Premier Brumby describes Peter Bachelor as being someone who is ‘passionate about the arts’. Apparently he was involved in the construction of the Arts Centre and also regularly attends the theatre, concerts and dance performances, so he must be passionate about the arts. He must.
But where is he? Where is our new arts minister? Where was our former arts minister, Lynne Kosky, when we needed her? Out complicating our train system, her other huge folio. Peter Bachelor too has another folio – energy and resources. It seems to me that the arts folio is a bit of a joke in state politics. Does anyone actually take the arts seriously? Has Premier Brumby not learned anything from the Lynne Kosky debacle? By appointing the arts folio to a minister that already has a huge folio he has once again shown artists that he perceives art to be not quite so important, a side gig, a hobby. A minister swamped by a demanding folio will rarely find the time to give the arts folio the attention it needs and deserves. There are also rumors circulating in the press that Mr Bachelor is retiring at the end of the year, yet another blow to an already suffering art culture.
Reading various articles online on the closing of The Tote pub and the controversial liquor licensing laws, I am astounded that I have yet to see one statement issued by Peter Bachelor since his appointment reassuring artists, particularly musicians, of his commitment to resuscitate a dying music industry. I have yet to see one statement by him pledging to investigate how TAFE fee increases will put education out of reach for many writers, musicians, film makers, and how this will affect Melbourne’s overall art culture. There has been nothing, nothing. Is Peter Bachelor in our corner? Or is he just our arts minister because that’s what he’s been told to do? If he is in our corner he should speak up against issues like liquor licensing refusing to drop regulations linking live music to tougher security requirements. He should fight against all the changes killing Melbourne’s art culture. He should fight for artists, fight for art. And he should fight now.
People love the escape that art brings to their life, whether it is music, theatre, film, books. But before these artists made it to the bookshelf, or the music store, or the cinemas, they were doing it tough. They were playing at The Tote, and The Corner, working part-time while writing their novel and studying at RMIT. Art doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It takes hard work, years and years of rejection, and this should be respected by the public and the government. We’re not bludgers. We’re just trying to get to that book shelf so you can sit in your lounge room and read your great aussie book or watch your great aussie film in the cinema.
Melbourne art culture is not about The Arts centre and going to see the Russian ballet, it is about the culture that everyone, including Premier Brumby seems to be taking for granted. If artists don’t get the support they need from the government when they’re starting out, if they can’t go to TAFE and study or can’t play gigs at pubs, then Melbourne’s unique art culture will frizzles out, and then everyone will be crying. By then it will be too late.