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Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Page: 19

Senator MILNE (2:34 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Senator Wong. Given that the government has acknowledged that the artistic program of the Australian National Academy of Music is first class, by appropriating the name and reputation of the institution, why is the artistic leadership being handed over to a university appointed advisory board with not one practising musician of international standard on it, rather than leaving it with the current faculty and artistic director, who, by the way, has just won the Grawemeyer prize for composition, music’s Nobel Prize?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —Thank you to Senator Milne for the question. First, in relation to the ANAM, the Australian government has made it clear—Minister Garrett has made it clear—that funding for this training will not be reduced, that $2½ million will be provided annually for a revitalised program to be delivered through the university’s faculty. I also want to note, in the context of the question, that Minister Garrett has announced an additional $500,000 in 2008-09 to boost the level of performance training available to students as they move to the new program. In relation to Mr Dean—and I share with Senator Milne congratulations to Mr Dean for this award—I do understand that Minister Garrett met with the artistic director and ANAM students earlier today. I am advised that it was a constructive and fruitful meeting. I am also advised that Minister Garrett will continue to engage with both Mr Dean and also the University of Melbourne as this change to government funding arrangements is progressed.

Senator MILNE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for her answer. I note that she did not respond to my question about why the artistic leadership is being handed over to a board with not one practising musician of international standard on it. I also note that she talks about a revitalised program without telling me what is wrong with the existing program that has won such an amazing global prize. Can the government guarantee that, by July next year, the new fledgling institution will be able to provide the level of programs that the existing academy currently provides, which are celebrated around the world? If not, why is the government closing this academy?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I have previously outlined the reasons that the minister has given for his decision in relation to the ANAM. I have made the point that it was established to be a national training organisation drawing students from around Australia, but approximately 53 per cent of students come from Melbourne. The minister consistently sought the ANAM’s commitment to a flexible approach to its training program, such as the option of appropriate accreditation of courses for its students, but the board declined to address such a request. Successive governments have sought the board’s commitment to a range of reforms to the ANAM’s operations arising from two independent reviews of the ANAM between 2004 and 2006. I think I have previously dealt with this issue in the Senate.

Senator Bob Brown —Mr President, on a point of order: this new question time was aimed, amongst other things, to keep relevance in the answers to questions. But again the minister is absolutely ignoring the central question about the make up of the board proposed for the new institution. She ought to answer it.

Senator WONG —Can I make the point that I was also asked, at the end of the supplementary, about why the government made the decision. So, with respect to Senator Brown, I was specifically addressing the issue.

Senator MILNE —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I note the minister’s answer and I still note that the government is continuing to peddle the view that the independent reviews have suggested that the academy should be closed down when in fact both reviews suggested increased funding and expansion of programs. Given that there are no appropriate transitional arrangements in place as of today, 2 December, for the beginning of the new academic year for students and teachers, some of whom are in the gallery today, why can’t this completely unacceptable arrangement be altered to provide a 12-month moratorium on the closure of the academy to give certainty to students and the teaching faculty while the long-term future of the academy is determined? Why can’t we do that?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —As I have indicated, the government is working closely with the University of Melbourne to ensure that the transition to the delivery of the enhanced training program is as smooth as possible. I have already indicated that Mr Garrett has met with Mr Dean and students today to discuss these issues. I am also advised that the planning advisory board—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! The time for debating this issue is at the end of question time, when senators can take note of answers.

Senator WONG —I am also advised that on 26 November the university announced the appointment of a planning advisory board, which is comprised of leading international and national authorities on elite classical music training, to develop and improve program. It includes representatives from the leading conservatoriums of Paris, London—that is, the Royal School of Music—and North America, and from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Opera Victoria.