Australia is without an arts minister less than two weeks after the incumbent Simon Crean presented the country’s first cultural policy in nearly 20 years.
In an eventful day for Australian politics, Crean was dismissed on Thursday after he unsuccessfully plotted to oust Julia Gillard, the country’s prime minister and leader of the Labor Party. Crean’s sacking became a top-trend on Twitter in Australia, where the news carried the #whippedCrean hashtag.
Now there is genuine uncertainty about the future of “Creative Australia,” the document underpinning the National Cultural Policy. Crean had presented “Creative Australia” -- a long-term vision for this country’s cultural activities and its support framework -- with much fanfare on March 13. Crean had said the project was all about “creating excellence, creating jobs, creating prosperity, creating opportunity and creating unique Australian stories” in the creative industries.
The music industry’s response on the report was mixed. The Australasian Performing Right Assn welcomed the document, in particular praising its recognition of creator’s rights and the call forfurther investment in Australia’s music export potential.
Crean had ingratiated himself with the music community when he delivered a keynote speech at the APRA Song Summit last May. Crean’s comments will be remembered as much for its rousing pro-creative stance as for its length – the then-arts minister was invited to speak for five minutes, but ended up talking for more than 40, messing-up the rest of the day’s schedule.
Political watchers are now speculating as to who will step into the vacant arts minister role. One name in the frame is Peter Garrett, the former Midnight Oil frontman who now serves the federal government as schools minister. Garrett has overseen the arts portfolio in the past, but he’s considered a long-shot to do so again.
With the federal budget due to be presented in May, whoever takes the job will have little time to familiarize themsleves with the task at hand.
Crean can take a bow for getting the "Creative Australia" project finished, apparently costed and over the line in what is clearly a sticky political environment. Come September 14, "Creative Australia" may all be academic. That’s the date Australians go to the polls to elect their government. The Labor Party is not expected to win.
The shadow arts minister is George Brandis. Music industry insiders are concerned that Brandis has little hunger for the music industry and, to date, he has yet to formally respond on "Creative Australia" or offer his Liberal Party’s own detailed arts policy. Time will reveal all.