Summary of Findings
Since the Australian Bureau of Statistics released their last report on government cultural expenditure in 2014, there has been no government-produced data set to shed light on the changes in government’s level of investment in the sector — that is, until the welcome release on 1st August of a new data report, prepared by an ABS consultant on behalf of the Meeting of Cultural Ministers.
This report provides 2015–16 data outlining government expenditure on Culture (which is the combined value of arts and heritage expenditure) by federal, state and local governments. The state and federal data include two lead categories, Arts and Heritage, with subcategories for each. Local government data cannot be broken down in the same way, so here we can only look at changes holistically across arts and heritage together.
The estimated total expenditure by the three tiers of government during this period was $5,841.2 million for cultural activities:
·$2,289.8 million (39.2%) from the Australian Government
·$1,973.1 million (33.8%) from state and territory governments
·$1,578.3 million (27.0%) from local government.
The amount spent on cultural activities in 2015-16 by all governments averaged $243.97 per person in Australia.
In the Arts category, some welcome new subcategories have been added, including circus and physical theatre, cross-art form, and arts education. These will provide opportunities for useful trend analysis in the future.
We can now quite easily track total arts spending by federal and state government, as well as total spending on categories of keen interest to the performing arts.
The Australian Government provided $1.8 billion to fund arts activities and the combined state and territories contributed $729.6 million. Compare the ABS 2012–13 reported arts expenditure (CPI adjusted to 2015-16) across federal and state government jurisdictions, and the findings are sobering.
Direct comparisons between these reports does need some qualification as they have been prepared for two separate agencies -the ABA in 2012-3 and the CMC by a consultant from the ABS in 2015-16. The CMC report’s explanatory note 2 cautions– ‘This collection was undertaken by[ABS] consultants on behalf of the Meeting of Cultural Ministers (MCM). Previous collections of the survey of Cultural Funding by Government were conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. While the survey methodologyis similar to these past collections, time series comparisons should be made with appropriatecaution, due to category changes.’
So there may some anomalies-and findings of interest should then be further interrogated, however– looking at the shifts in funding levels across categories over the last 3 years is a good start, particularly if we also adjust the 2012-13 values to 2015-16 courtesy of the RBA inflation calculator.
While local government expenditure has increased ahead of CPI, there is no reporting split between arts and heritage so its not clear where the increased investment has been directed. If we compare Arts federal and state government expenditure per person for 2012–13 adjusted for CPI to 2015-16 value, we see a clear downward trend in the funding from $120.11 p.p. to $ 106.33 p.p. Total federal and state government expenditure in the arts fell from $2.75 billion (adjusted for CPI) in 2012-13 to $2.55 billion in 2016. NSW results measured the most significant change in funding levels, primarily due to a reduction in arts venue funding, which is characteristically project driven and therefore more likely to fluctuate. However, a decrease in funding for a number of art forms has also occurred.
Music down -$9.83m from $125.83 million in 2012-13 (adjusted for CPI) to $116 million in 2015-16.
Theatre down -$8.62 million from $65.90 million in 2012-13 (adjusted for CPI) to $57.3 million in 2015-16.
Music theatre and opera down -$7.89 million from $55.29 million in 2012-13 (adjusted for CPI) to $47.4 million in 2015-16.
What does the reduction in federal and state government investment in the Arts mean? Performing arts organisations direct over 50 per cent of their earnings on wages, and a vibrant arts sector contributes to economic activity such as tourism, retail and hospitality expenditure, and improves the health and wellbeing of people within the community. If we measured the full impact of a reduction in Arts spending— would it truly be a public saving?
The ABS 2012-13 full report can be found here http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4183.0
The Meeting of Cultural Ministers’ full report can be found here:
 Comparing 2015-16 NSW total arts funding broken down into recurring and capital expenditure in table 7 MCM report (recurrent $134.7, capital $4.7, total $139.5)
to 2012-13 NSW total arts funding broken down into recurring and capital expenditure in table 5 of the ABS report (recurrent $147.1, capital $95.3, total $242.4)
AMPAG workings can be downloaded here: