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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 623

Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - The Opposition supports the Australia Council Amendment Bill, which contains three major changes. Firstly, the Bill changes the composition of the Australia Council; secondly, it gives the Government the option to appoint a full time chairman, and if it exercises this option the effect will be to change the status of the full time general manager; and thirdly, it removes the public lending right from the authority of the Australia Council. Let me declare an interest. I am the only member of either House who has served as a member of the Australia Council or its predecessor, the Australian Council for the Arts. I became a foundation member of the Australian Council for the Arts in 1968, under John Gorton. I was elevated to vice-chairman in 1969, and stayed there until 1973.

The Australian Council for the Arts originally had ten members, and it was set up by administrative fiat. There was no legislation until 1975. Originally members were appointed on a regional basis. In addition to the Chairman, there were two members from New South Wales and Victoria, and one each from Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. The "1975 Bill enlarged the size of the Australia Council to between 1 8 and 24 and this was reduced to between 15 and 19 in 1976. The present Bill will reduce this to between 10 and 14 members. It also ends the provision whereby the chairmen of the seven existing specialised boards are ex-officio members of the Council. Proposed new section 9 (2) (b) provides that not less than two board chairmen shall be appointed to the Council by the Governor-General.

The 1975 Act provided that a certain number of 'persons appointed to the Council were to be persons who practise the arts or are otherwise associated with the arts'. This rubric is qualified by the amendments proposed to the Act, in section 6 (f) which categorise three types of person, that is, persons who practise the arts, have practised the arts, or are otherwise associated with the arts. This amendment further provides that at least one of these persons must come from each of four categories- craft, literature, the performing arts, and the visual arts. In theory this sounds unexceptionable, even meritorious, but its meaning is not altogether clear. It sounds as though it is intended to mean professionals in the arts, but it does not actually say so. It could mean somebody who had learnt the violin in childhood and then given it up. Is an arts administrator or a critic someone who practises the arts?

The first two chairmen of the Arts Council of Great Britain were J. M. Keynes, later Lord Keynes, the economist - he was married to a ballerina and I suppose it could be said on that basis that he was associated with the arts - and Kenneth Clark, later Lord Clark of Civilisation, who was a critic, writer, administrator and connoisseur. I am not absolutely sure if they would have qualified under our Act. The three chairmen of the Australia Council so far have been Dr H. C. Coombs, an economist and banker, Professor Peter Karmel, an economist and educational bureaucrat, and Professor Geoffrey Blainey, an economic historian. There has been a greater weighting towards economics than towards the arts. If the rumourmongers are correct, as they generally are, the new full time chairman to be appointed in 1981, on the retirement of Professor Blainey, will be Dr Timothy Pascoe, the National Director of Arts Research, Training and Support Ltd and an influential former Liberal Party apparatchik.

I suspect that the real reason for wanting a large contingent of practitioners of the arts on the Council is to strengthen the role of the administration. The main requirement, in my opinion, for service on the Australia Council is to have a broad range of interests in the arts, capacity for personal judgment, and ability to determine relativities. A painter is not necessarily disqualified by virtue of his training from expressing an opinion about the proportion of money to be allocated to the Australian Ballet vis-a-vis the Australian Opera, but he is not necessarily qualified either. A singer's professional qualifications do not necessarily extend to the development of a philosophy of funding. In fact, specialisation and fragmentation of skills may weaken the effectiveness of the decision-making process. I agree that this effectiveness depends in large part on the precise mix of individuals chosen for membership. But judgment, which involves breadth and skill at measuring relativities, and intensity of involvement in a particular expertise, are not the same thing.

In my own five year term on the Australian Council for the Arts I came to admire the skill of the Council's administration, first for its dedication and energy, and second for the assured mastery that it had in guiding the Council, placing the ready-made decisions in its hands and allowing Council members to have the warm feeling that they were actually contributing to the decision-making process. In a council with a large contingent of generalists, the administration would make real decisions in 90 per cent of the cases. In a council heavily loaded with practitioners in the arts, the administration would make the decisions in 98 per cent of the cases. I realise that the situation I am describing would be very familiar to members of this House, lt has a striking resemblance to what happens here.

When I was on the Council it was standard practice, if the meeting was on a Monday, for example, for the papers to be delivered by taxi to my doorstep at 10.30 on Sunday night. The papers generally ran to 100 or ISO pages and sometimes to more than 200 pages. It was unrealistic to hope that all ten members of the Council, would have read the papers before they arrived at the meeting. It was with gratitude and relief that we accepted the tactful suggestion or guidance of the administration as to what we should do. Another major problem which arose in the Australian Council for the Arts and later in the Australia Council was the failure to evolve any coherent philosophy for funding the arts. When sporadic attempts were made to have time set aside for general discussion and for evolving broad principles, we were courteously but persistently reminded that we had 40 applications before us, that they all had to be dealt with that day and could not wait, and that sometime would be found, if not at the next meeting then at least at the one after that or, if not then, the one after that, when we would really sit down and seriously consider what kind of funding philosophy we were to adopt.

Australians have a great gift for mucking around rather than sitting down and trying to work out, comprehensively and coherently, where they are going and how they are planning to get there. This quality is exhibited clearly in the administration of policies concerned with government support for the arts. We tend to 'back' into policies in a spirit of enthusiastic ad hockery or we begin to dole out significant lumps of money from the public purse and then, lo and behold, after some years we look back and find that a whole series of precedents has been set. We find that the pattern of funding has been determined and tends to be unchanged simply because of those precedents.

After the Industries Assistance Commission had conducted its inquiry into the performing arts, although I did not agree with a great number of the recommendations it made I was disturbed by the incoherence of the reaction to its criticisms. Instead of having a coherent answer and being able to fall back and say: 'We disagree with what you are saying; here are the justifications for what we are doing', we heard cries of injured innocence from the subsidised companies and claims that the Commission did not understand what it was doing. There was never any attempt to try to explain the basis on which funding was to be allocated.

A whole number of very important questionsunfortunately I will not have time to develop them in full- need to be determined in Australia about funding for the arts, particularly now that the States and local governments are involved. First, is the relationship of the Commonwealth and the States in arts funding meant to be complementary or identical? Do the States have any responsibility to fund national companies or should we say: 'No, the national companies are to be the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The regional companies and artistic activity in country areas should be funded by the States'. That problem has never really been looked at but it deserves examination. Second, is the purpose of the government subsidy to raise standards or spread access? Is there to be a greater priority in the raising of standards, say to put on an absolutely first class Der Rosenkavalier or Wagner's Ring, if we ever get around to putting on the series? Or is there a greater need to spread access to the arts, particularly to areas that do not see them. There has been an enormous emphasis in the last few years on raising standards. I think that is very important. But it is also important to ensure that access to the arts is spread much more widely. There has been an enormous concentration on expenditure of funds for the arts in the four largest capital cities. But comparatively little money has been spent to support touring companies. The Australian Opera has been increasingly reluctant to leave Sydney. The Australian Ballet has been increasingly reluctant to leave Melbourne. This matter needs to be examined very carefully.

Third, should the Commonwealth undertake responsibility for supporting flesh and blood enterprises as against bricks and mortar? It might be a sensible dichotomy to ensure that the Commonwealth confined itself to providing running costs for companies and that the States were made responsible for providing the places where companies can perform. Fourth, another point that needs to be looked at very carefully--

Mr Ellicott - What was that point you were just making?

Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - I was saying that there should be a dichotomy between where State responsibilities begin and where Commonwealth responsibilities begin.

Mr Ellicott - That was your first point?

Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - No, actually it was the third point. Fourth, we have not tackled the question of how we are going to provide funds for metropolitan activities vis-a-vis non-metropolitan activities. Even within the cities themselves it is obvious that there are class and regional differences. In the city of Melbourne- this is certainly true in Sydney as well - there is an enormous access to and confidence in responding to the arts in middle class areas. In working class areas such as my electorate there is very little direct contact with the arts. People, perhaps because of cultural or social background or conditioning within their school experience, are resistant to involvement in the arts. That is very serious. Fifth, we also need to consider how much money is to be spent on promoting the training of future practitioners in the arts as against the people who are actually doing the performing now. Obviously, all arts disappear without adequate training but it is essential that we understand what are the responsibilities of the States vis-a-vis the Commonwealth in assisting training and making sure that that training is of the highest standard.

Sixth, there is no clear cut differentiation between the responsibility of supporting adult performances as against performances for children and young people. Children's theatre, for example, has been a very poor relation. There must be much more work on the arts in the schools. Children's theatre is expensive. It requires a large input of creativity. But there is a large captive audience and the secret, surely, of disseminating the arts equitably throughout the Commonwealth lies in developing children's tastes. Seventh, is consideration of the role of State education departments vis-a-vis the Commonwealth. There is a tremendous need for adequate cultural input in the media. State education departments have not made as significant a contribution as they might have in promoting the arts except for the visual arts. Eighth, is the relative role of the Commonwealth vis-a-vis the State governments in fostering talent, in finding it, training it and creating an appropriate milieu for it? We must not exaggerate the significance of the problem but we must not underrate it either.

Ninth, we need to consider the relativities involved in funding external and internal touring. Is it better for us, for example, to spend money to send the Australian Ballet to Moscow and/or to bring the Bolshoi Ballet here or is it better to spend this money to raise the standards of the ballet or the opera in our own country? I am not opposed to sending people overseas. It is very important. But we have no clearly set out artistic philosophy for funding. Tenth, how far should we emphasise the conservation of the past as against the encouragement of experimentation? This is not clearly understood in the community.

One of the valuable points that were made by the Industries Assistance Commission report on the performing arts was that we ought to be putting more emphasis on recording and making performances generally available. There can be a splendid performance of Verdi's Falstaff but seen only by a comparatively few thousand people with subscription tickets who go to theatres in Melbourne and Sydney. Then only a fraction of the population sees the work. If it were available in recorded form, on cassette, to be seen on television and in schools it could be seen by the community as a whole.

The new Bill provides that the Government can appoint a full time chairman. Whilst the option to have a full time chairman could be valuable, it needs to be exercised wilh some caution. If a full time chairman is appointed then the general manager goes off the Council. That appears to downgrade the prestige within the organisation of its existing administration. It will be difficult to appoint somebody in mid-career to a full time position for a few years without much security of tenure. Although the name of Dr Pascoe has been mentioned as a prospective full time chairman, I think there would be some anxiety about people taking on the job in mid-career. As it is, the previous chairmen have had other posts and have divided their time in very busy schedules to serve the community faithfully. The present chairman and his two predecessors have performed valuable work for the Commonwealth.

The arts must not be regarded as the icing on the cake; that access to and participation in the arts are and ought to be essential parts of human experience. We ought to recognise that access to and participation in crafts and active leisure- the arts generally- are essential parts of human development. While consumption is the standard measurement of outer life on which we put so much emphasis, creativity and expression remain the key to inner life. The increasing tendency towards division of labour and fragmentation of knowledge forces many people to seek fulfilment outside work, by active participation in sport, gardening, hobbies or the arts or, alternatively, to suppress self-expression through increased dependence on alcohol, drugs, spectator sports and television. As James Coleman argued, life used to be experience rich and stimulus poor; now it is experience poor and stimulus rich.

As I said before, culture is often perceived as an optional extra reserved for the highly educated - the icing on the cake. Four thousand years of human history before the Industrial Revolution demonstrate how creativity and work were integrated and that the urge to make appears to be universal. Some nations have had very long traditions of intensive personal participation in specific cultural forms; for example, caligraphy and writing poetry in Japan, music in Hungary and soccer in Latin America. In addition, creativity has often been associated with a happy and vigorous old age. People should be encouraged to recognise the personal value of time in their own lives and to work out individual priorities for time usage. People, in or out of the work force, should assert their own freedom of choice in evolving appropriate personal time use patterns to preserve their own sense of individuality against mounting external social pressures to conform and to see leisure as an opportunity to fulfil their own potential. Schools will need to teach the value of time use.

In a very important Canadian report, 'The Selective Conserver Society' that was published in Montreal in 1976, the psychologist William Lambert Gardiner argued that modern society conditions people to over-value extrinsic worth, measured by employment and the acquisition of material possessions, and to under-value intrinsic worth. He wrote:

We are confronted with our own emptiness. Extrinsic motivation has destroyed intrinsic motivation ... A disproportionate number of people die shortly after retirement. They are so conditioned to see themselves as an interchangeable part of a system that, when declared obsolete, they selfdestruct. You can't use your spare time to gain intrinsic worth but you can use your spare money to gain extrinsic worth. You are compensated for your lifetime with money and you use that money in a vain effort to buy it back.

There are two short matters that I want to raise before I conclude. Firstly, I would like to see the Australia Council more actively involved in publishing reports. The most important area it can look into is the provision of access to areas of the arts that currently are not available. It is a difficult problem to overcome, but in terms of social cohesion in Australia it should rank as a very important subject. I do not know whether the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) likes mystery stories, but there is one mystery he might look into on the subject of reports. I refer to 'The State of Music in Australia', a report which was worked on with great enthusiasm over a long time by Sir Bernard Heinze, John Hopkins, Roger Covell and myself. That report then mysteriously disappeared, falling down a memory hole whence it has yet to be extracted. It was a valuable report. Its lessons could be useful, particularly if the report were adopted and sold to the State education departments. As with so many other problems concerning the dissemination of culture, the State educational departments play an essential role.

I know that the Minister will say something at the Committee stage about the final point that I want to make. I refer to the removal of the Public Lending Rights Scheme. I am concerned about that at a couple of levels. In 1976 a new section 5a was put into the Australia Council Amendment Act. It provided for the payment of public lending rights to authors whose books are lent out by public libraries. Originally, the authors did not receive directly any royalties from library borrowers because they did not buy the book, but went to a public library and borrowed it. I discussed this matter with the Minister for Home Affairs last night, so I know approximately what he will say. Section 5A is being deleted by the Bill now before the House. Clause 4 simply states 'Section 5a of the Principal Act is repealed'. Normally, if something is abolished by legislation, one normally assumes that is the finish of it. In this case, it is not the end of it at all; it simply becomes an administrative procedure.

This is a deplorable precedent. I am sure it is not an orphan; there would be many similar cases around. It is deplorable that we go through the exercise of putting something into a piece of legislation, leaving it there for a while and then pulling it out, being told that it does not really make any difference if it was there or not and that it will all carry on administratively. This is a perfect illustration of the maxim plus ce change, le plus le meme chose; in other words, out it goes, but it is still there all the same. It would not matter whether we pulled it out of the Act or left it in; there would still be the same result. That is an unfortunate precedent. I would much prefer to have seen clause 4 amended by a reference which said it was disappearing but that it would appear in another form; that the public lending right is going to a happier life in the Department of Home Affairs and it will be administered not by the Australia Council but by the Ministry of Home Affairs. I hope that the Minister will give some assurance about that.

As I have said, the Opposition is critical of the Bill. We hope that, on the whole, the provision for a full time Chairman will not be used. However, it would be unfeeling of me to finish without saying a few rousing things in support of the Australia Council. The important thing about the Australia Council is that it does things, that it takes risks. Obviously, the arts involve lots of risks and lots of failures. I think the number of successes of the Australia Council is very high and, relatively speaking, the failures have been quite small. It deserves every cent that it gets. There have been increases in funding over the years. When the Council began in 1968 I think it had the modest budget for the year of Sim and now it is the best part of $30m. Nevertheless, it is only skimming the top of the need for cultural facilities in Australia. Much more needs to be done by the States as well, but funds need to be spread much more equitably. We must give very serious consideration to the whole philosophy of funding to make sure that that access to the arts is made meaningful. At the moment it is highly theoretical. Honourable members will remember the old adage about rich and poor being free to go into the Ritz Hotel in Paris. But merely to state the proposition is to recognise its absurdity. It is essential that electorates like mine, working class suburbs, country areas, and electorates with very large numbers of people of ethnic origin be given some real equity in the provision of access to the arts.

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