Perspectives and observations for future cultural/arts policy

By PJ Collins

It’s an interesting, if somewhat dismal, exercise to look at our perspective on future cultural/arts policy and then make educated guesses and observations on what Australians are actually going to get in the foreseeable future. 

Let’s start with the exciting one.

To imagine and bring to fruition a ‘Creative Australia’, where the best and brightest from around the world would want to live and contribute, to create, collaborate and build a better human future. We need a profound re-positioning of these attributes in our politics.

It may come as no surprise to find out that the Arts Party has advocated for placing creative action, collaboration and critical thinking at the forefront of all our policy positions. Our first stated principle is that human beings are the greatest asset we have and every one of us should be given the opportunity to be the best version of themselves they can be. That means lifelong affordable and quality education, health services and living in resilient tolerant communities. We are proudly multicultural and promote tolerance, inclusion and diversity. A fair go for all! 

As for the arts, they are the most accessible form of human creativity we have.

They are the best way to bring people together, to build tolerance, empathy and connection, through shared experiences and emotions. They profoundly help spread new ideas, approaches and ways of thinking. We believe everyone has the right to enjoy and participate in the arts, in all of its forms. The arts connect us, bind us and improve us. Creative action and our innate curiosity is what has got humans out of caves and to the moon, created iPhones, the internet, made us live longer and healthier, and sometimes happier. 

In June next year we will have a new federal government and there are only two realistic potential winners, who will then spend the entire term shouting at and blocking each other. I wouldn’t put money on the Liberals right now but if by some miracle they win, there will be no reassessment of their current arts/cultural activities and still no actual coherent national arts policy.

The purpose of this approach is to create future citizens and societies that recognise the potential we all have, to work together to grow knowledge and create a better future, not just for human generations to come but for all life on earth. To imagine and bring to fruition a ‘Creative Australia’, where the best and brightest from around the world would want to live and contribute, to create, collaborate and build a better human future. We need a profound re-positioning of these attributes in our politics. Giving us some first preferences at elections is a start. 

However, as William Gibson profoundly said, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. So let’s looks what’s realistic over the next few years.

In June next year we will have a new federal government and there are only two realistic potential winners, who will then spend the entire term shouting at and blocking each other. I wouldn’t put money on the Liberals right now but if by some miracle they win, there will be no reassessment of their current arts/cultural activities and still no actual coherent national arts policy. On the plus side, so much damage has already been done to tertiary education, the arts/cultural sector, the ABC and creative industries under their stewardship, that it couldn’t really get much worse. AMPAG will be fine of course.

The safer bet is for the other management team that takes turns running the country, the Labor party. Not that they’re the best party, rather our democracy only asks us to determine the least-worst option of the two biggest parties each election. 

In the scenario of a Labor win, we should expect to see more money committed to dealing with the most egregious elements of the Liberal arts and cultural funding destruction. The ABC will certainly get a sizeable increase in funding, but with more strings. A few more millions will be floated around for live music, the Australia Council, school music, the TV and Film sector. AMPAG will still be fine. However, I do not believe cultural funding will ever return to the levels of the pre-Brandis period. There are simply not enough votes in it. 

It’s galling that when we are looking at federal budget next year of perhaps $500 billion in size, so little of our money is spent on our cultural and creative lives. For the foreseeable future, there will be no significant re-assessment or re-interpretation or funding of Australian culture or creativity or critical thinking or creative industries. Australians all just have to make the best of it for now. The brain drain will continue. Maybe we can get Netflix to stream some Aussie productions at least.


PJ Collins is the founder and secretary of the Arts Party. He lives in Kingsford, Sydney. www.artsparty.org.au