almost all artwork created by Indigenous artists in regional centres, sometimes very small regional centres, which I have visited and have been deeply impressed by. It is something that the Australian government also supports through its Indigenous Art Strategy.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: You should be congratulated for your support and obvious passion for regional and rural Australia, Senator. Thank you very much and thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator O Sullivan. Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you, Chair. I still have a considerable number of questions relating to how the Australia Council and the new fund will operate in the future, and I take on board that Ms Basser has already told us what she is not yet in a position to appraise us of, but I will still seek some further information. I do not believe we have exhausted that particular area. I go back for a moment to Senator Brandis's policy, or what was coined the 'Medici versus Philistines' speech, and its failure to cover this contestable or alternative funding stream that is involved in the new fund. Just as an aside, I would ask the minister: has he visited the Vasari Corridor in Florence?

Senator Brandis: Yes, I have, Senator, but I have not been to Florence for years. In years gone by, yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you have seen the fantastic artwork that is in that collection that is closed and only available for special visits.

Senator Brandis: Senator, I was last in Florence in 1991.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes.

CHAIR: He was not a special person then.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: He might not be that sure that he was actually in the Vasari Corridor then.

Senator Brandis: I am reasonably certain that I did visit the Vasari Corridor, but, in any event, you will forgive me, Senator. Sadly, it is nearly 25 years since I was last in Florence.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, being presumably the Philistine that you would regard me as by the tone of this speech—

Senator Brandis: I did not say that about you, Senator Collins. If that were my private view, I would not be ungallant enough to express it here.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You certainly have said publicly that you do not think I get out enough.

Senator Brandis: Senator Collins, I was teasing you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Beside the point, we go back to the issue which is that this notion of contestability or alternative funding was not outlined in the policy position. You have taken on notice to provide us with some background as to how that position has arisen, but I remain interested in how it will apply. For example, will the new fund reconsider applications that have been rejected by the Australia Council?

Senator Brandis: It will be open to people who have made application to the Australia Council and not been successful, to apply to the National Program for Excellence in the Arts subject, obviously, to its guidelines.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Will they need to indicate that that has been the case?

Senator Brandis: Senator, Ms Basser might answer that.

Ms Basser : Senator, again that is getting to a level of detail that we do not have yet, but we just need to be clear that it is a different program. It is not that somebody has applied to the Australia Council and has not been successful. It can automatically balance between and back again, and I think the idea is that if it is a project that is relevant to the programs. An organisation may have an application in to the Australian Council for one project and I can imagine an application in to the new program for another project.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is a different issue. I am talking about for the same project.

Ms Basser : It will depend on what the project is.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: If a project fits within your three general streams, will it be available to any arts organisation to potentially submit that project to both simultaneously, or are you looking at staggering rounds so that it would not be simultaneous? How are you proposing this will work?

Ms Basser : Again, those are the details. As I said to you, we had an extensive discussion yesterday with the Australia Council and those are the exact issues we are nutting through at the moment at that level of detail—how the new program will interact with their processes and making sure that it works in the interests of making things as smooth as possible for applicants. Again, I have to say: we have not resolved those levels of detail yet, but I can assure you that we are actively working through them—and we are actively working through them in absolute close consultation and closely with the Australia Council so that, in the end, both will work together and not duplicate. It should be clear, again, once the guidelines come out.

Senator Brandis: Can I add to Ms Basser's answer. This phenomenon of gaming application rounds is not entirely unknown, particularly as between the Australia Council and state and territory arts funding bodies. There are well-established processes to ensure that people do not game the system. As Ms Basser has said, there is very close collaboration between the Ministry for the Arts and the Australia Council in the design of the new program.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is interesting that use the expression 'gaming' when we are talking about introducing a contestability between what are essentially two government related agencies. It is an area where contestability as a notion intrigues me because I cannot see how it will work. On that basis, Ms Basser, you mentioned this issue was canvassed in the discussions with the Australia Council; what other issues were addressed yesterday?

Ms Basser : Generally some of our early thinking that I read out to you earlier about the three streams. We discussed broadly how the Australia Council were managing the impacts on their budget and operations, and we talked about how we could work together, as I say, in terms of their guidelines and the funding rounds. We are also, obviously, talking about the transfer of the touring programs, the Visions program and the festivals program. The ministry had administered those for a number of decades and in 2013 they were transferred over to the Australia Council, so we are in the process of the discussions about those programs transferring back—again, the nuts and bolts of how that happens; that is operational work that we were very closely with the Australia Council on.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What are the funding arrangements attached to that move back?

Ms Basser : As when the funds transferred from the ministry to the Australia Council, the program funds are being moved back to the ministry.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What do they amount to?

Ms Basser : Visions is $2.4 million and Festivals—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is that per annum or across the forwards?

Ms Basser : It is per annum. Festivals Australia is $1.2 million per annum.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Going to these streams, I think you mentioned that there was still relatively early thinking about that, although, if I recall correctly, the international cultural diplomacy stream was one that Senator Brandis might have canvassed loosely in the 'Medici versus the Philistines' speech, or the coalition's arts policy.

Senator Brandis: Senator Collins, I am sorry to interrupt you, but I am a little embarrassed by this reference to the 'Medici versus the Philistines' speech. That is not the title I gave the speech.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No. I am not suggesting it was.

Senator Brandis: That is the title a cheeky person who put the speech up on a website gave it, but that is not my descriptor.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Who was that cheeky person?

Senator Brandis: They did not identify themselves, but that is not the title of the speech, lest you think that I vainly so describe myself.

CHAIR: When was it? I must get a copy of it.

Senator Brandis: It is a marvellous speech. It is marvellous actually, if I may say so myself!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It tells you a lot about Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: It was given to the Western Sydney Arts Forum on Tuesday, 20 August 2013.

CHAIR: That will be on line somewhere?

Senator Brandis: I will give you a copy. I have got one right here.

CHAIR: Thank you. I am forever grateful.

Senator BILYK: You have probably got numerous copies there!

Senator Brandis: No, no, Senator Bilyk. As I said your colleague Senator Collins, I actually have not read the speech for quite some time, but I do remember it being marvellous!

CHAIR: I want mine personally autographed, please.

Senator Brandis: Of course.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Back off the speech again and onto the international cultural diplomacy stream: how will that relate to the DFAT program?

Ms Basser : The program that is operated out of DFAT is run through that department. We will obviously be talking, and we are talking, to DFAT to ensure that we will be working closely so there is not duplication, and we will coordinate with them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Has any assessment of those issues been considered in advance of this new policy proposal?

Senator Brandis: Yes, it has. In fact, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I have had quite a number of discussions about it.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Then there must have been some thought you can tell me about—rather than what we will do further work on—about how they will work in a compatible fashion.

Ms Basser : The sum that the department of foreign affairs had, as I said, is around $1 million per year. We work with the department of foreign affairs in assessing those grants. As I say, we have been talking with them and we are talking with them in terms of the detail. I have no more to say at the moment because, again, we have not established our guidelines. I can just say that we are talking with the department of foreign affairs in relation to their program and its relationship with our new program.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: There is a lot of talking at this stage. I am surprised that some of these issues have not been identified and worked through.

Senator Brandis: I think you are being a little harsh on the officials. The officials are not going to be able to provide you with an answer about the final shape of guidelines that have yet to be finalised. It does not follow from that, as you seem to be implying, that the issues have not been thought through. The guidelines are being prepared. These issues have been thought through very carefully. Ms Basser, if I may say so, is an extremely experienced arts administrator and arts bureaucrat in whom I have enormous confidence and for whom I have a very great deal of respect. These issues are meat and drink to her. I dare say Ms Basser has been thinking about these issues for years during the course of her professional career. It does not mean that the issues are not being thought through. It does not follow from the fact that the guidelines have yet to be published that the issues have not been thought through.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I agree with you completely.

Senator Brandis: Good. Then we are ad idem.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But the point I am making is: I am not asking for the guidelines—I have already accepted that the guidelines are in development—but I am asking some questions about how it is proposed that this program work with an existing program. I would have thought that some information might be available to the committee about what thinking has occurred in advance of the guidelines being finalised.

Senator Brandis: There has been a lot of thinking about this. That is the point that I am making to you. Can I make this other point, since we are talking about the relationship between DFAT's cultural diplomacy and this stream of the National Program for Excellence in the Arts: there is a double benefit in supporting international touring by Australian arts companies. From DFAT's point of view, it has a public diplomacy and a cultural diplomacy dimension, so it shows Australia's face to the world in a very attractive way. As recently as yesterday, Ms Bishop and I launched the Australian Ballet's eighth tour of China, where they will be going to Beijing and Shanghai and performing Swan Lake and Cinderella and a program of other works—and that is the famous Graham Murphy Swan Lake with which they are so identified. In terms of showing Australia to the world as a culturally accomplished, culturally sophisticated nation, that has a benefit from a public diplomacy point of view, but as well—looking at this from the perspective of the arts minister—it is also very good for the companies. It is good for their morale. It is good for the dancers or the singers or the players—whatever the nature of their art form may be—to be able to develop their arts practice by international touring. Let me give you another example. In August the Queensland Ballet is taking La Sylphide to London—the very successful production which has already been performed in Brisbane. That will have a cultural diplomacy aspect, but it is not being funded through the DFAT cultural diplomacy budget; it is being contributed to from the ministry of the arts budget.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Under current arrangements?

Senator Brandis: Under a current arrangement—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you do not need the new funding.

Senator Brandis: We want to spend more on developing our arts companies, which is why we have created this new fund. My point is that, from the point of view of the Queensland Ballet, we are funding their tour of La Sylphide to London in August to assist the professional development of that company and its artists. I might say, since I am mentioning the Queensland Ballet, that one of the most enthusiastic receptions to our National Program for Excellence in the Arts was from the Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet, Li Cunxin, who said, 'What a brilliant initiative. My sincere congratulations and well done.' That was one of an avalanche of congratulatory messages or public statements that I received because the arts sector—apart from a few people who are 'in the club', as it were—overwhelmingly welcomes the fact that there is a new funding stream available to them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I do not think that I would just accept that assertion.

Senator Brandis: Overwhelmingly.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think there has been overwhelming concern for these arrangements.

Senator Brandis: Not unanimously. Even arts journalists who are not necessarily fans of mine, like Peter Craven, in, I thought, a very interesting article in the Melbourne Age last Thursday, and Hamish McDonald, I think his name is, the journalist in The Saturday Paper, who wrote a very interesting piece in The Saturday Paper last Saturday—these are not fans of the Liberal Party and they are not particularly fans of mine—had a lot of good things to say about our new policy. Mr Craven's article was under the headline, 'Brandis could put an end to arts mediocrity'. He made the point—I do not necessarily adopt it—that there is too much mediocrity that occurs under the cover of the peer-to-peer system within the Australia Council.

Senator MILNE: Maybe I could continue that line of questioning with regard to the Australia International Cultural Council, which you were just talking about. Correct me if I am wrong, but does this now mean that the advisory body in relation to international cultural visits and so on will be administered from the arts ministry and not Foreign Affairs, although Foreign Affairs will obviously be consulted in that process?

Ms Basser : The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to manage the AICC funding that it currently manages.

Senator MILNE: So the idea that that would be replaced with a streamlined advisory body within the Ministry for the Arts to advise the government on international cultural diplomacy is wrong?

Ms Basser : No. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to manage its grant programs. We are obviously integrating the new body into our thinking around that element of the international and cultural diplomacy stream of the new program. So that is part of the overall considerations of developing the new guidelines of the new program.

