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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7291

Arts Funding

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:13): My question is to the Minister for the Arts, Senator Fifield. I congratulate the new minister, and I ask: does he agree with Nick Cave and 350 other Australian artists who say that the former arts minister, Senator Brandis, 'alienated the vast majority of constituents within the arts landscape through reforms that are not tangibly grounded in any concrete evidence about which funding models work'?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (14:13): I am sure that, like every colleague on this side of the chamber, we are big Nick Cave fans—absolutely! In fact, only the other day Michael Cathcart, on his program on ABC Radio National, played an extract of a song to me and asked me to guess who it was, and I said, 'That's Nick Cave.' He said, 'No, it's not.' I said, 'Really?' and it was Nick Cave. Anyway—

Honourable senators interjecting


Senator FIFIELD: Mr President, if you don't like Nick Cave, you get into trouble; if you do like Nick—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Minister! Pause the clock.

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order: direct relevance to the question. Despite the minister's clear knowledge of Nick Cave—I know Nick Cave's name was mentioned in the question—the question was much longer than that. If you could draw the attention of the minister to the question.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Moore, I do agree with you. I will draw the minister's attention to the question.

Senator FIFIELD: Thank you, Mr President. No doubt what Senator Collins was alluding to in her question was the National Program for Excellence in the Arts, which was announced in the previous budget. What my colleagues on this side would be aware of is that it was always the intention that there would be a period of consultation about the design of that program and about the guidelines. That consultation has been undertaken by the Ministry for the Arts. There have been something in the order of about 326 submissions received. The purpose of consultation is to benefit from the input and from the views of those in the sector. I will be taking a look at that input as we look to what the final shape of that program will be.

Can I acknowledge the steadfast and longstanding commitment of the former minister for the arts in this area. I know that he will continue to have a very close interest and involvement in the arts and I look forward to talking to him at great length on an ongoing basis about the arts in Australia.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:16): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the co-convenor of ArtsPeak, Ms Nicole Beyer, who said:

With the new Arts Minister, we ultimately hope that he will see sense and return the funding taken from the Australia Council

So they hope you do not speak to Senator Brandis. Will the minister return funding ripped from the Australia Council budget and allocated to what I call Senator Brandis's 'personal arts slush fund'?

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (14:16): I think it is important to note that, in the budget announcement, there were, in addition to the program for excellence, a number of elements which were in fact returning to the Ministry for the Arts programs that had previously been with the Ministry for the Arts. I think there is nothing exceptional about that.

As I indicated, we embarked upon a process of consultation with those in the sector for a deliberate reason in relation to the program for excellence. It was because we wanted to have the benefit of their views, the benefit of their input, and I am currently looking at that input. I am also aware of the Senate inquiry which is underway. Just because a Senate inquiry was born in partisanship and conducted in partisanship, it does not mean that the witnesses who appear before that committee might not have some useful things to say so, obviously, I will be looking at that evidence as well.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (14:17): Mr President, I rise to ask a final supplementary question. As for further input, I refer again to Ms Beyer, who said:

I think Brandis was a terrible arts minister; I think history will show that clearly.

Is the reason that you, Minister, now hold this portfolio that Senator Brandis was a terrible arts minister who alienated his key stakeholders?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Collins, you are bordering there on a reflection on a parliamentarian but I will allow that through on this occasion.

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (14:18): The straightforward and direct answer to Senator Collins' question is 'no'. The reason that the arts rests with myself under Prime Minister Turnbull's administration is because the Prime Minister has a view, which I think has been a longstanding view, that communications and the arts have many synergies and sit well together. I think it is a good rationale that the one minister has responsibility for content issues, responsibility for copyright issues. There are a lot of synergies in having communications and the arts together and it would be quite wrong to see a reflection on anyone who has held responsibility in this area before.