The Shorten Government has pledged to inject over $161 million into the arts over the next four years.

The Labor Party are the latest political big hitter to make major pledges to increase arts funding ahead of next month’s Federal election. The Greens and the newly established Arts Party have also both put the arts high on their political agendas in recent weeks. A Shorten Labor Government, if elected in July, has promised to “restore the essential role of the arts and creative industries to their rightful place in Australia’s cultural and economic life.” Shadow Arts Minister Mark Dreyfus publically pledged last month that Labour would restore the Australia Council’s cut funding if elected, however, the new policy goes even further, promising over $161 million in additional arts funding over the next four years. 

Labor’s arts strategy, announced this evening, is in direct response to the “chaos and cuts for the arts” during the Abbott-Turnbull administration that has created one of the most financially unstable environments for Australian artists since the establishment of the Australia Council in the late 1960s. “Labor has a plan to fix the damage and restore our creative industries to their rightful place at the centre of Australia’s cultural and economic life,” a statement from the Labor party said.

Evoking the party’s great arts champion, the late Gough Whitlam, Labor has this evening branded itself “the party of the arts,” adding, “we have valued and elevated the contribution of the creative industries to Australia’s social, cultural and economic life. Our comprehensive plan for the arts will see this sector flourish, reaching out to touch the lives of all Australians.”

The Labor Arts Policy features six components, that will address arts subsidy, youth and educational arts, live performance, regional and community activities and copyright provisions. Echoing the promises of the Greens and Arts Party, Labor will abolish the Catalyst Fund and restore the $104 million redirected from the Australia Council in last year’s Federal Budget. In addition to this, Labor has promised to boost Australia Council funding by $20 million a year, for four years from 2017.

The ABC will also receive more funding, with a $60 million provision promised to fund the production of “local drama”. This will boost the amount of Australian-made television programmes by 30 hours a year, and provide job opportunities to actors as well as Australian production companies.

The Regional Arts Fund will receive an injection of $8 million over four years to increase “employment and professional development opportunities for regional and remote artists.” It will also encourage isolated townships across Australia to develop local creative industries.

Australia’s contemporary live music industry will be bolstered by $5.4 million. This will allow the Live Music Office and the Australian Music Centre to come under the umbrella of an expanded Sounds Australia, with the expectation of developing live music performance opportunities across the country, as well as supporting international exports of Australian music.

Music education will see an increased investment of $2 million under a Shorten Labor Government, to support more in-school programmes such as the Musica Viva in Schools scheme and other similar outreach initiatives.

While no specific promises have been made to reform literary publishing copyright, which has recently come under debate following the findings of a Government Productivity Report on intellectual property law, the Labor Government has pledged to consult with the literary community to adjust current legislation “with caution” if elected in July. Changes suggested in the Productivity Report that could prove detrimental to intellectual property law, parallel input restrictions and copyright durations after publication have provoked outcry from many Australian writers who would be financially hurt by such amendments.

It remains to be seen if these promises will influence the polls in their favour, but with such sweeping benefits to multiple aspects of the Australian arts community, Labor’s new policy will certainly be welcome news to many artists across the country.

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