Senator MILNE: So they will continue to manage their bit, but their decision making will fit into the overall scheme of how you look at the overall allocation of funding. What I am trying to understand is who will make the decisions now if you are going to integrate DFAT's program into your work—or are these going to be parallel processes?

Ms Basser : Those are the exact questions we are working through with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at the moment, and we have not yet landed on the answers to those questions.

Senator MILNE: That is what I was just trying to establish.

Ms Basser : But I can assure you we are actively considering all of those things.

Senator MILNE: Okay. Given the shift that has been going on in thinking, can you tell me how the touring funding that was announced on 2 April this year—that went to the Australian World Orchestra, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus and the Queensland Show Choir—was determined? Was there a public call for applications? How was that administered and assessed? What was the process for getting to these three successful grant applications?

Ms Basser : I think I explained in a previous estimates that sometimes with our funded programs there are grant recipients who advise us that they are unable to utilise all the funds that they have been allocated from our programs, and funding becomes available. We have existing applications that have come to us, and we consider those applications. There is no regular amount by which this happens, and sometimes it does not happen at all. On that occasion, we had received applications and proposals from a range of organisations and provided assessments, including due diligence assessments, on a range of proposals that we had received. Those were the successful applicants in that.

Senator MILNE: So basically what you are saying is that, if people cannot spend the funding they have been given, they notify the department, and so a bucket of money becomes available to be reallocated. That still does not answer my question as to what is the process. Did you just go with existing, previous grant applications and sort through those? You did not call for any additional ones? Did you notify all of the people who had put in applications previously? Who made that decision? That is what I am trying to get to: who makes the decision?

Ms Basser : The process for these—and again they are ad hoc, because we are not able to predict that money will be available or not—

Senator MILNE: Sure. I get that.

Ms Basser : So we do not call out a grant round. Usually these happen fairly late in a financial year, when an organisation has established that it will not be able to utilise all the funds. When we receive different proposals from arts organisations, we assess them, we do due diligence on them, and we then provide advice and recommendations.

Senator MILNE: That is what I am trying to get to. Were these three the next three in line from the previous time, and when the money became available you just went through the line that you had already done? Who actually made the decision to allocate the money to these three? Did that come from you, from the Minister, from where? Who made the final decision to give the money to these three?

Ms Basser : The assessments of the proposals that we had on hand and were in knowledge about were undertaken by officials within the ministry against criteria and in line with the Commonwealth grant guidelines, and recommendations were made to the minister.

Senator MILNE: And then the minister signed off on those. And were the three who got the grant money the ones that were recommended by you?

Ms Basser : Yes.

Senator MILNE: The minister has been talking about a 12 per cent reduction in funding therefore leaving 88 per cent of the funding with the Australia Council.

Senator Brandis: I think it is about 12.3 per cent if we are being strict, so it is about 87.7 per cent.

Senator MILNE: All right, give or take 0.3 per cent. How much of the Australia Council funding is discretionary funding as opposed to what was already out there and spoken for, if you like, or allocated? It has been put to me that it is actually a 28 per cent cut if you take into account what was discretionary funding as opposed to already allocated.

Senator Brandis: You identify a very vexed issue here because what, from the perspective of the ministry for the arts, might be regarded as discretionary funding is not treated the same way always by the Minister for Finance and the ministry of finance. I suppose we will answer this question from the perspective of the ministry for the arts, naturally. You should be aware that the departments have different views about this, and this has been a difference of view from within government for many years because the ministry of finance has a particular view of long term funding arrangements, particularly with the major performing arts companies, which is not shared by the ministry of the arts. So, from the point of view of the ministry of finance, there is a lot greater share of the ministry of the arts' budget that is treated as discretionary than we would treat as discretionary. I think that is right, Ms Basser?

Ms Basser : Yes, under the cultural development program, but I think, Senator Milne, you are talking about the Australia Council's budget.

Senator MILNE: That is what I am trying to understand—the cut to their funding is being put forward as 12.3 per cent; what is being put to me is that when you look at what their discretionary funding is it is a substantially higher cut.

Senator Brandis: It all depends on what you mean by discretionary, and that is why there is this dispute. I said the ministry of the arts but the same applies to the Australia Council too. I know you do take an interest in this area of policy. Ultimately all the Australia Council funding is discretionary in one sense but in a practical sense because the Australia Council funds the major performing arts companies, which are permanent and important fixtures on the Australian arts scene and it funds of them over in some cases six-year funding rounds—

Ms Basser : Four years.

Senator Brandis: Four-year funding rounds, and I think in some cases there may be six-year funding rounds. In a practical sense there is not a lot of discretion because it is not as if the Australia Council practically could say 'Well this year we are not going to fund a particular major performing arts company'—that would be inconceivable, really. What is discretionary in an accounting sense the way the ministry of finance looks at this and what is discretionary in a practical sense the way the ministry of the arts and the Australia Council might look at it are two different things.

Ms Basser : I think the important thing, Senator, also about the major performing arts is that that is actually an agreed framework between the states and the Commonwealth. That is a framework where there is a formula for state contribution and Commonwealth contribution. It provides stability for those companies so that they can plan and work into the future. Clearly, those companies are employing a high number of artists and a whole range of other people in the arts sector, and are providing a very wide range of programs both from main stage but through to regional touring school education programs. My view is that I do not necessarily think that in terms of notioning that the discretionary—the dividing is not necessarily about the arts outcome.

Senator MILNE: I agree with you. That funding you are talking about for the major performing arts companies is not discretionary in that it is part of the framework. I do not regard it as discretionary. It is part of the framework, it has been promised over the six-year period. Now, given the cuts, if you took that out, isn't this effectively a 28 per cent cut to what the Australia Council have left to be able to allocate once they have maintained the contractual arrangements they have for the six-year terms for the major performing arts companies?

Ms Basser : I suppose, Senator, my view is those major performing arts companies are achieving incredible arts outcomes.

