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Wednesday, 1 September 1993
Page: 820


Senator MICHAEL BAUME (7.00 p.m.) —Among the many acts that this bill corrects is the Australia Council Act 1975. The reason I stress `this bill corrects' is that we are once again today dealing with a bill that corrects mistakes in previous legislation. The Senate would be aware of the fact that the opposition has objected continually to the flood of bills that is forced through this place late in the session. It is inevitable that when one gets that flood of bills one gets a flood of errors. So here we are, dealing with part of that flood of errors to legislation. Not only is the Australia Council Act being corrected for a drafting error, but we have the Australian Heritage Commission Act correcting the citation of the Remuneration Tribunal Act, we have the National Gallery Act correcting a drafting error, and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act correcting a drafting error. That is apart from the other parts which I have not directed my attention to relating to the ACT.

  I particularly want to follow some of the comments made by Senator Patterson relating to the arts policy of the coalition and the arts standing of members of the coalition. Senator Patterson was quite correct to point out that this newfound interest in the arts by the government—which is almost as enthusiastic as the new found interest in the environment that Senator Richardson discovered for electoral purposes a few years ago—is extraordinarily phoney and bears a greater relationship to electoral need than to the real interest of the people concerned.

  I think it worth pointing out that despite comments in various newspapers where people have fallen for this garbage, I was on the Council of Musica Viva Australia before I entered this place. Musica Viva happens to be the second biggest concert giving organisation in Australia. I have some sort of passing interest in and knowledge of how the arts operate.

  Before coming into this place, when I was a journalist, I was a music reviewer for a Sydney metropolitan daily newspaper. I was the record reviewer for the Observer magazine. I, for my sins, wrote a very interesting book which sold out on the Sydney Opera House and I have been attending ABC Symphony concerts since I was a child. Of course, I had to do my AMEB exams as I think so many of us in this party, in particular, did. I do not know how many members of the government, in their new found enthusiasm

for the arts, know what `AMEB' means, let alone have done the courses.

  Apart from my protest about this kind of phoney interest in the arts which is getting such a ludicrous run in the media, I want to deal with matters, for example, affecting the Australia Council, the bill for which is being corrected for a drafting error in this legislation. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard—I gave this table to Senator Sherry when he was on duty—the budget allocations to art form boards for last year, and budgeted for this year, for the Australia Council.

  Leave granted.

  The table read as follows—

AUSTRALIA COUNCIL

BUDGET ALLOCATION TO ARTFORM BOARDS 1992-93 AND 1993-94

1992-93 1993-94 Change

$ % $ % $ %

Literature 4,380,430 8.9 4,453,706 8.8 +73,276 =+1.67

Performing

arts 24,013,204 48.5 24,407,446 48.4 +394,242 =+1.64

Vis Arts/

Craft 7,367,287 14.9 7,482,155 14.8 +114,868 =+1.56

ATSIA 3,812,354 7.7 3,872,043 7.7 +59,689 =+1.56

Comm Cult Dev 5,718,873 11.6 5,807,637 11.5 +88,764 =+1.55

Cncl Pgms/

Stg Dev 2,563,587 5.1 2,495,024 5.0 -68,563 2.67

Advocacy

Travel 191,350 2.9 193,766 0.4 +2,416 =+1.26

Creative

F'ships 1,428,615 2.9 1,717,223 3.4 +288,608 =+20.2

Total Boards 49,475,700 100 50,429,000 100 +953,300 =+1.93

Grants/Appropriation

for Australia

Council 51,547,000 50,814,000 -733,000 1.42

Total Australia

Council

Appropriation 57,014,000 58,031,000 =1,117,000 =1.96

Source: Australia Council submission to Senate Estimates Committee D


Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I thank the Senate. The reason I wanted to incorporate this table is that it demonstrates one of the greatest frauds this government has perpetrated on the arts. There has been monumental propaganda saying that there has been a massive increase in funding for the arts from which anyone who even looks as though they are related to the arts will benefit.

  The facts are that the highly publicised, well promoted special grants to the arts have to some extent been at the expense of existing clients of the government, existing arts organisations, whose allocations in real terms are being cut. Who is paying for the big increases? I will not deny that there are some overall increases. But the basic clients of the Australia Council are having their total allocations cut in real terms. Apart from a specific instance of a fall in one program, all of the boards of the Australia Council are having their money funding increased by only about half of the inflation factor this year—I think inflation will go up about 3 or 3 1/2 per cent.

  We see that funding for the Literature Board will go up by 1.67 per cent; in other words, after one accounts for inflation its funding is cut. Funding for the Performing Arts Board will go up by 1.64 per cent, but after accounting for inflation that board's money is being cut. Funding for the Visual Arts/Craft Board will be cut; it will get a 1.56 per cent money increase which is a cut in real terms. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Committee will get a 1.56 per cent increase; inflation will mean that is a real cut. The Community Cultural Development Board funding will go up by 1.55 per cent, which also represents a real cut.

  The funds for the council's own programs and strategic development will be cut in money terms, let alone real terms, by 2.67 per cent. Advocacy travel will go only by 1.26 per cent, another real cut. However, I should add for the purposes of rounding it out, that creative fellowships—in other words, the big ticket Keating ones—will go up by 20 per cent because they are called Keatings. Obviously they have to go up because that is the big-noting one, the one that the Prime Minister identifies with.

  Here we have the highly promoted increases in arts funding being, to an extent, at the expense of traditional art forms and traditional arts bodies that depend on the Australia Council for their funding. This is despite the fact that it has become evident that the demands on many Australian arts organisations, particularly those which have a national flavour and travel interstate, have increased. One reason for this is that many of them have had very difficult seasons in that economically disastrous centre, Victoria. That extends across quite a lot of arts bodies.

  There is no doubt that some of these bodies will have to approach the government for an increase in their funding, particularly after their basic funding has been cut in real terms. By the way, this includes the Australian Opera in that its basic funding has been cut in real terms because its money funding increase is less than the expected inflation rate. I understand from the debate in the Senate estimates committee that the government, when dealing with these increasing appropriations to keep pace with inflation, has been using an inflation rate of only about 2.3 per cent. These cuts have not met the government's own rate. Yet the government's budget says the inflation rate will be some three to 3 1/2 per cent this year. There is simply no way in which the government will meet this kind of target.

  I repeat that it is a disgrace that this government is hiding behind its special allocations, its vote buying schemes, at election time—I have to say that it is delivering those vote buying schemes—but at the expense of traditional arts organisations. This can be shown even more dramatically when one looks at funding for film. Unfortunately, the appropriation figures did not reveal in clear, unequivocal terms just what the cut was, but the budget figures indicate that funding to the Film Finance Corporation is falling by about $5 million this year—a cut.

  Today we heard Senator McMullan getting up and saying, `Isn't it wonderful how all these Australian films are doing so magnificently?'—by inference all because of this government. What is the government doing? It is cutting the allocation to the Australian Film Finance Corporation by just under $5 million. Next year it will cut it further by about $9 million; the year after, a further cut of—heaven's above—quite a bit. Over the three years we will end up with a cut of about $12 million. When one goes back a year it will involve a cut of some $17 million.

  Honourable senators will remember the enormous furore when the coalition in the run up to the election said that it would limit the cut in film funding in the next parliament. We said that we would only cut film funding by about $20 million, which is almost exactly the same ballpark as this government is now aiming at in these budget figures. There is a difference between us of only $3 million or $4 million. The reason that the government is cutting film funding is exactly the same reason that the coalition said it would cut film funding; that is, because the films are earning revenues. It is that revenue and the hope that there would be greater investment income that would enable the government to lower the grants.

  But the coalition policy had something extra going for it. It was providing increased incentives for investment in film. There is no incentive under this government to invest in films with the result that there has been a dramatic collapse in private sector investment in Australian films.

  This government was crowing before the election about its magnificent contribution and was damning the coalition for even suggesting that there might be a cut in film funding under a coalition government. What do we have? We have a $5 million cut this year. We have a $9 million cut next year and further cuts the year after. In 1996-97, the budgeted figure at the moment in the projections is that instead of a total assistance to the film industry of $81.4 million, it will go down to $19.9 million—a cut of over $60 million. This is what the government states in the budget papers:

  Following reviews of film funding in 1991-92, funding of the FFC falls to $57m in 1993-94 (from $61.9m in 1992-93), with funding continuing at declining levels through to 1995-96. Funding beyond then is subject to further review.

Yet here we have these actors conned by this government to appear in a vicious campaign against the coalition.


Senator McGauran —Bryan Brown.


Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I accept the interjection. These actors were conned by this government into supporting a policy which involves a reduction in film funding. Let us get that perfectly clear. This is another area where meeting the government's election promises has resulted in making a cut to some traditional areas of funding.

  I hope that earnings from some of these successful activities will offset the reduction in government funding. But the absence of any stimulus or incentive to investment will make it very difficult, whereas I believe that our policy and incentive system—with a reduction in government funding which, as I said, is in the same ballpark as the government's own reduction—would have made it a lot easier for the film industry to increase the revenue made available to it. We were much more interested in using taxation incentives than grants because that means it is market driven, not bureaucratically driven. But this government would much rather dictate, through the bureaucracy, the nature of this industry.

  I will also mention in passing that it is unfortunate when the minister for the arts puts out a press release which quite wrongly claims that the Australia Council's allocation this year is $58.73 million when it is $58.13. It is a difference of only $600,000, but it is a little boost, a fiscal stimulus on paper, which does not exist in reality. The same thing happened in relation to a grant of $24 million to the Sydney Cove authority to smarten up Sydney Cove. That grant appears in this year's estimates but it appeared in last year's as well. It made it look good last year—an extra $24 million going to the arts. It was not spent last year so it appears as an estimate again for this year. The government is getting twice the joy for the same amount of money—or for the appearance of big spending, the appearance of meeting obligations, when the reality is often so different.

  Since this budget, which reduces the total allocation in real terms to the Australia Council, I have not heard a peep out of all those people who attacked the coalition saying that we were trying to destroy the Australia Council. The Australia Council's total appropriation has gone up by 1.96 per cent—that is, about $1.12 million—of which $288,000 relates to the creative fellowships, the Keatings. So the rest of the boards have had lower increases.

  The total grant appropriation available for grants for the Australia Council has gone down by $733,000, but that is explicable; I understand what that situation is all about. Nevertheless, there is a clear reduction of $733,000 in the appropriation from this government available for grants by the Australia Council. I hope this table clearly indicates that.

  By the way, I had some difficulty establishing what the cuts were because they were not clearly shown in the appropriations. I am grateful to the Australia Council for providing this information. But what I am concerned about is that this government has required these individual boards to fund some specific interest groups out of existing reduced appropriations. For example, the literature board has introduced a new type of grant—the Asia-Pacific fellowship. I think it is great to have it. Last year $48,000 in fellowships were approved. The problem is: that is at the cost of other fellowships that the board can grant.

  The same applies in respect of the Visual Arts Crafts Board approving the allocation of 21 per cent of its budget towards the council's arts for a multicultural Australia program. I am all in favour of a multicultural Australia program, but the problem is: should we rob the non-multicultural program element in order to pay the multicultural program? That is what is happening in this situation. We are robbing Peter to pay for Paul's promises. That is simply unacceptable. It is unacceptable that there should be this phoney campaign on the arts before the election—a campaign which has now been shown to be partly a fraud.