On Saturday 2 July 2016, Australians will head to the polls to cast our votes in the Federal election.
Here's a summary of what might be in store for writers, readers and the literary sector to help #AusVotesArts.
Key policy issues
Click on the links below to catch up on some of the key policy issues for the writing and arts sector this election:
- Federal arts funding, Catalyst and the Australia Council for the Arts
- The Productivity Commission's proposed changes to copyright and parallel importation restrictions (PIRs)
Or catch up on the video of the recent National Arts Election Debate in Melbourne.
In alphabetical order:
The Arts Party released an Arts and Heritage Policy One-Pager in May.
- In terms of Federal arts funding, the Arts Party has called for immediate full implementation of last year's Senate Inquiry recommendations including full return of Australia Council funding removed from the 2014 and 2015 budgets plus tripling of the budget to be distributed through grants. Their position is that the Catalyst program would continue with separate new funding and more transparent funding decisions.
The Greens were the first to launch a full arts policy in May.
- In terms of Federal arts funding, the Greens have committed to return $104 million to the Australia Council that the current Government cut last year, dissolve the Catalyst program that replaced it, and have promised an additional $270m in funding towards arts and culture (including doubling the funding for the Australia Council’s grants and initiatives for small to medium arts organisations, individual writers and artists).
- In terms of the Productivity Commission report, the Greens seem to be moving away from their previous support of copyright changes, with Arts Spokesperson Adam Bandt's website saying they will "clean up copyright law so it does its job of supporting both creators and consumers rather than corporate copyright owners." At this month's National Arts Election Debate, Bandt confirmed that the Greens do not support the proposed changes to PIRs.
- Other policy commitments include an advocacy body for Australian authors, reversal of the 'efficiency dividends' imposed on key cultural institutions, creation of a National Arts Week and a new 'arts for the dole' program.
The Labor Party followed with their arts policy launch in June.
- In terms of Federal arts funding, the Labor Party have also committed to returning the full amount of funding to the Australia Council (plus an additional $80m) and to dissolving the Catalyst program.
- In terms of the Productivity Commission report, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Shadow Arts Minister Mark Dreyfus suggested a Labor government would reject the Productivity Commission's recommendations. But neither Dreyfus nor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten would formalise a commitment to the proposed copyright changes at their arts policy launch or National Arts Election Debate. Dreyfus did note at the Debate that Labor legislated for PIRs in 1990 and rejected an attempt by the Productivity Commission to repeal PIRs in 2009.
- Other policy commitments include $60m of funding returned to the ABC for new local drama and an increase of $8m for the Regional Arts Fund.
- In terms of Federal arts funding, Arts Minister Mitch Fifield said at the National Arts Election Debate that he was “wary of government dictating from on high the direction arts should go" (though this is one of the criticisms of the Catalyst program he oversees). So far, the Government has ignored the Senate Inquiry recommendations to return the money cut from the Australia Council in full.
- In terms of the Productivity Commission report, Minister Fifield reaffirmed the government’s intention to remove parallel importation restrictions at the debate, but did not specify a particular timeline.
- When asked about the Coalition’s vision for the arts at the National Arts Election Debate, Fifield said that there was one but didn't elaborate on what it might be. As Ben Elthem reported in The Guardian, "When asked about the funding cuts to the Australia Council, he said the government still supported the Australia Council. When asked about job losses in the cultural industries, he said that the Turnbull government’s tax cuts to business would grow the economy and this would eventually flow through to artists."
How to vote for writing
There are a number of different ways that you can help get the voice of writers heard before, during and after the election.
1. Add your voice
2. Spread the word
Or use some of these handy tweet-sized messages to start your own social media campaign in the leadup to the election:
- Art speaks to you, so vote to support artists in this election http://bit.ly/voteARTS #AusVotesArts #IStandWithTheArts
- Sign the petition to stand with the arts. http://bit.ly/voteARTS #AusVotesArts #IStandWithTheArts
- Art changes lives. #IStandWithTheArts http://bit.ly/voteARTS #AusVotesArts
3. Vote for writing
Get to know the parties’ arts policies (above) and cast your vote for whoever you think will best support our literary ecology.
4. Put your money where your mouth is
In the wake of the recent federal arts funding decisions, writers, artists and organisations have already started to suffer. But while we wait on the outcome of the big-picture issues, there are a number of things we can do on a grass-roots level as well.
“Everyone can make a difference”, Madeleine Dore wrote in Artshub, “subscribe to literary journals, see local productions, buy books by local authors, join local arts organisations, commit to the arts every week. Go and see some art.”
5. Keep up the pressure
Our advocacy efforts don’t end with the election. Make sure you stand up for what’s important to you – whether that’s affordable education, improved disability access, better conditions to #paythewriters or anything in between. For some great tips on how to advocate for the arts, check out the Regional Arts Victoria Advocacy Toolkit.
About Kate Larsen
Kate is the Director of Writers Victoria.