“Artists like everybody else are entitled to voice their political opinions, but I view with deep concern the effective blackballing of a benefactor, implicit in this decision, merely because of its commercial arrangements.”
–George Brandis, Minister for Arts.
It’s hard to be an artist in Australia.
It’s hard for a number of reasons, but beyond logistical reasons such as population, culturally, the truth is, Australia has not had much time for the arts. The current Minister for the Arts, George Brandis, for example, is currently displaying that in the above quote, taken from the resent Transfield and Biennale disagreement, in which Artists protested against the corporations involvement with refugee detention centres (a job they campaigned for through donations in the recent election and were subsequently rewarded, resulting in the Red Cross being fired). The response from the government, who were criticised for their refugee program through this act, resulted in a torrent of angry politicians, from Malcolm Turnball who called it “viscious ingratitude” on the part of the artists, to George Brandis who decided that, well, maybe the Australian Government would just stop funding the Biennale. He said it as if, somehow, conservative Australian Governments had a long history of supporting the Arts, and he said it also without one moment of self awareness as, in his other portfolio as Attorney General, Brandis continued to campaign for racial vilification laws to be removed because it violated freedom of speech.
In case you think that’s an isolated case in the Australian Art Landscape, allow me to present Prime Minister Abbott comments, when responding to a question about Chris Kenny’s lawsuit against the satirical political show, the Hamster Wheel, for a portrayal of him fucking a dog.
Asked by 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Thursday whether the ABC’s legal defence of the show was a good use of taxpayers’ money, rather than apologising to Kenny, the prime minister said it was a “fair question”.
“The point I make is that government money should be spent sensibly and defending the indefensible is not a very good way to spend government money,” Abbott said.
“Next time the ABC comes to the government looking for more money, this is the kind of thing that we would want to ask them questions about.”
The response, strikingly similar to Brandis’, reveals not only the Government’s opinion against anyone who criticises them, but also their deep, abiding disgusting for artists of all kinds.
It is, as I said, hard to be an artist in Australia.