Remember 2 July? What a day for the arts in Australian democracy. Over the previous 12 months, the Arts sector had engaged with the Senate through the inquiry into the ‘Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts’. The strong recommendations from that process set a tone for the election campaign. Arts became an issue for parties; the ALP, Greens, and Xenophon Team released policy positions and the Arts Party claim that between 40-50,000 Australians gave them their first preferences. An election debate, focused solely on the arts, allowed the sector to explore key issues with the major parties.
Here we are, now four weeks later, and we’re still waiting for the full results of the Federal Election. We know the Liberal-National Coalition will form government, and who the Arts Minister (Senator Mitch Fifield from Victoria) and Shadow (former Minister Tony Burke from NSW) are, but we still wait for the full results of the Senate count.
So, what happens now?
With the Ministers sworn in, government resumes. Also, a date has been set for Parliament to start again in late August. We need to wait for another few days, but we’ll know the make-up of the Senate soon. Preparations will soon be underway for Federal Budget 2017. Election commitments will be reviewed and policies debated, looking to be implemented. Minister Fifield reiterated the government’s response to the Senate inquiry during the Arts Debate. As set out in the response:
The Government does not believe in a top down approach to arts policy. The Government believes that the sector has an important role in the development of a comprehensive strategy for the arts. The Ministry for the Arts, the Australia Council and Creative Partnerships Australia are working closely together to ensure that funding to the arts is complementary and coordinated. The Catalyst – Australian Arts and Culture Fund guidelines articulate the respective roles of each agency. [[
For the short term, at least, things continue as is. The Australia Council will keep working within their current funding constraints. The Ministry will continue to administer Catalyst and other programs. Companies and individual artists will continue to seek new ways to develop and present their creativity. Artspeak is in the early stages of planning their next stage, advocating for the arts. With the Minister clearly looking for input from the sector on arts policy, it is vital we maintain momentum and engagement.
Even though the voting is over, it is important to remain in contact with your newly elected representatives. Let them know what you think the future of the arts in Australia should be and how the changes in the last 18 months have impacted your practice. The best way to achieve change is to make sure our politicians are informed and aware of how vital the arts is in the community.