SPEECH: LAUNCH OF LABOR’S ART POLICY - MELBOURNE - SATURDAY, 11 MAY
TONY BURKE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR WATSON
LAUNCH OF LABOR’S ART POLICY
SATURDAY, 11 MAY 2019
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For the arts, it’s been six very, very long years. I remember debating George Brandis when I was Arts Minister. Don’t worry, I say Voldemort out loud as well.
Now, I remember debating him and saying that I didn't believe he supported arm's length funding and that I believe there would be cuts to the Australia Council and he went straight out to the cameras and said that my comments were a bald-faced lie.
It's exactly what happened.
And the arts as you all know doesn't simply function through the funding of pet projects. There’s an entire ecology out there with the majors, the small to medium companies and independent art. With all the different work that individual artists do and you break that ecology and it hurts the whole sector.
We've had those six years where we talk about in every area of policy cuts and chaos, cuts and chaos absolutely is what we've experienced here. The chaos that they decided to end Creative Australia as a cultural policy and replace it with nothing. With absolutely nothing. No guidance, nothing. And yet that hasn't been the only challenge that the arts have faced.
Because it wasn't just cuts to the Australia Council, cuts to training institutions, cuts to the ABC and SBS and then new threats with streaming, venues closing, Viagogo ripping off audiences. And yet in the face of all of that, even with all of those forces coming against the sector look at what this extraordinary sector for Australia has achieved in defiance of that.
Every Australian knows the names of Australian actors who are succeeding internationally. We know the names Blanchett, Weaving, Crowe, Griffiths, Collette, Minchin, Hemsworth, Hemsworth and Hemsworth.
We know the shows from our major medium and small independent companies that have toured from Broadway to the Barbican to Bali. Our great authors Tom Keneally, Kate Morton, Peter Carey, Liane Moriarty, Tim Winton, Jane Harper and David Malouf succeeding around the world. The world's leading music festivals now headlined with names like Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, Gang of Youths and Tash Sultana.
Our visual artists like Patricia Piccinini, Michael Zavros and Ben Quilty have developed strong sales internationally and have a massive online following. But it's not just around the world the success locally has been extraordinary. The small, medium and independent theatres that have continued to tell our stories even in the face of government attacks. Major performing arts institutions that have continued to make sure that Australian stories reach the biggest audience possible.
Stories of dispossession, disability, disowning, and dishonour.
The line up of strong artists who are filling marquees at our music festivals; Angie McMahon, Jack River, Julia Jacklin, Alex the Astronaut, Gordi, Alex Lahey, Charlie Collins.
The ensemble's that have been formed that are only possible because of our diversity. The visual artists who move between here and the region to create new works that breathe in every influence of the region.
The major projects supported by the likes of John Kaldor that forever changed physical spaces that we thought we knew. The collectives like Field Theory and Aphids that are always creating new work and pushing boundaries.
The First Nations artists who in every art form draw on the stories, the songlines, the dances, the battles, the hopes and the dreams that have lived on this land since the first sunrise and then through their artistry write the next chapter in the world's oldest continuing culture.
The fact that this year, this last 12 months, the second most performed playwright on Australian stages has been Nakkiah Lui. The only playwright to beat her had a significant headstart and his name is William Shakespeare.
If this is what the arts can achieve with a government that at best doesn't care and at worst is hostile, imagine, just imagine, and people in this room are pretty good at that, imagine what the next few years could hold.
A Shorten Labor Government with cultural policy back in the centre of decision making, years we can spend looking forward to announcements in the arts portfolio rather than fearing them.
First Nations is the first pillar backed by our diversity, the centrality of the artist, stronger institutions communicated here and around the world. Making sure Australians through their art see how they fit into this country, understand each other better and see how the world comes to understand us.
That's more than something to imagine. It's something that in a week we can deliver.
That's how a Shorten Labor Government can renew a Creative Australia. Please welcome the leader we want to be prime minister of Australia, Bill Shorten.