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Transcript of Interview with guest presenter, Normie Rowe: 6WF, Perth: 27 September 1993: Arts policy



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Leader o f the Opposition

27 September 1993 REF: TRANSCR\SC\KK\0028

TRANSCRIPT OF RADIO INTERVIEW DR JOHN HEWSON MR WITH GUEST PRESENTER NORMIE ROWE, 6WF, PERTH

E & Ο E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: ARTS POLICY

Rowe:

Of course it's none other than Dr John Hewson. You there John?

Hewson:

Yes I am Normie.

Rowe:

Well thanks very much for joining us today. I've just read recently that you've taken this particular portfolio on. Is this a special area for you? Do you like the arts?

Hewson:

Well you know I like most Australians have an interest in the arts but I guess the principle reason why I took it on is because I think there is a very clear view that we had a problem with the arts community at the time of the last election.

Rowe:

My perception was that there was no, there was absolutely no perceivable arts policy from the conservative side of politics in the last election.

Hewson:

No we did have an arts policy and indeed we've had a very long tradition in supporting the arts. It goes back to Alfred Deakin when we set up the Commonwealth

Parliament House. Canberra. A C T. 2600 Phone 2774022 COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

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Literary Fund in 1908. I mean if you look at our parties in government we're responsible for things like the establishment of the Australian Opera, the Australian Ballet, the Council for the Arts, the Film and Television Corporation, the National Gallery, the National Institute of Dramatic Art, a host of initiatives. I think the problem that I'm really drawing your attention to is that there is a perception that we aren't

interested in the arts, we don't have an arts policy, we don't have a cultural view but the reality is we do. And but I don't deny the facts that the last election we had a problem.

Rowe:

What was the problem? What was the problem?

Hewson:

I think the concern arose about the impact of our tax policy on the arts community which we didn't manage to put to rest and indeed then the Government exploited that by drawing attention, or trying to create the impression I guess that they were more interested in the arts. And the fact is of course they don't have a particularly brilliant record in relation to the arts and we've got to deal with that problem. But what I've tried to do is start from scratch and to take your point Normie quite explicitly we're

going to release an arts policy in due course. But I'm getting out and about and talking to as many groups as I can within the arts community to hear their views not only about us but I'd like to take a view looking forward to say where, you know, what

role should the arts play in our, in the future of our country. What should be an appropriate cultural policy looking out say to year 2000 and beyond. In doing that I'm soliciting the views of a wide group of people. And just in recent weeks I've been meeting with groups like Arts Action or the Australian Ballet and the Ballet School, the Victorian State Opera and soon I'll be meeting with groups like NIDA..

Rowe:

These all seem to be fairly well-funded organisations. They're fairly aesthetically, you know, high up on the aesthetic ladder and esoterically supported. I just wonder what about the commercial side of the arts, the things like commercial theatre and that sort of thing. Do you have an idea about the way that should be funded?

Hewson:

Well look I've actually started to look at some of these things. I have particular interest in the theatre and I've just had a series of meetings for example with groups that were trying to get Miss Saigon to come to Australia. And you may or may not know that to do that they needed an expanded State Theatre in Sydney. And they had no

problem actually putting the funding for that development together but of course they needed to get a whole lot of other approvals and to acquire property to be able to expand the State Theatre. So I mean there are a lot of elements to it. Part of it is

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raising money, part of it sometimes just dealing with Government bureaucracy to get decisions taken. And you know I'm interested in all those elements because I actually think that Australia could be something of a centre for the theatre. I'm fearful that, you know, when I hear talk in Asian areas like, in countries like Singapore that are thinking of becoming a centre for the theatre for the Asia Pacific region. We've got an unique blend or an unique opportunity if you like to blend tourism in general with you know theatre, interest in the theatre, in particular we could become a centre. There are so

many talented people as you know Normie, singers, dancers and so on in Australia that really provide an excellent base. We've got the production, writing skills, it's just about what we need to do to ensure that industry if you like gets off the ground. And we get theatre at all levels.

