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Tuesday, 7 December 1993
Page: 4003

Senator DENMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services. I noticed in the weekend's papers an advertisement calling for applications for grants to the Visions of Australia program. Will the minister explain to the Senate why this program was established, how it will work and who will benefit?

Senator Boswell —More social engineering!

Senator McMULLAN —This is a program that is particularly directed to people in rural and regional areas and I am surprised that the National Party opposes it. In fact, I am not surprised because at the end of the day it never supports programs for people in remote areas; its members just come in here and talk about it.

  This is an extension of an important principle that has been underlying initiatives in Commonwealth arts and cultural policy for several years, with particular emphasis on issues of access and participation—not just access in terms of geography, of people disadvantaged by where they might live in Australia in the nature of Australia's demography, but that is an important element in it. This program will build on initiatives, particularly those over the past 12 months, that have been designed to provide opportunities for people all over the country, wherever they live, to participate in cultural activities and to overcome the disadvantage of people in rural and remote areas.

  This program follows on from the very successful Playing Australia program, which has enabled performing arts to appear in cities where that would not otherwise have been possible and to assist people living in rural and remote areas to get access to performances that would not otherwise have been available outside the major capital cities. That has been a very successful program and has been responded to very positively by people outside the major cities.

  We announced in the election, and are now implementing, a proposal so that Australians living outside the major cities will also be able to enjoy such benefits with regard to visual arts. This will occur through the federal government's first national exhibition touring program, which will be called Visions of Australia. That is the basis of the advertisement which Senator Denman saw in the newspapers on the weekend—the first round of advertisements, which I was pleased to announce on a visit to Hobart recently and which will have significant benefits for Tasmania.

  Visions of Australia will make it possible for more Australians to enjoy and take great pride in the high standard of visual arts and crafts and collections of heritage and scientific material that are spread all over this country. It will enable exhibitions to move from the major cities to the regional centres, into new cities, into regional areas where they might not otherwise have gone, providing opportunities for small communities to see major collections.

  One other thing we have learnt from Playing Australia, and which will be reflected in this program, is that there are also significant collections in major regional centres that can go to other regional centres to their benefit. I recently had the opportunity to see an outstanding collection of glassware in the Wagga art gallery which would be an outstanding basis for tour to many other cities and, of course, there are art galleries around Australia in regional centres which could also benefit. It is designed to meet community needs and hopefully will open up options that have been closed to people around Australia for too long.

  As announced in the budget, we have provided $1 million this financial year and will provide a further $5 million over the next three years. The most important point I want to reiterate is that the committee that has been appointed to supervise this program which I announced last week is representative of the industry and of all the states and territories and, although the advertisements appeared in the newspapers only last weekend, I am pleased to tell the Senate that we have already had more than 50 inquiries in the last two days from people hoping to take up this important program.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.