ACCESS TO ARTS & CULTURE

We’ve put together our ideas for improving access for every Australian to a richer cultural and artistic life.

 

ABC, SBS & Public Broadcasting

Supporting a healthy, strong and independent public broadcasting sector is part of sustaining a healthy and strong democracy.

The ABC and SBS rely on public funding - they don't have an independent revenue source, such as the TV license, that the BBC receives in the UK. They are deeply important assets of this country - entertaining, informing and educating us outside of a commercial mandate.

We propose the reversal of the funding cuts imposed on the ABC in the 2013 budget (an increase of the ABC's budget of approximately $50 million a year) and a further fund of approximately $200 million a year to support new ABC and SBS programming: to enable creation of a diverse slate of Australian screen content, from drama to children's TV.

We also want the efficiency dividend cancelled for both the ABC and SBS.

The Arts Party reject the need for, or the value of, a merger between the ABC and the SBS. Such a merger, while potentially achieving savings in the "back-room operations" of both institutions, would lead to a reduction in diversity, a further erosion in worthwhile output and a diminishing of the total value of both of these culturally essential institutions.

All TV channels in Australia should be obliged to provide audio description and captioning of their programming on both their free-to-air and internet platforms. This is covered more in our disability policy.

We also demand returned financial support for the Screen Network organisations (Open Channel (Melbourne), Metro Screen (Sydney), MRC (Adelaide), FTI (Perth), Wide-angle (Hobart)) which were cut by Screen Australia as a result of funding losses over the last 12 months.

Additionally Community TV stations across the country should have their digital bandwidth registrations returned so that they can continue to broadcast. These organisations foster creativity and action, and have launched countless Australian careers. The Australian people are the key losers from the defunding of these organisations.

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Australia Council & Arts Sector Support

Recent cuts to the Australia Council have been nothing short of destructive. They have been deeply damaging to arts organisations across the country. We don't just need to "return funding" to the Australia Council - we need a complete rethink about how we value and engage with Arts Funding across Australia.

The Arts Party wish to fully implement the recommendations of the "Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts" Report - including the full return of Australia Council funding removed from the 2014 and 2015 budgets.

We want the actual distributed budget for artists and small/medium sized organisations (the amount of money actually given out in grants and support) TRIPLED, to achieve the true purpose of the Australia Council - making cultural and artistic participation an essential part of the lives of every Australian and encouraging artistic creative output by artists and organisations across the country. This equates to an increase of $124m in annual funding to the Australia Council. MPA funding must remain at existing levels.

The Catalyst program, announced in December 2015, should also continue and be resourced independently of this increase.

The Arts Party wish to work with industry experts to develop new ways of making specific funding decisions. We believe that these funding decisions are best made at arm's-length from Government. We further believe that the best outcome for both the Artistic Industries and Australian Audiences will be found in developing an open and transparent process, in which the reasons for the decisions made are laid out in an easily understood Arts Funding Constitution - which is then implemented by an independent statutory body.

We want the removal, or at least a 5 year suspension, of the efficiency dividend from all cultural institutions, the Australia Council and the federal Ministry for the Arts. Added to this The Arts Party will implement a 5% funding increase to all aforementioned cultural institutions.

We want all grants to no longer be liable for income tax for the individuals receiving them. The revenue generated by the ATO through this, balanced with the loss of time and value to the grant, make it inefficient and unneeded.

We support other funding pathways outside of the Australia Council, for example exploring ways in which the federal government could help boost arts funding provided by state and territory arts funding agencies by offering matched funding e.g. provide an additional $500,000 to the ACT Arts Fund for, say, a minimum of 5 years if the ACT Government agrees to match the increase.

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Trove

The Arts Party fully support the continuing funding of Trove and wish to clarify the ongoing nature of its support in the Federal Budget.

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AMPAG Funding and SM Funding

Continuing funding for AMPAG organisations is deeply important to the future of the performing arts industries, across Australia. Finding new an innovative ways to fund small to medium sized performing arts organisations is equally important.

The Arts Party support the ongoing funding of current AMPAG members. We wish to make sure that the current level of funding is maintained, across the board for these deeply important, loved and worthwhile organisations.

We also wish to explore more inventive, versatile and appropriate funding models for the equally important Small-to-Medium Performing Arts Groups.

