Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 1776..
MR WOOD: Well, it is true. Perhaps I will add a waiver here. It depends on one's interpretation of the word "consultation". On 10 January this year - I just want Mr Humphries to hear this - a letter went out to the arts community informing them that the interim cultural authority had been appointed.
Mr Humphries: And inviting comment.
MR WOOD: You should read out that letter. I have that letter upstairs, but because this debate was brought on quickly I do not have it with me at the moment. That letter is no more than a letter of information, saying, "This is what is happening". I think in the last paragraph but one there is a comment, "Please get in touch if you have any queries". That was told to us at the Estimates Committee hearing as being consultation. It was notification and no more than that.
The Minister now, after the Artsvoice meeting that we addressed, has sent the Bill out to arts groups. That went out to them on 10 and 11 June - a week ago. We do need that consultation. They are now taking this Bill on and are looking at it very carefully. They will provide comments about their views on this Bill to the Minister and to other members of this Assembly. It would be fair to say that the consultation with the public, in particular with the arts community, began at that Artsvoice meeting, which was about two weeks ago. It was taken a step further a week ago when the Bill was sent out to the arts groups. We have had consultation on this for only a fortnight.
Mr Humphries: That is not true.
MR WOOD: It is true. When you reply you might table the letter that you sent out. The date, from memory, is 10 January. Table that letter. I would encourage you to read it out in full and tell me whether that is a consultative process.
Mr Speaker, my concern about this Bill relates to the name of the body and the implications of that - Cultural Authority. This is the authority, indicating that it will be the dominating body. It is a big concern. The Minister has said that this is not a policy body, and I accept that it may not be his intention for it to be so. But let us look at it. It is going to be a statutory body; it is established in legislation. The Cultural Council, which hitherto has been the main policy advisory body, will be, in terms of its standing in legislation, an inferior body. I do not mean in quality or anything like that; but, in the terms in which I am talking, it will be an inferior body. It will have to match up to this body, with an executive officer and staff. Just given that relative power, it may be difficult for it to do so. I certainly support any suggestions that the Cultural Council does need to review its operations, to reconsider how it is doing things and to redraw policy, which is now happening in a process set out by the Minister.
From my discussions with the arts community in this town, they are very keen to see that the Cultural Council, maybe with some changes, remains the dominant arts advisory body, the dominant policy-making body. But it has to compete with a new body, and there will be difficulties with that. The Minister at various times has used the words, "The Cultural Authority is about bricks and mortar". I have heard that on no small number of occasions. But when we come to read the Bill it is about a lot more than