Interview with Narelda Jacobs, Channel Ten, Midday


NARELDA JACOBS, HOST: Australia's art industry has been given a lifeline of almost $300 million with the launch of the Labor Government's new National Cultural Policy.

Joining us for the details is Federal Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke. Minister, you've created a dedicated new body called Music Australia to support Australian music. So what is this new body going to do?

THE HON TONY BURKE, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS, MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: If you have a look at the ARIA chart at the moment, Narelda, that's just come out, it really tells the story of what's happened. The top 50 album chart of Australia now only has two albums that are Australian. One's Spacey Jane, the other's INXS.

Now, that really tells you that for all the talent we've got here, we're not getting it right in terms of making sure that we're building good viable careers for our musicians. I want to make sure that our music's part of the soundtrack to life in Australia.

What Music Australia will be able to do is do that artist development and also to do the work in festivals around the world, making sure that we're getting a good international audience so that the great songwriters that we've got in this country are having viable careers for the years to come.

JACOBS: Yeah, viable careers, that's what it's all about. We hear from a lot of creatives who say that they're creative outlets, but have to be almost hobbies because they can't sustain it, they’ve got to do other jobs, and writing is one of those professions as well.

This policy will also create Writers Australia. What's the hope there?

BURKE: It's the same concept for both music and writers; they work very much in a commercial world, and traditionally Government funding has sort of presumed that the whole world is a funded sector, whereas for people who work in the commercial world, there are things that Government can do to help. We can help with the development of writers, and we can even help with some really simple thing for authors.

A lot of people don't know, every time you go to a library, if you borrow a physical book, there's some money that goes to the author, but if you borrow an eBook from the library, and a lot of libraries now have switched to eBooks, the law hasn't kept up-to-date, and the writer doesn't get a cent.

There's these sorts of things that we can change that start to boost writers' income as well as providing that help and working closely with publishers rather than just thinking, "Oh, Government funding is for a funded-only sector and leaving the commercial world separate." It's a big strategic shift in how we do things, that we'll have the one body, Creative Australia that looks at funded works, it looks at philanthropic works, and also directly reaches into the commercial world.

JACOBS: Minister, it's become more expensive to study the arts at a tertiary level, and it's seen as a specialist or optional subject at school. Will this policy ensure the arts doesn't become something that is only for the elite?

BURKE: One of the reasons that we’ve launched this today at The Espy behind

me - we've chosen a pub rock venue quite deliberately - that this policy and the whole

concept of reviving arts and entertainment isn't for some elite group, it's for everybody.

Whether you're watching a stage from ticketed seating or a mosh pit, whether you're reading poetry or whether you're reading off-the-shelf fiction, whether you're watching shows in a trendy-type cinema, or a more suburban cinema, or just streaming from home; whatever you're doing, we want to make sure that our stories are part of what you see, part of what you hear, part of what you read.

So this is a real shift in how people might have previously viewed the arts. This is very much a determination that what the Federal Government invests in reaches every Australian.

JACOBS: What about protecting the cultural knowledge and IP of First Nations artists? There's some protections in place in the policy, is that right?

BURKE: That's right. One of the real problems that we've got at the moment, if you go to a whole lot of souvenir shops, you'll see products that look like they're Aboriginal art, but are in fact produced overseas and have nothing whatsoever to do with any First Nations artists. We call it "fake art".

Now, we'll be introducing stand-alone legislation; we're working through the detail on that now, but stand-alone legislation to stop people being ripped off with fake art.

JACOBS: Minister, yesterday you announced Australian content quotas for streaming services. Are you going to stipulate the mix of genres in there, diversity?

BURKE: That's part of what we're working through over the next six months. Michelle Rowland and I will spend the next six months consulting, the second half of the year we'll have legislation in the Parliament, 1 July next year there will be laws in place to provide better Australian content on the streaming services.

But in that consultation right now, this is where we work through what sort of percentage should there be, how do you prioritise scripted drama, documentary, children's content; how do you work through that? There's some great Australian content that's already there on those streaming services. We want to make sure that there's more, so that you don't sit there with the remote control wondering, "Why is so much of this American and UK content, and why can't there be more that, you know, represents our lives here in Australia."

JACOBS: Minister, this policy is going to be music to the ears of creators all over Australia. Have you got anything in there to stop residents from complaining about live music?

BURKE: There's some good things that are happening in some of the State Governments on that, but in establishing Music Australia, the industry will have an advocate there. You know, I get that they don't want us making too much noise when we leave the venue, but I do like the volume cranked up while I'm at a gig.

JACOBS: Yeah, for sure. Great for live music venues as well. Thank you very much, Minister Tony Burke. Thanks for joining us on Midday.

BURKE: Thank you.