Major arts companies reportedly told not to criticise Brandis' Australia Council cuts

The call for Australia’s major performing arts companies to speak out against Arts Minister George Brandis’ gutting of the Australia Council by $104.8 million has been growing for the past two weeks, but it has been revealed that the federal government might have pressured some of the bigger companies to keep schtum. 

Early last week Daily Review contacted all 28 major performing arts companies quarantined from Brandis’ cuts and was told by Melbourne’s Malthouse and Sydney’s Belvoir that discussions were taking place between the major theatre companies for a planned joint statement.

On the afternoon of Monday, May 18, a spokesperson for Malthouse told Daily Review “there will be a collective statement from CAST (Confederation of Australian State Theatres) coming out shortly, if not already”, but it never materialised.

When asked today why the statement was ditched, Belvoir responded that the company would not be commenting.

Now we may know why, as Daily Review sister site Crikey reports that in the run-up to last Friday’s day of national protests in capital cities, several of the big companies began drafting a letter criticising the Australia Council cuts. Crikey understands that one of those companies was the Sydney Theatre Company, but after Brandis’ office heard about the letter, pressure was applied directly to the STC’s chair, David Gonski.

Crikey understands a meeting was held between Gonski and one or more advisers from Brandis’ office. The STC backed away from any public statement about the funding cuts, and other majors, sniffing the wind, also took fright.  In Senate estimates on Wednesday, Brandis flatly denied that his office had met with any major performing arts companies. The STC issued a blanket ‘no comment’ to Crikey‘s enquiries.”

Circus Oz and the artistic directors of the Queensland Theatre Company, State Theatre of South Australia and Black Swan in Perth have all spoken out against the cuts but the heads of Australia’s two largest theatre companies, the STC and the Melbourne Theatre Company, have so far remained silent.

Read more on the Brandis’ Australia Council raid:

Brandis: The Arts Policy he can’t remember, the Australia Council and the rather “marvellous” Andrew Bolt

Australia Council Cuts: Is the Devil in These Details?  

Brandis pulls the trigger on artists

Artists protest Brandis’ arts cuts around Australia

Our smaller cities stand together against Brandis’ art cuts 

Australia Council responds: the cuts start now 

Brandis defends his “Programme for Excellence”

Artists petition against Brandis’ Australia Council raid 

Excellence and Heritage aren’t dirty words

Circus Oz weighs in on Brandis’ Australia Council cuts 

7 responses to “Major arts companies reportedly told not to criticise Brandis' Australia Council cuts

  1. “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”―Noam Chomsky

  2. I would also ask where is the response from the festivals ? Also beneficiaries of the Minister’s money manoeuvres through the increase to the MFI fund.

  3. Faust anyone?!!
    This was always bound to happen at some stage, we all took the Govt $ and became Govt artists making Govt art ruled by spineless Govt art public servants. This ain’t Rock n’ Roll/ This is Genocide!

  4. you better pull your finger out Malthouse and support the independent arts funded companies that have graced your stage with its talent. A show I happened to be in this year which was named and shamed in the article hat damned arts funding was your highest grossing show in over a year. Show your support….don’t be too smug. Loyalty is the only true currency.

    1. Yes Malthouse silence is disgraceful. They would not exist without small companies and independent artists.

  5. It’s time for artists to strike against the Majors. And it’s worth noting that the artists who are employed by the Majors are in the main horrified by the Brandis changes. It’s the corporate boards of these companies that are to blame for their shameful silence. There is no way Brandis would be able to get away with these changes if the Majors spoke out, time to apply some real pressure

  6. “See, their morals, their code… it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down, these… these civilized people? They’ll eat each other.”
    — The Joker, THE DARK KNIGHT

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