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Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

ABC Darwin with Adam Steer

23 November 2015

Untitled Document

E & OE

Subjects: Catalyst Arts and Culture Fund.

STEER:

It took the arts industry by surprise and put thousands of jobs across Australia at risk. In June, the Federal Government slashed the country's main arts funding body, the Australia Council's budget by $105 million, moving the cash to create a so called National Program for Excellence in the Arts. But after months of criticism, the Government has back-flipped on the decision and is now returning some of that money to the Australia Council. Senator Mitch Fifield is the newly appointed Arts Minister in the Turnbull Government, Senator good morning to you.

FIFIELD:

Adam, good to be with you.

STEER:

Senator you've given back $32 million to the Australia Council, does this mean your predecessor George Brandis made a mistake when he redirected that arts funding in the first place?

FIFIELD:

Well, the intention of the National Program for Excellence of the Arts, which my predecessor proposed,

was to try something different and to see if some of the gaps could be filled for organisations that might not have traditionally been in a position where they could receive support. But, it's important to recognise that the intention was always to consult and to further shape things in the light of that consultation. I came in as Minister at the mid-point of those consultations and spent a lot of time talking to individuals and organisations in the sector and heard from them that they thought the funding needed to be rebalanced. Which is why, as you say, $32 million over the forward estimates is going back to the Australia Council to help them support more small and medium organisations and individuals, and why I've also taken the opportunity to refocus and refine a new program called Catalyst.

STEER:

So could you say it was a failed experiment, the announcement that was made earlier on in the year?

FIFIELD:

I don't think anyone thought before the announcement in the budget that there was perfection in arts administration in Australia. And I don't think anyone thinks there is perfection today. What we're seeking to do as a government is to talk to the sector. To learn. To refine, and improve. I don't claim to have achieved nirvana in Australian arts administration at this point. So we will see how these new arrangements go.

STEER:

Can you explain the guidelines for the new arts program Catalyst which you announced last week?

FIFIELD:

Yeah sure, there are three streams in the Catalyst program. There's international and cultural diplomacy. We're providing the opportunity and support to propositions that seek to expand audiences for our works. It could be tours, exhibitions, exchanges. We've got the partnerships and collaboration stream, where we want to trial new and different ways of organisations seeking to raise new sources of funds. And we've got the innovation and participation stream, which is really a fairly open stream that calls for novel ideas and new approaches that seeks to provide even more support for arts in the regions, to seek to provide greater access and involvement for people with disabilities and the arts, or it could be something like looking for a digital solution in an arts environment. They are fairly broad streams, but we want to come up with new ideas, we want to trial different things and see if we can help create an environment that is conducive to creativity. And creativity is part of helping support establishing a culture of innovation in the community.

STEER:

The Australian Arts and Culture Fund – Catalyst, how much is that costing to run?

FIFIELD:

Well, the Catalyst fund has a budget of $12 million and I know a number of people in the sector have said 'oh you'll have to set up a new bureaucracy for that'. But we do already have the Ministry of the Arts which administers a range of programs. So we're not having to set up a new bureaucracy.

STEER:

But I'm confused that the Australia Council is already the main arts funding body, why do you have to create a new one?

FIFIELD:

Well, the Australia Council has a really important role. And the Australia Council remains the prime funding vehicle for the Arts in Australia. Over the next four years they'll receive $783 million. They'll get $193 million per annum compared to $12 million in the Catalyst program. And what the Australia Council does, is that it has an emphasis on artistic excellence. It includes funding for core operations of different organisations. It is the prime vehicle for funding individual artists. The Catalyst fund won't seek to do that. And it provides fellowships and residencies, again which is something that the Catalyst fund won't do. What we are seeking to do with the Catalyst fund is to make open to organisations that might not have otherwise had the opportunity, to seek funds. Organisations like galleries and libraries, archives and museums. To give them the chance to put forward proposals to try different things. Up to this point they really haven't had the opportunity to seek that support.

STEER:

Senator thank you for your time today, I really appreciate it.

FIFIELD:

Good to talk Adam.

Media contact: 

Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | justine.sywak@communications.gov.au

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