Bill's Speeches

LAUNCH OF LABOR’S PLAN FOR A MORE CREATIVE AUSTRALIA - MELBOURNE - SATURDAY, 4 JUNE 2016

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I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land.

Australia’s first artists, our first story-tellers, our first dreamers. 

I pay my respects to elders past and present.

It’s wonderful to be home in Melbourne and here at the Malthouse.

A brewery, built in the days of McCubbin, Roberts and Streeton, re-imagined as a theatre in the era of Nowra, Williamson and Jimmy Chi.

And now I stand beside the small St Louis apartment of the Wingfields in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.

Built and designed by some remarkable, creative Australians, some of whom I had the privilege to meet a little earlier this morning.

This apartment is the home of people who once lived a life of privilege and power, yet now spend their dusty exile pining for a return to the good old days.

You’re just waiting for Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott to walk right in, aren’t you?

In the lead-up to today, I was thinking about what my brilliant friend would have said, the late Bob Ellis.

Bob would have loved this gathering of the great and the good, the snap and the crackle of talent and intellect, the chance to tell some tall tales and say some outrageous things.

Incomparable – and occasionally unprintable – Bob often used to talk about a person’s ‘hinterland’.

A great Australian word for an intangible sense of curiosity…

Of intellectual depth and cultural breadth, of a rich and varied life of the mind.

Friends this is what the arts mean to Australians and Australia.

The arts are the stories we tell to ourselves, about ourselves.

The hope, the confidence and open-ness that we project, as a nation at home with who we are, comfortable in our own skin – whatever colour that may be.

Nourishing Australia’s artistic potential and our cultural identity also delivers real economic benefits: jobs, skills, industries and education.

Mark Dreyfus and I are here today because we believe in the arts, and we believe government should invest in the arts.

We believe Australia’s artistic identity - intangible and ephemeral as it can sometimes be – is most definitely worth fighting for.  

Friends

I know for some of you this election campaign has seemed as long as a Patrick White novel – and as bright and breezy as the Ring Cycle.

There’s not many audiences where I can use that joke

Today, we mark the halfway point.

An optimist would say we’ve still got 28 days to go

Mind you, so would a pessimist.  

But there is a bigger point to be made here, in the longest campaign in 50 years.  

It gives us the chance in this longer campaign to delve a bit deeper.  

To shine the national political spotlight on causes which deserve to be centre-stage.

To pose questions for which a future government ought to have the answers.

AUSTRALIA COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS

Today I want to take this opportunity, to lay out Labor’s vision for a creative country.

Our plan to invest in Australia’s creative industries.

And to repair the decade’s worth of damage done by three years of Liberal vandalism.

In the 2014 Budget, the Liberals slashed more than $100 million from arts funding, including cutting our national cultural institutions and Screen Australia.  

Compounded by their attacks on the ABC – the national stage for so much great Australian drama.

And in 2015, the Liberals cut a further $105 million from the Australia Council for the Arts - and diverted it into a personal slush fund…for George Brandis.

Tony Abbott put $105 million of arts funding in the hands of a man who spent nearly $25,000 on his own bookcase.

I am sure, like so many Australians, when Mr Turnbull replaced Mr Abbott– many of you thought he would right this wrong. I did too, by the way.

And with all the courage and decisiveness that has characterised his time in office, Mr Turnbull kept the slush fund and gave it a new name.

That's agile.

Today, I am proud to announce that a Labor Government will end this short-lived and disgraceful practise, and return the money to the Australia Council for the Arts – where it belongs and always will belong.

And we will provide $20 million of new funding each year, for the next four years.

I can already hear the cry of some conservative commentators saying: ‘it's a cost’.

It's not a cost. It's an investment.

I want to return certainty to communities, I want small and middle-sized organisations, which have been driven to the brink of closure and beyond by three years of Liberal cuts, I want them to have certainty back.

I want to restore independence and integrity to the allocation of arts grants, scarce taxpayer-funded arts grants.

I want to restore independence and integrity to this process.

It's a principle Labor has held dear ever since Gough Whitlam established the Australia Council - and we will rescue it once again.

You see, Labor and myself, we believe the arts belong to all Australians.

Egalitarian, not elitist.

And they should never be, no matter who is in power, a plaything for the patronage of politicians.

Labor has never signed up to the view of some in the commentariat that the arts are confined to a small, paleo-eating, deconstructed coffee drinking, fixie-riding, organic-farming clique.

We know, and you know and millions of other Australians know, the arts provides an expression, a quality, a soul in peoples’ lives which cannot and should not be underestimated.

Art, music, literature and theatre bring pleasure to people of all ages, from every background - and in every part of our remarkable nation.

From our capital cities and our regional centres – to growing suburbs and grand old country towns.

REGIONAL ARTS FUND

Since 2001, the Regional Arts Fund has helped bring cultural projects to life in our regions.

  • Supporting ongoing artistic initiatives, rather than one-off projects.
  • Creating more jobs and opportunities for young people in the bush.
  • And bringing new hope to remote communities and other places where perhaps disadvantage would otherwise be entrenched.

The Regional Arts Fund is also tremendous value for the taxpayer dollar.

Every dollar of Commonwealth funding, generates almost another two dollars of support from other sources.

Today - as part of Labor’s commitment to ensuring and extending opportunity and creativity to every part of our country, I announce a Labor Government will nearly double the size of the Regional Arts Fund, investing an additional $8 million over the next four years - because the regions deserve the best too.

ABC DRAMA

No discussion of the artistic life of Australia can be conducted without support for the ABC.

For generations, our ABC has been the home of Australian drama.

