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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9706

Senator LAZARUS (Queensland) (17:43): I present the report of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee on arts programs and funding, together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator LAZARUS: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

In tabling this report I would like to thank the arts community, who united together to vocalise their objection to the establishment of the NPEA and the resultant cuts to the Australia Council. What became clear throughout the hearings was that the arts sector, including the Australia Council, was never consulted by the government at any stage when making the budget announcements, including policy changes and funding cuts to the arts sector. Understandably, the arts sector was angered and upset by this.

I learned a lot in being part of this arts inquiry. I learned how important the arts sector is to our social fabric and our economic and mental wellbeing. I learned that art is more than a physical product; it is an extension of our culture and a reflection of who we are as people. I am grateful for the experience of working so closely with the arts sector and thank everyone involved for their time and commitment to the arts sector and the inquiry.

I would also like to apologise for the behaviour of certain senators during the public hearings. Our role as representatives of the people is to listen and to act in the best interests of all Australians. I am ashamed of the way some senators behaved. As the chair of the committee, I sincerely apologise for the inappropriate and unacceptable actions of certain senators, who have clearly forgotten why they entered politics in the first place.

In summary, the arts community rallied together, and through the inquiry, and the publicity generated from public hearings, the government did listen—although only slightly—and made some changes, which in the scheme of things were small concessions in response to big community objections to silly government actions. Despite this, I hope the government adopts all of the recommendations of the committee and, importantly, develops, in consultation with the arts sector, a clear national arts policy, returns all the funds to the Australia Council and finds additional funding for Catalyst.

I would like to thank the secretary and all of her team. I would also like to thank Hansard. I commend this report to the Senate.