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Hoofer Dance, Free the Arts Rally, Southbank Melbourne, May 22 Hoofer Dance, Free the Arts Rally, Southbank Melbourne, May 22
“We will force Senator Brandis to have the public consultation he has avoided so far,” declared Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Minister for the Arts on 2 June. As we go to press, the Federal Opposition is calling for a Senate inquiry into the “Coalition Arts Slush Fund”—the $104.8 million heisted from the Australia Council to fund the new “National Programme for Excellence in the Arts” within Attorney-General and Arts Minister Senator George Brandis’ own department.

In recent weeks Media Arts & Entertainment Alliance petition has been circulating, a national protest held (see editorial), dozens of public statements made, mostly by the now at-risk artists in the small to medium sector but also Artspeak (the confederation of national peak arts organisations), letters of complaint sent to Minister Brandis and many significant articles published, especially online. Rumours abound that the Minister’s department brought pressure to bear on major performing arts organisations not to get involved in the discussion after Queensland Theatre Company artistic director Wesley Enoch, the State Theatre Company of SA, Black Swan and Circus Oz made their concerns public. There’s an understanding among the major companies that their wellbeing relies in the long-term on the health of the small to medium sector, but will they (CAST, the Confederation of Australian State Theatre Companies) come together to protest Brandis’ action?

While there’ll be no support from Opera Australia (“we’ll take money from anywhere,” said the company’s General Manager, Craig Hassall) or the Australian Ballet, it’s important that artists form an otherwise united front against the most significant assault on the Australia Council in its history and, above all, the contempt of this Minister for a large proportion of Australia’s artists. Let’s hope that by the time RealTime is on the streets, a Senate inquiry will have been scheduled and Brandis taken to task. The $104.8 million must be returned.

Read Major art heist: the Brandis file, our analysis of Senator George Brandis' recent budgetary decisions, published in the May 20 Profiler.

RealTime issue #127 June-July 2015 pg. 25-26

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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