Vote Early, Vote Often

Art Life Nov 21, 2007 No Comments

What are the arts policies of the major political parties? Going by the results of our recent poll, the majority of the readers of The Art Life don’t base their vote on policies that will directly affect them. Maybe our readers are more concerned with issues of social justice, foreign affairs or perhaps we’re all just after a tax cut?

But for the rest of you who do formulate an opinion at least in part on arts policy, here is our quick guide to who is offering what in the forthcoming Federal Election 2007.

Liberal Party

It’s an interesting exercise trying to find anything online about the Liberal Party’s arts policy. Typing in “Liberal Party Arts Policy” into Google takes you to the confusing home page of the Liberal Party campaign. Their Policies and Plans section offers lots of policies and some nine point plans, but not a whisper on the arts. The arts portfolio is shared between Senator Helen Coonan and Senator George Brandis, neither of whom feature visual arts policy on their individual home pages nor on their department web pages. Buried deep in the recesses of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts website you will find information on grants available for touring exhibitions and a fund for helping with the insurance costs of Australian and international touring shows. We couldn’t find anything resembling an “arts policy” just a lot of funding announcements. Perhaps the best place to go to find out what the Liberals are doing [and have done] is to have a read of the speech given by Senator Brandis to the National Press Club. The message was simple: everything is great in the arts in Australia, most of it thanks to the Federal Government and not, as ‘myth’ would have us believe, the remnants of Keating-era ‘Creative Nation’ policy.

Australian Labor Party

By contrast, the Australian Labor Party website is a much easier to navigate – there’s a huge button marked POLICY – and when you see the bald-headed beauty Peter Garrett, you know you’ve arrived. The Labor Party’s commitments include several directly related to the visual arts. The flagship for the party’s pitch is Creative Communities, a program to hand out cash to community groups for art activities. Says the website:

“Local communities will have greater opportunities to create and enjoy their own art in suburbs and towns across Australia under a Rudd Labor Government. A Rudd Labor Government will increase base funding for the Australia Council by $10 million over four years in a Creative Communities program to improve opportunities for Australians to participate in arts and cultural activities in the places where they live. It’s clear that further investment in grassroots cultural resources significantly adds to the wellbeing of local neighbourhoods. All Australians should be able to participate in cultural life, irrespective of where they live or how much they earn.”

The site also outlines other visual arts-related initiatives:

  • Investment of an additional $7.6 million over four years for the National Arts and Crafts Industry Support program to support Aboriginal Art Centres around the country.
  • Ensuring an independent and transparent Australia Council.
  • Implementing greatly simplified and faster investment application processes for Australian artists through the Australia Council.
  • Working with the States and Territories to improve the provision of arts and music education in schools.
  • Implementing a resale royalty scheme for visual artists, providing additional support for Indigenous artists who have experienced a boom in the Indigenous art market.
  • A strong commitment to Indigenous art and craft including addressing the issues raised by the Senate Committee report Indigenous Art – Securing the Future.

The Greens

You’ve gotta love the Greens website – it has all the allure of a health food shop. Still, it’s easy to see what’s on offer and since they can’t form a government, they offer philosophy and goals instead of spending promises:

The Australian Greens believe that:

1. creative artistic expression and cultural experience is a fundamental aspect of social wellbeing.
2. access to diverse, innovative artistic and cultural experiences should available to all Australians.
3. Australian artistic expression and culture should be protected and promoted.
4. creative artists play an essential role in Australian social life and should be fostered and supported.
5. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and artistic work express unique cultures and heritage which must be supported respected and appropriately protected through legislation, policy and funding priorities.
6. cultural heritage must be protected and preserved.
7. national libraries and collecting institutions are essential to our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world, and must be maintained and developed as the repositories of cultural heritage.


The Australian Greens want:

8. Australian arts and culture to maintain its unique character and diverse nature through support and promotion of local content and the development of local projects for all forms of art and culture.
9. to promote arts and cultural events and access to those events with appropriate funding and support.
10. increased access to arts and cultural experiences in rural and regional areas.
11. the support and promotion of arts and culture that reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Australian population.

Family First

Minor parties like Family First have a go at policy despite the fact they can’t implement them. Family First, the conservative Victorian-based party, has no policy on the arts, except if you include pornography, which they are against. They have a downloadable PDF on their website which explains what they are about, namely: “We believe Australia should be the best country in the world to raise a family.”


The Democrats are the party that brought you the GST when The Liberal Party were snookered by a hostile senate. Since then, as leaders have left, married newsreaders or got drunk in Parliament, their influence has waned and many pundits are predicting 2007 is Gotterdammerung for the Dems… Despite this, the party optimistically offers world voters a six year old “action plan” for the arts:

“The Australian Democrats are the only party with a comprehensive plan for Australia’s cultural direction in our Australian Cultural Plan 2001 which focuses on the place of the arts and culture in shaping and reflecting our society. It includes the need to respect and promote Indigenous art and culture. And it acknowledges that diversity, creativity and innovation are critical to our nation’s future. We support a ‘whole of life’ approach to the arts, strengthening of artists’ legal rights, and broadening of funding opportunities.”

The Democrats also advocate greater support for working artists:

Many Australian artists live on the verge of poverty and maintain ‘day jobs’ out of necessity. The Democrats recognise and respect the arts as a legitimate field of employment and call for the creation of a ‘living wage’ for bona fide emerging artists, and extending unemployment programs and the Indigenous Community Development Employment Projects scheme to include training and employment in the arts for professional artists.

The Dem’s other main thrust is improved art education:

“The Democrats support greater arts education in schools and in society generally. We also support the integration of cultural objectives into the design and construction of the built environment so we are creating ‘liveable communities’. The Australian Democrats value the important contribution made by artists and continue to protect and promote our artists and our culture. We will continue to engage in ongoing debate and consultation with artists, their representative organisations, private sector companies and the broader community on the need for an Australian cultural policy and law reform.”

Christian Democrats

Built on a site that looks like it may have been made by a work experience kid, Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats offer two flavours – plain or vanilla.

The CDP have a page dedicated to Federal Policy. The CDP doesn’t have an arts policy as such but their culturally conservative values oppose pornography and supports censorship. Despite no arts or media policy, the CDP but does have firm views on subjects that the visual art community might have some concerns about:

  • drugs – zero tolerance
  • alcohol – too much is bad for you
  • immigration – “CDP affirms that it is the sovereign right of any nation to determine who may enter its borders for temporary or permanent stay…”
  • incipient Islamism – “CDP considers it is appropriate to call for… a moratorium on Islamic immigration into Australia while monitoring the willingness of the existing Islamic community to abandon support for terrorism, sharia law and separate communities.”
  • and global warming – some scientists say it might not be happening.

Andrew Frost

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