Changes to the Dept of Communications & the Arts

Dear Colleagues,

Yesterday the Federal government made changes to five of its departments, including the Department of Communications and the Arts, which will be merged into a bigger department called Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

It is hugely disappointing that “Arts” has once again gone from the title, and is now assumed under “Communications”. We are also disappointed that the Department’s Secretary Mike Mrdak will lose his position in the merger.

TNA is seeking more information about the impact of this change – we are aware that government departments change regularly, but the detail of the changes such as staffing, portfolio leadership and budget are important to understand further.

The current department was created four years ago – in September 2015, following Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister, replacing the Department of Communications.

Here is the recent history of the portfolio (Wikipedia)

• 1994 to 1998: Department of Communications and the Arts

• 1998 to 2007: Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

• 2007 to 2013: Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

• 2013 to 2015: Department of Communications

• 2015 to Feb 2020: Department of Communications and the Arts

 From Feb 2020: Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

There has been a high level of social media coverage and commentary and Arts Hub has released an article with some detail: Read the ArtsHub article here. 

The ABC explains what these changes might mean: Read the ABC article here. 

On this issue, TNA will continue to monitor:

• What staffing changes will happen within the arts portfolio;

• Whether there is a cabinet reshuffle and whether Minister Fletcher retains the arts portfolio;

• Whether there are arts budget impacts (e.g. at the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook for 2019-20 financial year which will be released by the end of January 2020);

• What impacts there are on the department’s programs including programs which might affect our sector, such as Festivals Australia or the Regional Arts Fund;

• Whether there are any impacts on the Australia Council for the Arts which is at ‘arms-length’ from the Department.

On our advocacy for the FYFO program and other broader advocacy:

TNA is continuing to raise awareness of the devastating impact that 30 fewer Four-Year funded organisations will have on the whole sector, if $7million p/a remains the shortfall when announcements are made in April next year.

We are working alongside many other peak bodies in Australia – at a federal level and also at a state and territory level. This work includes a pre-budget submission to Treasury which is due on 20th December – https://www.treasury.gov.au/consultation/2020-21-pre-budget-submissions. (Anyone can submit to this process).

TNA has been drawing on data and evidence from A New Approach’s first two insight reports which are a great independent resource for the arts industry. The evidence on federal funding for the arts is sobering: it has reduced by 18.9% per capita, over the last decade – the pinch we are feeling is real. The reports indicate clear paths ahead for a united advocacy approach – Australia’s GDP percentage contribution to culture is at 0.72%, and the OECD average is 1.11%. Reaching the average would be a great goal.