Senator MILNE: I agree.

Ms Basser : To pull them out of the whole Australia Council budget, I think, we will be looking at a different outcome.

Senator MILNE: I am looking at what is left over. Once you take that money out, what have you got left over? That is what I am talking about. So this cut is actually a lot more substantial than it first appears.

Senator Brandis: Senator Milne, it is true to say that the major performing arts companies' funding has been protected. And it should be.

Senator MILNE: Which is good. I have no objection to that.

Senator Brandis: I am glad you do have no objection. It should be because—

Senator MILNE: I agree, but it is what is left that is the issue.

Senator Brandis: I understand, but I think we should emphasise this point. All the talk has been about the small to mediums and I understand that. But let us not forget that the major performing arts companies are the heart and soul of the performing arts sector in this country. They are the big employers of artists and arts workers. They are the people who undertake most of the touring, including the regional touring, as well as the international touring. They are the people who provide the performances that the great audiences of Australia enjoy. As I have always said, one of my misgivings about the exclusive peer-to-peer funding model is: who represents the audience around the table? The minister, being the responsible officer in charge of taxpayers' money, has to be the voice for audiences. What are the shows, what are the performances, what are the concerts that the audiences go to? Primarily, they go to the performances of the major performing arts companies, whether it be drama, music, opera, ballet, dance or whatever art form it may be. It is very important to remember that their interests, and therefore the interests of the great audiences and the arts public of Australia, have been protected. I am glad you support that.

Now, it follows, as you rightly say, that we need to look at what is left. The point I would also make to you is that those who miss out in a funding round from the Australia Council can, subject to being able to bring themselves within the guidelines, always seek funding through the ministry.

Senator MILNE: The problem we have at the moment, of course, is we do not yet know what the criteria are going to be or how that is going to operate, because that is still open for debate at this point. You have said you support e Australia Council and you have suggested to them that they do more rural and regional touring—and, of course, Playing Australia is still being funded by the Australia Council but with less and less money to do it. That is where I am coming from on that.

Senator Brandis: I understand that—

Senator MILNE: But my concern is that while we protect the big companies—and I support that—I am concerned that we are squeezing the rest. That is where your new and emerging art forms are coming from, and there will be less money to support them in rural Australia. But I will come back to you about the Book Council later.

CHAIR: Senator Reynolds would like to ask questions but she is in the invidious position, for most parliamentarians, of not being able to talk. She has lost her voice. But I appreciate Senator Reynolds being here and taking part in the proceedings, but without speaking. Thank you for being here. Senator Bilyk has the call.

Senator BILYK: I want to talk about a different topic. I have some questions about some appointments to governing bodies of arts and cultural institutions as announced by the Attorney-General on Thursday, 11 December. Are you right?

Senator Brandis: No. I did not hear the first part of your question, because I was talking to my adviser. Can you please repeat it.

Senator BILYK: I would love to say what you say to people when they do not hear something you have said, but in the interests of—

Senator Brandis: I am sorry. I apologised. I was not listening to your question as I was talking to my adviser—

Senator BILYK: Okay. Well I want to ask some questions about a number of appointments—

Senator Brandis: I am abject with sorrow that I did not hear the start of your question.

Senator BILYK: Well, you cannot listen and interrupt at the same time.

Senator Brandis: Let's have the question.

Senator BILYK: I wanted to ask about a number of appointments to the governing bodies of arts and cultural institutions announced by you on Thursday, 11 December. These were the appointments to the Council of the Australian National Maritime Museum. I understand that former Liberal senator Ian Campbell and former New South Wales Liberal MP Peter Collins were appointed to those positions. Is that correct?

Senator Brandis: Yes, they were among the people appointed.

Senator BILYK: And the appointment to the council of the National Museum of Australia was the conservative opinionist Janet Albrechtsen. Is that correct?

Senator Brandis: I am not aware that there is a word 'opinionist' in the English language. But if by that you mean the opinion writer or op-ed writer, Dr Albrechtsen was certainly appointed, yes.

Senator BILYK: I think former Liberal-National MP Mr Paul Neville was appointed to the board of the National Film and Sound Archive. Is that correct?

Senator Brandis: He certainly was. Correct.

Senator BILYK: Were these positions publicly advertised?

Senator Brandis: It is not the practice to advertise public position at that level for those institutions.

Senator BILYK: So that is a no?

Senator Brandis: It is a no because that is not the practice.

Senator BILYK: I am just making sure that that is a no.

CHAIR: Is that the practice of your government or all governments?

Senator Brandis: Previous governments, as I understand it.

Senator BILYK: I am asking the questions. It is my turn to ask the questions, Senator Macdonald, as you so kindly interpret every time it is your turn.

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator Bilyk, I have not even started your time.

Senator BILYK: Haven't you? Good, thank you.

Senator Brandis: I will take that on notice, if I may, but I am reasonably confident in saying that ordinarily it has not been the practice for these particular institutions you have identified for those appointments to be advertised.

Senator BILYK: If they were not advertised then obviously there were not any applications for those positions?

Senator Brandis: Certainly not in response to non-existent advertisements.

Senator BILYK: So there are no merits based selection criteria?

Senator Brandis: Absolutely there are.

Senator BILYK: Can you talk me through those?

Senator Brandis: Regarding the merits based selection criteria—Ms Basser would be familiar with them, being an experienced bureaucrat—these appointments were all made on merit. They were made because the people who were chosen had particular skills and expertise in that field. Since you have mentioned these four people by name, let me explain to you what their expertise was. In relation to the Australian National Maritime Museum, Mr Collins has been—

Senator BILYK: Is this just a filibuster to take my time up?

