As the prime minister to ever hold joint portfolios of arts, employment and labor relations, Tony Burke pledges to use government policy to address allegations of sexual harassment within Australia’s cultural industries.
Speaking to Guardian Australia just before announcing the start of a seven-week national consultation period on Friday, Burke said he had been closely monitoring the mounting controversy over the treatment of women in the performing arts industry while in opposition. .
“I want to ensure that national cultural policies respond to the specific challenges in the art industry and within this policy must be guaranteed a safe workplace for women,” he said.
He cited allegations of systematic sexual harassment and assault within the Australian music industry, including that of singer Jaguar Jonze, and the criticism of the historic workplace culture at Sony Music that led to its long-serving CEO Denis Handlin being fired last year. removed after more than 25 years. Burke also referred to actor Eryn-Jean Norvill’s allegations of inappropriate behavior against Geoffrey Rush, whose broadcast resulted in Rush winning a defamation case against the Daily Telegraph. Burke said they were all evidence of an industry marred by a workplace culture that needed a major overhaul.
The workplace culture reforms fit within one of the five pillars of the new government’s cultural policy blueprint, which takes as its starting point Labour’s short-lived Creative Australia plan, formed under the Gillard administration, which saw Burke briefly served as minister. of Arts served.
That past experience, along with the added urgency Covid-19 has brought to an industry particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, convinced Burke that there was no time to develop a new policy from scratch.
Artists learned the hard way during the pandemic, he said, that the government and large parts of the community and the media saw them as non-essential. The terms of the coalition government’s jobkeepers’ scheme left the majority of performing artists, who were largely dependent on short-term contracts or freelance payments, ineligible for income support during the lockdowns.
While the country’s major arts and cultural institutions were propped up by the Morrison government’s $2 billion Rise (Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand) fund, many individual artists were left without income or a safety net when the pandemic hit.
While supporting the country’s cultural institutions — both public and commercial — Labor will revive the concept of the central role of the individual artist, as articulated in the previous Gillard policy, giving top priority to First Nations artists.
The arts and cultural practices of the First Nations will form the basis of the government’s new arts policy, Burke said, which will also mean the end of ministerial discretion and a return to the principles of corporate decision-making when it comes to dividing of funds.
“There was never any transparency or due process that would explain how some projects were funded and others were not under Rise,” Burke said.
“I am not necessarily critical of individual funding decisions, but I am extremely critical of the process used to arrive at these decisions. While Australia Council decisions will always be criticized, I believe we are in a situation where, despite all the challenges arm’s length funding poses, any other process is worse.”
The minister also promises to convene states and territories to enact stricter legislation to regulate ticket resale.
“There are a lot of problems with what resellers are doing,” he said. “They are selling fake tickets, which damages the trust of the entire industry; they remove the direct relationship between the artist and the ticket buyer; and they rip people off.
“I don’t have the time or respect for companies like Viagogo and I want to see what we can do to make sure the ticket price advertised becomes the ticket price paid.”
In 2020, the ACCC successfully sued Viagogo and fined the ticket resale platform $7 million.
The cabinet meeting closes on August 22. Burke said he will have a fully established national arts and culture policy by the end of the year.