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Major parties rapped for 'ignoring' the arts

AUSTRALIA'S leading arts organisations have made an unprecedented intervention into the federal election campaign, complaining about the way the arts have so far been ignored by the major parties.

ArtsPeak, the confederation of 25 national arts organisations, called for increased support for artists and organisations, including reform of social security arrangements to assist artists build their careers.

The Greens are the only party to have released an arts policy so far, promising artists more support through Centrelink and to establish a $3 million fund to ensure artists are paid for their exhibitions and performances.

ArtsPeak said research showed nine out of 10 Australians participate in the arts, but the federal government invests less than 1 per cent of its overall expenditure in the area.

In a separate move, three performing-arts organizations combined to call for increased funding.

The Australian Performing Arts Centres Association, the Australian Major Performing Arts Group and Live Performance Australia said in a joint statement there was "no grand vision" to encourage the development and presentation of new work.

It called for a $5 million fund to be established to be used for investment in creating new work in all genres.

It also called for greater support for touring productions, both regionally and internationally. It urged that

$10 million be made available to take work overseas by companies and commercial producers.
The statement wants the Playing Australia grant to be increased by $2 million to $6.3 million a year for regional programs. Lack of funds has caused many companies to lose interest in taking works out of capital cities, it says.

The organisations also urge improved training for key backstage skills and audience development.
In summary, they say the recommendations would result in reduced reliance on government investment because of improved philanthropy, sponsorship and private investment.

ROBIN USHER
The Age
August 6, 2010