Whether it be through ideology or simply a reflection of the Dunning Krueger effect, the arts in Australia has been so savagely attacked that reversing the Australia Council cuts brought on by the LNP government will not be enough.
The cuts initiated by former arts minister Senator George Brandis will mean that skills and experience will either move overseas or into other fields and projects and ideas could be left to stagnate. These aren’t things you can simply throw money at and hit the reset button with. They can only recover when the arts portfolio is taken more seriously than it is now.
Even the Australian Greens, which is promising to reverse these funding cuts, is using its arts policy as an easy opportunity for differentiation from the LNP and the ALP.
But beyond the Greens’ promise of money there isn’t a whole lot of insight — or to use Malcolm Turnbull’s favourite word — innovation in how it’s proposing to use funds allocated to the arts.
But now Australia has the opportunity to vote for a party that for the first time puts the arts at the core of its policies and ideology.
The Arts Party is in fact a world first. It is solely financed through memberships and two successful crowdfunding campaigns. Now, it has over 2,200 paid members and is running 20 candidates in the election; 13 for the Senate and the rest for the House of Representatives (including Anthony Ackroyd, in Malcolm Turnbull’s own seat of Wentworth), with each state fielding candidates.
“We’re in a unique position as a micro-party,” the Arts Party leader, PJ Collins told Daily Review.
“We’ve got a large number of paid members and we’re offering something genuinely different. It’s important that people realise that we’re a party that stands for us all, for artists and audiences, because the arts benefits everyone of us and the creative industries are the key industries for our future. We’re not driven by any ideology, just about getting the best deal and best opportunity for Australians now, from whichever party forms government.”
For Collins and the party, the arts have educational, cultural, and deep economic value to a nation. They encourage, inspire and provide significant export and tourism opportunities that Australia has not capitalised on as well as it could have.
Collins thinks that in order to build Australian arts into a position of strength the initial goal must be to get artists producing again.
“The ABC and SBS have been struggling with deep budget cuts,” Collins said. “Reversing those cuts is one thing and will certainly stem the haemorrhaging, but is that enough to actually bring the ABC back to a position of strength? I’d suggest not.
“We see a significant opportunity in providing an extra $200 million to the public broadcasters, above and beyond the restoration of funding, to use to create original content – including children’s programming. This would be a real investment, as it would create IP which would have later value to the ABC, and would help the broadcasters to maintain mindshare in an industry that is becoming dominated by imported content from America via the likes of Netflix,” he said.
The LNP’s wrecking ball touched all arts industries in Australia and did so with minimal to zero consultation.
Australia once had a robust and popular cinema industry that was dismantled as Hollywood flooded the market with cheaper films. To avoid the same happening to television, there needs to be a kick start to our broadcaster’s ability to generate original content.
There’s a similar story in the emerging art form of video games. The industry currently has no investment whatsoever from the government. The Greens want to restore $20 million, three-year investment made by the previous Labor government.
The Arts Party want to take things further and create a new body dedicated to the facilitation of video games and other digital art. This will be separate to Screen Australia which means it can better engage with the new media industries as its own entity.
The LNP’s wrecking ball touched all arts industries in Australia and did so with minimal to zero consultation – or else it simply ignored the advice from the industry when it did seek it.
Collins said that the arts industry needs more than investment; it needs a voice in parliament that is willing to listen to and advocate for the arts.
“I think like most of Australia I was deeply offended when I read Richard Flanagan’s response to Prime Minister Turnbull,” Collins said, referring to the novelist’s attack on Turnbull in November. Flanagan accused the Prime Minister of ideological vandalism because of its attack upon the book industry.
“To be so utterly derisive of literature – a very cornerstone of a nation’s culture – belies a deeply anti-intellectual approach to nation building. The arts benefits everyone, and we need to make it more accessible to more people by having Australia create a lot more of it,” Collins said.
The Arts Party’s policies extend beyond the arts; it supports the closing of offshore detention centres and advocates a substantial lift in Australia’s refugee intake. It also has marriage equality, healthcare and extensive education and community support ideas at the centre of its creative thinking.
Collins said that the arts industry needs more than investment; it needs a voice in parliament.
The party even wants to encourage an Australian space industry. “Nothing inspires the imagination of children and adults alike than the challenge of space research,” Collins said.
The Australian Arts Party is progressive and humanitarian in nature. Its goal is to accumulate one million votes across Australia — an ambitious one to say the least.
Surely a party that represents a creative, intelligent, innovative Australia is going to draw interest in the right places.
The ALP will announce its arts policy tomorrowMain image: Anthony Ackroyd on ABC TV’s The Mix. Image source The Arts Party Instagram.