Budget represents missed opportunity to underpin innovation and growth in the arts sector

Budget represents missed opportunity to underpin innovation and growth in the arts sector

The Federal Budget from the Coalition Government is the fourth in a row without a strategic arts policy to advance the sector and its public impact.

The 2017 Budget formalises the transfer of $80.2 million over four years from the Ministry for the Arts’ Catalyst fund back to the Australia Council, as announced by Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield in March. In 2017/18, the Council’s base appropriation will increase by $21.0 million, from $188.4 million to $209.4 million, including $20.0 million transferred from Catalyst and $5 million approved in 2016/17 from Australia Council reserves, net of an increased annual efficiency dividend.

The Australian Major Performing Arts Group (AMPAG) welcomed the reinstatement of the Catalyst funds at the time, recognising that, even though it did not restore Australia Council funding to pre-2015 levels, it would assist the Council to continue to support the small to medium arts organisations that are critical to Australia’s arts ecology.

‘The return of these funds was a good step,’ said AMPAG Chair John Irving. ‘However, it is disappointing that the Budget has not taken the opportunity to consolidate and build on this correction in a strategic way that recognises the value of the arts to Australian society – its potential to build social resilience and shared values as well contribute significant economic benefits.’

The cultural sector contributes $50 billion towards Australia’s GDP annually, with over $4.2 billion attributable to the arts. It is a major tourism drawcard, attracting 2.4 million international arts tourists to Australia in 2013/14, up 19% over the previous four years. And its contribution is highly valued by Australians, with 85% believing the arts make for a richer and more meaningful life.

Further, research indicates that the arts contribute to better educational outcomes and a more creative and innovative workforce. Companies that combine arts and humanities skills with science skills have been shown to be more productive, faster growing and more likely to bring radical innovation to market.

‘Every dollar of government investment in the arts has the potential to leverage significant activity,’ said AMPAG’s John Irving. ‘Arts funding should be seen as a partnership that can generate both social and economic benefits through targeted progressive policies – in particular, the development of a pathway that draws the arts into the innovation agenda.’

AMPAG will continue to work with Minister Fifield on achieving these outcomes through a range of recommendations, including full indexation of all Australia Council grant funding, increased support for regional engagement and access, and targeted investment to support ambitious new works. The full set of recommendations is set out below.

Australia Major Performing Arts Group: Pre-Budget 2017-18 Recommendations Summary

Recommendation 1

The Federal Government returns remaining Catalyst funds to the Australia Council.


The Federal Government instigates a review of the funding of small to medium-sized performing arts sector.

Recommendation 3

The Federal Government extends full CPI indexation to all arts program funding to limit further erosion.

Recommendation 4

The Federal Government continues its financial commitment to the MPA Framework including indexation and core funding for the MPA companies and undertakes to review the framework at regulate intervals to identify and address emerging issues, or signs of market failure, in a timely way to ensure stability of supply.

Recommendation 5

AMPAG supports recommendation 11:14 of the 2016 Opera Review to increase funding to the major opera companies by $24.136 million over four years through agreed proportional federal–state government contributions, in tandem with AMPAG’s pre-budget recommendations 1 & 2 above.

Recommendation 6

AMPAG supports recommendation 11:15 of the Opera Review that specifies recommendation 11:14must be supported throughnew funding and not applied by reducing funding commitment to other arts programs.

Recommendation 7

AMPAG recommends an increase in the Playing Australia Program of $8 million allocated evenly over four years from 2017–18 to 2020–21 to support additional strategic performing arts access and engagement in regional Australia.

Recommendation 8

AMPAG recommends an increase in the number of performing arts companies operating with National Touring Status.

Recommendation 9

Students enrolled in performing arts performance courses run by reputable training providers (commercial, government and not-for-profit) with demonstrated links to the industry should have access to support through the VET student loan scheme.

Recommendation 10

The Federal Government should continue to support and encourage private giving through matched funding as a complement to (not a replacement of) core government support in the arts through a matched funding program. This program funding for CPA should be extended to 2017–18 and the CPA operation should be reviewed to identify programming needs for the next four years.

Recommendation 11

AMPAG recommends government stimulate development of original IP through a $20 million over 4 years seed fund for new innovative works of scale.

Recommendations 12

Provide an additional $5 million over four years for international touring of Australian productions & artists.

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