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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1342 ..


MR WOOD (12.01): I move:

That this Assembly directs the Government to continue to fund the Institute of the Arts at 1997-98 levels.

Mr Speaker, it has been a persistent theme in the ACT that we support high technology, and it is a very proper theme to pursue. It is very good for the Territory that we do so. We all speak in glowing terms about high technology as the future for our Territory - the Chief Minister; all of us. A very successful part, in Canberra, of that technology, achieving wonderful results here and overseas, is the Australian Centre for Arts and Technology. Now, where is that? It is at the Institute of the Arts. That is where it is. That is threatened under current government initiatives. It may have to go. Yet that is the sort of thing we talk about persistently in this Assembly and more broadly in the community. I do not know, but I suspect that the Minister responsible for the arts did not know of its existence. If she did know, I do not think she understood what it does and what a fine place it is. That is the problem behind this current debate - behind the Government's decision to cut funding for the Institute of the Arts. It seems to me that the decision reveals that the Minister responsible for the arts does not know about the arts in Canberra, or certainly does not understand the arts.

Let me quote Professor Fraillon who said at a very fine musical demonstration:

This community is passionate about the Arts. Its Government is not.

Now, we have all felt that passion. We have heard it. We have seen it in recent weeks around this Assembly and more broadly. It is not possible to move around the arts community in the ACT without experiencing the strength, the impact, the energy and the vitality of the Institute of the Arts. Since that decision - and I think the surprise from the Chief Minister in the response to that decision - there has been something of a smokescreen to cover the removal of that funding. One thing is clear: If the role of the Institute of the Arts and the arts community in the ACT was not understood, there was no attempt made to understand it. No attempt was made to consider or debate the issue. No attempt was made to ask questions about it.

At the time of the bombshell there had been absolutely no consultation. A letter was received out of the blue, as it were, saying the funding would be withdrawn so that in two or three years' time there would be no funding. Let me acknowledge there was an indication in the letter that was received at the institute, or the university, of a willingness to talk about buying services. But what that meant then was not known. I am not aware whether it is known still today. But there was no indication beforehand that the funding was to go and there would be a different arrangement.

This motion calls for the restoration in full - that is, a level of $1.65m - of ACT Government funding to the arts. That is absolutely justified. Now, I know that times are tough. I know about the need for savings. But the hacking of this program simply cannot be justified. There are many areas of administration in the ACT of policy direction, of decisions, where savings could have been made well before coming to this sort of level.

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