We wish to recognise that, while ongoing, guarenteed base-line funding might be the most effective way of funding the AMPAG members already funded, that more innovative forms of investment can, and should, be investigated when it comes to supporting the work of Small to Medium size Arts Enterprises.

Funding models that reduce the risk of investment in Small to Medium sized performance projects, such as low-interest loans, funding subsidies on tickets sales and funding generic project costs (such as Public Liability Insurance) all go a long way to making it easier and more likely that the maximum number of Australians will be able to enjoy local live performance events - while also ensuring that the tax dollar is being efficiently spent.

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Demand not Supply

The current funding of Small to Medium arts enterprises is insufficient - but a balance needs to be found between

  1. reducing the risk of mounting new enterprises, and
  2. making sure that valuable tax dollars are spent supporting activities that Australian audiences want and desire.

In short, we need to find a way of allowing the people of Australia to decide where their tax dollars are spent, rather than expecting the government to preemptively "pick winners".

By funding the demand for artistic works, not the supply of artistic works, the government can insure that tax dollars are more effectively spent in those areas that the people want, and not wasted on artistic works of less relevance to the Australian people.

By way of example - a subsidy of $5 per ticket for a live performance would allow the producer of an event to offer their tickets for $5, while guaranteeing an income of $10 per ticket. Should such an offering garner no ticket sales then the subsidy would cost nothing to the government. Should the event prove popular then the subsidy would represent a cost to the government, but only as a result of the event's inherent value to the Australian people.

We will set-up an initial fund of $186 million to trial trial a process of funding subsidies of ticket sales for registered seasons or exhibitions of new Australian works. Such subsidies would be supplied on a "per ticket" or "per attendee" basis - and would allow the developer of the subsidised art to reduce their risk, by reducing the cost of ticket sales to their event by an amount equivalent to the subsidy.

Should a trial of such a process prove successful and workable, we would analyse the cost involved in a offering such a subsidy across Australia for a broader range of events.

By such a process the government can ensure that no money is wasted on producing artistic works of little interest to audiences. The process of creating interest in an artistic works remains the responsibility of those who produce it.

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National Arts Week

We have a National Science Week and an Engineering Week, Workplace Safety Month and many more, but nothing for The Arts. Why not?

Ongoing access and participation in Australian Cultural Life is the aim of the Arts Party. A National Arts Week would be a 7 day opportunity to highlight, celebrate, participate in and experience the Arts in every form, by as many Australians as possible across the country.  It would be an officially sanctioned, national engagement priority for those 7 days each year; supported by our governments at every level, our broadcast and print media, colleges, schools and all our publicly funded institutions and - most important of all - by us, the Australian people.

We propose that every council across Australia should be federally funded to organise local performers and entertainers to connect with their local communities, as well as enable schools, colleges and arts/craft centres to offer hands-on learning workshops each evening of the week, from singing to sculpture, music to mosaic making, covering as many disciplines as possible. These activities would also be supported by online projects, free performances by all major performing arts groups and TV programming celebrating Australian creativity, culture and communities.

The week would culminate in a special Culture Night in all our state capitals, where as many AMPAG organisations, theatres, museums, churches, libraries and businesses as possible could offer artistic and cultural entertainment and performances of every form, from concerts to interactive activities, drama/theatre/opera productions, from historical tours to poetry readings for anyone who buys a pass for a nominal fee.

Here are just a couple of examples of these Culture Nights being enacted in other places across the World and excellent templates for doing the same here in Australia:  

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National Ensemble of Theatre Actors (NETA)

A peculiar and indefensible asymmetry has developed in the highest professional echelons of Australian performing arts that the Arts Party looks to redress.

Major national and state-based orchestras, ballet companies and operas employ many hundreds of full-time musicians, singers, and dancers. The Arts Party gives full support to this structure. However, there is no national theatre company in Australia, and no state-based theatre company employs a single actor on a full-time basis.

The Arts Party proposes the establishment of a National Ensemble of Theatre Actors (NETA). NETA would comprise one hundred actors around the country, on full-time contracts, applying their skills across all tiers of the theatre industry.

