20/02/2017 - 15:58

Pollies cool on arts commitment

20/02/2017 - 15:58

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The local arts sector has struggled to capture attention for a move it thinks is key to the sustainability and future development of the industry, with no political parties committing to the Chamber of Arts and Culture’s proposed pledge of $100 million of increased funding over the next four years.  

Pollies cool on arts commitment
Greens member Lynn MacLaren (left), with Minister John Day, Labor member Michelle Roberts and Nationals member Colin Holt at the debate today

The local arts sector has struggled to capture attention for a move it thinks is key to the sustainability and future development of the industry, with no political parties committing to the Chamber of Arts and Culture WA’s proposed pledge of $100 million of increased funding over the next four years.  

Ahead of the March election, the state’s representative arts body released a 2017 policy platform framework outlining the need for an immediate injection of $25 million per annum for the next four years in order to revive the sector and prevent a decline in its activity and employability.

A panel of representatives from four of the parties contesting election failed to match the expectations at the Arts Policy Debate this morning held by the Chamber at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia.

The debate comes one day after Fringe World Festival finished its 2017 season, attracting an estimated 1 million people into the city and no doubt boosting business for nearby hospitality venues. 

And more than 110,000 people attended the Perth International Arts Festival’s opening weekend event, ‘Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak’ held at Kings Park.

In many ways, the arts industry has proven itself as popular and a money spender.

Chamber of Arts and Culture executive director Henry Boston said the sector employed over 42,000 people and contributed over $10.6 billion to the state each year.

But only two of the four parties present at the debate, the Greens and Labor, have announced an arts policy for the upcoming election, with opposition spokesperson Michelle Roberts launching Labor’s Arts and Creative Industries policy at the event today.

Ms Roberts outlined Labor’s commitment for the arts amidst a backdrop of decreased state and federal support, with continual budget cuts and a reduction in base funding by commonwealth, which included the $9 million dropped from national arts funding body the Australia Council for the Arts in the past few weeks.

On a local level, although WA has experienced a 36 per cent growth in population over the past 12 years the investment by state government in arts and culture has shrunk from 1.12 per cent in 2002 to less than 0.67 per cent of the total state budget. 

Labor’s proposed policy included an additional $2 million for the Royalties for Region program, the introduction of an annual festival for filmmakers and an allocation of $10 million towards developing the Art Gallery of WA’s rooftop space as a cultural venue.

This follows the party’s announcement last month to establish a $3 million Creative Music Fund, which includes the introduction of planning reforms to assist existing live music venues as well as support the development of new venues.  

However, Ms Roberts could not commit to the $100 million injection put forward by the chamber, citing state debt as increasing 10-fold from $3.6 billion upwards to a projected $41 billion in the past several years and said the financial situation could not be changed overnight, but that the package announced today showed a substantial commitment from the party in pledging support.

Greens member Lynn MacLaren said although the party had not yet done a budget for the state or had entered the arts funding ‘bidding war’, the policy put forward by the Greens at the last election would have delivered $25 million to WA and that she was committed to being a ‘tenacious advocate’ for the sector, however did not commit to the $100 million either. 

Likewise, Nationals member Colin Holt could not commit to the $100 million, but said the Nationals WA was already restoring confidence with the commitment of the Creative Regions program, which injected $24 million directly into arts in the regions, and was confident the party would recommit to funding this. 

Health, Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said the government was not in the position to commit to the $100 million, but had committed substantial support over the past few years with the $428 million new WA Museum project and its ongoing support of the Outer Fringe program in regional areas.

Mr Day said it was important to remember that funding came from sources other than the allocation for the culture and arts portfolio through himself as minister, with the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, Tourism WA and Lotterywest as some examples of substantial external supporters.

He did not commit to an arts policy on behalf of the Liberal Party. 

The Chamber of Arts and Culture’s policy framework outlines that the $25 million annual allocation would be invested in people and programs, including increased investment in Aboriginal culture as well as youth arts mentorship.

The chamber launched a six-week 'Arts Improves Lives' campaign last month leading up to the election, in an effort to highlight the extensive value of WA's creative arts sector.

Mr Boston said that in the last election parties in Queensland, Victoria and NSW with an arts policy were succesful.

"The impact of continuing cuts to the arts budget has already been felt across the sector, and it won't be long before it begins to impact on the state's bottom line," he said. 

"It has been underfunded by government for many years with a declining investment in people and programs.

"This also puts pressure on other sectors where arts and cultural programs are effecting positive change in areas such as mental health and youth engagement." 

Chamber chair Helen Cook said the group's policy platform outlined how the sector had achieved significant financial and social return on invesment through the state's artists and cultural organisations. 

"But there is so much more that could be achieved with vision, collaboration and relatively modest additional state funding," she said. 

"The arts have an ability to generate jobs, bring much needed vibrancy to the outer metropolitan regions and be a unique tourism attractor for WA.

"We urge the incoming government to invest in our creative resources, by doing so it will improve lives and build stronger communities." 

 

 

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