National Cultural Policy Launch, The Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne


JANA STEWART, LABOR SENATOR FOR VICTORIA: Now you are going to hear from the man whose passion to support the cultural sector has driven the development of new cultural policy. The policy’s direction has been informed through his close consultation with all of you. It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Honourable Tony Burke, Minister for the Arts and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Welcome, Tony.

THE HON TONY BURKE MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS, MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: Thank you, Jana. And thank you to Jillian West for welcoming us to Bunurong land of the South-Eastern Kulin Nation.

And thank you to the Prime Minister not just for the portfolio – which some people negotiate; I begged – but thank you for your passion for this sector. Anyone who was listening to that speech a moment ago could just feel the culture wars from government disappearing in Australia’s cultural policy.

I always wanted the launch of cultural policy to be here in St Kilda. In St Kilda the corroboree tree casts a long shadow a couple of km away. It’s seen hundreds of years of change with roots that have spent 300 to 500 years reaching deep into the land and with branches that have provided shade for ancient ceremony of elders past and present through to modern picnics.

I also wanted to hold the launch here because the Espy is my sort of posh. I did prefer it back in the days when your feet did, in fact, stick to the carpet. But holding the launch here, it’s a reminder that arts and entertainment is for everyone. Whether you’re reading a thriller, a history or a poem. Whether you’re watching from formal allocated seating or from a mosh pit. Whether you view art from a gallery or in a back lane from the side of a wall, our artists work for all of us, and their works reach all of us. And this policy, Revive, restores the place of art, of entertainment, of culture for all Australians.

It's essential that we do this because you are essential workers. Arts and entertainment is often undervalued precisely because it brings so much joy. Both your cultural value and your economic contribution warrant a national policy.

Before the pandemic, following the bushfires, Australians turned to you. During the pandemic lockdown periods Australians were entertained, informed and, let’s face it, nourished by you. And yet there were times, even then, when government didn’t treat you as real workers and didn’t treat your businesses as real businesses.

Today the Albanese Labor Government has a message for you: you touch our hearts and you are a $17 billion contributor to the economy. You create art and you create exports. You make works and you provide work. You are entertaining and you are essential. You are required.

As an industry, you went into the pandemic more vulnerable than you should have. After some of the toughest years in living memory, we recognise your full potential and we want to help you to revive.

Australia’s first cultural policy came from Paul Keating with his Arts Minister Michael Lee in Creative Nation. It took 19 years before Julia Gillard with her Arts Minister Simon Crean gave us Creative Australia. Now 10 years on we have a cultural policy for the next five years: Revive – A Place for Every Story; A Story for Every Place.

At the centre of the reform is a re-imagined Australia Council. The new body will be known as Creative Australia. The Brandis cuts will be returned in full. The functions of creative partnerships will be transferred across. There’ll be administration of new funding to develop works of scale, and every three years there will be a State of Culture report for Australia, just like we’ve done for years with the environment. While the new organisation will be called Creative Australia, in keeping with the Whitlam legacy, its governing board will forever be known as the Australia Council.

There’ll be four new bodies with a high degree of autonomy within Creative Australia. A First Nations-led body to give financial power to First Nations works, to develop workforce plans and support First Nations works of scale. There’ll be a new Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces. This Centre will be able to consider remuneration and rates of pay for the economic circumstances of artists. Because it’s not a hobby – it’s a job.

But remuneration is not the whole story of being respected as artists. And to those who have spoken out against harassment and bullying, you are heard, you are seen, and you have a right to a safe workplace, which is why the codes that are developed by the Centre will be taken into account when any business knocks on the door wanting government funding. The Centre will also have dedicated funds to pass through to Support Act.

Within Creative Australia we’ll also establish Music Australia and Writers Australia. Music Australia will be ready to start this year and Writers Australia will be the final of the bodies to be established over the next couple of years. Contemporary music and writers are both areas which were underfunded by the Australia Council, and both have operated in what’s regarded as the commercial end of the industry.

If anyone doubted the urgency of Music Australia, just think of this: in the ARIA album chart that we saw released a couple of days ago, in the whole top 50 album chart there’s only two Australian bands. One of them is Spacey Jane, the other is INXS. Every other band is music that, yep, is popular but is not our soundtrack. We want to make sure that the soundtrack to life in Australia has Australian music and Australian stories out there for every single beat.

There have been examples of some artists where the Australia Council has provided much‑needed support at critical times, but as a general rule it’s been publishers and managers who have found commercial pathways for musicians and for authors. Both writing and music face very specific competition from new technology, and these bodies will operate in a strategic way in a commercial world.

