Federal Budget 2023-24: the sector responds
Responses to the Albanese Government’s second Budget have been mixed – with charities such as Mission Australia recognising ‘small positive steps but not enough to end housing and homelessness’ – overall, reactions from the NFP arts sector have been positive.
Here are some of the many responses to the Budget from sector bodies and representatives.
Live Performance Australia
The Federal Budget reaffirms the Albanese Government’s long-term vision for Australian arts, entertainment and creativity, but still underplays the critical role of industry-led initiatives in rebuilding a workforce severely impacted by the pandemic, according to a statement released by peak body Live Performance Australia (LPA) on 9 May.
‘Our industry is grappling with a critical shortage of skilled workers across the breadth of roles and occupations that bring live arts and entertainment to Australian audiences,’ said LPA Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson.
‘We would like a much stronger commitment from the Federal Government to funding for both industry-led traineeships and grants to help attract, retrain and retain the skills that are needed to bring live performances to Australians in our cities, regions and country towns.
‘Initiatives such as the Commonwealth’s investment in fee-free TAFE courses are very welcome in building the future workforce over the medium to longer term.
‘However, there is no substitute for on the job and workplace-based learning and development. The fastest and most efficient way to rebuild our workforce is through industry-led initiatives with government support,’ Richardson said.
She also noted that many organisations and companies were still recovering from the devastating impact of the pandemic – rebuilding their capabilities, financial reserves and audiences.
‘Government will need to retain a strong focus on supporting the recovery of our live arts and entertainment industry in order to realise the vision that is set out in the National Cultural Policy and for our creative sector, which the Treasurer identified … as one of our strategic industries,’ she concluded.
National Association for the Visual Arts
NAVA has welcomed the Budget allocations for the arts, including $286 million to support the delivery of Revive and the $535.3 million funding boost to National Collecting Institutions.
‘While NAVA supports the Budget’s strong emphasis on the cost of living, we remain concerned that the increase in welfare spending will have a very modest impact on the living conditions of the thousands of artists and arts workers living in poverty. The $40 per fortnight increase in JobSeeker payments – representing less than a 2% increase in the welfare budget each year – falls well short of the calls by the Government’s Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee for an increase of around $256 per fortnight to bring the payment in line with 90% of the age pension,’ a NAVA spokesperson said.
‘There is also no new initiative of scale to respond to Australia’s escalating housing emergency, which is pushing low-income artists into homelessness. While the Government’s efforts will see some more social housing eventually, there is no immediate relief for people without safe and affordable housing.
‘Further, HECS loans will increase by a record high of 7.1% when next indexed on 1 June, despite the widespread call for action on student poverty and the student debt crisis. This will increase overall student debt from $74 billion to just under $80 billion. NAVA supports the bill introduced by Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi to abolish indexation on student loans and raise the minimum payment income to alleviate cost of living pressures on students and graduates.
A New Approach
Cultural think tank A New Approach (ANA) welcomed the recognition of the strategic importance of the arts and cultural industries in the 2023-24 Budget.
ANA also noted that this was only the second time this century that arts and culture were mentioned in a Federal Budget speech; the previous instance was in 2021. Treasurer Jim Chalmers highlighted investment in the creative sector as part of targeted support for strategic, value-adding industries.
ANA CEO Kate Fielding said recognition of the potential for economic opportunities from investment in arts and culture was welcome and timely.
‘Australia can become a cultural powerhouse [the] compelling creativity [of which] is locally loved, nationally valued and globally influential. This investment in Australian arts, culture and creativity is an encouraging step in the journey to becoming a cultural powerhouse,’ she said.
Screen Producers Australia
Screen Producers Australia (SPA) responded warmly to the Budget announcement of an increase to the Location Offset to 30%, noting that the proposed changes would make Australia a highly competitive destination for international productions, and consequently ensure the growth of jobs in the screen sector.
‘SPA applauds the Government’s timely investment into this part of the sector when the existing Location Offset Incentive was coming to an end,’ said a spokesperson.
