Ahead of Thursday’s ministerial reshuffle, artists appeal to the new PM to reverse arts funding cuts.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott may not be the only political casualty of this week’s Liberal Party leadership spill which saw Malcolm Turnbull dethrone Abbott to become Australia’s fourth PM in five years. Many within the arts community have rallied to lobby the new Prime Minister to dismiss Senator George Brandis as the Minister for the Arts and reverse the drastic changes to the arts funding infrastructure instituted by the Minster in the Federal Budget. This includes cancelling the creation of the new National Programme for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA) which has syphoned over $104 million from the Australia Council.
The Australian reported that Senator Brandis was among 14 Liberal frontbenchers who backed Turnbull’s successful challenge of Tony Abbott for the country’s highest office. However despite this allegiance arts leaders have called upon the newly sworn-in Prime Minster to return the reallocated funds to the Australia Council for the Arts.
Ahead of the cabinet reshuffle announcement expected tomorrow, which could see Senator Brandis dumped as Arts Minister, an email from the #FreeTheArts movement urged those in the arts community to write to the new PM to voice the substantial opposition to the arts funding cuts. “It’s absolutely critical that we all flood Malcolm Turnbull with messages that tell him to ditch the NPEA and not leave Brandis as Arts Minister,” it said. Also to that end a protest took place today outside the Wentworth electorate office of the new Prime Minister in Edgecliff, NSW, organised by Penelope Benton from the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).
In addition to the thousands of written submissions from artists and arts organisations, statements from State arts ministers, major arts philanthropists and other local government representatives have been heard at the public hearings of the Senate Inquiry currently investigating the impact of the NPEA on the Australian arts ecology. This has built up a compelling body of evidence in opposition to Senator Brandis’ cuts to the Australia Council and in particular the establishment of the NPEA, which will greatly disadvantage individual artists and small to medium sized organisations, while pouring additional funds into the most highly subsidised arts organisations in the land.
In stark contrast to Tony Abbott, the new PM has more overt connections to the arts than his predecessor. His wife Lucy sits on the Board of the Sydney Biennale, and the Turnbulls are known for being prolific art collectors. However the arts community must wait anxiously for tomorrow’s ministerial announcement to find out if Turnbull’s political coup will offer new hope for the future of the arts in Australia.