Tomorrow Australians are hitting the poll booths to exercise their civil liberties in deciding the leadership of the country and in turn, its future.
While the Federal Election campaign has gravitated around the big name issues, such as asylum seekers, gay marriage, and economic concerns, the debate surrounding arts and entertainment has been limited at best.
Of course, issues that face music consumers and live music performers have entered into the cultural conscious, but from a political standpoint, they haven’t factored greatly into swaying voter’s decisions as much as larger scale topics, but as readers of Tone Deaf we are sure that you – like us – will let your music-loving sensibilities inform where your vote lands this Saturday.
To that end, we’ve gathered what we know about the arts and related music policies of the three major political parties, and while it would be foolish for us to suggest that we gather this information and deliver it with zero bias, we can guarantee that it we won’t be taking the ‘you should vote for party X or Y’ approach in the way that some major media publications have.
Nor do we claim that this is an authoritative guide to each of the three major political parties’ overall policies, but instead, focusing on what is of interest to you, the reader of a music website that aims to provide – as our masthead reads – an authoritative voice on local music culture and industry, delivered with the usual commitment, passion, and fun yet informative tone.
Before we look at the arts and music policies of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia, and the Australian Greens, it’s worth looking into what major representative of the music industry wants from Government before we can proceed with what each party is looking to provide.
Firstly, as The Music Network reports, the Australian entertainment industry’s peak body has issued a challenge to which ever Government is sworn in come Saturday night. Live Performance Australia (LPA) have challenged the next Government to provide a greater investment into international touring and investment incentives for the creation of new art and music.
The LPA’s challenge is inspired by figures from their latest Ticket Attendance and Revenue Survey indicates that the Australian live entertainment industry took a hit in 2012, with revenue experiencing a decline of 8% to 1.2 billion and attendance rates dropping 6.2% to 16.2 million tickets sold, despite the slight drop in the average price of a ticket.
As well as calling for greater support for international touring (“particularly in Asia”) and support for creatives, the LPA’s six-point plan of ‘Policy Priorities For 2013 Federal Election’ also puts the challenge to the next Government for enriching training and education opportunities for career pathways into the music industry, maintain support energy efficiency and climate change programs that aid the LPA as well as the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s (ACCI) related policies.
It also wants whichever party is sworn into Government to provide compensation for the wireless audio threat of a switch-off of a digital spectrum as it is sold to telecommunications companies, noting it can use the $2 billion the Federal Government benefited from in the sale towards the cost of replacing wireless radio and music equipment when it becomes redundant after December 31st, 2014. Lastly, the LPA is calling for better shaping and reduction of payroll tax (“taxing employment makes no sense when we want businesses to grow”), and regulation protection from unions.
The Australian Labor Party’s most high profile arts policy has been Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s pledge of $560,000 over three years towards the creation of a National Live Music Office. As previously explored in our opinion piece on the move, the National Live Music Office will be run out of the Sydney offices of royalties collection agency APRA.
Arts Minister Tony Burke stated at the July announcement of the new initiative that the new Office was charged with the job to “lift barriers to ensure more acts can perform at venues around the country… identify key policy, regulatory and process reforms to better support a robust local live music scene.”
The man managing the National Live Music Office is Dr Ianto Ware, who was appointed by Sounds Australia and former Arts Minister Simon Crean as the National Live Music Coordinator in January this year, is working closely with live music activist John Wardle, a music consultant to the City of Sydney who helped spearhead small bar liquor license reforms.
The Labor policy also included the appointment of “live music ambassadors” in each state to represent the interests of the National Live Music Office. Specifically, Australian musicians Dave Faulkner of Hoodoo Gurus and Stavros Yiannoukas of Bluejuice(NSW), Kevin Mitchell of Bob Evans/Jebediah (VIC), Matt Lambert aka MC Sufa of Hilltop Hoods (SA), Kav Temperley of Eskimo Joe (WA), Leah Flanagan (NT), Elixir singer Katie Noonan (QLD), and Dewayne Everett-Smith (TAS).
