Minister for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

A/g Minister for Regional Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Doorstop Interview Mildura

2 October 2015


Mitch Thanks for being here. What brings you to Mildura?


We have the Meeting of Culture Ministers once a year. This is obviously the first meeting that I am attending as the Minister for the Arts, after assuming the role as the Minister in the Communications and the Arts portfolio.

On the Agenda today we are having a report from Dr Helen Nugent, who is conducting a review of the funded Opera companies across Australia, of which there are four. Looking at the financial and governance of those organisations.

Also on the agenda is tourism and the arts and the importance of that. So it is particularly appropriate that we are in Mildura with the Biennale about to kick off. Because the arts festivals are an important tourism drawcard in regional Australia.

We are also looking at a report on disabilities and the arts. Which I am particularly interested in as my previous portfolio was as Minister for Disabilities and Aged care. There is some incredible work in relation to disability and the arts; organisations like Emotion 21 which is a dance troupe for people with Down syndrome. There are a lot of good things happening there.

Also, we will be having a report from the Chair of the Australia Council. And also importantly reports from Creative Partnerships Australia, which is a Commonwealth government body whose purpose is to help identify corporate and philanthropic sources of money for the arts. It also helps bring together businesses, artists and people who have the capacity to contribute to the sector, so there is less reliance on taxpayer dollars and so that artistic activities have a broader base of funding.

We will also be talking about the issue of regional arts in general. I think it's really important that Ministerial Councils of this sort don't always happen in Canberra or Melbourne and Sydney. That they do happen in regional areas and Mildura is the perfect place and this is the perfect time; so that we can all be here for the start of the Biennale.


When you say discussing regional arts, what specifically are you talking about? Challenges facing regional arts, or as a whole?


Definitely looking at it as a whole, getting the perspectives of State and Territory Ministers about how regional arts compare in their jurisdictions. What they are doing to support regional arts. We do have a Commonwealth programme that makes contributions to regional arts; in-fact all up the Biennale will receive about $113,000 of Commonwealth support. But I don't want to give the indication that that is in any way money benevolently bestowed by the Commonwealth, it is ultimately taxpayers dollars which people in this community and people throughout regional Victoria have paid in taxes. So the Federal Government is simply the conduit for that money, which the people have worked for themselves and then paid in taxes.


Are you anticipating much discussion around the National Program for Excellence in the Arts? That's been an interesting point of late?


That will certainly come up and I am keen to get feedback on that from my state counterparts. It was never the intention that the draft guidelines of that program would be set in stone. The Commonwealth Ministry of the Arts has been undertaking a consultation process, and the purpose of that is to get feedback and to make adjustments. But I think an important point is that, although money has been transferred from the Australia Council to the Ministry of the Arts, there has not been a dollar taken away from the Arts. And the Australia Council will still have $185 million a year for the work that it does.


Are you anticipating that there will be much change to the draft guidelines after this process?


Oh look, I think there will certainly be changes to the guidelines and some adjustments to the programme. Taking on board the feedback that the Ministry of the Arts has received in its consultations, but I also want to hear what my state counterparts have to say today.


Thank you. Are you excited to be here and part of the Palimpsest, obviously a major cultural event? What are your impressions of that? I understand you were out at an arts centre this morning for a quick look?


I have not yet been able to make it out to the Arts Centre yet, but that's all before me. I am particularly pleased as a Victorian Senator to be here to support the festival.

Media contact: Luisa Anderson | 0417 309 812 |

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