So, another federal election rolls around! First off, the Arts Party is not standing candidates this time. It is frustrating to see an election opportunity come and go without us participating, but we want to get people elected and we simply can’t achieve that federally right now. We just need more (free) members from all corners of the country, to help us register on a state level everywhere and promote a truly creative and artistic future – so tell your friends!

Okay, enough of the pitch, what’s going on right now?

As federal elections go, this one feels pretty uninspiring. More a changing of management teams, at least hopefully. The Liberals, if there’s any justice, are out and that will inspire some satisfaction. Even more if Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton also get the boot. They have all truly passed their use-by date and a thumping loss should be expected and hoped for. This may well be helped by the many new young voters enrolled for their first election – few of their votes are heading the Coalition’s direction, I assume. The AEC have recorded the biggest ever expected vote registration, over 96+% of citizens will be taking part. Good!

Neither the arts, creative future planning, education, electoral reform nor cultural support are significant issues in this election.

Frustrating but true. However Labor have put a much better offering on the table around Arts & Culture and Education support compared to the Coalition, a number of them borrowed directly from us. Artists in schools anyone? The Greens have just released their ‘Creative Australia’ plan, which is certainly ambitious but they’re also never going to achieve majority government. Sadly they also dropped the National Arts Week concept adopted from us at the last election.. Optimistically, some of their ideas may filter through if Labor are forced into a minority government scenario, but realistically I expect even then they will be pushing more on their core ‘green’ issues before wasting political capital on the arts. 

Labor are unquestionably the ‘least worst option’ of the two major parties.

I cannot imagine there’s a skeleton left under Bill Shorten’s bed, so that’s a relief. It would be terrible for some embarrassing cuddle or drunken video from ten years ago to suddenly cost Labor the election. He is also pitted against ScoMo, a man who had a charisma by-pass at birth and has shown himself to be a backstabber of the first order, which Malcolm Turnbull will most likely point out once again at some point over the course of the next week.

So what exactly are Labor offering?

Full Labor Arts Policy Here
First Nations:

This new funding package includes funding for First Nations creative people and bodies – with the inclusion of a cash boost for First Nations’ theatre and dance companies. It also sets aside funding for indigenous arts and languages programs, as well as consultation to combat the distribution of fake indigenous art.

Regional arts:
  • As part of its regional arts program, the proposed Shorten Labor Government has committed $5 million to refurbish Ballarat’s Her Majesty’s Theatre.
  • $1 million per year has been pledged to support professional development, and increase employment among regional and remote artists.
    • It will have a focus on artistic skills development among First Nations’ communities, young people, and people in very remote areas.
Cultural diversity:
  • The funding will provide $3.5 million towards multicultural arts and festivals, as well as ensure the cultural policy reflects and celebrates modern multicultural Australia.
  • The funding will ensure Labor can revitalise the national arts and disability strategy, engage in working towards its implementation, and measure its outcomes.
    • Through increased funding to the Australia Council and among the arts sector, a Labor government has committed to fostering and maintaining new partnerships between small-to-medium and independent organisations that develop shared approaches to boosting arts presentation and employment for those with a disability.
  • Labor’s investment includes support for schools to deliver a comprehensive curriculum, which will include an arts education in drama, dance, media arts, music, and visual arts.
    • Artists in schools will bring the curriculum to life by teaching students valuable skills in artistic and design thinking.
    • $6 million is being allocated to Music Hubs in communities
    • $7.6 million is being allocated to youth music programs
    • $2.5 million is being allocated to support skills development and mentoring opportunities throughout regions with high rates of youth unemployment.
    • The ARIA Music Teacher award will also be expanded to four categories – primary, secondary, community and remote music teachers; thanks to $600,000 of Labor funding.
Training organisations:
  • Labor will restore cuts made to arts institutions over four years and provide indexed funding on an ongoing basis.
    • Institutions include: Australia’s National First Nations’ Dance College, Australian National Academy of Music, NIDA, Australian Youth Orchestra, Circusoz, Flying Fruit Fly Circus, and the Australian Ballet School. This will be at least $2.3 million over time.
  • $5 million is being invested for stage 1 of a new centre of national Indigenous creative learning called Naya Wa Yugali.
  • $250,000 is also being allocated to the Association of Artist Managers [AAM] to train new and emerging artist managers.
Mental health:
  • Labor is allocating $5 million over five years to music industry organisation Support Act.
    • $200,000 is also being allocated to them to devise a comprehensive mental health program.
Fair pay for artists:
  • Labor will invest in devising a standard for industry fees, and put a stop to ‘exposure’ being accepted as a form of payment. Gone will be the days of playing free shows for exposure.
Safe workplaces:
  • Labor will formalise their current cultural policy that those who work in creative industries have an absolute right to a workplace free from harassment.
Digital Creativity:
  • Labor will reinstate the Interactive Games Fund with $25m.

Details on the Greens?

Full Arts Policy here, here are the five key areas:

  1. Commissioning of a ‘Living Arts’ fund to offset artists’ historically low incomes;
  2. Establishing and funding a Creativity Commission to help Australia transition from STEM thinking to STEAM thinking;
  3. Investing in Australian content and creativity, including local content quotas for streaming services and a $50 million per annum Content Creator Fund;
  4. Creating an artistic partnership program to put working artists in classrooms alongside teachers and students in order to encourage young people’s creativity and career aspirations; and,
  5. Investment in the development of Australia’s video game industry, including a new $100 million Games Investment & Enterprise Fund.

Can Labor lose?

They will most likely get an outright majority in the House of Representatives. If not, they could end up in a minority government, which isn’t so bad; we need more collaboration in parliament. In terms of the Senate, there is a real danger of being blocked by a handful of beyond-the-Libs conservatives in the Senate, you know One Nation or Clive Palmer’s United Australia. That would actually be a real annoyance. No-one said it would be easy, Bill.

What about Auntie?

The ABC and SBS will be praying the Coalition’s latest planned cuts will never happen. Labor today promised a $40m ABC production fund, another $20m for SBS and funding reindexed with inflation. Remarkably, the ABC currently costs each of us 4c a day. What a bargain! We could double that back to 8c and it would still be a bargain – and completely amazing! We would have certainly liked to see funding return to 2013 levels (6c a day?) but this is the best deal on the table for the ABC at this election.

What about the Senate?

So many parties! We covered them all in some depth in a previous post,  but it was a pleasant surprise to discover some new ones this time round, we certainly like the Together Party, which, despite not having a hope in hell of getting elected, stands for a lot of good things. Same for the Womens Party and the Science Party. Really, there are quite a few single issue parties for you to choose from, just make sure you put them ahead of any of the ‘Big Three’. Even if they don’t get up, your vote will have expressed support and still be valid for the backup big party of your choice. 

In summary

Frankly, let’s hope Labor get in. Overall, political in-fighting continues to be the bane of our democracy. Long term planning is a lost skill in Canberra. We are not preparing or innovating enough for the smart future we’re heading into. Put simply, our ability to connect education, innovation, funding (federal or market-driven) and creativity together to achieve bold things is absent. We need to stop taking the arts, our communities and our culture for granted. Perhaps this election will mark a turnaround. We certainly deserve a bit more optimism and positivity around our democracy right now. Now go vote!

PJ Collins

PJ is the founder of the Arts Party. He is currently writing ‘Artism’, a creative manifesto of sorts and has stepped in for this post. Barry Keldoulis, our esteemed leader, is currently suffering through the Venice Biennale.