The present Australian Arts Minister and A-G George Brandis wants to take a big chunk of $ from the peer-reviewed, democratically accountable national body the Australia Council and use it for his own personal “excellence” [read:slush] fund. This is the same guy who gave $275000 cash to Melba Records last year without any competitive peer review process and without bothering to tell the taxpayers (whose money it was).
So Overland literary journal and the MEAA and a bunch of writers and artists are putting our signatures to this letter. I’d encourage people to share it widely and sign it too:
Democratically accountable public institutions are as vital for a healthy society as diverse arts and culture, and this move by the Liberal government is an attack on both. On the upside, we can take this move as an acknowledgement of the importance of free artistic expression to Australian culture right now – if it didn’t matter so much, the bullies in power wouldn’t bother to smash it to pieces in front of us.
Small organisations and individual arts grants will suffer most from this, as we are worst positioned to attract other funding sources such as corporate philanthropy. Without small orgs and individual artists, the sector as a whole is impoverished – and so is Australian culture in all its diversity.
It’s well and truly time to mount a broad campaign to shake these treehouse thugs out of office, and I hope this statement will contribute something to that effort. It’s an effort that is going to have to come from the grassroots, the very people they are counting on silencing here. So not shutting up about it is a good first step.