Senator Brandis: No, it is not a filibuster. But you suggest by your question that these were not appropriate appointments because some of these people had been politicians on one side of politics, and another, Dr Albrechtsen, is a writer known for her conservative views. So in fairness to each of those individuals I propose to explain to you why they were chosen because they were suitable. Let me go through them one at a time. Mr Collins, who has for most of his adult life been a senior officer of the Naval reserve and has a particular specialist interest in naval history as well as having served in high public office in the New South Wales parliament, was an obvious choice for the National Maritime Museum. Former Senator Ian Campbell, apart from having served in high public office, including as a member of cabinet, is a person who has throughout his life—and I know Mr Campbell—had a deep and sophisticated interest in maritime affairs. And for that particular position, I was looking for somebody from Western Australia because I thought that Western Australia had not been sufficiently represented on the Australian National Maritime Museum board. So I actually was looking for a Western Australian and I thought Mr Campbell was an extremely suitable Western Australia.

I am told that their membership of the board has been a great asset for the board. They are not the only people I have appointed to the board. For example, I appointed the Hon. Margaret White, a former member of the Queensland Court of Appeal, a person of no political associations at all, to that board.

You mentioned Dr Albrechtsen, and who was the fourth one you mentioned?

Senator BILYK: Mr Neville.

Senator Brandis: Mr Paul Neville is the former member for Hinkler. Mr Neville, before he was a member of parliament, was professionally involved in the film and television industry, and as an arts administrator. When he was in parliament, he was the chairman of the then government's relevant policy committee in the area. But Mr Neville's particular area of expertise is in the film and television industry. If you knew the National Film and Sound Archive, Senator Bilyk, you would understand that that is the particular specialisation they are looking for.

In relation to Dr Albrechtsen, who I pointed to the National Museum of Australia, Dr Albrechtsen has written extensively and articulately about Australian history and about the interpretation of Australian history. She has a particular point of view, a conservative point of view, what you might call a Quadrant reader's point of view, which in my view has not been sufficiently represented historically on that council. I particularly wanted the point of view of Dr Albrechtsen, a very articulate and respected exponent, to have a voice at the table.

In respect of every one of the four people you have nominated, Senator Bilyk, all of them have been great assets to those boards. Lest you accuse me of favouring people from one side of politics as opposed to the other, can I point out to you that I have appointed people from the Labor Party to boards within the arts. For example, the Hon. Sim Crean I appointed to the board of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House quite recently. And there are people with Labor Party historical associations whom I have in mind to appoint to other offices within my portfolio as well, including one very high profile person of Labor Party associations whose appointment to a very high office within my portfolio will be announced very soon.

Lastly, I do not think people should be ashamed of serving the public in political office. I think when a person has retired from politics, the fact that they have given a period of their life to service of the public in political office, whatever side of politics they may come from is an adornment to their CV and a credential to be proud of.

Senator BILYK: Thanks for that. I did not actually ask for the CVs of everyone.

Senator Brandis: I think, in fairness to the people, the grounds for their appointment—

Senator BILYK: I did ask if there was a merits based selection process.

Senator Brandis: And I have explained to you why each of those people is meritorious.

Senator BILYK: So can you tell us what the criteria are.

Senator Brandis: I think I have just explained.

Senator BILYK: No, you have told me what the CVs of those four people are. I want to know what the criteria are for the merits based selection process.

Senator Brandis: The criteria were the particular suitability of the person concerned to the particular institution concerned. I am sure you would not want me to be tedious and explain to you again why each of the four people was very suitable for the particular institution.

Senator BILYK: No, I do not.

Senator Brandis: I have already explained that.

Senator BILYK: So there are not criteria listed anywhere that I could go to.

Senator Brandis: I have just explained to you the suitability of the person—on the basis of their CV and their interests and their experience—for the particular institution concerned.

Senator BILYK: So no criteria.

Senator Brandis: Would you like me to explain to you why Mr Simon Crean is a very suitable appointment to the Museum of Australian Democracy?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, please. He already has.

CHAIR: In fact, I might question those.

Senator BILYK: I would like to know if any of these appointments were considered by cabinet.

Senator Brandis: Yes, all.

Senator BILYK: Who identified the appointees as potential candidates for appointment?

Senator Brandis: They were identified by a process of discussion between me and my advisers and me and the relevant officials. The way this process works—if you want to know—is that, having identified—

Senator BILYK: Is the department involved?

Senator Brandis: I discussed these appointments with the department, yes. What happens is that, having settled upon an appropriate candidate, I write to the Prime Minister. This is a standard procedure in our government. I write to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's office considers my recommendation, and it then goes to cabinet, and the cabinet either endorses it or does not. I think it is fair to say that all of my recommendations so far have been endorsed by cabinet.

Senator BILYK: So the Prime Minister was briefed on these appointments?

Senator Brandis: I just told you I wrote to the Prime Minister.

Senator BILYK: You might have to take this on notice, but I would like to know the dates that he was briefed on these appointments.

Senator Brandis: You say 'briefed'. I wrote—the standard procedure—

Senator BILYK: Okay, can you find out the dates of those letters that you wrote.

Senator Brandis: You want me to tell you the dates on which, in respect of each of the four people you have named, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister recommending that person?

Senator BILYK: Yes, please.

Senator Brandis: Okay, I can do that.

Senator BILYK: Because the positions were not advertised, there was no short-listing process or anything. It was just a captain's pick, was it?

Senator Brandis: No, it was not a captain's pick. I am not a captain; I am a minister. Ministers bring these recommendations to cabinet. It is the way government works.

Senator BILYK: Sorry, Senator Brandis, but didn't you just say that you make the recommendations and the Prime Minister determines?

Senator Brandis: No, I did not actually say that.

Senator BILYK: Can you clarify for me what you did say.

Senator Brandis: It was clear, but if it needs to be clarified for you, Senator, I am happy to do my best.

Senator BILYK: You do not need to be so condescending every time, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: The way the process works—

Senator BILYK: You are a very condescending man.

CHAIR: Order! Let the minister answer.

