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Monday, 7 February 1994
Page: 440

Senator PATTERSON —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts. I refer to the admission by the new minister for the arts that the release of the government's cultural policy, which was promised for March 1994, has yet again been postponed, this time until the second half of the year. Given that Labor has had eight arts ministers in the last seven years, what guarantee is there that this policy, which was first mooted three years ago, will be forthcoming at all? Does the advent of another new arts minister and the imminent loss of the chair and general manager of the Australia Council mean that government decisions relating to the arts are on hold?

Senator McMULLAN —The Minister for Communications and the Arts has announced his intention to take full advantage of the excellent decision made by the Prime Minister to bring the arts and communications portfolios together. I have always supported that view and I am pleased that decision has been made; it opens up opportunities for enhanced proposals in the arts portfolio. Mr Lee wants to give himself time to take full advantage of that, which seems an eminently sensible thing for him to do. I think the arts community will be gratified when it sees the substance of the statement when it emerges, and I expect it to be enhanced by the further six months consideration that Mr Lee will give it and the capacity which he brings to add some important communications elements to that statement. I believe that Mr Lee has a pretty strong basis upon which to build. If he does not agree, that is a matter for him—he is the minister for the arts.

  The chair of the Australia Council's term is expiring in the normal course of events. Mr Hall, who has done an outstanding job—whose contribution I greatly valued in the period I was arts minister—has not sought reappointment and, therefore, a recommendation will be made by the minister to the cabinet in due course. The General Manager of the Australia Council, Mr Bourke, who has made a very positive contribution—he has been at the Australia Council for a long period of time, where he has made substantial reforms—felt it was time that he went to new areas, and he wished to return to Canberra from Sydney. So he sought a new position in the Public Service in Canberra and I welcome him back—he will do a very good job in OMA, as he has done at the Australia Council.

  I see no reason for arts decisions to be on hold. The positions of minister, the chair and the general manager are all filled, and those people are capable of making all the decisions that need to be made. A series of very positive decisions for the arts will continue to be made, as they have been made over the decade, to the opposition's great embarrassment.