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Cultural sector welcomes end of George Brandis’ term as arts minister
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's announcement that the Federal arts portfoilo would be removed from Attorney-General Senator George Brandis and placed alongside the Communications Ministry role of Senator Mitch Fifield has been widely welcomed by the arts community.
Following this year’s Federal budget, Senator Brandis created massive controversy when he rearranged Federal arts funding away from the Australia Council for the Arts and into his own funding body, the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA).
This led to protests across the arts community and an ongoing Senate inquiry.
Reacting to the change of Minister, the Free the Arts alliance said the change was a victory for the industry and the campaign.
In a statement, spokesperson Sarah Moynihan explained “but there is still a lot of work to do.
“The change of Minister provides the government with the opportunity to fix the mess created by his predecessor before more damage is done and we look forward to working closely with the new Minister.
“Senator Fifield needs to put an immediate halt to the National Program for Excellence in the Arts – NPEA - and the Book Council and go back and consult with sector leaders.
“'There is an opportunity for the government to restore confidence and respect in the Australia Council and its role as Australia’s arts funding and advisory body and enable Council to get back to implementing its strategic plan.”
Nicole Beyer, co-convenor of ArtsPeak, the confederation of national peak arts organisations, told the ABC "I think (Brandis) was a terrible Arts minister; I think history will show that clearly.
"With the new Arts Minister, we ultimately hope that he will see sense and return the funding taken from the Australia Council."
Beyer said the current Senate inquiry had made clear that the introduction of the NPEA had been a mistake that had destabilised the industry and thrown many artists into turmoil, especially individual artists who are ineligible for NPEA funding.
She said the NPEA was not yet official operating, meaning it was not too late for Senator Fifield to abandon it and return funding to the Australia Council.
Beyer, who is also the Director of Theatre Network Victoria, added “arm's length funding has been proven to be a really great way to ensure a broad range of art gets funded, not just what the minister of the day fancies.”
More than 350 prominent and emerging writers, including Nick Cave, best sellers Christos Tsiolkas and Hannah Kent, Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee and Miles Franklin award winner Michelle de Kretser last week put their names to an open letter calling on Prime Minister Turnbull to dump Senator Brandis and reverse his cuts.
The letter also decries the Book Council of Australia, which was established in December with $6 million from the Australia Council's operating budget – money the letter says should have gone to writers.
Senator Brandis also oversaw a funding cut to Screen Australia, which supports new Australian films, of $3.6 million over the four years to 2019.
Senator Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Manager of Government Business in the Senate under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has been responsible for the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Images: Senator Brandis (top), new Minister for the Arts Senator Fifield (middle) and the #FreetheArts campaign (logo).
5th May 2012 - NATIONAL CULTURAL POLICY SQUEEZED FROM FEDERAL BUDGET
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