The ALP’s Creative Australia arts policy is their most comprehensive push to support the arts, released in March by former Arts Minister Simon Crean ahead of June’s Labor leadership spill, the arts policy includes a raft of revisions that affect the music industry, the biggest move is the $75.3 million overhaul of Federal funding body, Australia Council, to “cut red tape” and modernise its infrastructure. Read the Creative Australia Arts policy in full here. Since the March announcement, changes to the Australia Council have already begun, including its board members.
The ALP has also committed $6 million in funding over three years to community broadcasters to aid in the switch to go digital, as well as $5 million towards AMRAP to help regional broadcasters, while continuing to support the ArtStart grants program with another $10 million.
In an article in The Age today that pressed the three major parties about what plans they have to support and grove the live music industry, the ALP’s response was: “Federal Labor believes that it is possible to have a vibrant music scene that supports Australian live acts and preserves the liveability and amenity of our local neighbourhoods. That’s why we provided $3.5 million to boost contemporary music industry innovation and export, including the creation of a National Live Music Office to lift barriers so more acts can perform at venues.”
The Coalition has made no formal policy statement about the arts or music initiatives, and no funding specifics or dollar figures, as both The Age and The Guardian point out, directing most enquiries on Liberal’s stance on the arts towards Shadow Arts Minister George Brandis’ speech addressed to audiences of the Western Sydney Art Forum in August.
Without a transparent party line or funding figures, its difficult to report on the facts regarding the Liberal Party’s position on the arts. As ArtsHub reports, Brandis’ Western Sydney Art Forum speech found him outlining six key principles: ‘Excellence, Integrity, Artistic Freedom, Self-Confidence, Sustainability, Accessibility.’
Senator Brandis spoke about the need to reduce government spending, while continuing their level of public support for artists and musicians, balancing a need between the two that will see government support for the arts checked against the broader context of the Federal budget. As Brandis notes under the topic of Sustainability, “too often, arts funding rewards failure and punishes success.”
At risk of colouring the Liberal Party’s stance with no direct policy document, the party’s general view to the arts through the lens of Senator Brandis’ keynote address, is that they are not planning to make money changes to funding, but instead to how it is spent on arts and music initiatives while focussing on a cultural shift on the way arts is viewed, with a specific view to dismantling the “elitist” view of the arts while ensuring a National Cultural Policy will have “thematic coherence.” You can read Senator George Brandis full speech here.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has already made it clear that they plan on cutting the Creative Young Stars program announced by the ALP in March, an $8 million scheme that hands money to hold ‘talent quest’ style competitions to earn government funding.
Abbot has also spoken publicly about the need to ‘reduce red tape’, specifically through arrangements with State and council regulations and legislation, but there are no specifics as to what and how.
The Greens biggest music-related policy is a pledge of $27 million towards community broadcasting, including radio. As Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam announced in August, the $27m pledge includes $12 million per year for the Community Broadcasting Foundation’s rural activities, $2 million towards broadcast training, and $600,000 annually towards AMRAP.
The Greens also announced plans that if they won the election they would pledge $12 million towards getting musicians’ recognised for Centrelink, specifically to “allow artistic activities that provide community benefits to be eligible for Centrelink mutual obligation requirements.” The $12 million policy also includes ways at implement tax breaks for working musicians. Read the Arts Policy, aimed at “Young And Emerging Artists” here.
The Greens party is also making a push for regional arts with an investment of $10 million. There’s also a number of funding policies that are associtate with music as part of Greens Leader Christine Milne’s January proclamations, including $3 million to enable payments for artists performing, exhibiting or speaking about their works, an additional $3 million investment into the ArtStart program.
In response to The Age‘s queries about the Greens’ plans to support and grow the live music industry, the party’s response stated that: “The number one issue suffocating local live music is planning laws. This is a state responsibility and Greens MPs in State Parliaments have been agitating for change to advance the ability of music venues to retain and enhance the live music experience.”
“On a Federal level, our small business policy will also help live music venues by reducing their tax rate by 2 per cent and allowing equipment such as stages, lighting and sound desks to be eligible for an instant asset write-off of up to $10,000. This would mean venues get their money back quicker.”