When NETA actors are cast by companies in a given project, the producer of that work would be relieved of the budgeting responsibility for the employment of that actor. All NETA actors would have an obligation to work outside of the existing AMPAG network of companies for a portion of each year.

Protocols would be developed in consultation with all stakeholders for the quota of actors based in each state, for selection processes, and the allocation and reporting of duties.

Eligibility for membership of NETA would be limited to actors whose income over a set period has not exceeded that provided by the scheme. Membership contracts might be for a period of two to four years, and no actor might be a NETA member for more than ten years of their career.

The program will be budgeted at around $10 million per year and can be administrated through the Australia Council.

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Regional Cultural Support

Regional Australians are in particular need of help, in terms of accessing cultural facilities and resources. Regional arts development is under-supported and under-recognised. Towns and communities that have a significant artistic and cultural life are often able to develop alternative industries, assist in the process of decentralisation, and can more easily attract medical, teaching and other professional staff to live and work in their communities.

We want to see affordable workspaces created across Australia from unused council properties, for low cost hire by artists and community groups, multi-purpose arts facilities and community centres established (see Community Centres below) and creative/digital hubs set up in towns across the country offering facilities for creative business/start-up development.

We propose the establishment of a funding relationship between the federal government and local governments to augment the work of cultural and arts programs within the existing infrastructure of Arts Centres and Community Centres in regional and outer-suburban areas.

Many such centres exist, but their capacity to fill their often extremely impressive buildings with meaningful programs is severely curtailed by haphazard, meagre funding. This leads to inefficient use of the physical and human resources of the centres.

This is a program for cultural cohesion. It acknowledges the enormous capacity for cultural events and programs - exhibitions, presentations, workshops and classes - to advance a cohesive society. It acknowledges that engagement with art is a profoundly powerful phenomenon for young people seeking direction in their lives, and a sense of belonging.   

The Arts Party wants to see these centres become the genuine cultural CENTRES of their communities, accessed by as wide a selection of the community as possible.

The benefits of this program are cultural and economic; centres engaging with the local community, offering varied courses and workshops, growing audiences of all ages, and actively increasing opportunity, inclusivity and social cohesion. One excellent example is 107 Projects in Redfern, Sydney.

We also recommend “twinning” communities across Australia and using a range of grants and sponsorships made available to local resident artists and creatives in each community to facilitate sharing resources, knowledge, environments and contacts, thereby strengthening both communities and Australia as a “community of communities”.

The Arts Party believes in human well-being as a measure of a successful society, and a political concern. We believe that this program will have positive effects on health and community safety; impacting positively on health and law-enforcement budgets in regional communities across Australia.

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Public Museums, Galleries and Community Centres

Our museums and galleries are filled with wisdom, beauty and thought. We want to encourage access for all Australians.

We propose free entry to all government funded museums and galleries up to the age of 21 and over the age of 65. Additionally on one day a week, every museum and gallery should be subsidised to offer free entry for all visitors to their standard displays.

Special visiting or curated exhibitions would of course still incur entry fees, though ideally again would include a subsidised day each week, chosen by the facility, where the entry fee would be halved.  

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Digital & Cultural Access

In a country the size of Australia it is vital that internet is of the highest speed and accessibility to all citizens for cultural, medical, business and social use. We need to future proof our internet access to stay competitive. We've slipped to 44th in the world and look set to slip further. The Arts Party laments the reductions to the NBN plan for this country. We should be fitting fibre to the home at every opportunity. We support the fastest possible internet solution that can affordably be made available to Australians across the country.

It is impractical for most Australians, particularly those in the country, to physically and regularly attend cultural events around the country, yet we pay for many of the venues through our taxes.

Therefore we will support strategies that give Australians more access online to publicly funded creative and cultural output, through streaming of events, performances and talks wherever possible. For productions financed in part or wholly by public funding, occurring in publicly owned/funded venues (such as the Sydney Opera House or State Theatres), 30-90 day domestic streaming rights agreements, in line with current TV content, should be included in venue contracts, by default. Commercial productions in these venues would also have the opportunity to use the streaming facility to further widen their own audiences if they wished.

We applaud the work of iview for increasing access to Australia’s cultural output and see that as an obvious vehicle for expanding that access, managing ongoing delivery, content capture and storage.

 

Links to other Policy Areas:


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