The Abbott Government’s short-sighted Budget has dragged the arts community into the dark ages as part of George Brandis’ grab for personal control over cultural funding.
Following last year’s savage cuts to the arts, Senator Brandis has now cut another $104.7 million from the independent Australia Council and transferred it to his own Department.
It is the latest bid by the Abbott Government to grab direct control over the arts which will undoubtedly lead to job losses.
In 2013 Senator Brandis tried to amend 2013 Australia Council Act to make funding decisions via ministerial discretion. He has now achieved his aim.
This is a Government that says it supports freedom of expression but will only fund those who agree with them.
“Having built a grand new private library in his office, Senator Brandis is now intent on building a grand new private arts gallery to dole out money according to his own personal whims and wishes,” Shadow Arts Minister Mark Dreyfus said.
“It creates a whole new parallel funding process without any published criteria or peer review.”
This audacious grab for control over arts funding is on top of a further $13.2 million in cuts over 5 years from the arts budget. These unfair cuts will come from arts and cultural programs administered by the Australia Council, Screen Australia and the Attorney General’s Department.
An additional $5.3 million will be redirected away from the Australia Council and be given to Creative Partnerships Australia’s Plus 1 matched funding program.
In reducing the Australia Council’s funding the Abbott Government has significantly reduced its capacity to achieve its objectives.
This decision reduces the grant-making facility of the Australia Council and creates an unnecessary parallel process for arts funding in Australia with no apparent benefit to artists or arts organisations.
This all comes on top of significant cuts to the arts in last year’s budget, all of which remain in place.
Brandis has hacked into Labor’s Creative Australia cultural policy, distorted role of his department and undermined the accountability principles inherent in the peer review decisions conducted by the Australia Council.
This is not a Budget for Australia’s future, it’s a short-sighted attempt to save Tony Abbott’s job.