Communications and the Arts Committee Report

28 Oct | '2021



I want to start by thanking the committee members—and, of course, the member for Lyne, the former chair of the Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts—for the way that we work together and for the work that we’ve done on this report and its 22 recommendations, all of which are very important for sculpting the future of the arts and its place in our society. I can’t outline all of them, so hopefully some of my colleagues here in the Federation Chamber will highlight some of ones that I don’t touch on. I wish to thank those who took the time to make submissions to the committee for this inquiry, and I especially mention HOTA, the Home of the Arts, in my electorate for their contribution. My City Heart Taskforce executive member for the arts is the chair of the Home of the Arts, Emeritus Professor Ned Pankhurst, and I thank him for his vision for arts and culture on the Gold Coast as the soul of our city. I also thank Criena Gehrke, the CEO at HOTA, for her submission to the inquiry, which coloured a number of the recommendations in the final report. Firstly, they mentioned in their submission that much of the non-economic benefits of the creative industries remains anecdotal and that there is a pressing need to better understand the reach and impact of creative industries on wellbeing. In recommendations 15 and 16 of the report tabled yesterday,

The committee recommended:

  • The Commonwealth Government provide additional funding to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to produce
    the Cultural and Creative Satellite Accounts annually, gather and publish data on levels and type of employment,
    trends, revenue, geographic trends across the creative and cultural industries—
  • the Australian Bureau of Statistics add questions to the Census which better account for the professions of
    those working in gig economies, and across the creative and cultural industries with recognition of paid and
    unpaid work.

This will go a long way to understanding the true value of the arts to society and give us a better understanding ofthe benefits flowing from creative industries so that we have the best information to develop a national cultural plan to assess the medium- and long-term needs of the sector, which, of course, is recommendation 1 in the report. The Home of the Arts also stated that the industry probably doesn’t need government help to innovate—no surprise there—but that what it does need is a more stable resource base from which to operate that platform of innovation. And there were so many other submissions that supported that. The committee’s response to that was in recommendation 18, which recommends:

  • The Office for the Arts investigate the delivery of an ‘Art Starter’ portal— just that sort of platform—containing information for artists, and those engaged in the creative economy, at all stages of their careers to enable Australia’s arts industry to continue to grow and reach new audiences.

The portal should include information on—very importantly—financial literacy, including information on taxation regimes and subsidies. It’s well known in this place, and beyond, that before coming here I was a professional musician for some 30 years—and I still play, mainly in my office—and also a published author and a songwriter. So it is a great privilege to stand in this chamber and speak to this report, and, indeed, to be a member of the government on this committee.

My own experience as a young person with a craft was that it took a long time to develop the business acumen needed to commercialise my skills and my income as a creative artist. It is complex and it’s everything from registering your business so that you can access an ABN to claiming expenses on your tax and collecting GST monthly, and paying it monthly or quarterly. In the case of COVID, having an ABN actually meant you were eligible to receive JobKeeper payments. Not only that, but it took a long time to develop in other areas, such as protecting your own original song or manuscript, or indeed paintings or Indigenous artworks. This is expanded on in this recommendation, and further outlined in recommendation No. 3.

The arts are one of the greatest levellers. What I mean by that is the arts level the playing field for all players. Not just those with the means to access private tuition or private schooling, but those who have a raw talent and who, through it, can make something of themselves. We see that in sport. This government already supports opportunities within sport, through the Local Sporting Champions grant program. One of the most satisfying things that I get to do as a local member is to write letters to young people and their parents to deliver the news that they’ve been a successful recipient of that program, which will allow them to attend state championships or a national championship. I’d love to be able to do exactly the same thing for young artists, as would my colleagues on both sides of the House. These are not large amounts of money, but they make all the difference to those families who have multiple children or a special child who has the gift of a talent and who wants to work hard. And that is essentially my own story.

I was extended an opportunity that was affordable for my family. I think it was $20 a term to hire an instrument from my high school in the 1980s. I worked hard and practised for 10,000 hours, and my work was rewarded with an international scholarship. That sent me abroad, and opened up the world to me as a young 17-year-old girl. It allowed me to study my craft at university, to join a band—many bands, actually; meet many brilliant role models, including the late Don Burrows; perform and travel the world; and, ultimately, it was the gift of music that led me to stand here in this place today.

I feel very strongly about these next recommendations, because they are what I believe in, and that is reward for effort and equality of opportunity—the greatest of all Liberal and National values. That’s why I’m so excited about recommendation Nos 20 and 21. Recommendation 20 says:

  • That the Office for the Arts, in collaboration with the Australia Council for the Arts, establish a new ‘Local Artistic Champions Program’ (akin to the existing Local Sporting Champions Program) to enable emerging Australian student artists, musicians, authors, playwrights, filmmakers, digital artists and game developers to apply for grants to support attendance at competitions, exhibitions, skills development courses relevant to their craft.

That’s providing the opportunity to dedicated young people, and that’s why I stand in this place—to make sure that continues. In recommendation 21, the committee says:

  • The Office for the Arts establish a Music Access Assistance Program to increase active participation of school students, particularly in low socio-economic, rural and regional areas, in musical endeavours. And:
  • The Music Access Assistance Program should provide affordable access to music education opportunities including instruments, music books and other musical equipment.

Just like my high school back in the eighties; $20 a term to hire a saxophone. Absolutely affordable and achievable for anybody going to a public or a private school. It’s very, very important.

Further in the area of education is recommendation 9:

  • The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government consider working with tertiary education providers to develop a program of internships and cadetships which would see students and young people work in regional, small and/or community-focused galleries, libraries, archives and museums.
  • The Commonwealth Government should request input from the Office for the Arts, Department of Education, Skills and Employment and Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications as well as regional arts and cultural organisations, to develop a pilot program.

In the report there are also two very symbolic recommendations, recommendation 4 and recommendation 12, which elevate the arts in terms of the contribution that the arts make to our society. The first is that the word ‘arts’ be added to the department’s title, omitted in the title as I just read it out. The second is that the ‘a’ from ‘arts’ be added to the STEM acronym as an additional cross-curriculum priority, making it STEAM. These are both very important recommendations that, if implemented, the sector would welcome.

To finish, I’d like to outline just some of the key support measures that our government and the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts have put in place for this sector, which is so very close to my heart. Our creative and cultural sectors have benefited through more than $10 billion in wages and cash-flow support from our government during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to analysis released by the Bureau of Communications, Arts and Regional Research. The analysis estimates that employees and businesses in cultural and creative sectors received $10.7 billion from the government to support their operations, including$8 billion in JobKeeper payments between April and December 2020 and $2.7 billion in boosting-cash-flow-for-employers payments in early February 2021.

Support Act are also mentioned in the report. They received an additional $20 million in funding. Additionally, in the 2021-22 budget year we are investing an additional $1 billion, including assistance in my electorate for various events across Moncrieff. Sculpting a national cultural plan: igniting a post-COVID economy for the arts is a very important report.

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