In light of an election campaign in which an uncracked egg gets more airtime than the story of over one million species being at risk of extinction from climate change, and the current environment minister Melissa Price is AWOL, it feels slightly churlish to go trawling through policy statements for mention of arts and culture.

I frame this as a serious question: what is the use of investment in the arts if climate change is continually ignored? Can we, should we, make art on a dying planet? Or, to put it another way, if politicians won’t even face the looming catastrophe that is global extinction, how low must the arts then rate on their interest scale?

But, as an arts journalist, I must consider: what is there in this election for the arts?

Music

The big policy winner in the election will be contemporary music, where most of the arts conversation from the major parties has been directed.

Labor, perhaps, wins the “most specific policy announcement of 2019” award, with three new Aria awards for music teachers. Among other music policies, the party has promised $28m over three years for investment in live music and music hubs, new rules on ticket scalping, and mental health support for artists and crew.

The Coalition will provide $22.5m for the Live Music Australia Grant program, supporting venues that program Australian artists.

The ABC and SBS

For better or worse, the ABC and SBS aren’t mentioned in the Liberal party’s policy statements, although in its most recent budget the Coalition announced cuts over three years and an “indexation freeze” on ABC funding, and an additional $14.6m for SBS.

Labor has pledged to return $83.7m to the ABC, plus an extra $60m across the ABC and SBS for new Australian content, $15m for regional and emergency broadcasting, $4m for audio description, reinstating shortwave radio in the Northern Territory, and “a news literacy program to fight disinformation and fake news”.

The Greens have committed to restore funding to the ABC and invest an additional $320m over the next 3 years, and have a plan for maintaining the ABC’s editorial independence. They also support phasing out advertising from SBS, additional funding for First Nations media, and have a number of strategies around media diversity and accountability.

While the Australian Conservatives note they “recognise the importance of the National Broadcaster”, they support merging the ABC and SBS, and limiting this new entity to two TV stations, two radio stations and online offerings to on-demand viewing of local television content.

The clearest policy in relation to television comes from Seniors United, a minor party running for the Senate in NSW, which supports the establishment of a TV channel with “specific programming from seniors” that includes such things never broadcast on the ABC or SBS such as documentaries, cooking shows and lifestyle programs.

Dancers perform during a media preview of Sydney Dance Company’s recent 50th Anniversary triple bill.

Dancers perform during a media preview of Sydney Dance Company’s recent 50th anniversary triple bill. Photograph: Don Arnold/WireImage

The rest

On the final weekend of the campaign, the Labor party announced its arts platform, Renewing Creative Australia – its arts policy launched in 2013 and subsequently scrapped with the change in government. This large-scale and ambitious arts policy includes: restoring Australia Council funding with an additional $37.5m over the forward estimates; $3m to existing First Nations performance companies and $8m over four years for a new Indigenous theatre company; $4m for “learning and recognition of First Nations languages”; and focuses on accessibility, cultural diversity, regional arts, and education.

The Greens are the one other party to have released a detailed arts policy. Their proposal, A Creative Australia, dedicates $100m to a new Games Investment and Enterprise Fund (compare with Labor’s $25m commitment to the Australian Interactive Games Fund), will expand the producer tax offset (currently used for film productions) to video game developers, and give $15m towards creative co-working spaces. The Greens also have policies around better pay for artists, improving Australia Council funding, content quotas, and advocating for a “transition from STEM thinking to STEAM thinking” – because apparently the well-established and not cringeworthy phrase “arts and sciences” isn’t cool any more.

There is little in the way of culture policies from the other parties – indeed, the election pledges arguably most pertinent to artists in 2019 are not around cultural policy but employment and workers’ rights.

As part of its tourism and jobs packages, the Coalition has announced $5m for the Rottnest Island Museum, $10.1m for the Sovereign Hill Museum and $85m for an Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery in Adelaide – matched by Labor – and support for the Heysen Gallery and Carrick Hill House.

The Arts party no longer stands candidates for election and instead describes itself as a “political movement”. The Pirate party supports a basic income guarantee and replacement of the Copyright Act 1968 with a “Creative Works Act”, which will limit creative rights to 15 years from publication or death, whichever comes first. The Together party’s arts policy is light on detail, but it has published a blog post against the Australian Major Performing Arts Group and in support of better funding for small to medium organisations.

In summary

On the final Saturday before the election, the Labor party’s announcement of its arts policy finally brought culture and the arts into the spotlight. While the Greens had released their arts policy previously, it didn’t come into the election race with the same impact as afforded the two major parties. Labor’s policy matched several Coalition announcements, including a live music focus and $85m for an Aboriginal gallery in Adelaide.

In the 2019 election, it seems clear culture is a minor player: but so, it seems, are many other policies.

If this election serves to remind artists and arts workers of anything, though, it may be that culture policies cannot exist in a bubble. The arts industry is made of workers; of single parents; of migrants; those who work day jobs in minimum wage industries; those who receive Newstart and those who receive the Disability Support Pension. Artists need education, dental care and healthcare, for themselves and their families. This election will be – should be – fought on a much bigger scale than the arts themselves, because where do the arts exist if they are not part of the fabric of society?

This is an edited version of an article originally published as Election 2019: State of the Arts by literary journal Kill Your Darlings

Jane Howard is an Australian arts writer

This article was amended on 17 May to reflect current Greens policy on ABC and SBS funding

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/may/17/voting-for-culture-this-election-heres-how-the-parties-arts-policies-stack-up

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