Evan’s Corner: Election issues

Written by: Evan Lowenstein
As we approach the May 2019 election date, it is timely to ask ourselves, as advocates for the arts, ‘What does the next Government hold for arts policy in Australia?’
Are there any signs of some emerging interest in the arts in Australia put forward by any party?
Although both the Victorian and New South Wales’ state governments would argue that they are granting more recognition to the arts, as manifested by the support for the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the more recent news that the National Art School in Sydney has a guaranteed lease from the NSW government for 45 years, I think at a federal level one can safely say, ‘No’.
When reading the policies of the three major parties, there is no mention of any arts policies by the LNP Coalition; only bland motherhood statements about the importance of arts in society put out by the ALP; and a bit more ‘meat on the bone’ by the Greens but no specific promises nor commitments.
I guess some of this is quite understandable because there is some time to go until the election and the parties are more focussed on issues they perceive to be important to the electorate. No doubt they are, but it would be good to see a major policy announcement about the arts portfolio released before election day.
Although we can indeed be very proud of the quality and breadth of art being produced in Australia, there is no question that the visual arts market is in the doldrums.
When it comes to measuring sales, the primary market is doing very poorly. Anecdotally, first quarter sales results for 2019 have been down as evidenced by the lower sales reported by art galleries.
As I wrote in our October 2018 Newsletter, generally speaking, Australian artists‘ incomes are declining. Our figures point to a market that is in need of an injection of some useful government policy to get things moving again. Tax reform could well be one of these policies.
We are seeking

Dedicated Arts Minister

For quite some time Lowensteins has been advocating for a more senior ranking of the arts portfolio in the government.
We have advocated for a sole Minister responsible only for the arts be appointed at cabinet level.
We believe that this would increase the profile of the arts in the government. Arts policy should be given a whole-of-government approach, not just piecemeal reforms and/or grant schemes that may come at the individual whim of a minister.

Tax reform: Superannuation

Lowensteins is well regarded as a firm for our staunch advocacy for the reform of the superannuation regulations in relation to how they govern the purchase of art in Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs).
We are seeking a relaxation and reform of these most restrictive rules which have been responsible for a great deal of the downturn in the art market since their introduction in 2011.

Increase direct funding to individual artists

Lowensteins would also like to see greater support given to the arts through increased funding direct to artists through vehicles such as the Australia Council.
We look forward to further announcements before the election.
As the election draws nearer, we will keep you posted on our website for any major policy announcements concerning the arts.