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NPEA: George Brandis' Excellent Adventure is all going to plan

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Draft guidelines have finally been released for the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA) almost seven weeks since the Arts Minister, George Brandis, revealed its existence at the Federal Budget
Since that time the arts industry has argued in the dark (and among itself) waiting for more details and fearing the worst as $105 million is stripped from the Australia Council and transferred to the NPEA.
Many of its fears appear to be justified. The Australia Council funds individuals and organisations on a system of peer assessment that is arm’s length from the Ministry and the Arts Minister. The NPEA is administered from within the Arts Ministry by “assessors” appointed and chosen by the Ministry.
The Draft informs: “The Ministry for the Arts will maintain a Register of Independence Assessors comprising sector and community representatives. The Ministry will advertise for expressions of interest and may also identify suitable persons to be invited to become assessors”.
Each application for funds will be assessed and ranked by “at least three assessors including a combination of Ministry for the Arts and independent assessors”.
The Draft also says that the amount of funds given to a recipient can be kept secret if  “the Minister has obtained an exemption in accordance with the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines”.
Although the NPEA differs to the Australia Council in that it excludes individual artist applications, any film and TV production and interactive game projects from its funding, it appears to replicate many of the objectives as the Australia Council.
The NPEA Draft says its objectives are:
*Deliver a wide range of quality arts and cultural experiences that grow arts audiences, throughout Australia and internationally.
*Strengthen Australia’s reputation as a sophisticated and artistic nation with a confident, outward-focused arts sector.
*Encourage greater private sector support and partnership funding for the arts.
*Support collaborations to develop arts and culture initiatives including in specific regions or priority areas.
The Australia Council says its strategic plan is:
“(To) reflect our desire to make more visible the vitality of our arts and culture, and to recognise the evolving way that Australians make and experience art.  Our role is to support the unimagined along with the reimagined, the unknown and experimental along with the keenly anticipated. We are a champion for Australian arts both here and overseas. We invest in artistic excellence through support for all facets of the creative process and are committed to the arts being more accessible to all Australians.”
The $105 million taken (over four years) from the Australia Council will fund the NPEA which will give up to $20 million a year (for four years). This begs the question: where is the other $25 million going?
The major difference between the NPEA and the Australia Council seems to that arts funding is administered and decided by the Arts Ministry and his Ministry as opposed to an arm’s length organisation whose decisions are removed from direct political interference.
The cost of replicating a grant system (is this where the $25 million is going?) seems extraordinary unless of course the plan is for the NPEA to eventually replace the Australia Council.
As Crikey reported today, the three year terms of Australia Council chair Rupert Myer and deputy chair Robyn Archer have expired. The Daily Review sister site says rumours of replacements “in a further move to gut the agency” include Sydney-born Edinburgh Festival director Jonathan Mills and government friendly “culture warriors” Janet Albrechtsen, Imre Salusinszky, Nick Cater or Judith Sloan.
You can read the NPEA Draft Guidelines here.
Read more about George Brandis’ raid on the Australia Council
New details emerge about Brandis’ arts “Slush fund” 
The Brandis raid so far …in pictures
Video: Artists protest Opera Australia opening 
MTC (sort of) weighs in to Brandis’ arts cuts controversy 
Protest planned for Opera Australia opening night
Major arts companies issue fresh statement on Brandis’ cuts
Senate Inquiry launched into Brandis’ arts cuts
Australia Council cuts: the companies on the chopping block
Editorial: Shameful silence over arts cuts
The Brandis Heist


4 responses to “NPEA: George Brandis' Excellent Adventure is all going to plan

    1. Well spotted Zane. But a technical question. Do we Australians only bow before knighthoods awarded by the Queen of Australia, or do we also observe those she dispenses in the mother country?

  1. You’re not dreaming… This is happening people. The prime minister is forbidding his ministers to argue policy on the national broadcaster, and the arts minister is dolling out cash, without disclosure to the stuff he (they) considers ‘culture’. OMG, we sorted out this stuff in the 50’s and 60’s with and moved on didn’t we? The great socialist democratic experiment is over – it was always more fragile than we hoped.

    1. The 1968 generation having won much back then sat on its laurels and stayed in their jobs in culture for so long that they became stale and took too much for granted. These people are leaving the field only now and they stiffled debate and innovation for far too long. Hence the vacuum that Brandis filled. Brandis and the Libs won’t be in power that long anyway. But the rot set in for Government Art in Australia under Rudd/ Gillard. Why? No new “contract” with the Australian public was deemed neccessary for the same old arts luvvies. No real new ideas, no real response to the internet an dthe change in the dispersial of culture on new platforms. I tried in vain to get the Brisbane based Eyeline Magazine to go digital. On and on the same old people in the same jobs or playing deckchairs with the few jobs there are in the way too small Oz arts scene.
      We shouldn’t blame Brandis we shiuld blame ourselves!

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