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Labor's Indigenous Arts policy: just about cost-cutting.

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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Federal Liberal Member for Murray

Friday, 8 August 2008

Labor’s Indigenous Arts policy - just about cost-cutting

The Rudd Labor Government has ignored key recommendations from the Howard Government’s review into the Indigenous Arts sector in a belated response to last year’s inquiry into the sector.

Shadow Minister for the Arts, Dr Sharman Stone, said the Coalition remains fully committed to its Senate Inquiry, Indigenous Arts - Securing the Future, report. Adopting the recommendations was now even more pressing, given the deteriorating conditions

indigenous artists are experiencing. Their exploitation is simply not acceptable.

“After nine months of silence the Rudd Labor Government has come up with a limited response to the important issues raised in the Inquiry. Arts Minister Peter Garrett seems driven by cost-cutting imperatives, not the needs of some of Australia’s most talented but vulnerable artists..

“Two of the key recommendations of the Inquiry have been ignored. The first was to increase funding for the National Arts and Crafts Industry Support (NACIS) programme to $25 million. This has been reduced to a $7.6 million increase. This is just one-third of what the committee identified and flies in the face of the Rudd Labor Government’s commitment to ‘close the gap’.

“Another key recommendation ignored was an increase in the powers of the ACCC to scrutinise and keep the sector honest. The committee recommended an expansion of ACCC power ‘to ensure that fair practices in the industry are fully supported’.

“The Rudd Labor Government has also rejected a recommendation to strengthen intellectual property laws for indigenous artists, nor have they agreed to restrict government assistance to those businesses and galleries which adhere to a to-be-developed Indigenous Arts Code of Conduct.

Dr Stone said the Coalition was also concerned with the lack of detail in the Government’s response.

“For example, there remains no detail on the resale royalties’ scheme. Whilst $1.5 million in funding was announced in the budget, there is still no legislation or discussion paper to indicate how or when such a scheme would commence and what it would entail..

“The Rudd Labor Government must urgently increase funding for the National Arts and Crafts Industry Support (NACIS) scheme to the $25 million recommended by the Inquiry, and fast-track scoping studies for the construction of an Arts Centre in Alice Springs.

“The Coalition has a strong record of delivering for the arts - under the Howard Government funding for the Arts rose by over 65 per cent. The Rudd Labor Government, on the other hand, has slashed arts funding by $40 million in its first nine months in office.

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“The $20 million cut to the Australia on the World Stage programme meant the Rudd Labor Government could only ‘note’ the recommendation to increase assistance for international exhibition of indigenous art. This is very disappointing for both Australia’s cultural diplomacy on the international stage as well as for the opening of new opportunities for indigenous artists off-shore.

Dr Stone said she would work with the Indigenous arts sector to tackle the work left undone by the Rudd Labor Government.


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