‘We are buoyed by the commitment of the Albanese Government, through Minister Burke’s portfolio, to the screen sector and acknowledge that this change has come ahead of significant regulatory changes that could have equal and/or even more significant outcomes for Australian audiences and the Australian industry.
‘However, this increase does not operate in isolation, as the Australian screen industry has an array of incentives and interventions for both international and domestic work at both the federal and state levels,’ the statement read.
SPA also welcomed the need for capacity building through increased levels of training and expanded screen infrastructure to take advantage of the resulting industry growth planned.
‘Getting the balance between international productions and Australian ones is of utmost importance,’ the statement continued.
‘This is a positive sign that the Australian Government is listening to the needs of the Australian screen industry and is taking action… For too long, investment in Australian stories has been largely at the gift of often global streaming businesses, and the needs of Australian audiences have been neglected.
Regional Arts Australia
Unsurprisingly, given the $8.5 million uplift over four years ($2.2 million per year ongoing) to the Regional Arts Fund (previously announced as part of Revive, the National Cultural Policy) peak body Regional Arts Australia (RAA) has welcomed the 2023-2024 Federal Budget and its additional $960 million investment in the Australian cultural sector.
‘This increased investment in the Regional Arts Fund benefits short- and long-term professional development and capacity-building programs, and the development of new works across all art forms, through regional, rural and remote Australia,’ said an RAV spokesperson.
‘Other regional announcements will have an impact on regionally-based artists, creative industries and communities. These include the establishment of a Regional Investment Framework, the identification of four priority areas for regional investment – People, Places, Services and Industry – and the $600 million Growing Regions Program.
‘The Growing Regions Program will invest in infrastructure and community projects across regional Australia through two $300 million funding rounds for grants of between $500,000 and $15 million. The grant guidelines launched on Monday 8 May have significant relevance for the creative sector, particularly local government and not-for-profit venues, galleries and cultural institutions,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Regional Arts Australia looks forward to working with our national colleagues, to support ongoing creative practice across regional, rural and remote Australia. We commend the Australian Government for [its] commitment to the arts and creative industries, and look forward to working with [its representatives] to meet the needs of regional Australian communities,’ the statement concluded.
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
‘This is a positive Budget for the arts and media sectors from a government that has listened and acted on the concerns of Australia’s cultural workforce,’ said Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance(MEAA) Chief Executive Erin Madeley.
‘It sets the tone for a period of renewed engagement with, and support of, the arts, and recognises the important role that the sector plays in our national identity and our economy.
‘We acknowledge the almost $300 million in funding to drive the National Cultural Policy – Revive – and look forward to working with the Government and the Australia Council on the development of the new bodies to be created, particularly Music Australia and the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces. We hope these initiatives are the first steps for MEAA members in the sector, including performers and musicians, improving their working lives,’ Madeley continued.
‘The new 30% location offset for screen productions will create a more level playing field and greater certainty than the previous fragmented approach of a smaller rebate and a merit-based grants program that has now been exhausted.
‘A major outstanding reform for our screen industry is the regulation of SVOD (streaming service on demand) providers, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and we welcome the Government’s consultation on this critical measure.
The Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS), which represents the rights of over 115,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers across Australasia, has welcomed the investment of $69.4 million over four years for contemporary music in the 2023-24 Federal Budget.
‘This represents the first time in the Commonwealth’s history that [the] Government has committed to long-term development of Australian music as a creative industry. This funding will deliver on the Australian Government’s National Cultural Policy commitment to establish a national music development agency – Music Australia,’ said APRA AMCOS Chief Executive Dean Ormston.
‘The creation of Music Australia with recurrent annual funding will, for the first time in the nation’s history, provide an opportunity for a whole-of-government, cross-portfolio, strategic and long-term relationship with the breadth of the Australian contemporary music industry.’
Taken from ARTS Hub on 12 May 2023.