Australia’s newly appointed Minister For The Arts, Tony Burke, has made his first official statement, assuring Australians that the “nine-year political attack on the arts and entertainment sector is now over”.
During the announcement on Wednesday (June 1), Burke – who previously served for seven years as the Shadow Arts Minister – said he was “honoured” to hold an office that he is “deeply passionate about”, before addressing the Coalition’s previous work in the sector.
“The neglect, the contempt and the sabotage of the previous government has ended,” Burke said, declaring that he’s “determined to deliver a better future for Australia’s creative sector”.
Burke, who is the MP for Watson in NSW, also addressed those working in the arts, citing the effects of the pandemic as a key struggle that he aims to face head-on.
“These are important jobs that deliver the essentials of Australian culture. This is a sector that has been hit hard by COVID-19 and rebuilding will take time. I don’t intend to waste a moment,” Burke said.
Burke later outlined his plans to develop a new national cultural policy, describing it as the “the first step… to bring drive, direction and vision back to the [arts] sector”. Burke said the new policy will be informed by a nationwide consultation, which he intends to undergo promptly as “speed is of the essence”.
In closing, Burke reiterated the Labor government’s support of the arts sector, saying that his ministry “doesn’t see the arts as an optional extra but as fundamental to our society and national identity”.
The statement comes after a tumultuous few years for the arts sector, particularly within the music industry. Earlier this year, it was reported that, despite a string of music festivals being cancelled due to COVID-19, former Arts Minister Paul Fletcher showed “no appetite” for the introduction of a federal event insurance scheme.
In 2020, Fletcher faced criticism from Burke over the government’s arts stimulus during the pandemic. Burke said at the time that the $27million package “does not even come close to what’s needed to save this industry from decimation”.
Meanwhile, in the lead-up to the election, Australian artists were vocal about the government’s disregard for the music industry. In May, Amy Shark called on the government to enact safeguards for musicians during the pandemic, while Angie McMahon implored voters to consider the climate crisis at the ballot box.
Today (June 2), singer-songwriter Billy Bragg commended incumbent Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, writing in an Instagram post that the Coalition’s ousting “offers hope to all of us fighting against the rising tide of populism”.
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