Music Australia will develop a workforce plan for missing skills, research and advocacy. We will also provide a 50 per cent increase in support for Sounds Australia, which does the job effectively of Austrade for musicians but with rhythm. Writers Australia will be responsible for research and advocacy and ultimately for the development of writers. Writers Australia will be charged with the establishment of a National Poet Laureate and will determine the winners of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

What all of this adds up to is a strategic shift. We’re giving Creative Australia the resources that the Australia Council had been robbed of, and also providing new structures to deliver First Nations autonomy for First Nations work, protections for arts workers, the capacity to provide strategic direction for contemporary music and writers and one organisation that will now interact with the whole of the sector – funded, philanthropic and commercial all there together in Creative Australia.

But Revive is not limited to Creative Australia. We’ll also establish the First Nations languages and policy partnership as part of our commitment the Closing the Gap national agreement. We’ll have standalone legislation to stamp out fake First Nations art. The Resale Royalty Scheme for visual art, which was established under Kevin Rudd when Peter Garrett was minister, will now be expanded to start to cover international sales as well.

We’re increasing funding for the regional arts funding to nearly double its work. We will establish and fund the National Arts and Disability Plan. We’ve recommitted to funding to arts education programs and to arts health programs, including NORO.

One of the great legacies of the Whitlam government was establishing rights for lending authors. Every time you go to the library and borrow a physical book, some of that money goes to the authors. Now, Gough was good at long-term vision, but in 1975 he completely failed to predict the internet. At the moment authors don’t receive a cent if you’re borrowing an audio book or an e-book. That loophole will be closed this year.

We have a magnificent collection at the National Gallery of Australia, but at any point in time 99 per cent of that collection is in darkness in storage. In partnership with the National Gallery, we will now be sharing the collection with the rest of the nation so that instead of those works being kept in storage they will be lit up on the walls of regional and suburban galleries around the country.

All forms of storytellers now, whether it’s narrative, visual art, music, acting, are finding themselves jobs in the video games industry. Screen Australia, when you’ve got an industry expanding like this around the world, shouldn’t be left trying to check if there’s some spare change in the back of the lounge to fund this rapidly growing $4 billion sector. So we’ll restore the games fund for Screen Australia that was abolished nearly 10 years ago.

The public broadcasters have always had a role in Australian content, and I’m pleased with the work that Michelle Rowland is doing. We’re all pleased with the funding of the ABC and securing for SBS. It affects everyone throughout the sector and the nation. It’s also the case that for music Double J and Triple J have played a critical role. Double J established under Gough Whitlam and Triple J expanded – expanded into the regions under Bob Hawke following a resolution moved at an ALP national conference by a young delegate Albanese. Michelle Rowland is already starting the work to see what sort of expansion might be possible with Double J into the regions.

But away from the ABC sector, away from our public broadcasters, the way that we’ve made sure on free to air that there was Australian content, particularly for TV, was always through quotas. And we have a situation now if you’re watching the TV and the signal is coming through your aerial there’s a guarantee of Australian content. But if the signal is coming through the internet, there is no guarantee at all.

For video streaming the timeline is now locked in. The consultation work by Michelle Rowland and myself begins in earnest now. In the second half of this year, legislation will be introduced to the Parliament, and on the 1st of July next year Australian content obligations will apply to the streaming companies.

When the consultation on cultural policy started with the town hall meetings in July last year, I told you that if we worked at a pace I reckon we might be able to get there in six months. Well, it took seven. And I’m so grateful to everyone who was involved. The people who dedicated extraordinary time on the panels and the thousands of you who either made a submission or turned up to the town hall meetings that were conducted around the country by myself and the Arts Envoy Susan Templeman.

With today’s first cultural policy in 10 years, we have a cultural policy for the next five to revive the sector. But the success of Revive doesn’t actually rest with government; it rests with you – our artists, creators, painters, poets and provocateurs. What you do with the cultural policy will determine the look, feel and soundtrack to life in Australia.

You allow Australians to see themselves to help us understand each other; you’re the window to enable the rest of the world to see us. Government helps provide the foundation on which you build, and today we are helping to bring your audience closer to you, to hand you a larger canvas, to shine a brighter spotlight, and the volume cranked up to 11.

So, it’s now over to you. The typewriter is ready with a blank page loaded and waiting for you to write the next chapter. The stage is yours to imagine, to create, to revive.