It will be campaigning for a tripling of the budget for artists and small-to-medium sized arts organisations.
Formed in the wake of Attorney-General George Brandis’s disastrous tenure as Minister for the Arts, The Arts Party today released its policy platform in preparation for the 2016 Federal election. The party has outlined its stance on arts funding, education and industry support, as well as broader community issues such as public broadcasting, health care, disability support, marriage equality, climate change and immigration, with a particular emphasis on the current refugee crisis. The party’s policies are based on four guiding principles: advocating for the arts, supporting Australia’s creative industries, education access for everyone and improving the community.
Following the devastating cuts to the Australia Council announced last May in the 2015/16 Federal budget, the Arts Party has proposed a $124 million increase in funding to the Australia Council and has endorsed the continuation of current Arts Minister Mitch Fifield’s Catalyst program (which replaced the now defunct National Programme for Excellence in the Arts) – provided it is funded separately.
A statement issued by the Arts Party outlined its stance, saying: “We want the actual distributed budget for artists and small/medium sized organisations (the amount of money actually given out in grants and support) tripled, to achieve the true purpose of the Australia Council – making cultural and artistic participation an essential part of the lives of every Australian and encouraging artistic creative output by artists and organisations across the country. This equates to an increase of $124m in annual funding to the Australia Council. MPA funding must remain at existing levels. The Catalyst program, announced in December 2015, should also continue and be resourced independently of this increase.”
The Party’s education policy advocates for arts to be included as a key part of education – STEAM not STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) – and the party has thrown its support behind the recommendations of the Gonski report into Primary School education: “A mountain of research shows that artistic engagement nourishes all learning and connects young Australians with many creative and mainstream industries, contributing to the development of a vibrant, modern and inclusive Australian society.” The Arts Pary has also proposed that HECS payment rates be halved and no longer linked to inflation. It also proposes an expansion of the controversial National School Chaplaincy Program: “Schools would retain the existing capacity to employ religious chaplains, and inherit an alternate capacity to engage experts in secular ethics and citizenship, psychologists, and artists-in-residence.”
The Party has outlined a series of ideas for supporting the arts industry, including expanding the Research and Development Tax Incentive as well as a raft of ideas for bolstering the film and television, book publishing and video games industries. It also has an ambitious plan for creating a new Australian space industry.
However, these kinds of reforms don’t come cheap, but The Arts Party has outlined how it plans to fund the changes, presenting a swathe of economic reforms it claims will collect or save a combined total of over $22 billion. These include reforming negative gearing, enacting the Australia Institute’s proposal for progressive super tax rates – which would cut tax breaks to Australia’s highest earners – taxing bank super profits, as well as legalising and taxing the sale of cannabis.
So far the Arts Party has nine candidates for the Federal Election, with more to be announced in the coming months. The election campaign’s launch is scheduled for April 1st in Melbourne at the David Williamson Theatre. Given the fraught nature of arts funding in recent years, the addition of this new voice into Australian politics is sure to appeal to those in the arts community who remain disenfranchised with the persistent erosion of Federal and State arts subsidy.