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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3898 ..

Discussion of Matter of Public Importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mr Wood proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The need to maintain public confidence in the funding of arts and for consultation if changes are proposed.

MR WOOD (3.47): Mr Speaker, some years ago a young and inexperienced Minister for Education walked out into the community and announced grandly that he was going to close up to 25 schools; that the decision had been made and could not be changed. He did announce that he would consult on the implementation of that decision. We well remember the outrage that the announcement by the Minister for Education, Mr Humphries, created at that time. The community in the education area simply refused to accept that. Nothing has changed; Mr Humphries has not learnt over the years.

Last week it was announced to the arts community that there will be changes to the arts funding process. It was announced that the decision has been made but there will be consultation on its implementation - the same approach that the younger and less experienced Mr Humphries adopted some years ago. Let me read from the brochure that was circulated; but not in Mr Humphries's name, I might say. I quote one line:

This forum has been organised to assist in developing arrangements for the trial.

The decisions have been taken. Obviously, Mr Humphries and the Liberal Government have forgotten the lessons from that earlier hasty action. That is unfortunate. I am prepared to say that thus far Mr Humphries, I believe, has had the respect of the arts community. That respect is now likely to be lost. It is known, of course, that the Carnell Government, as a whole, ran very strongly on the matter of consultation during the election campaign. We have seen since that that was a deception. Evidence in this Assembly and beyond over and over again has shown that consultation has no meaning for them.

The meeting last night that was announced in the brochure from which I quoted was held to discuss the implementation of that policy decision. The meeting declined to do so. I went to that meeting for a good part of its session and can report that it comprised a broad representation of the arts community who were outraged, angry, distrustful and resentful. There were two bureaucrats there who had to carry the brunt of the criticism which was directed at the Government. It was not directed at them; it was directed at the Government. Those bureaucrats had a difficult time because they had an impossible task to carry out. I quote the motion that was passed at the end of that meeting of arts people last night:

This meeting rejects the aspects in the trial of the revised administration of community activities grants, specifically the creating of a further bureaucratic tier to the current arts grants process, and that the final responsibility remains with the Minister and not Cabinet as proposed.

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