Queenslanders deserve our fair share of Federal Arts funding

06 December 2018

I rise to speak today about a very important issue for the people of my electorate on the south side in Brisbane and the people of Queensland more broadly—that is, how Queensland deserves its fair share of federal arts funding.

A little while ago I was assisted by the Parliamentary Library—the excellent Parliamentary Library—in getting a sense of Queensland's share of federal arts funding. You might be surprised to hear that in 2014, even though the population of Queensland was about one-fifth of the national population, we only got 4.62 per cent of the Australia Council arts grants and 4.63 per cent of the Department of Communications and the Arts grants. In 2015 it was a better year, with 11.7 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, but, again, we had about 20 per cent of the population of the country. In 2016 it went back down to 10½ per cent for Australia Council arts grants and just over seven per cent for communications and arts department grants. In 2017 it was 10 per cent of the Australia Council arts grants, and down to 1.97 per cent of the communications and arts department grants. And in 2018, at the time that we got this research from the Library, it was 11.89 per cent of the Australia Council arts grants and 2.82 per cent of communications and arts department grants.

We shouldn't be in a situation where we have one-fifth of the population, but only get between two per cent and 10 per cent of the arts funding from the different sources. That's not a fair situation, and Queenslanders deserve better. Queenslanders deserve a fair share of federal arts funding. Queensland has an excellent arts community and arts institutions, and I note there are many Queenslanders in the room who I'm sure would agree with that proposition. It's time we saw some redress in relation to the inequality in federal arts funding. I do represent a Brisbane seat, but the great thing about Queensland arts institutions is that, because we are such a big and decentralised state, they go on the road. They absolutely do everything they can to make sure that they have performances in major regional centres, and also in small regional and remote towns. And some of the performances actually originate outside of Brisbane, and then Brisbane gets the second or third go at them.

One of the really wonderful arts organisations that we have based in my electorate of Griffith is Queensland Theatre. Queensland Theatre would be known to everyone in this building. I took the opportunity once, when I was sitting next to the then Treasurer, now Prime Minister, on a plane to mention to him, 'Say whatever you like about theatre companies in Sydney, but none of them have put on a theatre production about a rugby league team.' I support the Cowboys; people probably already know that. Queensland Theatre had a production called The Longest Minute, and that was about the last few minutes of the grand final between the Cowboys and the Broncos. I think we were probably the noisiest household in Cannon Hill that night.

A government member interjecting

Ms BUTLER: Queensland either way! That was a wonderful production from Queensland Theatre. To have a play, domestically written, domestically performed, about Queenslanders' rugby league passions and about the many, many, issues that intersect with our support of rugby league—community, race, class, gender; all of those things together—in a really Queensland setting demonstrates the value of Queensland organisations telling Queensland stories.

I want to see organisations like Queensland Theatre, and of course all of the many other arts organisations in Queensland, get a fair go, and they need to get a fair go from the Commonwealth. A good starting point is this. I've got in my electorate the Bille Brown Theatre, which is where the Queensland Theatre company holds the majority of its performances. It's undergoing a massive project at the moment to refurbish it, to turn it into a different style of theatre. It's absolutely wonderful what has been done to create a new performance space for Queenslanders, and I've been very proud to personally make a financial contribution to the Bille Brown Theatre. The Queensland government has made a contribution to the Bille Brown Theatre. I'd like to call on the Commonwealth government to make a contribution to the Bille Brown Theatre. It's really important that we support this important production company and theatre company. We also need to support local arts. Many electors in my electorate of Griffith have signed petitions online and on paper to call for the Commonwealth to support this project. I would love to see the Commonwealth step up and make a contribution to the Bille Brown Theatre, and I call on the government to do so.