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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22877

Launch of the Australia Foundation's New Business Arts Group, Arthur Andersen Board Room, Sydney

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 02/08/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 22877

Subjects: The Arts and its relationship with business and government

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you very much James, to my two ministerial colleagues Richard Alston and Peter McGauran.

Firstly can I say how greatly encouraged I am and I know that Richard and Peter will be and others by such a top level attendance of so many significant men and women in the business community of Australia and in the artistic and cultural life of our country.

I don’t want to keep you for long but I do want to share a few thoughts with you about the importance of the alliance between the business community, the Government and the broader artistic community, the importance of that alliance to the cultural life of our country.

A Prime Minister is often called upon in different environments to reflect upon the profound changes that have come over the nation in the time that he’s been actively engaged in politics. And in the time that I’ve been actively engaged in parliamentary politics which stretches from May of 1974 to the present time one of the quite remarkable changes has been in that period of time, of course it had begun before hand, but in that period of time it has really burgeoned in a very significant way is the tremendous influence on Australian life and the marking out very clearly to the rest of the world of the distinctive characteristics, abilities and talents of the artists and others who contribute to the cultural life of our country. The extraordinary success enjoyed over the years by our film industry, the world class performance of our major performing companies such as the Opera and the Ballet, the greater recognition of Australian writers, the greater recognition of Australian painters, the list goes on quite endlessly. And it is undoubtedly true as David Malouf inferred in the remarks that James Strong referred to that the cultural identity of this country is a very important element in the shaping of our distinctive national identity seen so very clearly around the world.

Inevitably in a speech like this there are one or two statistics that you feel you should mention in order to make a point. And one of those I found in the Bureau of Statistics for the Year 1996-1997 it found that some 22,700 businesses sponsored sport in Australia to the value of $280 million. But only 2900 companies sponsored Arts and culture to the value of $29 million. Now those figures may or may not be accurate to a few million dollars but they broadly present a picture.

And let me say immediately as somebody who awarded the Dally M rugby league award last night and who was at the Stadium on Saturday night to see Australia beat South Africa and who is going to deliver the inaugural Bradman Oration in Melbourne on the 17th of August I would be the last person in Australia let me tell you to encourage any companies not to continue magnificently contributing to sport. But I think the point is that there is a broader role and a broader obligation. And that of course is an obligation that the Government is not asking the business community to shoulder alone.

There’s been a lot of reference to Helen Nugent’s excellent report and examination into the state of the Arts in Australia. And I’m very proud that in the last budget the Government gave what was broadly seen in the Arts community as a very strong and adequate, indeed in the eyes of some a surprisingly generous measure of support to the Arts.

We share the view expressed by James Strong that it’s not realistic for any government to say that the Arts can be fully funded from private sources. If a government and a community through its government wants the Arts to flourish and to be a source of national pride there is a need for a public sector contribution. We recognise that. That has never been a point of argument so far as we are concerned.

And we’re very proud that we were able to commission that investigation and we’re very pleased at the level of support that we were able to get. I have to compliment Senator Alston in particular. He’s sort of seen as having something of a silver tongue when it comes to encouraging the expenditure review committee to agree with what some of his ministerial colleagues regard as particularly generous support for the Arts. I think it is every last dollar totally justified. Governments have a multitude of responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is to see that there is within the Australian community a proper measure of support for the arts.

Now I want to acknowledge the contribution that Richard Pratt made in relation to his work as Chairman of the Foundation for Culture and the Humanities, and I want to particularly acknowledge the contribution that others have made in various capacities over the years. I’m very confident that the Australian Business Arts Foundation will become the premier vehicle within Australia to encourage corporate sponsorship and to bring business and culture together in a mutually beneficial way. It aims to increase private sector support for arts and culture and to forge stronger links between business and the arts. The new name – Australian Business Arts Foundation – conveys this impression. And the new advisory council inaugurated today will place the foundation in a very strong position to achieve those aims. And it will as I say build very much on the achievements of the Australian Foundation for Culture and Humanities.

The inaugural council meeting today is an important step forward, a step taken on the advice of some of you here today. It provides an opportunity to thank those business leaders who’ve lent their time, their reputation, and their resources to help strengthen private support for Australia’s cultural life through the foundation. I pay tribute to the work of Richard Pratt and also I want to pay tribute to the work of Ron Walker and his deputy James Strong. I want to thank those who’ve agreed to serve on the advisory council of the Business Arts Foundation, committing your time and expertise and providing advice to the board of the foundation publicly demonstrates a belief in the need for the business sector to play a part in a robust arts and cultural sector.

It was clear to me when many of us met in Canberra 14 months ago that Australia needed business leaders to encourage others to recognise the value of investing in strategic partnerships with cultural organisations. And in response to this you set up working groups, or business circles. One developed and produced a business case for cultural investment guide. Another examined the role of corporate social responsibility and that work was instrumental in the development of the new Australia Business Arts Foundation. A third working group has been advising on communications, helping the foundation to promote greater corporate support for art and culture. Many of you at the forum in here today provided advice that enabled the executive director Winsome McCaughey and her team to pilot tools and services that have been tested over the past year. And we’ll be looking for leaders and their companies to work with the foundation as associates to help guide the development of business arts chapters in all capital cities.

All premiers of the States, chief ministers and arts ministers have been briefed on the establishment of the Business Arts Chapters, and already there’ve been very strong indication of support from the State and Territory governments. As a first step councillors have made financial or in kind commitments totalling around $400,000 to support the development of chapters and national projects that will lead to increased corporate support to the arts.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the time that I’ve been Prime Minister I’ve stressed on many occasions the importance of building a social coalition whereby you pool the resources of the government, the private sector, the community sector and individuals to find solutions to challenging social problems. In a sense this organisation, this foundation, is an extension of that notion. It recognises that the government has a role to play and we’ll always have a role to play and we won’t shirk our responsibility financially or otherwise in relation to the arts. It recognises that the individual talent and excellence of artists is crucial to building an even stronger arts community in Australia. It also sees important community organisations as playing a role, and it also sees the business community as playing a role not only in terms of providing financial support and building partnerships, but also in terms of the corporate and management expertise that so many people in business can bring.

Can I conclude where I began in thanking all of you for coming and saying how greatly encouraged I am and I know that my two Ministers – Richard Alston and Peter McGauran – are that so many of you having such other diverse and busy responsibilities have been able to find time to come along. It is an impressive launch of what I believe will be an impressive instrument of further strengthening the importance of arts within the life of our nation.

Thank you.

[Ends]

Transcript 22877