URGENT: ACT NOW, SENATE ARTS INQUIRY

From the RealTime Editors

Please add your voice to the growing protest against the Federal Government Arts Budget that is already having a devastating effect with Australia Council funding programs postponed indefinitely and artists’ production schedules in disarray.

There are two days remaining for you to make a submission, however brief, however simple and in whatever form [text, image, video] to the Australian Parliamentary Senate Inquiry “into the impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts.”

You can read the inquiry’s terms of reference and how to send a submission to the inquiry on the Australian Parliament website.

MAKING A SUBMISSION

If you need help composing a submission NAVA offers advice and relevant links and you can see examples of the near 100 protests already submitted.

The invaluable Brandis-Unapproved www.npea.org.au National Program for Excellence in the Arts website does not belong to the Ministry of the Arts. Created by agile artists who got there before Brandis it contains submission advice, a multitude of links to articles and reflections on the notion of excellence from Whitlam to today.

THE ISSUES

The transfer of Australia Council funds to the Ministry of the Arts in the 2015 Arts Budget:
– diminishes the role of the Australia Council as an independent statutory authority and financially limits its effectiveness
– seriously disrupts the networks, activities and careers of hundreds of artists and organisations;
– sets up a second federal funding arts body [National Program for Excellence in the Arts] to operate largely at the Minister’s own discretion with a simplistic, highly manipulable criterion of ‘excellence’ and a right to secrecy as to who is funded in some cases;
– underrates the aesthetic and social effectiveness of art activity right across Australia;
– and dismissively undervalues individual artists and organisations in the small to medium sector in favour of large companies that play to overall smaller audience numbers.

Above all the Arts Budget represents very serious ethical failure on the part of the Coalition Government [see THE BIG PICTURE below].

THE CALL FOR GOVERNMENT ACTION

Artists and their supporters are calling on the Federal Government to put an immediate halt to plans to strip the Australia Council of $105 million over 4 years to establish the Minister for the Arts’ National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA).

WHAT NEXT?

The Inquiry cannot make legislative changes, but the arts sector and its supporters will have their views heard, providing a full picture of what is at stake for politicians at all levels of government, the public and the media. And protest will not stop while we wait for the inquiry to produce its report on 15 September.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

The removal of Australia Council funds is an ethical failure analogous with other actions of the Coalition Government that add up to an assault on democracy.

The SSS Government: Secretive, Small, Separate
Secretive: a government without transparency [Border Protection, Border Force, Nauru, Manus Island, Brandis’ other arts spending, diminished freedom of information, new unnecessary anti-terrorism laws]

Small: not the small government Liberals always promise but never produce, but a small number of government ministers accruing enormous direct power without oversight.

Separate: a government removing itself from the long established and hard-won obligations of the separation of powers, assaulting statutory authorities—the Australia Council, the Human Rights Commission and the ABC—diminishing the separation between church and state [the chaplaincy program, overspending on private schools] and absorbing the Solicitor General into the department of Attorney General Brandis.

Senator George Brandis has behaved unethically and undemocratically towards the arts: without consultation, without parliamentary or public debate and breaking with a long tradition of arm’s length support of the arts.

PROTEST WITH WIT

Telethon for Excellence
Sydney performance group Appelspiel and PACT Centre for Emerging Artists are staging In Pursuit of Excellence: A Telethon for Excellence. The live, 24 hour live stream event with sleepover aims to raise EXCELLLENCES (not money) for the independent and small to medium sector. Performances, dancing, panels and debate will highlight what will be lost if the Brandis ‘vision’ becomes actuality.

Friday 17 July, 6pm – Saturday 18 July, from 6pm, PACT, 107 Railway Parade, Erskineville, Sydney; entry is free, donations welcome

Art of Brandis
These artworks mock the pretensions and manner of the Minister of the Arts in a huge number of contexts from Alien, Eraserhead and the Macbeth of Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood to cute embroidered Georges (“To be clear, we are not selling these!” says the tweet) and the creepily lurking figure behind a Bill Henson model. Doubtless many of the references would be beyond Brandis, save for where he’s refashioned as Beethoven and Brahms. There’s lot of fun if too many grim truths to be found in these clever cut-ups and cartoonings.

RealTime issue #127 June-July 2015 pg. web

© RT ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

15 July 2015