Since we are in the midst of an election campaign, Labor will make the usual motherhood statements about the importance of the arts. But given Labor’s issues with delivery and financial management, those who actually value the arts should be highly sceptical of any commitments they make.
By contrast, the practical, targeted support provided by the Morrison Government has been unprecedented. Arts funding by the Morrison Government in 2021-22 stands at over $1 billion dollars. This is the highest level of Commonwealth arts funding ever delivered by a federal government, Liberal or Labor.
Our COVID-specific arts support stands at $500 million – including our $220 million RISE fund, which is supporting a pipeline of arts and entertainment events around the country.
RISE is designed to support arts companies, promoters, festivals and entrepreneurs to put new shows on as the sector works to rebound from the challenges of COVID.
So far, $200 million has been committed under RISE. It has gone to 541 projects, creating more than 213,000 jobs across Australia, to be seen by a total audience of 55 million people.
There is funding in every state and territory and across every genre from dance to theatre to circus to music (classical, jazz, folk and pop) to visual arts and literature and more besides. RISE is funding subsidised arts companies and purely commercial ventures, and money is going to shows in our big cities as well as country towns and remote locations.
But RISE is just part of the Morrison Government’s comprehensive package designed to get the arts sector through COVID. The COVID-19 Arts Sustainability Fund, designed to support systemically important arts organisations through the pandemic downturn, has so far supported 16 leading arts organisations across Australia for a total of $51.5 million.
The Temporary Interruption Fund operates by providing certainty to local film and television producers to commence or continue filming should their insurers not provide coverage for being shut down and delayed due to COVID-19. The Fund has supported some 92 screen productions. Based on reporting to date, the government anticipates that the TIF has supported over 12,000 production roles and 5,000 business contracts.
Our $540 million Location Incentive program has now attracted 32 global screen productions to Australia: from Ticket to Paradise filming in Queensland to Thor: Love and Thunder in Sydney, La Brea in Melbourne and The Tourist in South Australia, some 20, 500 jobs for Australian cast and crew have been generated.
All this of course is on top of continuing funding to the Australia Council (around $200 million a year), Screen Australia (over $80 million) and other arts bodies and cultural institutions.
Part of the reason for this funding is economic. The cultural and creative sector generates a lot of employment: 700, 000 jobs. Cultural and creative activity also generates substantial economic dividends: around $116 billion of economic value in 2018-19 according to the Bureau of Communications, Arts and Regional Research.
The Morrison Government has funded the arts strongly because we know that when people go and see a show, that means jobs for the performers, the backstage crew, front of house staff and many more.
It also means jobs in adjacent industries like hospitality and tourism. When you go and see a show, you very likely also go to a bar, a cafe or a restaurant; you might well book into a hotel for an overnight stay; you might jump on a plane to go and see a big musical or exhibition in another city.But as well as its economic value, we must never forget the intrinsic cultural and human importance of arts and entertainment activity. It’s part of our DNA to tell stories, to create visual representations of our world, and to make music and dance. This is how we understand who we are and what it means to be human.
A re-elected Morrison Government will continue to support the arts sector in ways that make the arts more accessible to Australians everywhere.
Paul Fletcher is Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts in the Morrison Government
Limelight has contacted the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens seeking their Arts policy platform for the election and beyond. We will publish their responses when available.