Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 13 October 2022) . . Page.. 3018 ..
Another issue with funding that may help in several years time is this government’s track record of proven failure in delivering some of these infrastructure projects. Even when arts precincts or theatres finally get built and are operational, the problem is that there is no obligation on the operators to employ all, or mostly, Canberra-based artists to perform or put on exhibitions, as opposed to interstate talent. Arts infrastructure is absolutely necessary, but I want to make the point that it is not the same as direct funding right now.
We have seen the recent history of arts infrastructure projects: the Canberra Theatre expansion, which is a great project, has been on the table for close to a decade, and not a single sod has been turned—the same as the revitalisation of Civic Square, part of that same project. The Kingston Arts Precinct has had a troubled history and appears to be on a similar path. The ACT government terminated the contract last year following project delays and lack of proper stakeholder consultation. So we do not have a good track record in this arts infrastructure space. Despite this, the arts minister has the aspiration for Canberra to become the arts capital of Australia, an aspiration I support, but it is going to take more than what is currently on the table to achieve something even remotely close to that.
I know we have some grants projects and programs, and I appreciate that grants funding does provide real support to arts organisations. The 10 per cent boost is welcome, and that recognises the contribution to the ACT’s economy as well as the wellbeing of residents. As one very small example, I went to Tuggeranong Arts Centre during the school holidays with some of my grandchildren to watch a show, and it appeared the show was sold out and this was fantastic to see. It was a very enjoyable show. The Tuggeranong Arts Centre is one of our key arts organisations that is always struggling—to renew and refresh the facility, and in putting on additional programs and exhibitions. They do a great job down there. I am sure you have been there many times yourself, Madam Speaker, and seen the great job that they do.
Speaking as someone who used to work in the community sector, which is another sector largely dependent on grants, the grants process itself is quite time consuming, especially for organisations run by a very small team, as many in the arts sector are. It is a huge investment of time for them. I know a lot of them have been going through a grants application process in the past few months. This is something that we all know is necessary, but it adds to uncertainty for employees in the sector, when they are unsure about the progress and the probability of the grant being agreed to. It can often lead to that churn of staff, as they move on looking for more secure areas to work in.
Once again, I reiterate that I appreciate the minister’s good intentions in this space, and her absolute commitment to trying to improve the arts sector in the ACT. I really believe that that is the case. But I would like to see, in budgets to come, more direct and immediate support being provided to Canberra artists, and the delivery of arts infrastructure programs being absolutely on track and helping us to become Australia’s arts capital.
MS CHEYNE (Ginninderra—Assistant Minister for Economic Development, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Business and Better Regulation, Minister for