The Arts Party seek to reverse the latest cuts, and ensure greater access to art for all. TBS spoke to them to find out how.
TBS: Why do you believe Art is worth saving? Moreover, why do you feel that Australians should view the Arts as an industry in line with more traditional industries?
NG: If you look at “hip pocket” expenditure, Australians view the Arts very highly. They spend more on tickets to cultural events and artistic entertainment than they do on watching sport. That holds true whether you’re talking about live events or television/film. The truth is, when you look at pure dollars, we hold the Arts in a very high regard. The Arts is not an industry in line with more traditional industries. It’s more important. When we’re talking about manufacturing or mining, we’re talking about purely pragmatic calculations.
“Can we do it cheaper than other countries”? “Can we compete”? If the answer is “no” then there’s no point or value in propping up that industry. But when we’re talking about the cultural industries, we’re talking about unique content. We’re talking about things that only Australians can produce, for Australians, representing an individual and specific Australian culture. These industries deserve support. They bring value back to the Australian people in multiples, by their very existence.
What do you say to those who don’t believe the Arts is a worthwhile investment?
What do I say? I say, “In the nicest possible way…you’re missing the point”. “The Arts” is…everything we do. Everyone who uses their creativity to do their job, in any way, should be interested in what The Arts Party is about. The developed nations of the world have gotten to a point where they can’t really compete in industries that rely on the resources of the land. People’s standard of living is so high, and time so “valuable”, that we simply can’t compete in those industries anymore. The growth areas of the economy are in local service industries where the jobs can’t be outsourced – and in creative industries. Many of the service industries will also be replaced by automation presently, as well. To look to the future, we need to stop thinking about what we can dig out of the ground and what we can manufacture. We need to be thinking about new technologies. We need to be thinking about how we can value-add to other’s raw materials in new and innovative ways.
All of these things require creativity.
All of them require people who can think broadly and are willing to change with the times. All of them require a cutting-edge education system that nurtures creative critical thinking from an early age and allows for life-long learning and training. I see a future in which very few people have a linear career; in which the distinction between education and working is blurred completely; and in which people are given the power and opportunity to train and retrain themselves throughout their lives to achieve their full potential, in whatever field best benefits them, and the economy, at any particular time.
On the surface, The Arts party seems to be for artists. What message do you hope to promote to the average voter come Saturday?
We are not just for artists, we are equally for audiences. The Arts Party has four main pillars to its platform:
- Access to Arts and Culture
- Supporting our creative industries
- Education for everyone, at any age
- Improving our community
If you add into that the savings measures we have outlined to help repair the budget – and afford some of the measures we would like to introduce – you’ve covered most of our policy platform. Every political party has a lens through which it focusses its policy development. For Labor, it’s working families. For the Greens, it’s environmentalism. For the Liberals, it’s liberalism or neo-conservatism.
We want to bring the open, inclusive, individualistic, humanist and accepting culture of The Arts to development in any and all areas of social and economic policy.
What are the main problems that you see with the current funding and education system surrounding the Arts? How important is education, and what reforms do you seek?
We need to see a complete rethink of how creativity is included in education. In primary education, we need funding that allows access to basic music, dance and visual art for all students – to foster and maintain the innate creativity within every young student.
For high school students, we need funding for more training to allow teachers to confidently apply and deliver the Arts curriculum. We need more research into the best ways to foster creativity and innovation in people of all ages. We need funding for better teacher wages. We would like to see a program that equalises teachers’ wages across the country (with allowances for incentives for teachers to move to regional areas) that aligns all teachers’ pay, in each state, with those highest paid (currently in WA). A further program of increasing teachers’ pay should then be undertaken. We can’t hope to attract the best minds and skills if we keep skimping on the wages. Whether or not this is achieved by agreement between the states, or funding from the Federal Government is up for discussion and debate…but the principle is important.
What is the main policy you aim to push? Moreover, does your party have views outside the Arts?
We have many views outside the Arts, but to look at it the other way…everything we do is The Arts. Our main focused policy agenda is more money for small-to-medium Arts enterprises and creative industries. Better spending of the money that is already there. A better outcome for Australian audiences…and life-long learning for all.
The Arts community in this country is small. Close-knit but also separate. How you aim to motivate that collective to bring lasting change?
We hope to motivate people by inspiring them. The whole Australian population could be said to be “small, close-knit but also separate.” Good ideas, the right ideas, the best ideas, sell themselves. Create good policy, and good politics follow…didn’t someone say that once?
We will bring lasting change by being the change we want to see, listening to people for the best ideas, and by simply turning up to make a difference. The Arts community isn’t small; the Arts community is every Australian – whether you know it or not.
The Arts is an industry built on those who have it, and those who don’t. How do you aim to close the gap between those who are paid and those who aren’t? Is a restoration of funding the answer, or is it in better education?
Better funding, not just more funding, is the answer. We want to see “demand driven” funding, instead of “supply driven” funding models – especially for small-to-medium enterprises.
We want to experiment with subsidies – and other ways of reducing the risk of innovation. We want to work with private industry to develop a real seed-funding culture. We want to explore all the ways that government can have a hand in redistributing opportunity, from those who have it already, to those who deserve a chance.
What do you hope to enact in the early days, after winning a seat, and what political allies will you seek?
- Restoration and further increase of ABC/SBS funding
- National Arts Week
- Continued funding for Trove
- A recommitment to Gonski
- A tripling of the distributed budget for artists and small/medium organisations through AusCo
- Trials in expanded national touring programs
- Immediate marriage equality
- Trials in “demand-driven” funding
- Trials in regional cultural support hubs
- A recommitment to the original aims of the NBN
- Immediate revenue-raising measures for the budget
- An artist-in-residence in Parliament House
As for allies, that really depends on the make-up of the next Parliament. Politics is sometimes about compromise, and often about leadership. That’s not an evasive answer. That’s just pragmatism. We want to see the best outcome, for our members, for our policies, for Australian artists, for Australian audience members, and for the Australian people. The idea is bigger than us. It’s bigger than all the members. It’s an idea whose time has come – and we just want to help to make it happen.
The idea is bigger than us. It’s bigger than all the members. It’s an idea whose time has come – and we just want to help to make it happen.
Want to know more, or get involved? Head over to the Arts Party website for further information