Moving forward – a clearer vision for the Arts in Victoria

In the lead up to the Victorian state election on 24 November, the Shadow Minister for the Arts and Culture puts forward her vision for growing the state’s creative industries.
Moving forward – a clearer vision for the Arts in Victoria

Image via vic.liberal.org.au

Art, culture and creativity are deeply embedded in Victoria and are some of our greatest assets. The sector is diverse and robust. Our companies are internationally recognised. Our cultural collections are highly regarded, and we have a jam packed and vibrant calendar of cultural events.

Victorians and visitors alike continually flock to our state to embrace our cultural offerings. Cultural tourism provides huge economic benefit for our state. They must be rightly recognised as a major contributor to our state’s popularity as a tourism destination.

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This achievement has not occurred by accident. It has developed over many years and our leading position is not one that should be taken for granted. A strong vision, hard work and commitment are required to maintain this position. I know this, having been the previous dedicated Minister in the portfolio and someone who has a deep, life-long love of the Arts.

Unfortunately, not all Ministers treat the Arts and Culture as their highest priority. For some, it’s more like a casual job. In his budget reply speech this year, the current Minister had only one sentence to say on the portfolio in a 15-minute speech. There is no ambiguity in what this means – the arts portfolio is worthy of around one 30th of his time (or less). Shame on him for undervaluing and devaluing what creatives do.  

The Coalition, whilst in government, established sustainable programs in the Arts, including a major reform of the grants system with the creation of the Organisations Investment Program (OIP), which is still delivering year on year. We provided funding for major upgrades and works for the Arts Centre, NGV, the State Theatre and Scienceworks, and we secured Orchestra Victoria’s future.

We provided a new home for Circus Oz and were the first to fund the development of the Geelong Cultural Precinct; provided major investment in the Victorian College of Arts; established the Summer series at the NGV (which saw success with Jean Paul Gaultier’s exhibition and Melbourne Now as starters), and we created White Night Melbourne.

All of our investments in these widely successful initiatives allowed our Arts and Culture sector to thrive. The industry is continuing to thrive thanks to the dedication and commitment of the passionate people who work within it.

On the other hand, the current government’s record of accomplishment for the Arts has been less than desirable. We have seen budget cuts over consecutive years, with entities like Film Victoria almost forgotten and creative talent and inspiring artists left to fend for themselves. There has been no clear policy direction.

An example of this government’s lack of commitment to the Arts was their big fanfare re-announcement about a redevelopment of the Southbank Arts precinct. But they forgot something – the funding to make it happen. Let’s not mistake this for the previous announcement of the same project back in 2007 that never occurred either. Smoke, mirrors and donations will not get a single building constructed.

There’s a strong concern among many industry insiders that Melbourne is losing its ‘edginess’ and has become complacent in delivering new creative content. We cannot afford other states to supersede all our hard work. We need to invest in artistic excellence and nurture and support ongoing innovation and art in Victoria.

That's why the former Liberal Nationals government put aside the Collingwood Contemporary precinct – as an incubator and hub for emerging creative talent.

There's a lot that the current government is not doing that needs to be done.

I've been very upfront about the policy directions I think Victoria should be taking.

We need significant investment in training. We need to encourage and improve career pathways into the sector. We need clear, targeted policies. We need to support our regional towns and cities to allow their art communities to thrive and we need to continue to attract high profile events and exhibitions.

We also need to work outside the traditional government silos. Tourism, education, health, local government (and so many others) are intricately woven in to our sector and we need to embrace and encourage that.

Take, for example, policy the Liberal Nationals coalition has announced for the Melbourne Christmas Markets.

A 24 day long festival along our wonderful Yarra River, which will attract people from around the globe. A place where Victorian artisans of all persuasions will come to sell their wares. Imagine the ongoing export possibilities for some of our boutique makers who may have never had the exposure to interstate or overseas buyers.

Supporting the screen sector

Then there was the relatively simple yet highly effective policy we introduced when last in government around making location filming permits easier and faster to obtain.

Just as influential will be our new screen policies for screen. The Liberal Nationals will continue to support the screen industry in Victoria with policies that will assist practitioners to create, produce and export local and international content with ease, satisfaction and certainty.

