The Queensland Art community is reeling this week after an aggressive attack by the new CanDo, Liberal National Party Government. CanDo Campbell turned Jack the Slasher is not content with just reducing funding for art events, but preferring to cancel them all together.
It was announced that the first budget cut for the new government (their victory lunch barely digested) would be the dumping of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award, during the National Year of Reading no less, and leaving Queensland as the only state without a Premier’s award for literature.
The paltry saving of just $244,000 was defended by Mr CanDo’s every penny counts attitude as he dramatically referred to the states finances as being in a ‘diabolical position’. Mr Campbell described the former governments spending of money on such initiatives as ‘wasteful and reckless’. Former Queensland Arts Minister Matt Foley commented that the move is ‘a squalid, ugly start to the business of Government’ and ‘In absence of a substantive action on the economy or infrastructure or training,’ Foley continued, ‘the arts have been singled out as a scapegoat to give the illusion of action by the incoming government’.
The recent landslide state government elections left the local art community feeling vulnerable and expecting to be in the firing line but many have been left shocked by the magnitude of the initial hit and the rest of the art community is nervous about where the next attack will be made; GOMA perhaps?
Not only has Mr CanDo destroyed an award that provided an opportunity for a career leg-up for many of our struggling and talented emerging writers but even more disappointing, he has once again pitted Queenslander against Queenslander as an uncertain community starts to publically bicker over who gets what and who is entitled to those contentious tax payer dollars.
Comments made across all media platforms since the announcement suggest that the flippant arts get more financial support than others (namely trade apprentices) because of the visible nature of the award platform. Once again the public have been lead to squabble over such benefits as if it is a case of one or the other – we couldn’t possibly manage to have a vibrant art community and a decent health care platform all contributed to, and encouraged by the government, could we?
Private Sponsors of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award were thanked for their contribution but not consulted or warned about the proposed cut. University of Queensland Press (UQP) CEO Greg Bain lashed out at Newman claiming one category at least was not his to shut down. Bain has pledged that UQP will continue publishing two of the award categories, The David Unaipon Award – devised by UQP, which launched the career of Doris Pilkington in 1990 for her prequel to Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, the latter becoming the film which took 16 million dollars at the box office and won 23 awards in 7 countries. UQP will also continue to publish the emerging Queensland author award.
The writers and authors of Brisbane are also taking up the cause promising to find the means to continue the awards in some form, with a new name. Avid Reader bookstore in West End will become the centre for publishers and writers to send their award submission for 2012 (submissions close on May 6th) and winners are expected to be announced on September 5th, the first day of the 2012 Brisbane Writers Festival.
For the rest of the Queensland Art community it’s a case of hold on and stick together. We refuse to go back to the 1980’s as the cultural joke that Queensland once was, but all indications so far is that it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
So what CanDo get for his newly freed $244,000?
Well it certainly isn’t enough to cover the 2 million required for the CanDo bootcamp for young offenders. What about these ‘frontline costs’ that CanDo keeps mentioning? Merely moving a local bus stop is estimated to cost around $300,000 so we won’t even have enough for that. The base pay of a Queensland backbencher is around $133,000 a year, so it seems that all we can afford with this grand saving is to support another politician, we certainly CanDo that!
What do you think of the Arts budget cuts?