25/11/2003 - 21:00

No arts vision

25/11/2003 - 21:00


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IT’S been a couple of weeks since the successful State Arts Sponsorship Awards night...

IT’S been a couple of weeks since the successful State Arts Sponsorship Awards night, when the WA Government heavily underlined its commitment to the arts and encouragement of business involvement.

Both Dr Geoff Gallop and Arts and Culture Minister Sheila McHale were part of the proceedings, though the premier’s attendance was fleeting.

So it seems odd that one of the biggest decisions regarding arts in this State is to be made by Alannah MacTiernan, the Planning and Infrastructure Minister.

Ms MacTiernan is overseeing the proposed restoration of the derelict East Perth power station, following much debate about how the old building will be used and who will pay for what – but a major arts and cultural role is the expected outcome.

I fear a big mistake may be made, which flies in the face of the message sent out by Labor’s leadership on the night of the awards, when the private sector’s $11 million contribution to the arts was praised so highly.

The issue to me is the argy bargy surrounding an offer by WA businessman Kerry Stokes to make his collection open to the public if a suitable home, such as the old power station, is made available.

For months negotiations have gone on without result and there is a fear within the Stokes camp that the opportunity may have been lost.

I acknowledge Mr Stokes’ offer is not without catches.

He wants land excised for residential and commercial development and there is an issue surrounding working infrastructure on the site that Western Power says is too costly to move. Who bears the cost of things such as remediation is, apparently, another issue.

But somewhere here we are losing sight of something.

Mr Stokes has a $100 million collection of art and manuscripts, which have the potential to put WA on a cultural map, as the Guggenheim did for the obscure Spanish city of Bilbao.

This would be an important signal to the outside world – and would prove a powerful attractant to the business people and high net worth individuals we want to bring here.

I am not expecting a WA Inc-style deal – I am just concerned that the possibility of having a world-class art attraction is being missed.

The real possibility is that Mr Stokes’ collection may end up on the east coast, where more far-sighted people have offered to house his works.

Surely if the power station is not available an alternative might be found. Perhaps one that is even closer to the city centre.



No tax sense



TALK of ending deductions for salaried income earners in favour of a slight increase in the tax-free threshold is worth noting.

Why doesn’t anyone realise that people are only claiming deductions because they are over-taxed? A few hundred dollars won’t change that.

Why has the Federal Government been so limited in its ability to create real tax reform? All that has happened is the Government has hit us with a new tax, the GST, without reducing the massive burden of paperwork and the high tax rates that strangle enterprise in Australia.



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