From The Patriots and Brides of Christ.  

Changi, Seachange and Paper Giants.

To Rake and Jack Irish.

Australian actors, Australian writers – telling Australian stories.

In the era of online content and greater competition, it is more important than ever for government to support the creativity of our people.

To invest in Australian skills – and Australian jobs.

And to make sure the next generation of Australians grow up watching shows about their country, in their accent.

It gives me great pleasure to announce a new Labor Government after July 2 will invest nearly $60 million in the ABC to support the next generation of quality Australian programming.

LIVE MUSIC

It's Saturday, so tonight – in the pubs and laneway bars, on sticky wooden floors, worn-down boards and fraying carpet tiles - many hundreds of thousands of Australians will be enjoying live music.

Our live music scene has given icons from every era their start.

And it continues to bring joy and colour to the soundtrack of our national life.

Today, Australia is the 6th largest music market in the world – and I have every confidence there is still massive untapped potential left to explore and export.

I still remember that the first album I bought was from Midnight Oil 10, 9, 8, 7... you know, down to 1.

It was on the national charts for about two years.

You'd listen over and over to the furious lyrics of ‘Short Memory’ and that drum solo in ‘Power and the Passion’.

The sound was like no other.

The stories were Australian, there was no attempt to mimic an American accent, the voices were Australian.

Australian artists have never received a massive cut from album sales, but it has always been a significant source of income.

But we've seen the shift, haven't we.

From sales to downloads to streaming, it's nearly complete.

Many consumers welcome the convenience but there is risk in this.

Royalties paid to artists from streamed music are horrifically low.

Live performance therefore is now more important than ever.

If you want every generation of Australians in the future to be able to hear music from our continent, reaching directly into the energy and spirit of our identity, then we need to encourage live performance.

I acknowledge that the office of Live Music does their best and we have some protections in streaming, they're essential but they're not as effective as they used to be.

There are no Australian content quotas on Spotify or Pandora, so we need to actively assist our artists to play on stages right around the world.

To have a fan base not just here, but abroad.

Australian music has provided a soundtrack to our lives.

Every one of you will have a story and a moment that you associate with Australian music.

A memory or a relationship, an experience.

And we should ensure that the future generations of Australians are able to have those moments and those connections to what has been so special to all of our lives.

Live music is not the biggest issue in this election but it is very important to Labor. 

Labor will dedicate nearly $2 million every year over the next four years to support new acts and promote and protect the wonderful work Australian musicians do.

And we will return $5.6 million of funding to that other great platform for Australian artists: community radio.

Friends, celebrating the arts means supporting local Australian publishing.

In the face of digital disruption and change, Australia's publishers have thrived and adapted, producing 7000 titles a year - perhaps too many political books.

Generating $2 billion in revenue, directly employing more than 4000 people.

But I know there are serious concerns about what a returned Liberal Government would do in its second 1000 days and the intentions they have in this area.

I want you to know that Labor has heard the message loud and clear.

We will not be rushing into any decisions about modifying the current copyright laws.

We will talk to you - and we will listen.

We will ensure that Australia's publishing industry remains strong into the future.

ARTS IN SCHOOLS

Labor’s vision for the Arts is not confined to our support just for the creative industries.

We know Australians are more than consumers of excellence.

Millions of our people take great pleasure from taking part: writing, painting, acting, singing and dancing.

From school concerts and local book clubs to community theatre.

Discovering, on stage, or with a brush or book in hand - a new and greater sense of themselves.

Shy kids, gaining confidence.

Young people, unearthing new gifts.

Teachers, mentors, instructors and parents sharing in this journey, taking pride in the growth of their changes.

Chloe and I have witnessed this with our children.

The joy, the lift, the self-esteem they gain from:

  • Saturday morning ballet.
  • Play rehearsals after school.
  • Singing lessons, music lessons, drama classes, performance.

But right now, too many Australian children don’t have access to these opportunities.

Reports show three out of five primary schools do not offer music lessons.

Only two states in our Commonwealth have music as part of the primary school curriculum.

Even with an army of teachers and parents painting the sets and sewing the costumes, with all the raffle tickets and cake-stalls and tuck-shop sales.  

When school funding is cut - drama and music and art always seem to be first on the chopping block.  

So in addition to making sure that every child and every school gets every opportunity through our commitment to properly resource schools with our Gonski funding.

Today, I can announce an additional $2 million a year to expand successful school music programs.

And a further $350,000 a year for the Songmakers program: ensuring more Australian students receive mentoring and inspiration from Australia's best songwriters and producers. 

A Labor Government will give every Australian child every chance to fall in love with music, drama and the performing arts.

CONCLUSION

Friends

The Arts may not decide an election – but they can define a nation.

You can judge a party, you can judge a leader by the choices that we make and the issues that we raise.

The scarce time we have, the priorities of what we talk about and what we think is important to talk about to the Australian people.

As a Prime Minister in a Labor government, I promise to give the great Australian artistic community the respect, the recognition and the resources you deserve.

We will be a government which will celebrate and treasure the contribution all of you make.

That live musicians make, the people who work at the ABC, the people in community radio, the people in the regional arts groups and theatre groups, the hardworking music teachers at every school in Australia. 

We are very fortunate with the calibre of our artists and the passion of their commitment and the scale of their ability.

The Australian arts community deserves a government as brave, as optimistic, as dedicated to enriching the identity, the heart and hinterland of our the Australian people.

We shall be that government if we are elected on July 2.

And we will make sure that the arts, while it doesn't necessarily change an election, it will change our nation and change it for the better.

Thank you very much.


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