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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 496 ..

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 importance of the Arts in the ACT.

MR WOOD (3.34): Mr Speaker, this is an important subject. Last week I was at the launch of this book called Extraordinary Talent. It reminded me, and I am sure others, of how many talented artists, performers and arts people we have in Canberra. The Chief Minister had the privilege of launching this book - I think a rare privilege - and it is a book that I think should be acquired by many throughout Canberra. There are some fine photographs of some wonderful people in it. The book indicates the variety of activity that occurs in the arts in Canberra and the range of talent that exists in this city.

This book is only a sample. There could be many similar volumes on people of equal talent to those whose photographs appear in this publication. The book is a good reminder to us of how diverse the arts scene is in this place and just how many people are involved. The book is a tribute to those special people. More broadly, it recognises how important the arts are. It tells me, and I am sure it tells others, how much we rely on artists and performers generally. We rely on them for an enormous enrichment of our culture and for pleasure and entertainment. We rely on them for challenge, and that is very important. Of course, they are very important in our education in a whole range of areas.

I think we do not always realise just how important the arts are and how much we depend on them. If someone here buys an item of jewellery they are attending to the arts. I would ask, of course, why you cannot buy an item of jewellery from some Canberra craftsperson. If you go home at night and read a book you are attending to what writers, artists, are doing. Think of the paintings you put on your wall. I was very disappointed to learn yesterday of one very reputable establishment in this city which only recently purchased six framed prints of European artists at about $350 or more each. What a disappointment that was. They could have had quality originals at that price, or probably a little more, from Canberra artists. I thought that establishment was a bit off the track. Music plays a major part in our life; yet, as we hear it, do we always understand just where it comes from and the artistic role it plays for us? I could go on, of course, about drama, dance and so on. Arts is our life. It is there. It is not a part of it; it is our life.

On behalf of the people of this Territory, the ACT Government is the major sponsor of the arts, and that is as it should be. I would argue that it should be a greater sponsor, as I did with the Follett Government, with some success, and as I will with the present Government, I hope with some success. The former Minister, who is listening attentively, promised and claimed to deliver an additional $3m to the arts during the life of the last parliament. The money came from different sources and was expended in a variety of ways, so I never checked it out to the last dollar. So, Mr Humphries, I accept your claim.

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