The Arts and the Election: Paul Fletcher

Since we are in the middle of an election campaign, Labor will make the usual motherly statements about the importance of the arts. But given the labor issues with delivery and financial management, those who truly appreciate the arts should be very skeptical of any commitments they make.

In contrast, the practical and targeted support provided by the Morrison government has been unprecedented. Morrison government funding for the arts in 2021-22 is over $1 billion. This is the highest level of Commonwealth arts funding ever given by a Federal, Liberal or Labor government.

Paul Fletcher, Minister of Communications, Urban Planning, the City and the Arts.

Our COVID-specific arts support totals $500 million, including our $220 million RISE fund, which supports a pipeline of arts and entertainment events across the country.

RISE is designed to help arts businesses, promoters, festivals and entrepreneurs bring new shows to life as the sector strives to bounce back from the challenges of COVID.

So far, $200 million has been committed under RISE. It went to 541 projects, creating over 213,000 jobs across Australia, to be seen by a total audience of 55 million people.

There are grants in every state and territory and across all genres, from dance to theater to circus, music (classical, jazz, folk and pop), visual arts and literature, and more. RISE funds subsidized arts companies and purely commercial ventures, and the money goes to performances in our big cities as well as country towns and remote locations.

But RISE is only part of the comprehensive package the Morrison government is designed to get the arts sector through COVID. The COVID-19 Arts Sustainability Fund, designed to support systemically important arts organizations during the pandemic downturn, has so far supported 16 leading arts organizations across Australia totaling $51.5 million of dollars.

The Temporary Interruption Fund works by providing local film and television producers with certainty to begin or continue filming if their insurers do not provide coverage for shutdowns and delays due to COVID-19. The Fund has supported some 92 film productions. Based on reports to date, the government expects TIF to have supported over 12,000 production roles and 5,000 commercial contracts.

Our $540 million Location Incentive program has now attracted 32 global film productions to Australia: from ticket to paradise filming in Queensland for Thor: Love and Thunder In Sydney, La Brea in Melbourne and The tourist in South Australia, some 20,500 jobs for Australian cast and crew were created.

All of this is of course in addition to ongoing funding from the Australia Council (around $200 million per year), Screen Australia (over $80 million) and other arts and cultural institutions.

Part of the reason for this funding is economic. The cultural and creative sector generates a lot of jobs: 700,000 jobs. Cultural and creative activity also generates substantial economic dividends: approximately $116 billion in economic value in 2018-2019 according to the Office of Communications, Arts and Regional Research.

The Morrison government has heavily funded the arts because we know that when people go to see a show, it means jobs for performers, backstage crew, hospitality staff and many others.

It also means jobs in adjacent industries like hospitality and tourism. When you go to see a show, you most likely also go to a bar, café or restaurant; you might well book into a hotel for an overnight stay; you could jump on a plane to see a big musical or an exhibition in another city. But in addition to its economic value, one should never forget the intrinsic cultural and human importance of artistic and entertainment activity. It’s part of our DNA to tell stories, create visual representations of our world, and make music and dance. This is how we understand who we are and what it means to be human.

A re-elected Morrison government will continue to support the arts sector in a way that makes the arts more accessible to Australians around the world.

Paul Fletcher is Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts in the Morrison government

limelight reached out to the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens seeking their arts policy platform for the election and beyond. We will post their responses when they become available.

James C. Tibbs