Hopes that the new Australia Council Board would achieve bipartisan support have been dashed by criticism from the Opposition arts spokesman Senator George Brandis.
Senator Brandis has gone on the attack criticising the newly announced Board of the reconstituted Australia Council as unrepresentative and singling out broadcaster Waleed Aly and filmmaker Khao Dao for personal attack,
In a media release today, Senator Brandis said the new Board did not have sufficient representation for the visual arts or literature nor for geographic spread.
'Two thirds of the members of the Board come from either Melbourne or Sydney. The growth states of Queensland and Western Australia, which are both the home of vibrant and rapidly-expanding arts communities, are limited to a single board member each. Regional Australia is barely represented – only one person lives (just) outside a capital city,' Senator Brandis said.
He said some individuals on the board were not really engaged with the arts. 'While some of the names announced yesterday are undoubtedly distinguished leaders of the arts community, such as Adrian Collette AO, the former CEO of Opera Australia; the claims of others to sit on the most important arts board in Australia are far from obvious. Waleed Aly, for instance, is primarily known as a broadcaster and who was formerly a political scientist, not an arts practitioner or administrator. Khao Do’s contribution to the arts has been through film – an artform catered for by Commonwealth agencies other than the Australia Council.'
In the past the Minister appointed art form boards, which sent representatives to the Australia Council. Under the new structure, established with the passing of the Australia Council Act last week, the Minister appoints the Board which then appoints art form boards as it sees fit. The structure was changed to allow the Australia Council more flexibility, including the capacity to establish specialist boards in response to demand or to deal with changing art forms.
But Senator Brandis criticised the new structure as well as the choice of board members.
'I have, from the outset, been sceptical of the Government’s decision to banish the chairs of the art form boards from the Council’s board. Yesterday’s announcement reinforces my concerns. The board seems to have been tailor-made to cater to the tastes and prejudices of a narrow group of people from the two largest capital cities, rather than representing the breadth and variety of Australia’s art forms, arts practitioners and audiences.'
ArtsHub is awaiting a response from Senator Brandis as to whether a Liberal Government would repeal the Australia Council Act and return to the old structure. We have also asked what other aspects of the Australia Council Act and/or Creative Australia would be repealed under a Liberal Government.
Senator Brandis acknowledged his attack was unusual, himself pointing out that the arts has 'never before suffered from partisan politics' but blamed the Minister for the Arts Tony Burke for lack of consultation with the Opposition.
The Minister's office, which earlier this week inherited the additional workload of Immigration in the Ministerial reshuffle, has not yet responded to a request for comment.