What’s in a name? Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications…

Filed : Advocacy, Local and industry news .

From February 2020 the Department of Communications & The Arts will be absorbed into a new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

This ends the prominence of the the arts dating back to the Hawke government’s public service overhaul in 1987.

Here are just some of the responses:

Current Communications Department Secretary Mike Mrdak, who has held the position since September 2017, will leave his role as part of the Machinery of Government (MoG) changes. Mrdak said the department was not consulted on the restructure and was only notified of the changes less than 24 hours before Morrison’s announcement:
“I was told of the government’s decision to abolish the department late yesterday afternoon. We were not permitted any opportunity to provide advice on the Machinery of Government changes, nor were out views ever sought on any proposal to abolish the department or to changes to our structure and operations.” www.itnews.com.au

ABC broadcaster Virginia Trioli on Twitter:
“Arts ceases to exist. Name, portfolio, federal govt focus – gone,” she wrote. “Ask anyone in the creative industries if having the name in the title of the department matters. I can’t remember a time when “Arts” was not in the portfolio title. Being assumed into another department is not the same thing.” www.afr.

Comedian Shaun Micallef is looking forward to:
“The ABC being dismantled, moved to Kiwirrkurra by coal-burning locomotive and reassembled into an art installation by the CWA”. www.afr.com

NAVA executive director Esther Anatolitis told SBS News:
“Deliberate choices have been made [here] – value choices, ideological choices. Someone has made the choice to devalue a $111.7 billion [a year] industry. We would expect government at the highest level to reflect what makes us who we are and where we see our future as Australians. That makes this step of removing the name of the arts ministry a massive backwards step culturally for Australia. The arts industry over the past few years has been in absolute shock at industry disruption caused by unplanned, unannounced changes to arts policy and funding … The federal government seems intent on the disruption and contraction of the arts industry instead of its flourishing and its growth.” www.sbs.com.au

CPSU national secretary Melissa Donnelly said:
“Dismantling departments won’t improve services to the community, won’t get phones answered or claims processed. What we need is simply enough permanent staff to do the work at hand.” www.afr.com

Joshua Badge, Lecturer in philosophy at Deakin University and LGBTQ activist on twitter:
“The new name is the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. ‘The Arts’ have dropped off completely, which is a sure sign that they’re not a concern for this govt. Expect more funding cuts to orgs etc.” www.artshub.com.au

Cultural and creative activity in Australia contributes over $100 billion to the economy annually and we now have a Federal ministry that doesn’t have the word ‘Arts’ in it.

While Morrison insists these changes are intended to increase efficiency, rather than as a money saving measure, they come hot on the heels of several major industry cuts. The latest of these was the shocking $783 million loss in funding the ABC over a four year period. The cuts to the Australia Council for the Arts between 2016 and today have also taken their toll, with as few as 55% of invited applicants expected to receive four year funding, leaving around 70 applicants without this crucial support – not to speak of the 250 who didn’t make it past the Expression of Interest stage. www.artshub.com.au

Arts vision anyone…?

Image: Scott Morrison.  Source: Getty

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