Senator Fifield says he will make a decision in a matter of weeks after proper consultation with the arts sector.
It has unquestionably been one of the most widely derided policies in the history of the arts in Australia, but it seems that after months of protests, campaigning, lobbying and petitioning the Federal Government has finally heeded the call by the majority of artists around the country to rethink the National Programme for Excellence in the Arts.
Newly appointed Minister for the Arts, Mitch Fifield, inherited the hugely unpopular funding platform, which was secretly ushered in by his predecessor Senator George Brandis as part of the 2015/16 Federal Budget. However whereas Senator Brandis had been dismissive and inflexible in the face of huge outcry from the arts sector, Minister Fifield has seemed more open to listening to the concerns of artists and while he has remained loyal to the former Arts Minister’s funding reforms, which has seen almost $105 million snatched from the Australian Council, he has now pledged to make changes. “There’s unhappiness and a desire for me to take a look to see if we can make some adjustments to what’s proposed,” he said in an interview with the ABC.
Crucially Fifield has shown a willingness to take his cues from arts leaders, in stark contrast to Senator Brandis, whose policy was guided by his own personal preferences. “I’ve got a bit more consultation to do with the arts sector and then I’m keen to make a decision, and we’re talking a matter of weeks rather than months,” Senator Fifield said. “There will be some adjustments but the exact nature of those I still want to chat a little bit more.”
The news of an overhaul to the NPEA, and the Arts Ministers assurances of a swift decision may go some way to explaining the reason the NPEA has been so severely delayed. In a recent Senate Estimates Hearing, Minister Fifield was forced to admit that no assessors had been appointed to consider applications to the NPEA and no funds had been distributed, despite the commencement date for the new Programme being July 1.