Subjects: National cultural policy, media reform, Fiji.
CHRISTINE MILNE: The long-awaited cultural policy has at last been unveiled. This is a long time coming and right around Australia people have been looking forward to this day and have been wondering whether it would ever come.
So I’m delighted that at last there is a substantial document on the table which points out to everyone how important the arts is to Australia and how the creative arts make such a fantastic difference in communities and in helping people to work through the future vision that they have for their spaces and I think it’s terrific we’ve at last got it here.
However I’m disappointed it’s at the last gasp of the Government and I’m disappointed that there is not as much systemic change as I was hoping for. I’m pleased that there’s a recommendation to restructure the Australia Council, that’s something that the Greens have thought was necessary because there have been anomalies in there that haven’t allowed some arts organisations to be funded so I’m looking forward to actually having a look at the detail of that.
In terms of overall, it’s disappointing again that there have been a lot of short-term measures but not for the long term. $195 million in new money is great for the arts, but I know that there will be people around Australia, particularly rural and regional Australia, looking at the fact that there’s no new money for the regional arts. And in my home state of Tasmania the regional arts has already been slashed and with no restoring of that money you’re going to see real disappointment in regional communities. There’s new money for the performing arts but it doesn’t appear to be very much if any new money for the visual arts, and again the Government has chosen to go with an election strategy for raising young people’s expectations and hopes about the arts as a career but then there’s nothing to follow through in the event they choose that to support them as young and emerging artists.
So we’ve got what is effectively now the arts in the context of an election slush fund or pork barrel if you like, we don’t have then the systemic support for young artists. The visual arts particularly had asked for only 3 million to go into supporting young artists to be able to stage their exhibitions. That’s something that the Greens had supported and indeed with the location offset for films. This is a no-brainer, it not only is fantastic for Australia reputationally but it brings a large amount of investment and jobs. Wolverine for example – 1700 jobs, $80 million into the local economy, and something like 825 business contracts signed as a result of that film. We’ve done it again as a one-off for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and now there’s a $20 million fund once-off again, but not the systemic change. We should have seen the 30 per cent location offset as part of our cultural policy and it’s not there.
I’m looking forward to seeing the detail in the policy but overall there’s a lot of hopes being raised, a lot of talk about reviews, a lot of talk about new partnerships, but when people pull away the rhetoric they will see that system-wide change is lacking in the document and I think after all the time that it’s taken to get to the cultural policy there will be people around Australia disappointed today.
JOURNALIST: What’s your justification to say it’s pork barrelling or a slush fund?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well tell me how you can justify in an election year coming out with a policy that says every member of the House of Representatives will get $23,000 to spend on schools or on Australian Idol junior competitions in their electorate. If you are serious about raising the expectations of young people to go into the arts – look I think that’s terrific, I love the fact that young people are going to be focused on looking at how they might see the arts as a career but the point is then where is the funding to help them stage their exhibitions? Where is the funding for example under Newstart to say that you would allow the rules of Newstart to recognise the work of artists as qualifying in that whole package of support? Once you get beyond just giving out the money in schools you don’t get much money after that.
One other area that I’m pleased about in the policy is the support for aboriginal languages. That’s great, but it’s come after years of the Government slashing support for maintaining aboriginal languages and again that should be something that we are doing anyway. However I welcome the fact that we’re at least getting some of the money back.
JOURNALIST: Senator What do you think about Stephen Conroy being likened to Stalin and also do you believe Tony Abbott has created a culture of vindication in the Parliament?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well I saw the front page today of the newspaper and thought to myself that they have gone completely over the top and in fact discredited themselves. It’s a tabloid front page and no one could possibly take it seriously.
On the strategy more generally, on the whole media package, I have to say that if the Government was serious about media reform it wouldn’t have put into place such a fake time line, it would have looked at doing something in a more considered way. I think what you’ve got here is a Government extremely divided on media reform saying that they are going to hold, they don’t want the Parliament to be able to make changes suggests to me that Stephen Conroy has only just got the numbers inside the Labor Party and can’t risk any changes or he will lose them. They don’t seem to be serious about media reform at all.
JOURNALIST: What do you make that in the last two days we’ve seen the media reform and today the cultural policy – these two have been a long time coming these two items in the last two days.
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well what we’re going to see right here in the last gasp of the Government is a whole lot of big policies that they have been promising for a long time, the culture policy was one, clearly media reform is another – but where is Gonski? There is every family around Australia with children of school age asking where is the money coming from, when are we going to see the legislation that gives effect to the new funding formula? People around the country who were hoping they’d see the National Disability Insurance Scheme put into effect are wondering when indeed are we actually going to get this through the Parliament. So we’ve only got a few weeks left and what we are seeing is the Government throwing right at the last gasp really big policies into the Parliament, in legislation. My question to them is where is Gonski? You cannot go to the election without having legislated that funding formula.
JOURNALIST: On another mater, Fiji, the video showing prisoner escapees being beaten, it’s been roundly condemned by the United Nations and by the New Zealand parliament. Australia has been very quiet – is there a place for Australia in regards to this particular video?
CHRISTINE MILNE: I think Australia should be taking a lead in human rights and especially in the Asia-Pacific area. Clearly we should be out together with the New Zealand parliament condemning human rights abuses and torture in Fiji. I think it is extremely disappointing that there’s been silence from the Australian Government, especially since you’ve had the United Nations, you’ve had Amnesty International , we’ve now got the New Zealand parliament; and I’ll be bringing a motion into the Senate, I’ll be giving notice of that today. I think it is critical that Australia stands up for human rights in the region, they should be doing it with Sri Lanka, and they haven’t been, and one has to wonder in the case of Sri Lanka whether it is because they have done their deal with the Rajapakse regime on asylum seekers and are therefore not speaking out loudly. There is a motion being discussed today that’s been put out by the United States in the Human Rights Council, the UN Human Rights Council, my question is, Australia where are you? What is your position on that? What is our position on Fiji? The Greens stand strongly against the abuse that is going on, against torture, we stand for supporting international conventions on human and civil rights and we want to see the Australian Parliament and the Minister, the Gillard Government to take a strong stand.
JOURNALIST: Given that silence do you think you could possibly get support for this motion?
CHRISTINE MILNE: I’m hoping that when the Australian Senate realises that the New Zealand Parliament supported a motion condemning torture in Fiji and calling for Fiji to uphold its international obligations that the Australian Senate will realise that we have an obligation to do the same. It’s no use going to these Asia-Pacific meetings and standing up talking about the role of Australia as a leader in the region if we won’t stand up for the very basic human rights that everybody deserves.
Christine Milne Australian Greens Leader Wednesday 13 March 2013