What has Labor pledged for the arts?

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The change of government means a change of arts minister. What has the new Labor Government pledged?

Tony Burke

Tony Burke has been the shadow minister for the arts. He is the member for Watson in NSW. Presently his portfolio includes Industrial Relations. 

This is his statement released in the lead-up to the election:

An Albanese Labor Government will bring new drive, direction and vision to Australia’s arts sector through the development of a landmark cultural policy.

Labor has a proud history of support for the arts.

In government, Labor established two cultural policies: Creative Nation under Paul Keating and Michael Lee and Creative Australia under Julia Gillard and Simon Crean.

This is a legacy Labor will honour if we are successful on May 21. 

The arts sector is currently in an extreme state of flux as it seeks to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic – and from a decade of Liberal National neglect, contempt and cuts.

A new direction is needed from a Labor government that will give the arts the support it needs.

A cultural policy is a broad, comprehensive roadmap for Australia’s arts and culture that touches all areas of government, from cultural diplomacy in foreign affairs to health to education.

Labor’s new cultural policy will:

  • Revive cooperation between federal, state and local governments to ensure we have a national approach to arts and culture.

  • Reaffirm the need for arms-length funding. The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments have used arts funding as a personal plaything. Labor is clear – the selection of funding for performance and creation of works should not be determined by the personal taste of a minister.

  • Examine a national insurance scheme for live events. The sector has been calling for a national insurance scheme since November 2020 but their pleas have been ignored by the Morrison Government. Commercial insurance which covers COVID-related risk is no longer available for promoters and organisers, putting a major dent in confidence.

  • Promote Australian creators on streaming platforms. The Liberals have gone out of their way to reduce the amount of Australian content on our screens. They have also been far too slow to move on screen content obligations for streamers. We will work with all stakeholders to determine ways Australian content can be boosted for both Australian music and screen content on streaming platforms. 

  • Protect performers and audiences from ticket scalpers. For too long, companies like Viagogo have been allowed to get away with fleecing audiences and depriving performers of vital revenue. Labor would work with State and Territory governments to secure a national approach to this problem.

  • Put First Nations art and culture at the centre of our approach to the sector. There can be no cultural policy without a specific focus on First Nations art and culture. 

  • Restoring ‘arts’ as part of a named government department. When the Coalition removed the word ‘arts’ from any government department at the end of 2020, it signalled what everyone in the sector already knew: arts and culture was the lowest of their priorities. It’s time for that to end. Labor will restore ‘arts’ as part of a named government department.

Labor’s commitment to a new cultural policy adds to the following funding announcements:

  • National Aboriginal Art Gallery, Alice Springs NT - $80 million.

  • Frankston Regional Arts Trail, VIC - $2 million.

  • Macleay Island Arts Centre, QLD - $1.5 million.

  • Fremantle Creative Hub, WA - $1.2 million.

  • Nairm Marr Djambana Building Upgrade, Frankston VIC - $850,000.

  • Campsie Cultural Hub, NSW - $6 million.

  • National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA), Central Coast, NSW - $5 million.

  • Southern Highlands Regional Art Gallery (Ngununggula), NSW - $450,000.

  • PIP Theatre, Brisbane Arts Theatre & PIP Theatre, QLD - $15,000.

  • Reverse Scott Morrison’s cuts to the ABC and provide stable five-year funding terms to the ABC - $83.7 million.

  • Feasibility study to expand the reach of Double J on radio - $500,000.

Labor will also roll the functions of and funding for Creative Partnerships Australia into the Australia Council. This will bring private sector expertise back into the Australia Council, make it stronger, and re-affirm its role as the premier arts funding body in Australia.

Immediately after the election Labor would embark on a thorough, nationwide consultation in each State and Territory to inform the cultural policy.

Although it is of course important for us to get this right, speed is of the essence. Creative Australia will be used as the starting point and all stakeholders including State and local governments will be properly consulted to chart a path forward.

Our last cultural policy, Creative Australia, was abolished by the Abbott Government as soon as it won power in 2013 – setting the arts sector adrift. Without a comprehensive cultural policy to guide and coordinate action, the sector has been picked apart by Coalition funding cuts.

When the pandemic hit it became clear the Morrison Government didn’t even consider artists to be workers, or their employers to be real businesses.

Labor advocated relentlessly for support for the sector, including for artists and entertainers to be included in income support schemes such as JobKeeper.

The arts, entertainment and cultural sector is important to who we are as Australians and plays a vital role in the economy.

There is a lot of work to do in this space to rebuild the damage done by a decade of Liberal Government. 

A new cultural policy is the foundation for a better future for Australian artists.


Released MONDAY, MAY 16, 2022.

Why not let the ALP know your views and ideas? Email Tony Burke on rachelle.harika@aph.gov.au. 


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