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Live Performance Australia slams Turnbull over Q&A answers

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Live Performance Australia, the peak body representing producers and performing arts companies, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over his response to Katie Noonan’s questioning on Monday’s Q&A. LPA Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson has labelled some of his claims “completely incorrect”.

Noonan asked Turnbull to commit to funding a “strong and independent” Australia Council, and reverse cuts made to the body. Turnbull defended the government’s record and Catalyst funding program, and said that the issue of restoring funding to the Australia Council “hasn’t arisen”.

Richardson wrote: “It is disappointing that with just over a week remaining to the election, the Coalition is yet to announce any strategic vision or policy direction for the arts sector in Australia, an exemplar industry in creating jobs and driving economic growth through creativity and innovation.”

Read the full letter below:


Dear Prime Minister,

Funding for the Australia Council

I am writing in response to comments you made about the level of funding provided to the Australia Council on Monday night’s ‘Q & A’ program on ABC TV. It is important to correct the information you provided in your answers.

Catalyst funding

You stated that: ‘It has almost entirely gone to regional companies, to smaller regional companies in Australia who had been seen to be missing out from funding from the Australia Council.’  Later, you said: ‘But all I can say to you is that the money that’s been spent through the Catalyst program has gone to regional arts companies.’

This statement is incorrect. In the Catalyst funding announced to date by the Minister for the Arts, only 37 per cent has been allocated to projects in regional and remote areas. 38 per cent has been allocated to metropolitan areas, and 24 per cent has been allocated for international activities.

Furthermore, as a result of the Coalition Government’s cuts to the Australia Council, a number of highly-regarded and successful regional small-to-medium arts companies have been de-funded, including performing arts companies. This includes the JUTE Theatre Company in Cairns, the Queensland Music Festival which presented events throughout regional and rural Queensland, and the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz in Victoria. Companies which took productions to regional Australia have also had their funding cut including KAGE and Snuff Puppets. Both these companies received Catalyst funding but lost their operational funding from the Australia Council.

Restoration of funding to the Australia Council

You were asked about returning funding to the Australia Council, to which you replied: ‘Well Tony the issue hasn’t arisen. I mean you’ve raised it here ..

Again, regrettably your statement was completely incorrect.

The Coalition Government’s funding cuts to the Australia Council have been the subject of ongoing and widespread representations from across the arts sector, including peak organisations such as ours.

There was a Senate inquiry into the new funding arrangements announced by Senator Brandis which attracted more than 2,700 public submissions. The subject was canvassed at length at the national arts debate held on 8 June 2016 as part of this election campaign which was attended by Senator Fifield. Both the Labor Party and the Greens have made policy announcements about returning funding to the Australia Council.  Most recently the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) announced their arts policy which included restoration of funding. There was a National Day of Action last Friday 17 June involving artists and performers around Australia. There have been numerous stories in the national media and the topic has also been extensively canvassed on social media.

Live Performance Australia’s number one policy priority for this election has been the return of $72.8 million to the Australia Council. This has been communicated to your office as well as the Minister for the Arts who still has not been able to accommodate our repeated requests for a meeting on behalf of Australia’s live performance industry which generates $2.5 billion in economic activity and supports 34,000 Australian jobs.

It is disappointing that with just over a week remaining to the election, the Coalition is yet to announce any strategic vision or policy direction for the arts sector in Australia, an exemplar industry in creating jobs and driving economic growth through creativity and innovation.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters in more detail with you.

For reference, I have attached a copy of our election policy priorities, released on 2 June 2016 which includes our call for the return of funding to the Australia Council.

Yours sincerely,

Evelyn Richardson
LPA Chief Executive

15 responses to “Live Performance Australia slams Turnbull over Q&A answers

  1. Obviously Turnbul either totally ignorant of the damage the governments policies have done or just doesn’t see the arts fitting into his narrow business focus. Disgraceful either way. Please think carefully before you vote.

  2. I enjoy the Arts, Theatre and Opera, I believe it enriches us culturally. Are there any valid reasons for these to receive grand government hand-outs. Even politicians receiving free seats and kudos is not a justification for such largesse. Although I enjoy, and rarely listen or view anything other than the ABC or SBS, I can’t see any valid business case for these to be publicly funded. If we want to enjoy it, we should be prepared to pay for it from our hip-pocket, not through the Tax system.

    1. I’m so with you on this, JRASYD. Some subsidy for critical benchmark programs can make sense (especially those that are net benefactors to the economy). In the main, however, state sponsorship tends to lead to fat, indolent arts organisations (it’s the same with almost any kind of government subsidy). Plus, I get tired of subsidising things with my taxes that I have no connection to.
      Patronage or corporate sponsorship, on the other hand, I have no problem with. That’s where an individual or company is putting his/her/its money into something he/she/it has a passion for. Now, I’m for that.
      And the difference is stark. One leads to moribund arts organisations more intent on politics than creativity and the other leads to a fitter, leaner and more robust arts community that doesn’t just sit around and carp.

    2. Without government hand-outs there would be no opera and only Disney musicals as theatre for you to enjoy. No ABC nor SBS- you’d be watching Channel 9. Your naïveté is astounding. Happy business case.

  3. I continue to ask the question why is this Government and the NSW Government handing over hundreds of millions of dollars to underwrite two of the wealthiest Film Companies – Disney for example is the 7th wealthiest in the world and yet Baird and Turnbull continue to sidle up to the wealthy handing over money that does not belong to them, but to the Taxpayers of Australia… – Australian taxpayers are paying for short term employment in the foreign arts when it is vital to invest in Australian home grown to ensure the future of the Australian Arts… Total assets of the Walt Disney Company in the fiscal years 2006 to 2015 (in billion U.S. dollars) This statistic contains data on the total assets of the Walt Disney Company from the fiscal year 2006 to the fiscal year 2015. In 2012, the Walt Disney Company held assets worth a total of 74.9 billion U.S. dollars.
    This is just one of the companies that Turnbull and Baird is ‘persuading’ with lucrative taxpayer incentives… stop the money leaving Australian shores…

  4. Turnbull’s grasp on everything is vague and vexatious, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the vast majority of Austraiana

  5. One doesn’t necessarily need a business case for public funding of the arts, education, science and technology etc, but if you are going down that path can I choose to direct my tax funding away from defense and towards the arts?

  6. Murdoch rubbing his hands all the way to the bank. No independent competition from ABC … no questioning anything he presents in his press! How can Turnbull so ignore our long-standing interest in our cultural history, our writers, our artists, our cultural organisations – and we, as Australians, own the ABC, Are they to be designated to the rubbish bin? And what about the unemployment such cuts cause? Not to mention his health policies (in spite of Trunbull’s denials) and we should guarantee education for all, not just the wealthy….

  7. Speaking as someone who has worked in the music industry for 30 years, if you can’t make a living out of your art you’re doing it wrong.

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