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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1490 ..


MR SPEAKER: Ms Tucker, I understand that you are seeking leave to make a statement relating to the arts debate yesterday.

MS TUCKER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Yes, I am.

Leave granted.

MS TUCKER: As members are aware, I was not able to be here for the debate yesterday because my daughter was critically ill in hospital. I want to make the comment that I was quite disappointed when Mr Wood explained to me that members were not prepared to adjourn that debate until I was available, knowing that I have an extremely strong interest in the issue, and that particularly Mrs Carnell and Mr Humphries said that it was not of concern; that what was most important to them was to get the issue off the paper. In this place, as politicians, we are all put in a position where obviously if our family are ill we ask to be considered. It is the first time I have ever asked for that, and I was quite disappointed, because I certainly would have supported that if another member had asked for it. It may be off the paper, Mr Speaker, but I can assure you that the cuts to the Institute of the Arts are not off the agenda of the community. They are extremely concerned about this, and it is not going to go away.

The motion of Mr Wood yesterday, in its original form, was a very important motion. The Greens would have supported it in its original form because we believe the arts matter. The arts matter a lot, Mr Speaker. When Mr Wood raised as a matter of public importance in the last sitting period the importance of arts in the ACT, I took the opportunity then to sound a warning. I said at that time:

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 Speaker, recently one member of the community, after reading the Hansard on that debate, said how prophetic my words were. Yes, Mr Speaker, but I am not claiming to have special powers here. It is not exactly surprising to see the economic rationalist axe coming in on the arts. It is predictable, in fact. Mrs Carnell's own speech in that debate on the importance of the arts was interesting. In her speech, the market and the arts were obviously very closely linked. The concept of value adding often appears. Other characteristic phrases included "funding less activity", "funding it to succeed" and "funding what is likely to succeed". What does the Chief Minister and her Government mean by "succeed"? What is their view of success? Is it mainly to do with economic gain? Of course, there is money to be made from the arts, but the emphasis on value adding and economic gain does, for me, sound alarm bells. How well do community arts fit into this? Only to a point do they fit into this. Mr Speaker, while there is money to be made from the arts, the other very significant added value we all enjoy if we have vibrant and well-supported arts activities in our community is not about money. It is about unquantifiable qualities, about social benefits which do not show up on a balance sheet but which nevertheless matter a lot.

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