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Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 702

Mr HOWSON (Casey) (Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts) - We have just listened, as we have done on other occasions today, to a long list of woes that can be foreseen by the Opposition, and nobody is better at being a prophet of doom than the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds). I think he would almost enjoy seeing an unemployment rate of 200,000, which was forecast by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in his speech earlier this week. Nothing will be further from the case, and I am certain that the people of Australia will not fall for this incredible list of woes that the Opposition keeps portraying to the nation at this time. I want to deal with a much more pleasing, happy and joyful subject. I want to tell the House something of the great activities that are taking place at this time in the whole field of the arts throughout this nation.

Last October, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) outlined to the House the Government's programme and philosophy for the arts in Australia. He said at that time.

The Government sees the arts in a multitude of expressions and forms -

Not as an adornment, but as an integral part of life -

Not something exclusive to the hours of leisure, but as a force, penetrating and enriching every aspect of human affairs -

Not as a preserve of the rich and the sophisticated, but as a source of delight for all.

This evening I wish to inform honourable members of the progress being made in the development of that programme. There is throughout Australia abundant evidence of a continuing and enlarging public interest in the arts in its many forms. While so much of this interest springs instinctively from the people themselves, Australian governments, both State and Commonwealth, by financial and other means, are contributing significantly to the progress being made. In its own field, the Commonwealth Government continues to give increased financial aid on a substantial scale. Through its several agencies it continues to act as a catalyst in encouraging and supporting the creative effort of artists in their varied fields and providing new outlets for their talents.

If I do give some emphasis to the Commonwealth's financial contributions I also want to stress that this is not the limit of our interest or the only measure of development in the arts. The real measure is the enhanced quality of life for our people and the progress being made within our society towards standards of excellence in all art forms of human endeavour. In this financial year the Commonwealth plans to spend a total of $7,854,000 on the arts. This is made up of $5.7m in support for the performing arts and $1.7m for assistance for art, literature, film and composition. The balance is for salaries and administration for the Australian Council for the Arts. The total increase in funds for all these purposes this year is $2,364,000 - continuing evidence, to my mind, of the Government's involvement and encouragement in all these fields.

I want first to remind honourable members that in the next 15 months we will be moving into quite a spectacular period of activity in all these areas. We will see the magnificent Opera House in Sydney opened for its first performance - an opera house which has attracted world attention and which will be the home of our national company. I remind the House that since last September the Government has been promoting the Australian Opera and its associated orchestras by increasing financial assistance to ensure world standard for the opening season in the Sydney Opera House next year. Also in the next 15 months, a start will be made on building the National Art Gallery in Canberra. Already plans are being made by my Department to increase the treasures it will house and to arrange for displays of art in it from many parts of the world.

The Australian Ballet, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary, will aspire to new heights on the international scene and at home. An invitation to visit Moscow and other Eastern European capitals, and possibly London, next year is at present under consideration. If this tour can be made, it will do much to enhance our growing international reputation in this art form and also provide the company itself with a matchless experience which will be reflected in new standards of excellence in ballet for Australian audiences. Proposals are being examined for a film version of Rudolph Nureyev's 'Don Quixote', to star Nureyev, Sir Robert Helpmann and the

Australian Ballet and to be made in Australia towards the end of this year. The Film and Television School will be established, and the interim training scheme is about to begin. New incentives are also being introduced for Australian writers and composers on a scale far outstripping assistance previously given. Turning to the detailed activities of the Government's various agencies, I begin with the work of the Australian Council for the Arts, which is the Government's financial agent and adviser on the performing arts. This year's appropriation is $5.7m - an increase of $l.Sm on last year. In the early years the Australian Council for the Arts has given priority to the establishment of professional companies in order to hold our top artists in Australia and to provide quality performances in opera, ballet and drama.

However, professional peaks cannot exist without a broad base of activity and public interest. So, this year we propose to strengthen the growth of regional organisations. Drama, ballet and opera companies, which a few years ago were small amateur groups have now become, with the help of Government funds, companies operating on a stable professional basis. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has emphasised this point also. They are providing opportunities for full time employment in the arts on an unprecedented scale, attracting local interest as well as State government support. This year we propose to provide $320,000 for assistance to smaller companies throughout the various States and we hope also to provide funds for programmes designed to develop new audiences, to support creative artists and to help experimental work.

An interesting development in our support for the performing arts was the establishment in Darwin last financial year of an Aboriginal Theatre Foundation whose aims are to preserve and encourage traditional skills in this field. Details of expenditure last financial year and appropriations for 1972-73 are shown in a table, which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Isleave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -


Mr HOWSON - To satisfy the demand for professionals in all fields of the performing arts, increased funds will be provided for national training programmes. From a $58,000 allocation in 1968-69 - 4 years ago - this year's allocation has risen to $465,000.

Referring now to progress in the field of the visual arts, special attention is being paid by the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board to the planning of collections of works of art and exhibitions for the National Gallery which should be completed early in 1976. During the past 12 months the collections have been extended in depth and range. The historical collection of Australian art is already close to being complete up to the present day but is under continuous review, so that the works of quality of emergent young artists will be represented year by year as additions to the existing collection.

We expect the displays of the art of the Australian Aborigines and the arts of the Pacific Basin, including the rich art of Melanesia, embracing Papua New Guinea, to be of world standard and a revelation to all exposed to them for the first time when the Gallery is opened. We are getting together a collection of the arts of South East Asia; it is still small but is growing quite reasonably. I hope that among the first international displays in the new gallery will bc a great loan exhibition of the art of Indonesia which has never before been displayed overseas. In short, it is the Governments' intention to make the National Gallery the great showplace of arts for our region and to attract to it a series of loan exhibitions of the highest quality from other countries.

