The Federal Government has continued its slash-and-burn approach to arts funding in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO), cutting an additional $52.5 million from the arts sector over the next four years.
Museums and galleries will bear the brunt of the cuts, with $36.8 million slashed from cultural and collecting entities.
Screen Australia will also lose $10.4 million over four years, which is the third cut to the funding body for local film and television in just 18 months. At the same time, an additional $47.3 million will go towards international films shot in Australia over the next two years — Ridley Scott’s new Alien film and the third Thor movie.
The controversial new Book Council of Australia, which drew $6 million of funding from Australia Council funds, will be scrapped entirely. That funding will not be returned to the Australia Council, which will not suffer any further cuts.
Arts Minister Mitch Fifield released a statement saying that he was considering alternatives to the Book Council: “I will be consulting widely with the literary community about alternative sector-led mechanisms for representation and promotion.”
The announcement comes just days after the Australia Council withdrew support from an extraordinary 10 of 14 funded youth performing arts organisations. In 2007 there were 21 youth performing arts companies funded by the Australia Council, by 2012 that number had shrunk to 14, and now there will be just four.
Some of these youth companies, which provide the formative arts experiences for the next generation of theatre-makers and audiences, may face closure given the funding gap.
Yesterday’s cuts represent some of the smallest individual “savings” found in the MYEFO and make very little difference to the budget bottom line, but continue the rapid shrinking of the already comparatively small arts budget.
The Turnbull government had gone some way to winning back the goodwill of the arts community after softening the blow of former Minister George Brandis’ cuts to the arts budget to establish his National Program for Excellence in the Arts.
The NPEA, which was to be administered by the Ministry outside the traditional “arms-length” principle, was labelled a “slush fund” and was the target of a concerted and consistent campaign by the broader arts community. It was substantially rolled back under new Arts Minister Mitch Fifield, and approximately one third of the funding was returned to the Australia Council.
There was some hope that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is well known for his passion for the arts, would restore some of the funding lost during the Abbott Government’s first two budgets. There were even those hoping that Turnbull would appoint himself Arts Minister and bring some focus back to the portfolio.
There now seems to be little hope that the arts funding crisis will be turned around any time soon.