The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee Silences on Communications and the Arts, entitle Sculpting A National Cultural Plan, has publish 14 months after its announcement. It focuses on Australia’s creative and cultural industries and institutions.
In 2013, Labor’s six-year tenure in government was complete with the launch Creative Australia, Australia’s last national cultural policy. With the end of an eight-year stretch, the Coalition calls for people to consider developing one. A plan for a program is better than none at all.
Six sections broken down from the 205-page document. These sections cover the structure of the cultural sector and approaches to evaluating them, the impact on artists and organisations of COVID-19 (spoiler alert: it’s not good), and the problem with arts education in schools (and, glancingly at a higher level, at tertiary).
The report spends a lot of space describing the sector and sharing the views of the people who work there, as is typical for an investigative inquiry. It includes quotations from 352 submissions and responses to a related study.
It is a good idea to read the Appendix F. Labor Member Additional Comments first. It addresses issues that the rest of the report ignores, especially those relating to two institutions which are crucial for any national cultural plan: the Australia Council for the Arts (ABC) and the Australia Council for the Arts (ACN).
Calls For Action Are Encourage Silences
Five terms of reference are include. Some are more detailed than others. The two most important are culture’s economic and indirect benefits and employment opportunities and its noneconomic benefits that improve community, social wellbeing and Australia’s national identity.
These terms set by the Minister of Communications. The committee is not authorize to challenge them. However, their order and language are restrictive. It is difficult to apply policy that cuts culture into non-economic and economic benefits. The primary lens is the most important, and it has a negative effect on any discussion that follows.
Concerning the three key terms in Australian cultural policy they seem to be in perpetual rotation there’s a return of attention for access (74 mentioned), while innovation (46 mentions), a preoccupation of Turnbull government, slips to a supporting position (46 mentions) and excellence (4 mentions), which was dominant during the years George Brandis managed the portfolio.
Submissions Showcase Silences
The submissions showcase a wide range of individuals, organizations and art forms. A New Approach (ANA), the most popular think tank (50+ mentions), is often. Its comments often get headline status.
The 22 recommendations in the report can broken down into three groups: restorations, bespoke ideas, and calls to further action. While the first two are welcome, we need to remember who took them.
Even though they are not immediately obvious (an app to find out about arts events), or even if their implementation dispute (20% of local revenue to support local streaming services).
Even by the standards of a wide-ranging report, the calls for action seem light-hearted. For example, there is very little discussion of Australian culture’s national identity. The report is therefore at disadvantage when it comes to the non-economic benefits that the arts offer which most people consider synonymous with them.
Aside from the awkwardness of discussing culture in this dislocated way (does one refer to the noneconomic benefits of the health system? It makes the report seem partisan and short-sighted.
Culture’s contribution to mental health is discussed, but not for our political silence health. It also contributes to social cohesion and not to social change. The arts are perceived as being soft-edged and catering to emotions like confidence and hope rather than intellectual needs such as insight and truth.
There are many figures on the economic side. However, it can be difficult to understand them. They come from different sources and are added to different production contexts (literary publishing, performing arts, digital games). The report alternates between the terms culture, creative industries, and cultural and creativity industries all otherwise known as the arts.