We acknowledge the changing dynamics of the screen industry and look forward to assisting it to grow whilst also appreciating the benefits it produces economically to our state.

The screen industry (film, television, electronic gaming, software and interactive entertainment etc) is big business. It's changing rapidly and we have to keep up with and race ahead of the pack.

Screen contributes about $1.4 billion to State GDP and employs around 11,500 FTEs. It is also a big driver of tourism.

The current lack of focus and drive has seen Victoria's share of the nation’s TV drama production fall from 53% to 47%. That shouldn't have happened. For so many reasons, Victoria is the natural home for all things creative in Australia.

The Liberal Nationals’ emphasis on business investment and development of the screen industry will reinstate Victoria as a leader on both the national and international stage.

How will this be done? Through continuing to support the production of new screen content in Victoria and the businesses that provide jobs for and build the skills of practitioners.

We'll audit the operation of the Filming Approvals Act 2014 to ensure it is being properly utilised by relevant state and local government authorities to eliminate red tape.

We’ll continue to fund and support the Melbourne International Film Festival, its Premiere Fund and the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne

We will introduce a new Indigenous Cultural Screen Initiative, with grants for screen practitioners who can showcase Indigenous storytelling and Indigenous cultural sites to both domestic and international tourists, with a focus on international distribution to countries with the highest number of tourists visiting Australia like China, India, and USA.

We will review the guidelines and scope of the Regional Local Assistance Fund (RLAF) to attract more screen projects to Regional Victoria.

We'll give certainty to producers by continuing the Victorian Production Fund to grab a greater share of Australian film and TV productions.

We will review screen industry training courses through Uni/TAFE to ensure that industry practitioners are receiving training that is fit for purpose and has them job-ready.

It's time to properly investigate the feasibility of creating a world-class large sound stage in Victoria, and we'll do that.

You'll see the establishment of a new International Production Attraction Fund, to attract footloose international film and TV productions to Victoria. To remain competitive with the other states, we need to provide significant and stable financial incentives to lure international productions to Victoria.

A Liberal Nationals government will fund the development of a new “Filming in Victoria” locations resource (including a mobile app) which will consolidate location and other relevant filming information.

We'll lobby the Federal Government to increase tax incentives to attract international productions to Australia and establish an LA-based representative to secure those projects (that we often currently only hear about after they're locked in elsewhere) for Victoria.

Where beneficial, a Liberal Nationals government will work with screen agencies in key international markets to establish new co-production partnerships.

Game Development

Victoria is the home of Australia’s game development industry, accounting for nearly 50% of Australian game companies, most of whom are small businesses. It contributes $123 million nationally to our economy and $54.4 million in economic value to Victoria and supports around 590 FTE jobs in Victoria.

The Liberal Nationals Coalition understands the economic importance of this industry and its potential to drive the development of new approaches to e-health, e-learning and other areas.

We'll continue to support game industry skills, development, events and the business development of game companies.

We'll support programs that assist developers to market and promote their games including the Liberal Nationals’ Assigned Production Investment-Games Program, and the Games Release Program.

We will continue to support major events such as Melbourne International Games Week (started by the Liberal Nationals in 2014), and the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) (brought to Melbourne by the Liberal Nationals) and the annual Games Connect Asia Pacific conference and continue to support the attendance of games industry developers at major international conferences and events such as E3, to assist with professional skills development.

The state Coalition will lobby the federal government to expand the eligibility criteria for the existing 40% production offset to include games projects or introduce a new offset that applies to games content.

We'll consult with games industry representatives and relevant Victorian tertiary institutions to ensure that game development courses meet the expectations of the industry and provide new support for developers of ‘Applied Games’ that promote the benefits of Safety, Health or Education.

The Liberal Nationals vision for the arts – regardless of discipline – is clear. We've listened to each part of the industry, and will deliver a package that is supportive, innovative and most importantly, secure.

The Victorian state election takes place on Saturday 24 November 2018. ArtsHub has sought opinion pieces from other political parties detailing their vision and policies for the state, to be published in the coming days.

Heidi Victoria

Friday 16 November, 2018

About the author

Heidi Victoria is Victoria's Shadow Minister for ​Arts and Culture.