In an ABC Radio National interview Senator Fifield confirmed he would not overturn the hugely unpopular funding reforms.
With the announcement of Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull’s first ministerial reshuffle on Sunday artists across the country reacted with relief at the news that Senator George Brandis would no longer hold sway over Australia’s cultural coffers. However, newly sworn-in Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield has dashed the hopes of many in the arts community by indicating he will stay true to former Arts Minister Brandis’ largely unpopular vision for arts subsidy centred on the newly created National Programme for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA).
Speaking in an ABC National Radio interview yesterday Minister Fifield acknowledged the tremendous outcry from artists across the country who fear the NPEA will devastate the vibrancy of the Australian arts ecology with its apparently biased skew towards the 28 Major Performing Arts organisations. “I hear what some organisations are saying,” the Minister said, before vaguely describing his ambitions for the NPEA as,“looking to see if we can do some innovative and different things. That’s the objective.”
Minister Fifields loyalty to the new funding strategy is perhaps unsurprising. During senate hearings earlier this year when Labor, Green and Independent MPs successfully lobbied for a Senate Inquiry into the NPEA to assess why no formal consultation with the arts sector was sought before the announcement of the controversial programme, Senator Fifield spoke in favour of the NPEA, calling the demands of an investigation “absurd.” But perhaps most troubling about Senator Fifield’s commitment to the NPEA, which would allow him final say on which applicants will receive funding from the almost $105 million snatched from the Australian Council, is the new Arts Minister’s apparent lack of direct knowledge of the arts community. This is in contrast to Senator Brandis who was an ardent fan of opera, theatre and ballet and a regular attendee of events especially at the Sydney Opera House. However like his predecessor Senator Fifield will be sharing his time as Minister for the Arts with other political commitments, in this instance as the Communications Minister.
During the ABC Radio National interview Minister Fifield shared that his favourite art form was 80’s pop-music, citing the “New Romantics” and “the Pet Shop Boys” as his particular favourites. Given the Arts Minister’s direct involvement with the financial fates of Australian artists, many will be hoping Mitch Fifield expands his cultural aspirations in the coming months