SUPPLY BILL 2016
Second Reading Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 14 April 2016.)
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:24): I rise today on behalf of the Greens, as I imagine my colleague will also do at a later date, to respond to the Supply Bill 2016. As we know, this has been made a priority of government for debate this week, although I note that it will not be progressing further into second reading or final votes today.
I rise to raise awareness, and express my concern as the Greens spokesperson for the arts, about the savaging that the arts sector is currently facing. Certainly, obviously, with a federal election in the air this is a highly contentious and political issue. But I think it is also one that is very relevant to the state budget that is to now be brought in in July.
The Federal Government, of course, announced its savaging of the Australia Council in favour of a new funding model. Cuts to the arts have been high on the national agenda and also on the state agenda. It would have been bad enough had those federal cuts—which we have now seen announced last Friday as the 'black Friday' for the arts sector—were only at a federal level, but indeed, the proposed state level cuts of some $8.5 million, $1 million of which we already know is to come from the Adelaide Festival, not just compound this situation but make it many times worse.
The Hon. S.G. Wade interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Ms Franks has the floor.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: This week the bleak reality has set in with news that 65 arts organisations across the country are to be de-funded. Those 65 arts organisations are staffed by people who are passionate about the services they provide, and of course, are patronised by people who learn, laugh and in some cases even live for what those organisations stand for. In our state of South Australia, those that will fall, that have lost their funding, include the Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Brink Productions, Contemporary Art Centre South Australia, Slingsby, and Vitalstatistix. Housed at the Lion Arts Centre, the Australian Experimental Art Foundation was established in 1974 by a small group of artists with dedication to encouraging new approaches to promote the idea of art as radical and only incidentally aesthetic. For over 40 years, the Experimental Art Foundation has provided a space for arts to make and exhibit art that expands current debates and ideas in contemporary art and culture.
The young yet very impressive and award-winning Slingsby is in its ninth year and can boast that it has premiered six original productions performed in 69 venues in 43 cities on five continents, including a two-week sold out season on 42nd Street in New York—fodder for bragging rights for our state, for a vibrant festival state, I would have thought. Slingsby produces quality programs. They present emotionally challenging storytelling and rich theatrical experiences. Slingsby even bravely and successfully presented Oscar Wilde for children.
Also providing a platform for quality original work, Brink Productions has been around for about 17 years. Brink started as a group of seven creatives with a goal to improve artistic production in Australian theatre, and that they have done. Brink produces insightful, thought-provoking art with complex ideas.
Contemporary Art Centre South Australia has a 74 year history of nurturing, supporting and exhibiting living artists. Interestingly the group started in 1942 as a breakaway group of young artists from the Royal Society of Arts seeking greater opportunities for their work. Since then, they have provided prospects for contemporary artists.
Finally, coming to Vitalstatistix: it was formed in 1984 and, more than 30 years later, Vitals (as it is affectionately known) offers a program of performance, residencies, events, exhibitions, collaborations and initiatives for South Australian artists. A feminist organisation at its core, Vitalstatistix also has a very proud tradition of supporting women artists. All of these companies, like the many rich, diverse and vital arts organisations across South Australia give a voice to those who are voiceless. They give a voice to the young, to the vulnerable, the educated, the under-educated, the at-risk, the innocent and, of course, they give a voice to the arts. They are voices that may fall silent and their vast contribution to our cultural identity will be lost.
The justification for cutting the arts will often focus on the idea of a cost—that this money could apparently be better spent elsewhere. But just what is the cost of cutting arts programs? What is the cost to our culture, to our overall sense of wellbeing? With many of the defunded organisations involved in arts education or youth programs, what also is the cost to the next generation?
What of the economic cost, the flow-on effect to other businesses? Which people get to decide that experiencing a live performance is somehow a better way to spend an evening than a night of Netflix and chill? Or, better yet, choosing to travel to South Australia as tourists—to us, the Festival State—a title that will be difficult to justify once these cuts have full effect. As I say, those cuts at a federal level are dwarfed by those to come at a state level, if we are to believe the media reports that have been confirmed by this government in the other place.
We often wax lyrical on the benefits of a vibrant city and a vibrant South Australia and an innovative nation and an innovative state but in accepting these cuts to the arts we are either taking the vibrancy and that innovation for granted and thinking it will somehow persist or we are simply paying hollow lip service.
This year, over the 18 days of the Adelaide Festival, there was a total box office income in excess of $2.8 million across the 27 ticketed events, and that excludes the WOMADelaide event. Australian works were amongst some of the most popular. There were outstanding international events, of course, like the 11-hour National Theatre of Scotland's The James Plays which played to capacity houses and brought people to the theatre who possibly would not normally go, thus proving South Australia is a world leader in producing quality arts events and connecting creativity with the broader community.
The cost of cutting the arts will be far greater than any savings to be found. While those in the federal government will often talk about growing the pie there is no denying that the arts pie is considerably small. The funding of arts projects and organisations should not be at the whim of politicians but, under the new federal funding regime, this has been the case.
We have seen the artists pillory the former minister, George Brandis, and his attempts to commandeer the arts funding regime in his own image, and to his own choice with, indeed, the thing that the arts do best—satire and parody and using the arts to fight back.
I have to make note the wonderful Vitalstatistix, an organisation I have a great affection for. I attended the event just a week ago that was packed out with local community—and certainly on a cold Friday night a wonderful place to spend the night in Port Adelaide enjoying the wonderful work of the National Trouble Makers Union and Bryan Dawe, who would be known to many of you through his comedy work over many decades, who also has a very special place in his heart for Vitalstatistix.
While that money for Vitalstatistix is cut adrift, minister Peter Dutton is investing in the arts, in particular in a film, a film which is, of course, an anti-asylum seeker telemovie. At many millions of dollars this seems to be the only arts that the federal government has been interested in. As I say, Brink will not be getting any funding into the future but perhaps 'George Brandis, the Musical' might well get a run in coming years.
We hear about other cities and other states, most notably Victoria, investing in their arts and arts communities. We can only stand by and watch as Premier Andrews announces a creative industry boost of $115 million in their most recent state budget, knowing that these $8.5 million cuts are still to come, hanging over the heads of the arts community here. South Australia, we can do much better than this.
If we say we cannot fund the arts, what are we saying not only to our own citizens but to the rest of Australia who once saw us as the pacesetters in arts innovation? What are we also saying to the world, where South Australia is recognised as having the biggest arts festival in the southern hemisphere and the second biggest Fringe festival in the world? What are we saying if we stop supporting our arts locally? What are we also saying to those emerging artists who do not want to move interstate to practice their craft?
As Ross McHenry said standing on the steps at a recent protest, he does not want to be an artist who is from Adelaide: he wants to be an artist who works and lives and is in Adelaide. Are we to become a place where people used to come from when they make it big on either the world or national stages, or will we be a place where those artists call home? We certainly will not be able to hear them call it home if we continue with the savaging of the arts sector that the federal government has commenced.
We are also saying to those voiceless people who do get a voice through the arts that we do not want to hear their voices any longer. When the arts community eventually falls silent, we will not be hearing those voices at all, so now is the time to speak up for the arts.