Senator BILYK: I have asked a question. I have asked him to clarify something. All he can do is be condescending and rude. Trying to intimidate does not work, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: I am being as friendly as can be.

Senator BILYK: My recently deceased dad always said—

CHAIR: Senator Bilyk, I have been keeping an eye on you—

Senator Brandis: I have been personally attacked—

Senator BILYK: that money does not buy good manners.

CHAIR: Senator Bilyk, please. One of my roles as chairman is to protect—

Senator BILYK: The minister.

CHAIR: both the people giving evidence and senators as part of my committee.

Senator BILYK: It would be nice if sometimes you did.

CHAIR: There is nothing untoward that I can see in what has happened.

Senator BILYK: Attitude.

CHAIR: Gee whiz! No, I am not the arbiter of attitudes. I am sorry. But, Senator, you ask questions.

Senator BILYK: I did.

CHAIR: And then you interrupt the minister when he starts to answer them. We will all get along much better and get through these proceedings much more quickly—

Senator BILYK: That would work two ways too.

CHAIR: if you ask the question and allow the minister to answer it.

Senator BILYK: I did ask a question, and the response was condescending and rude.

CHAIR: Not in my view.

Senator BILYK: I asked for a piece of clarification.

CHAIR: Senator, you have asked the question. We will give the minister the opportunity of answering without interruption.

Senator Brandis: Thank you so much, Mr Chairman. I am often savagely attacked by Senator Bilyk and I bear it in good heart.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Oh, come on, Senator Brandis!

Senator BILYK: Oh!

Senator Brandis: What I tried to explain before—

Senator BILYK: It is a tough life!

Senator Brandis: Let me have another go.

Senator BILYK: Please do.

Senator Brandis: Ministers arrive at conclusions about suitable candidates for these institutions by a process that usually—and in these cases it did—involves discussion with their advisers and with relevant people from the ministry. My interlocutor is usually Ms Basser here, and there are other relevant people as well. Their availability to serve in the event that cabinet chooses to appoint them is ascertained, usually by a phone call.

Then, as a matter of standard procedure—this applies to almost all appointments across the government—the relevant minister writes a letter to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's office considers the minister's recommendation and almost invariably the nominee then goes forward and is listed on the cabinet agenda. We consider appointments routinely at cabinet meetings—a list is circulated and if the cabinet agrees with the recommendations then the matter, where it has to go to ExCo it goes to ExCo, and where it does not have to go to ExCo the minister writes to inform the successful candidate of their appointment.

The Prime Minister does not intervene in this process; they are not as you say, Senator Bilyk, 'captain's picks' of the Prime Minister. The appointments go forward to the cabinet in the name of the minister, not in the name of the Prime Minister—unless it is an appointment, obviously, within PM&C or an agency within PM&C—so it is not right to say that the Prime Minister chooses these people. It is right to say that the Prime Minister is advised of the minister's recommendation before it goes to cabinet.

Senator BILYK: Advised, and usually agrees, but can on occasion not agree; is that correct?

Senator Brandis: Well, the Prime Minister may not agree.

Senator BILYK: In which case it would not happen; is that correct?

Senator Brandis: I do not think that it is possible to generalise like that. No, I do not think that is an accurate statement.

Senator BILYK: Hypothetically, then, should a minister put someone to the Prime Minister in a letter about an appointment to a board and the Prime Minister does not agree with it, would that appointment then take place?

Senator Brandis: It would all depend on the facts of the particular case and these really are matters, strictly speaking, that should be asked in the PM&C estimates—but in relation to the ministry of the arts it is not a problem that I have ever encountered.

Senator BILYK: When did the announcements on these appointments take place?

Senator Brandis: I think that these were all appointments that had to go to the Governor-General in Council. The standard practice is that the appointments are announced on the day that they have been approved by the Governor-General in Council.

Senator BILYK: Have you got a date?

Senator Brandis: No, but I can find it for you, if you like.

Senator BILYK: Could you take that on notice, because if my memory serves me correctly they were announced in the Christmas period?

Senator Brandis: Well, your memory does not serve you correctly; but I suppose that all depends on how you define the 'Christmas period'. They were announced in December.

Senator BILYK: After parliament had risen?

Senator Brandis: I think that is right, but it is not what I would call the Christmas period. It is not as if they were announced on Christmas Eve or during the Christmas season, should we say.

Senator BILYK: Well, you have taken it on notice anyway so maybe you can follow that up for me.

Senator Brandis: There may be ecclesiastical disputes as to when Christmas actually begins—they may have been announced during Christmas tide!

CHAIR: Senator Bilyk, your time has expired. I have consulted with my colleagues and we are very satisfied with how the ministry of arts works and so we do not have any more questions. I would normally go to Senator Collins and then back to Senator Milne, on my interpretation, my general view, that the major parties should get twice as long as the cross-benchers. So I will go to Senator Collins, if she wants to refer back to you she can, and then we will go to Senator Milne. We will go to the Labor Party for 15 minutes and then to Senator Milne, and then keep going.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I will let Senator Bilyk conclude her line of questioning and then I have some more for the Australia Council.

CHAIR: All right.

Senator BILYK: I am happy for Senator Collins to take any time I have left. I refer to the decision to appoint those coalition MPs to those cultural institutions. In 2013, the Prime Minister promised that he did not have any plans to employ any former members of parliament within government bodies. This was reported in The Sunday Times on 10 November 2013 in an article entitled 'Sophie off the job list,' which was a reference to the future employment prospects of Sophie Mirabella, who lost her seat. Why did the Prime Minister then break his promise not to employ former coalition MPs in government jobs?

Senator Brandis: Senator Bilyk, you really should not let them force you to read out these questions.

Senator BILYK: They do not force me, sir.

Senator Brandis: Yes, they do; you are in the Labor Party.

Senator BILYK: No, they do not.

