Creative Victoria Bill 2016

I am happy to rise today to speak on the Creative Victoria Bill 2016. The bill will be supported by the Greens. It does a number of things, including recognising principles relating to the arts and creative industries in Victoria.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 2:45pm
Speaker:
Sue Pennicuik

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — I am happy to rise today to speak on the Creative Victoria Bill 2016. The bill will be supported by the Greens. It does a number of things, including recognising principles relating to the arts and creative industries in Victoria. Those principles are worth going to immediately in terms of what they do and how they are set out in the bill. Clause 4 of part 2 of the bill states:

(1)   The Parliament recognises that—

(a)    the arts have an intrinsic value that contributes to the cultural depth, diversity and life of Victoria; and

(b)   the arts and creative industries contribute significantly to Victoria's wealth and prosperity.

(2)   The Parliament further recognises that—

(a)    the arts and creative industries are means to improve the quality of life for all individuals in Victoria and improve the community of Victoria as a whole; and

(b)   all individuals in Victoria are equally entitled to access opportunities and participate in and contribute to the arts and creative industries in Victoria; and

(c)    all individuals should be free to express their ideas and opinions through the arts and creative industries.

Clause 5 clarifies that the Parliament does not intend part 2 of the bill to create in any person any legal right or to give rise to any civil cause of action in respect of the principles outlined in clause 4, which is very interesting. I think these principles are good high-level principles in terms of establishing creative industries under the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, or DEDJTR, a very long acronym. Whilst these principles are set out in the bill, the question really is how they are actually implemented, and as the previous speaker, Ms Crozier, said and as the government outlined in the second-reading speech, the arts are very important to the Victorian community and to all Victorians.

All Victorians participate in the arts in some way by being artists, performing artists or musicians, by acting in theatre productions or by being involved in painting, pottery or musical endeavours, not only in Melbourne but across regional Victoria. All communities are involved. It is very difficult to imagine a life without involvement in the arts either as a participant or as a person who is part of the audience supporting artists. These principles, as I understand it, are replacing the objectives of the Arts Victoria Act 1972, which this bill is repealing. It is 45 years this year since that act was enacted.

The bill also sets out the administrative functions of Creative Victoria. For example, the chief executive officer will be employed under the Public Administration Act 2004 and will be appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. The bill also sets out the functions of the chief executive officer, which I do not necessarily need to go into in great detail, but it does include consulting with bodies and people in the arts and creative industries to understand the opportunities and challenges facing them and developing strategies to respond to these opportunities and challenges. I think that is a very important point, which was also raised by the previous speaker, in regard to the ongoing engagement and consultation with people who are involved in the arts in Victoria to make sure that Creative Victoria is always in touch with what is going on and what the needs of our artists and artistic communities are, particularly solo artists and small arts organisations which can often be overlooked in favour of larger organisations. That is an important provision in the bill.

Clause 12 of the bill requires the minister to ensure a strategy for the arts and creative industries is prepared every fourth year by 1 September after clause 1 comes into operation. I am presuming that means that we will not see a strategy until four years from this year — that is, 2021. It will be interesting to see whether the government has anything to say on when the strategy will be due, given that this bill has been somewhat delayed in its passage through the Parliament.

Paragraph (2) of clause 12 details the information that must be contained in the strategy, including improving the knowledge and appreciation of the arts in Victoria, encouraging and assisting the growth and impact of arts in Victoria, promoting and improving access to the arts and supporting and promoting the practice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts in Victoria. They are all very important parts of the strategy, particularly the last one. As I said, it is very important that the strategy not just be centred on Melbourne but that it includes regional areas and all of the various ethnic communities in Victoria, in particular the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their artistic endeavours.

The bill also repeals the arts fund. I did ask what the implications of that would be, and I thank the minister's office for responding to my question regarding the abolition of the arts fund. They have outlined that the arts fund was originally created as a mechanism for holding funds appropriated through the state budget to achieve the objectives of the Arts Victoria Act 1972. They indicated that the fund has never been used in this way and that contemporary accounting practice for the holding and management of appropriated funds does not rely on the use of such trust funds. The information from the office goes on to say that should a need like this arise in the future, a general trust fund maintained by the department could be used by Creative Victoria in the same way as it is used by other departments, and also that the arts fund balance at the time the bill will come into force is expected to be zero.

I also asked the department about the mechanisms for applying for arts funding grants, and we have not received a lot of information. Of course there is some information available on the Creative Victoria website, but I suppose what is not very clear, and perhaps the government could clarify this, is what the criteria are for the allocation of grants. Grants start from $5000, and go up to $20 000, for solo projects, for individuals, for organisations — including the arts and non-arts community — and for local government organisations. But there is not much information on how the actual grants are assessed nor on the criteria on which they are assessed. It would be useful to have that information more publicly available on the Creative Victoria website.

Of course Creative Victoria was established some time ago, so in fact this bill actually underpins Creative Victoria, which has been operating for some time.

The Greens are supportive of the bill. We are very supportive of the arts in Victoria and the continuing funding of the arts in Victoria. Over my time in this Parliament I have raised quite a number of issues about music, for example, the Victorian College of the Arts and other issues where funding has been removed from community organisations. Whilst it is great to have Creative Victoria set up under the department, for its functions to be so clearly set out in the legislation and for the principles underpinning it to be in the act and supported by the full Parliament, of course it always depends at the end of the day on how it is implemented and on the funding that is available to support artists — be they solo artists or community arts organisations — to pursue the arts in Victoria.