On 12 May 2015, the Australian Government revealed its intentions for the 2015-2016 budget. The intentions include the establishment of the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, which will operate out of the Ministry for the Arts and be supported by funds previously administered by the Australia Council for the Arts. The proposal has caused concern throughout much of the arts sector, and there have been numerous media reports. The Childers Group’s letter to the Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis, is below. The letter has also been sent to other key members of the Australian parliament, as well as key members of the ACT Legislative Assembly. Updates on this issue will be published on this website; you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Update 1: we have received a letter from Senator for the ACT Katy Gallagher: Senator Gallagher re. arts in budget 2015 – 19 5 15
Update 2: we have received a letter from the Attorney-General (note that the letterhead does not include reference to the arts): AG Office Reply re. NPEA 18 6 16
Senator The Hon. George Brandis QC
Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts
PO Box 6100
CANBERRA ACT 2600
National Programme for Excellence in the Arts
The Childers Group advocates for artists and arts organisations in the ACT region, and we are an active member of Arts Peak, the federation of national peak arts organisations that promotes research, policy and industry development, communication and advocacy.
We are writing to seek more information about the proposed ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, and about your statement to the Senate on 14 May 2015 in which you suggested that organisations other than those funded by the Australia Council will now have improved access to funds from the Australian Government.
In order to better understand the implications of the new program, we seek answers to the following questions:
- Can the Minister provide further details about the proposed ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’, including its aims and objectives and operational structure?
- Will applications to this program be subject to arms-length peer review?
- What is the future of funding for independent artists and smaller projects which drive innovation?
- Can the Minister guarantee Australia Council funding at current levels for the many small to medium arts companies now at a critical stage in the 6-year grant application process? This will ensure consistency, predictability, stability and sustainability for the small to medium arts sector in the way that it does for the Major Performing Arts sector.
- Will the Minister guarantee that costs associated with the programs will be borne by the Department, so that these do not come off the top of the programs?
- What job losses are anticipated at the Australia Council as a result of this proposal?
- Can the Minister expand on his statement that ‘Arts funding has until now been limited almost exclusively to projects favoured by the Australia Council’? The Childers Group understands that this is what is required by the Australia Council’s charter, especially since it has recently undergone substantial restructuring following an industry-wide review.
- Was there Cabinet discussion/approval and/or backbench consultation about the new program?
In the absence of concrete information about this significant decision, the Childers Group has refrained from making formal public comment. However, without a detailed explanation of the ways in which the ‘National Programme for Excellence in the Arts’ will be administered and the implications it has for the rest of the Australian arts sector, it will be difficult for the Group to contribute positively to the debate.
We do trust that you can provide the information we have requested.
Professor David Williams AM