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Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Page: 36

Senator CARR (2:58 PM) —My question without notice is to Senator Kemp, the Minister for the Arts and Sport. Can the minister confirm that the accumulated deficit of the professional orchestras is now at $7 million? Can the minister also confirm, however, that it is not just orchestras that are facing financial deficits? Can the minister confirm that the Australia Council is in emergency negotiations with the Sydney Dance Company, which faces a current deficit reported to be in excess of $600,000? Can the minister also confirm that the company’s board has indicated that it will resign if the deficit cannot be removed by 31 March, when the company’s annual reports need to be signed off? What are the details of the bailout package sought by the Sydney Dance Company?

Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) —Thank you, Senator Carr, for that first question on the arts. Senator Carr is the seventh—or is it the eighth?—shadow minister for the arts in the Labor Party.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is too much noise on both sides of the chamber. I ask the Senate to come to order.

Senator Chris Evans interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Evans, I asked the chamber to come to order, and that includes you.

Senator KEMP —As I was saying, I welcome this first question from Senator Carr on the arts. I have indicated that Senator Carr is the seventh or possibly the eighth shadow minister for the arts in nine years under the Labor Party. Senator Carr, let me assure you, none of the other shadow ministers for the arts wore themselves out through overwork.

Senator Chris Evans —They were shadowing you!

The PRESIDENT —Order! Minister, ignore the interjections, address your remarks through the chair and I remind you of the question.

Senator KEMP —Senator Carr, as you may be aware—but you may not be aware—there has been a series of discussions between the Australia Council and the Sydney Dance Company about the problems that the company are facing. Indeed, the company have come to see me and put their views to me, and I am sure they are putting their views to other senators and members. The government are very supportive of the Sydney Dance Company. We are very supportive of Graeme Murphy. There are problems that the Sydney Dance Company have, and I am very hopeful that those problems can be worked through in their discussions with the Australia Council so that we can put the Sydney Dance Company onto a secure basis and so that that company will continue to be available and the work and art of Graeme Murphy will continue to be seen by many Australians. I think these discussions are continuing. I think it is appropriate that we see what the result is. There is no lack of support for the Sydney Dance Company, let me assure you, on this side of the chamber and, I assume, on your side.

Senator CARR —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the minister recall that the Australia Council has now publicly described the government’s cultural funding model as ‘unsustainable’? Can the minister now explain what steps he is taking to prevent other major arts organisations that are also facing financial pressure from falling into the crisis faced by the Sydney Dance Company? What action is the minister taking to fully index government grants to organisations such as the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Dance Company in order to maintain the value of their Commonwealth grants?

Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) —Unlike Senator Carr, I have actually read the Labor Party arts policy, as produced by Senator Lundy. In that arts policy there were cuts to the Australia Council. And of course I looked in vain through that policy to see whether there was anything involving the efficiency dividend—the matter you raised with me, Senator Carr—and indexation. I looked in vain. After nine years of the Labor Party talking about this, they did absolutely nothing. The government are very supportive of the arts. We have a comprehensive arts policy, we will continue to work with the arts community and we will continue to achieve real outcomes, unlike the Labor Party.

Senator Hill —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.