After a campaign in which the arts were all but forgotten, a Labor government could see a return to a national policy guiding the sector.
“I think it remains to be seen what the outcome will be, but it certainly ends nine years of austerity from the coalition government,” Dr. Ben Eltham of Monash University told AAP.
The Morrison government’s $90 billion JobKeeper program has shut out many arts workers due to the precarious nature of employment in the sector, while its $220 million RISE fund, specifically aimed at arts and entertainment in 2020-22, runs out in 2022-23.
Meanwhile, the coalition’s latest budget slashed funding for the arts by $190m or 20%, according to figures from lobby group Fund the Arts, where Dr Eltham is an adviser.
A national meeting of arts and culture ministers was canceled under Morrison, while the federal arts ministry was absorbed into the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
And for the duration, there was no unifying national policy to advance the arts and culture sectors in Australia.
The change in government came as the sector struggles to recover from its worst crisis in a century, with live music, theater and comedy shows still regularly cancelled.
“So the performing arts are still emerging from the pandemic and the damage caused by this very deep downturn in the cultural industries. It will take years to repair,” Dr Eltham said.
He thinks that if Labour’s electoral commitments to the sector were modest, a balance of power for the Greens in the Senate could see an Albanian government spend more on the arts.
Labor has promised to return to the far-reaching national cultural policies of the Keating and Gillard eras, to keep funding decisions at arm’s length from government and to consider a national insurance scheme for live performances.
His biggest pledges were $80 million for a National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs and $84 million for the ABC.
Australian Associated Press