Senator Brandis: First of all, I have appointed no coalition MPs to jobs, but some of the people I have appointed have been former members of parliament, both Liberal and Labor, and National. Secondly, I am not familiar with what the Prime Minister said; I have not seen those remarks.

Senator BILYK: I can circulate it for you.

CHAIR: Senator, please allow the minister—

Senator BILYK: I am just saying I can table it.

Senator Brandis: I doubt the Prime Minister did say that, because this government has appointed a number of former members of parliament to government positions, or renewed the positions of former members of parliament. For example, we appointed—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Not as many as the Rudd government.

Senator Brandis: We appointed Mr Mike Rann, the former Labor Premier of South Australia, as the Ambassador to Italy. We have not once but twice renewed Mr Kim Beazley, a former Labor Leader of the Opposition, as the Ambassador to the United States. I have seen both Mr Rann and Mr Beazley visiting, respectively, Rome and Washington, and I think they are both fine appointees who do a wonderful job. So I am glad we appointed Mr Rann to Rome and reappointed Mr Beazley to Washington. It is very common practice, just as the former Labor Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, appointed Dr Brendan Nelson as the Australian Ambassador to NATO.

Senator BILYK: He did.

Senator Brandis: So it is a very common thing for experienced former members of parliament to be appointed to government positions after they have retired from politics. Often they are very suitable people for those positions, as Mr Rann and Mr Beazley and Dr Nelson, for example, are.

Senator BILYK: So why would the Prime Minister, then, have said—and you have the article in front of you now, I think it is on the second page, in the second column, about halfway down--talking about Ms Mirabella, 'We don't have any plans to employ any former members of parliament?'

Senator Brandis: If you read the rest of the paragraph—

Senator BILYK: I have read the rest of the paragraph.

Senator Brandis: Senator Bilyk—which you omitted to read onto the record—to give us the context—

Senator BILYK: You have just mentioned those things.

Senator Brandis: I can see why you want to stop me saying this, Senator Bilyk, because it might rather give the impression that you have misled the committee, but I am going to do it anyway. Let me read the full quote from the Prime Minister: 'We do not have any plans to employ any former members of parliament. I think the only former members of parliament at the moment that have got jobs are Labor's Kim Beazley, who is the Ambassador in Washington. And I think we gave a former Labor Chief Minister of the ACT—who is the Administrator of Christmas Island. I think we've got a former Labor Premier of South Australia who I think is the High Commissioner in London. They are the only ex-politicians with government jobs that I can think of at this time.' It is plain when you read the full context, Senator Bilyk, that what the Prime Minister is referring to by instancing those particular cases is full-time employees, not members of boards.

Senator BILYK: In regard to Ms Mirabella, it was in regard to a board position, wasn't it?

Senator Brandis: Ms Mirabella was appointed, as I recall, to the Australian Submarine Corporation relatively early in the life of the government. That is the only position that Ms Mirabella has received.

CHAIR: This is really outside your portfolio, Minister.

Senator BILYK: I am happy to get back on track.

Senator Brandis: Perhaps you could ask me about that in the Defence estimates next week.

Senator BILYK: I am happy to get back on track. I also want to ask about—and I have already asked about some of it—the appointment of Ms Albrechtsen—

Senator Brandis: Dr Albrechtsen.

Senator BILYK: doctor, my apologies—to the council of the National Museum of Australia. When Mr Barrie Cassidy was going to be appointed the Attorney made some remarks that were widely reported at the time—and I think I have put them in front of you as well, Attorney—that it would be inappropriate for Mr Cassidy to continue to serve on the advisory board of Old Parliament House because of the Attorney's 'strong view that it is not appropriate to have anybody involved in the political process, whether they be politicians or journalists, sitting on boards' of cultural institutions. Is that still your belief?

Senator Brandis: I am sorry, where is that? What piece of paper is that?

Senator BILYK: Sorry, my mistake.

Senator Brandis: I actually did not say that.

Senator BILYK: What did you say?

Senator Brandis: Before we go on I would like to see the document that you read from.

Senator BILYK: I will get that sent down from my office.

Senator Brandis: So you do not have it?

Senator BILYK: Not in front of me, no. I will get it sent down from my office because I have obviously just left it up there.

Senator Brandis: I never said that and that is not my view. What I said at the time—and I remember reasonably clearly—there was an issue about whether or not Mr Cassidy had been appointed before or after the caretaker period began before the 2013 election. I cannot remember the very detail of it and I hope Mr Cassidy will forgive me if I make any error here, but there was an issue about the caretaker period. The position that he was being suggested for was Chair of the Museum of Democracy at Old Parliament House. I had the view—and have the view—that it was inappropriate for a person actively currently engaged in the political process, like a working political journalist, to occupy one of those positions. I have no disrespect for Mr Cassidy, for whom I have a very great deal of respect and whom I like, but I did not say that it was inappropriate to appoint somebody in politics, whether as a practitioner or as a journalist, to the board of a cultural institution. I said that I had a particular view about the board of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. The reason that I had that view, by the way, is because of the uniqueness of that institution. You see, Senator Bilyk, we appoint retired federal politicians to that board quite commonly and I have always taken the view—and I understand that the former Labor government also took the view—that because that institution is the custodian of Old Parliament House, which is one of the shrines of our democracy, it was always appropriate that people from both sides of politics sit on its council—and that is why, incidentally, I approached Mr Simon Crean to sit on its council. Conversely, I am also of the view that they should be people who have, as it were, retired from the political fray. That is why I thought that Mr Cassidy, as a contemporary and active political commentator—and I would apply the same principle to any contemporary active political commentator, journalist or practitioner—was not a suitable appointee. If Mr Cassidy had been retired, or when Mr Cassidy retires—and hopefully he enjoys a long retirement one day—he would be an eminently suitable person for that institution. The same principle does not apply to the boards of other cultural institutions because they are not, like Old Parliament House, what you would call shrines of our democracy.

Senator BILYK: So some people have to be retired and some do not—especially if they are journalists?

Senator Brandis: I think so; certainly for that institution, because it is a very political board. I actually look for people who had a connection with politics, who have a connection, ideally, with Old Parliament House. I think the quid pro quo is that they should be people who are no longer part of the political game.

Senator BILYK: I cannot quite marry that with the fact that it is all right for—and 'opinionist' is a word, by the way, Senator Brandis; I looked it up; it is in the Collins dictionary—

Senator Brandis: We won't go there, Senator.

Senator BILYK: You did make a comment that it was not a word.

CHAIR: Please—these are estimates.

Senator Brandis: Senator Bilyk, I will—

CHAIR: No, Minister, please.

Senator Brandis: Sorry, Mr Chairman.

CHAIR: We need questions on the budget spending—

Senator BILYK: I am just correcting the Hansard, which I think is quite important. I find it hard to marry the appointment of Dr Albrechtsen with you saying to Mr Cassidy that you did not think people should be in those positions unless they are retired.

Senator Brandis: I have been given a copy of the statement I put out on 25 October 2013 about Mr Cassidy. So, just to ensure that there is no confusion here—it is only brief—I will read it onto the record:

Mr Barrie Cassidy advised me today of his intention to resign forthwith as the Chair of the Advisory Board of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. The Government accepts Mr Cassidy's resignation.

Mr Cassidy is a very distinguished Australian journalist with a long and deep knowledge of Australia's democratic institutions. His decision to step down as Chair reflects his desire to ensure that the Museum of Australian Democracy was not ensnared in any controversy arising from the circumstances of his appointment by the former government, after the election had been called.

Those circumstances do not reflect on Mr Cassidy. He is, in a sense, a victim of the questionable processes of the former government.

As well, Mr Cassidy accepted the importance of the Museum of Australia Democracy maintaining its apolitical and nonpartisan character. The occupancy of the Chair by someone professionally engaged in current politics, whether as a practising politician or as a working political journalist, is not consistent with that character.

Mr Cassidy's decision to stand aside was an unselfish act, for which I thank him.

So that explains both the rationale and the circumstances. And I think I may have misspoken before if I said that the Prime Minister's office approves appointments going to cabinet. I do not think I did say that, but, if I did, what I meant to say was that the Prime Minister approves appointments going to cabinet.

Senator BILYK: Senator Collins, I might come back to this at a later stage.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: There are only about two minutes left, so I might indicate, Senator Brandis: I look forward to this future appointment you alluded to, because—

Senator Brandis: You will like it, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I might, but I am referring back to this Medici versus Philistines coined speech you gave in Western Sydney—

CHAIR: Do you have a question?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am getting to it—where you indicated that it was 'Mr Crean's face to sit in a cabinet dominated—

Senator Brandis: 'Fate'—'Mr Crean's fate'.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: 'Fate'—yes, sorry. That is what I thought I said.

Senator Brandis: You said 'face'.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry; I meant 'fate'—'to sit in a cabinet dominated,' I think you mean, 'by politicians for whom the best that could be hoped for for the sector was indifference. Better that than outright hostility which was, for so many of them, a default position—politicians for whom the arts sector had a whiff of dangerous elitism; yet another set of enemies in the class war.' Those were your comments. So if you have dug up a Labor politician that does not fit that characterisation, I look forward to seeing who they are! The only one you mention here is Mr Crean.

Senator Brandis: I have not 'dug' anyone 'up', Senator Collins. But I think, if I may say so, your recitation of my speech is very eloquent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It may be to you; I thought it was actually very telling.

CHAIR: This is all very good fun, but some of us have a life to lead and we need to get out of estimates as soon as we can.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The lunch break is at one o'clock.

CHAIR: We are looking at six o'clock to finish.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I am getting hungry, and we all know what happens when I get hungry! It is on the record!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The lunch break has been scheduled for one o'clock, and you are wasting time.

CHAIR: Others are wasting time. Can we get on with the work of the committee?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The work of the committee is looking at, amongst other things, the new arrangements for this new fund and the Australia Council.

CHAIR: But ask questions about it, please; do not engage in debate with the minister.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would like to go back to the discussion that occurred earlier with me and, to an extent, Senator Milne, about the arrangements between this new fund and the stream for international cultural diplomacy and the arrangements that have, to date, existed in DFAT. Ms Basser, did you indicate that the Australia International Cultural Council was involved in the assessment process?

Ms Basser : No, the Australia International Cultural Council was abolished at MYEFO, and a new panel will be established within the Ministry for the Arts. As I explained before, with this new fund, that is part of how we integrate that particularly into the cultural diplomacy element of the program—how that will fit in. We are obviously working very closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on that as well.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So that may be a joint panel?

Ms Basser : Again, they are the issues that we are working through at the moment. As I said before, we have not landed yet. The decision was that it will be a department within the ministry, so we would make recommendations on members of that panel in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We then provide advice to the minister.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is it envisaged that contestability will be an element of the arrangements between A-G's and DFAT with respect to these two different programs?

Ms Basser : By the nature of the fact that there will be two programs—if that is what you define as contestable—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I do not. I prefer programs that are both essentially under the auspices of the federal government to work in a compatible way, not a contestable way.

Ms Basser : And that is what we are seeking to do. Our program will be complementary to the program that currently exists within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yet it will be contestable with the Australia Council.

Ms Basser : Senator, as I have said to you, we are working very collaboratively with the Australia Council. As I have said previously, there have always been programs delivered both through the Ministry for the Arts and through the Australia Council—and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade—and we work to ensure that they are complementary and that we work together to deliver them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can you give me the break-up of the three streams—what proportion of funds it is envisaged will go to each stream?

Ms Basser : No, I cannot at this point.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can you give me an idea of what is envisaged for the international cultural diplomacy stream?

Ms Basser : Not at this point.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay.