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Monday, 27 September 1993
Page: 1139

Senator ZAKHAROV —The Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services is probably aware that 140,000 people attended the major league football grand finals at the weekend and that over the respective seasons of the games attendances reached something like four million overall. How does this compare with attendances at arts and cultural events? What does this indicate about the contribution of the arts to the Australian way of life?

Senator McMULLAN —Some senators opposite would have shared my sorrow on Saturday regarding the outcome of the game. We do not find common cause on very many things, but I share their sorrow.

Senator Short —With due respect.

Senator McMULLAN —That is right. Notwithstanding the fact that the wrong team won, it is true that a lot of people were there to watch the game. That also occurred somewhat earlier in the finals of the rugby league when the Raiders went out. Everybody recognises that those two events that took place last weekend, which were attended by so many people, the major finals which led up to them and the whole season of those two codes are very important parts of Australian society and are very important to hundreds of thousands—in fact, millions—of Australians.

   Notwithstanding the fact that, as Senator Zakharov said, during the year four million people attended these various codes of football—which is a proper reflection of the importance of the games in our society—historically there has been insufficient recognition of the much greater number of Australians who, during any 12-month period, attend things such as museums, art galleries or many other areas of cultural activity.

  The main reason why there has been a lack of appreciation of this has been the paucity of statistical information until recent times. My predecessors and the counterpart state ministers have taken substantial steps to remedy that through the Cultural Ministers Council and the statistical advisory group in cooperation with the Bureau of Statistics. Some important statistics have been emerging about the economic and social significance of the arts and the cultural industry.

  For example, a recent survey by the National Culture/Leisure Statistics Unit of the ABS showed that in 1991 some 8.5 million patrons attended performances by Australian music and performing arts organisations. The Australia Council did research that showed that Australia's museums and art galleries in 1992 received 16.9 million visits; that is, four times as many people went to art galleries and museums last year as went to the various major codes of football in Australia.

  This does not in any way denigrate the importance of football and sport in Australian society. The fact that Australia takes its sport so seriously was recognised appropriately by the international sporting movement last week. Everybody welcomes that. The last thing I would wish to do is in any way to downplay that. I simply want to put in context that important as that is more Australians get their relaxation, leisure and satisfaction in entertainment from arts and cultural activities than from those major sporting events. It is important that we put it in context.

Senator Campbell —Some do both.

Senator McMULLAN —The statistics would not add up if it was not the case that many people did both; Senator Campbell is absolutely right. It may be the same number of people; in which case they are doing it more often in the arts and cultural activities. As someone who loves both sport and the arts, I welcome the success and flourishing of both and wish to put in context, notwithstanding the importance of sport, the greater propensity of Australians to attend and participate in arts and cultural activities.