Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 505 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
development of cultural tourism. The problem with that, of course, is that the grant round closes next week. I would not be surprised if the arts community was a little concerned, if they are applying for funding, that they have not yet actually seen the direction in which the new Minister wants to take the arts. I think the timing there has been a little bit unfortunate.
I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of Mr Hargreaves when he raised the issue of the regional arts and ensuring that we do not totally centralise what is happening. If you live in Tuggeranong it needs to be possible for you to access the arts too and to be able to participate in various arts functions or arts opportunities.
It also is very important to make sure that we integrate the arts into all government agencies. There are so many possibilities to do that. We have made suggestions in the past in the Social Policy Committee about how you can use the arts with the community for all sorts of good outcomes. For example, we have seen how the arts is used in mental health when people are suffering mental illness. Becoming involved in the arts can be a fantastic way for them to express their situation, to be creative, to heal, as well as to produce fantastic arts. We have to be really careful, now that the Chief Minister has taken over the arts, that we do not see it boxed up in the Chief Minister's Department and controlled with a fundamental, economic rationalist approach to the whole business.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (4.14): Mr Deputy Speaker, I am grateful to have a chance to contribute to this debate and to make a few comments of my own. The ACT Government made a quite conscious decision after the last election to appoint a new Minister for the Arts. I think that choosing the Chief Minister as Minister for the Arts is an important exercise. If you look at Arts Ministers across Australia, in fact, you will see that many of them are either Premiers or Deputy Premiers, or very close to the top of the political hierarchy of their particular jurisdiction. It helps create a situation where the arts is central to the way governments think, rather than being on the periphery. I think that is a welcome development. It is also useful having around a Cabinet table a second person who understands the dynamics of the arts and is able to contribute to promoting its benefit to the community.
Let me say a little bit about what my vision for the arts is. It is a cliche to talk about the arts as a mirror to society, but it is true that the arts are there to demonstrate both the best and the worst about our society. Why do we need the arts? In a society or in a community where emphasis is placed on getting our operating loss down to zero, reducing waiting lists, making sure employment is high, and making sure that the trains run on time, it is useful, indeed vital, that we ask ourselves the question, "What does it profit us to know that these things are happening if the human dimension of successful or fruitful lives is not also revealed at the same time?". The arts transcend the merely mechanical process of going from A to B. They also demonstrate to us why we are going from A to B and help us ask the question whether we should not be going to C instead. Mr Deputy Speaker, we need the arts to be able to temper our activities and to help us to decide on what we should be doing as a community to advance the spiritual as well as the physical wellbeing of our community.