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Monday, 13 December 1993
Page: 4384

Senator CARR —My question is addressed to the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services. I understand that the Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures today about the number of people who worked in cultural and leisure activities in the 12 months ending March 1993. What do these figures show about the size and scope of cultural industries within Australia? Do they confirm the government's view about the economic worth of cultural industries and their importance as a key source of employment opportunities?

Senator McMULLAN —What we have had released today is probably the most important set of statistical data about cultural industries in Australia. It should make very interesting reading for those people in this place who from time to time when the arts are discussed say, `What about the concern of working people?' I have been spending some effort during the course of this year in seeking to persuade Australians, my colleagues and the Senate that this is an important industry and that it creates a lot of jobs. But I have to confess that I substantially underestimated the amount of employment and the amount of community activity in this area.

  The most significant factor to which the ABS draws attention is that during the past 12 months 1.6 million people—that is, 11.8 per cent of the population—over 15 years of age were involved in work in culture and leisure activities. On top of this, another one million people saw their involvement in culture and leisure activities as a hobby. These figures are very large, but when one breaks them down what one needs to look at is the number of people actually in paid employment in this area because many of those people are working in a voluntary capacity.

  What really struck me when I read the figures today was that more than 550,000 Australians are in paid employment, full-time or part-time, in cultural and leisure activities such as heritage, museums, literature, library, archives, music, performing arts, visual arts, film, video, radio, TV, education, festival and arts administration.

  So, in that narrow definition of `arts and cultural and leisure activities', there are more than 550,000 people who are receiving payment for their participation, with more than 100,000 of them in full-time employment in those industries. The fact that more than two million Australians are giving a substantial amount of their time to these activities shows not only the enormous size of the voluntary sector but also that the figures we have used in the past, drawn from more general population statistics, greatly underestimate the scope of employment opportunities in the arts. These new figures certainly confirm the government's view about the economic worth of cultural industries and their importance as a source of employment in the economy.

  As the nature of employment changes and with the growth in employment that is under way in the economy at the moment, these will be important industries in the development of employment, and they will create very important job opportunities for the tens of thousands of young Australians training in this area in tertiary institutions around Australia.

  There are, of course, a large number of other people involved significantly in arts activities who are not measured here. For example, school teachers who are teaching arts activities in the course of their other teaching activities are not included. So there are many other people playing a significant role in the development of this industry. We should hope that a recognition is starting to appear in Australia that, behind every feature film and every CD, there are hundreds of jobs; and, behind every gallery, there are not only artists and technicians but all sorts of people in a broad range of occupations, from those traditionally defined as working class occupations to artists, technicians and specialists.

  This survey reaffirms that the government's intention to target employment activity and other government taxpayer funded support to this industry is well founded both for cultural and economic reasons.