Rowe:

I tried to tell Michael Baume this before the last election and he refused point blank to listen to me. I was really upset about it and then all of sudden Jeff Kennett wanders off to London with $20 million in his kit and throws it at Andrew Lloyd Webber and says please bring Sunset Boulevard, which hasn't opened yet and we don't know whether it's a dog or not, when there are terrific Australian productions sitting in the wings. There's John English's 'Parrot', there's David Reeve's 'Cyrano de Bergerac' and a whole lot of other things sitting there in the wings waiting to be mounted and with some sort of federal and/or state government support, not necessarily monetarily, they could get up and do for Australia what the Miss Saigon's and the Phantoms of the Opera etc has done for Great Britain.

Hewson:

Exactly. I mean I think what we've got is the capacity to build the theatre industry at all levels from the smallest commercial productions right through to those bigger name performers. And I think it is a pity that we quite often have good Australian quality material that doesn't get a run because there's a focus on some of the higher fliers. But equally what you've got to do with an arts policy is set up a structure whereby they get a run. So the John English play will get as good a run as a Andrew Lloyd Webber play.

Rowe:

Well I think if it's Australian it's got to get a better run surely.

Hewson:

Yes, well you know, we have the capacity surely for that to occur. I think there is a bit of a cultural cringe in Australia that to some extent says 'Look because it's from overseas it's better'. But in fact there is an enormous amount of talent as I was saying before in Australia. It's making sure that talent gets a fair chance to make its mark. And you know it may involve, clearly the issue of funding is a very difficult one, it may

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involve the issue of tax concessions, it may involve direct contributions by government. In other cases it's just a question of making sure that the encouragement is there.

Rowe:

With Jeff Kennett running off to, I know this is not in your area, but with Jeff Kennett running off to London with all that money in his hand, you wouldnt, you wouldnt necessarily think that the attitude was there of supporting Australian production. It just seems incongruous to me anyway. But the thing, the thing, what can the Federal government do for instance about the Capitol Theatre in Sydney which is, it's been sitting there on the backburner for goodness knows how many decades?

Hewson:

Look I don't know about that. I'm aware it's a problem. I've just actually started to look at what can be done.

Rowe:

And what do we do about the tyranny of miles across from, you know, getting those sort of productions from the eastern seaboard across to places like Perth and up north to places like Karratha and Derby?

Hewson:

I think it's interesting that there's been a bit of an attempt in recent days for this to happen. You know, the Adelaide Festival Theatre Group has been opening productions all over Australia as a way of basically funding some of their activities in South Australia as well. I think they're taking South Pacific for example around Australia as a great, you know, as a great piece of theatre which has a well established reputation. But they're doing these more limited productions in other parts of Australia as well. And I think there may be a role to for government to ensure that some of that does actually move, you know, to other parts of Australia beyond the capital cities which I think is the point you're making.

Rowe:

I think it's very important for people who live in remote areas to be able to receive the heart and soul that is receivable in the city centres.

Hewson:

I must say one very interesting reversal of that in recent days was....

'Hot Shoe Shuffle' which started in Castle Hill and is going to open in London early next year.

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Rowe:

Well I think even more so is 'Bran Nue Dae' which started in Broome and is going to go right across the world too. It's a terrific show. John, look thanks very much. I know you're a very busy man and I really appreciate your time for talking to me today. And I just wonder how many votes do you think you lost the election by?

Hewson:

I think the estimate's about 1500 votes.

Rowe:

Do you think you could have gained those 1500 from the arts?

Hewson:

We could well have gained from them! I've got to tell you.

Rowe:

Being a performing artist it's good to have yet another person on our side trying, to try and help save our industry and if it comes from any direction as far as I'm concerned I'm very happy about it. Thanks very much for talking to us.

Hewson:

Okay Normie thanks a lot.

Rowe:

And say hello to Carolyn and little Sammy says hello to both of y o u ...................

Hewson:

Okay.

Rowe:

Thanks very much. Dr John Hewson, the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Minister for the Arts.