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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 8651


Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (16:52): After listening to that contribution, I am sure there are people out there who would take what Senator Macdonald said at face value, but the reality is that every single senator in this place, other than the coalition senators, voted for the inquiry because they were concerned that there was outrage in the community about the slush fund set up by Senator Brandis. The other point I wish to make is that every single senator in this place can be a participating member of a Senate committee and to suggest—

Senator Canavan: Do they get a vote?

Senator CAROL BROWN: There would not have been a vote. Anyone who has been on a Senate committee here knows that people who want to go forward, to give evidence, are accommodated. Senator Canavan and Senator Macdonald would like you to think that the people who showed concern were somehow just naturally anti the government, but this is not the case. The case is there was overwhelming concern in the community, not only by those people who work in the arts sector but by those who support the arts sector, who enjoy going to events, going to look at the art being made all around Australia. There was concern all over the place. So for Senator Macdonald to come in here and to suggest that the Senate committee was stacked is an affront to the Senate. As I said, every single senator, other than members of the coalition, voted to establish the committee because of the slush fund that Senator Brandis put together. Senator Brandis has united every single non-government's senator in this place on this matter. He wanted to choose who was getting the money and that it was at his discretion. Not much has changed with Senator Fifield's new program, Catalyst.

We have seen rebranding and retooling of the Abbott-Turnbull government's arts slush fund as announced by Senator Fifield last Friday. That really says it all. They made the announcement on a Friday with not much fanfare either by Senator Fifield, who does not mind a bit of fanfare. When they put this out last week, we saw that it suffers the same fatal flaws as the program set up under Senator Brandis—I should say he sought to establish it because it was such a dud in the arts sector that they had to drag the portfolio from Senator Brandis to Senator Fifield to see if he could fix it up and he has fallen far short of that mark. What we had in Australia prior to the coalition coming to government was an arms-length peer-reviewed arts funding system.

The minister may have changed, the program name may have changed but at the end of the day the new arts program is still a ministerial slush fund under the personal and direct control of the Minister for the Arts. This has not changed and a significant proportion of the arts funding will remain the plaything of the Minister for the Arts. The arts sector is vital to our national cultural identity and they deserve better than this. I would say that we need more than a rebranded slush fund. We need this— (Time expired)