Abolition of the Arts Portfolio

17 December 2019

I share your concern about Scott Morrison’s recent decision to abolish the Commonwealth Arts Department, and roll its functions into a mega-department which will include Transport and Infrastructure.

This is just the latest step in this government’s long history of neglect and outright attack on the arts in Australia.

The decision by the Abbott Government to axe the former Labor government’s Creative Australia policy has left our country without a national cultural policy since 2013. This lack of dedication to the arts – which has become outright hostility - has been visible throughout the seven years of this government.

The systematic degradation of the arts included ripping over $100 million from arts funding under former Arts Minister George Brandis, who also destroyed the principle of objective decision-making when he created his own slush fund, Catalyst.

The decision to abolish the Arts Department adds insult to injury.

Australia’s artists, actors, filmmakers, writers, musicians and the broader creative community has every right to be concerned by this decision – apparently made without any consultation with the sector.

And it’s not just the people who make their living from our creative industries who should be worried.
It’s every member of the public who enjoys seeing Australian stories on the screen or stage, enjoys the beauty and power of Australian visual art, enjoys reading Australian stories on the page, or enjoys hearing live or recorded Australian music.

But this is not just about Australian culture and identity. Our cultural and creative industries contribute upwards of $100 billion to the economy a year – and deserve to be supported by our federal politicians.

I am concerned about what this move against the Arts Department means for the future. Scott Morrison and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher must give a guarantee that there will be no expertise lost as a result of this decision, and they must reveal how many dedicated arts policy employees will be lost in the merger.

Unfortunately, because this is not a legislative change, Labor has no power to stop the abolition of the Arts Department from happening.

But I want to assure you that we will apply scrutiny and hold the government to account for this decision at every opportunity available to us, including through the Senate Estimates process.

Labor’s dedication to the Arts, as the foundation of Australian stories, is unwavering. This decision by the government only increases our will to fight for a vibrant and sustainable Australian arts sector that survives well into the future.