It is not an over-statement to say that leading international dealers are now looking to Australia and works of major importance are being offered to us because of the opening of our new gallery. In this Budget the sum of $797,000 has been set aside for the acquisition of works of art and for the conservation of the national collection. This is more than double the amount spent last year. The amount to be spent on exhibitions of works of art in Australia and overseas is $88,000 this year compared with only $23,000 in the past year. The value of these grants, particularly for overseas exhibitions, is seen in the international exhibition in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last year. There Australian art was represented by the works of Mr Gunter Christman and Mr David Aspden. Mr Aspden was awarded a gold medal. The House will be interested to learn that this was the first gold medal awarded to an Australian artist since Sir Arthur Streeton received his at the Paris Salon in 1905.

The Commonwealth Art Advisory Board now proposes to move into a new phase of creative patronage by the direct commissioning of paintings, sculpture and high class craft work for specific purposes and locations. For example, a commission for an important piece of sculpture to be sited in the sculpture garden, between the National Gallery and the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, has been offered to Mr Clement Meadmore. It is important in this field to look to the future. I have received suggestions from some members of the Art Advisory Board that the Government should examine at not too distant a time whether it will be possible to establish in Canberra a great museum and a national portrait gallery which would aim to reflect important aspects of Australia's history. Such institutions could present an emotive pageant of Australian historical events and national figures to Australians visiting Canberra, inculcating in them a greater national pride and appreciation of our heritage.

I come next to the Australian Film and Television School and the measures we are taking to promote a viable Australian film industry. The Tariff Board is examining film production and distribution in Australia and its report and recommendations will be of considerable help to us in assessing prospects for the industry. We are proceeding with our plans for the Australian Film and Television School and an interim training scheme. The interim training scheme is now in its final planning stages. Applications for scholarships for the first course close on 15th September. Mr Storry Walton, an Australian film and television producer and director with wide experience, has been seconded from the Australian Broadcasting Commission to become the executive director of the interim training scheme which I expect will begin before the end of the year.

It has been designed as a 12 months' course in film and television, and will offer 12 scholarships to young people who have had some experience in film and television production. The value of each scholarship will be $2,500 plus $500 living away from home allowance where required. The successful applicants will do 6 months film and television training and a further 6 months on attachment to a film or television studio. Up to 3 graduates may be given a further year's scholarship overseas. The aim is to produce junior film and television directors, writers or technicians who can play creative roles in the Australian film and television industry and in educational institutions. Planning for the film and television school itself is well advanced. Negotiations for a site are nearly complete and discussions on building plans have begun.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr HOWSON - Before the suspension of the sitting I was outlining to the House some of the exciting developments that have taken place throughout the whole field of arts activities in the Commonwealth of Australia, and dealing particularly with the developments in the film industry. On the production side the Australian Film Development Corporation has made sound progress since its establishment in 1970. It has taken part in 23 film-making projects, of which 15 have been completed. Already, one of these feature films has recovered its full production costs and is now making a profit. The Corporation's activity has attracted other Australian investors on quite a significant scale. The Corporation will continue to seek to demonstrate that filmmaking can be a profitable enterprise and by so doing accelerate the growth of a selfgenerating Australian film industry. In the past year the Corporation committed $950,000 out of its initial fund of $lm. In the Budget it has been allocated a further $950,000, thus reinstating the fund to its original level. This additional money, together with anticipated returns from investments and loans last year, will enlarge the Corporation's assistance to the industry.

This year also heralds a new phase in Commonwealth support for Australian writers, with special attention to young writers. The Government has approved programmes totalling $300,000 compared with the provision of $170,000 for the preceding year. Five major literary prizes are to be available this year for the first time. They will be: $10,000 for the best book of the year by an Australian author; $2,500 in each of 3 categories for the best book of the year by a young writer; and $2,500 for the best children's book of the year. Other major changes this year will be increases in the number .ind kinds of fellowships and other forms of assistance available to writers with, in particular, an increase in the value of fellowships from $6,000 to $8,000 a year. For the first time, 2 special fellowships will be reserved for writers under the age of 25. Increased support is also provided for literary magazines, including promising new journals, particularly those produced by, or devoted to, the work of younger writers. I think the House should know that many works of importance produced in the past 30 years would not have been written, much less published, without the support of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Australian poetry, in particular, has been almost 100 per cent supported by the fund.

I come now to the Commonwealth's interest in helping Australian composers to have their work published and to promote it throughout this country and overseas. The grant this year has more than doubled to $140,000, a dramatic increase from the modest provision of $10,000 made when the scheme began in 1967. It reflects the response that the scheme has produced and the wealth of talent seeking encouragement and outlet which this country possesses. The number and value of awards available to composers will be increased and the value of general fellowships lifted from $6,000 to $8,000. The extra funds will also enable more works to be commissioned from Australian composers. I conclude by saying I believe that today the arts in Australia are in a ferment of change and growth. This is exciting and stimulating for all those who share an interest in them. Throughout Australia audiences are growing. The enthusiasm for the arts is not confined by any means to the big cities, the big companies and the big galleries of the Commonwealth. There is intense regional interest which is being fostered by the Commonwealth and by local funds and enlivened by the enthusiasm of the people concerned. I am sure that the philosophy outlined by the Prime Minister is getting, and will get, a fuller and freer expression as each year goes by. By such means do we establish a cultural identity for Australia in the eyes of the world - an identity which is wholly Australian, notable for its diversity, vitality, originality and quality, and one which will give us enduring satisfaction as we develop on this continent one nation and one society.

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