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The day before we put this edition of RealTime to bed, Senator Richard Alston commenced an astonishing assault on the ABC, charging it with anti-American bias in its reporting of the Iraq War, and threatening funding cuts. This is one of the most alarming government incursions on journalistic responsibility in recent memory in this country. But Alston was not alone in this attack on liberal democracy and its cultural manifestations.

The next day, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph (May 29) used composer Jon Rose as its prime target in an attack on art funding, citing Arts Minister Rod Kemp’s caution to the Australia Council about “exposing itself to ridicule by handing out grants for questionable projects.” The Telegraph chose the wrong target. Rose is an established artist with an international reputation. He has had a popular success with the Adlib project (a marvellous archiving of everyday Australian music making) with the ABC and with his Great Fences of Australia performances in the Victorian Arts Centre for the 2002 Melbourne Festival. There are many grant projects that are likely to be beyond the comprehension of Minister Kemp and the Telegraph, either because they are difficult to interpret (and all too easy to mock when taken out of context) or they are simply beyond Kemp and some journalists’ arts experience. This does not make those projects or the artists undertaking them fools or opportunists.

Earlier the Australia Council’s New Media Arts Board funding of the Escape from Woomera computer game hit the front page of the The Sydney Morning Herald. The report was an opportunistic waving of a red rag at the Ruddock bully. Melanie Swalwell puts the event and computer gaming in context.

In the security-building wake of September 11, authoritarian governments—whose only notion of freedom is the free market—can make the most of opportunities to censor the media, the arts and, with workplace agreements, tighten the reins on universities.

‘Arm’s length’ used to be the operating principle for government relations with the Australia Council. Along with freedom of the press, it needs to be restated and confirmed.

The women’s pages

Without any effort on our part, women writers have always made up 50% of the writers for RealTime and the work of women artists is always strongly represented in our pages. In this informal feature survey of recent and forthcoming works, our articles, reviews and interviews reveal female artists still grappling with, if often overcoming, some of the restraints on careers, craft and vision that have long dogged them, or which, like motherhood and working with men, are part of the dialectic. However, whether in the intricate re-shaping of the vision of support organisations, the extended inclusiveness of festival gatherings or the expanded breadth of material and means (the engagement with new media, with the technology of science, with zoology, anthropology and cultural history), there’s a strong sense of expansive views and new vistas.

Dramaturgy and screenplay writing now

The fortunes of dramaturgy in Australian theatre have been mixed since the early 1980s, doubtless fueled by an imagined tension between British pragmatism and European folly. That opinion was still in evidence at the second of the Dramaturgies conferences held at the University of Melbourne in April, but was outweighed by growing interest in what dramaturgy can offer as it becomes an increasingly integral part of Australian theatre, dance and opera. In this edition we have a report on the first of the 2 Dramaturgies events, an online transcript of the first event, and an interview with playwright Ben Ellis and dramaturg Louise Fox as they work on Ellis’ play about Australians and refugees as part of the STC’s Blueprints program. As well, screenplay writer Blake Ayshford reports on his and fellow writers’ experience of the NSW Film & Television Office’s script development program, Aurora.. There’ll be more in our Dramaturgy Now series in RT 56.

New editors

It’s a great pleasure to welcome to our editorial team new Contributing Editors, Mick Broderick (WA), Mike Walsh (SA), Danni Zuvela (QLD), Mary Ann Hunter (QLD) and OnScreen Commissioning Editor, Daniel Edwards (NSW, see OnScreen Editorial). RT

RealTime issue #55 June-July 2003 pg. 1

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