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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Monday, October 10, 2005

Hand outs

David Marr is one of Australia's finest journalists. He delivered the 2005 Philip Parsons Memorial Lecture yesterday on the subject, "Theatre Under [John] Howard:"

"Expensive as they are, the arts need more money - not for the sake of the companies, certainly not for the bureaucrats, and not only for the sake of the artists. For our sake. To release this country's imagination by mining the creativity that's there, waiting to be discovered. In its private soul searching late last year, the Australia Council gave a figure that would transform the arts in this country: another $40 million a year. It's peanuts. It's a few miles of freeway. But there's no limit to where it could take us all."

Marr catalogues the curse of both Liberal and Labor governments wanting art that often reinforces, rather than challenges, the status quo. The problem with government funding is that, by definition, it will be affected by the political winds of the day. Personally, I believe in the concept of taxpayer fund work to shape, mould and provoke the wider community. True market fundamentalists argue that if the private sector can't fund something, it's clearly not worth doing. Wrong. We pay taxes because we want - or certainly I do - governments to support work that both confirms and challenges our own beliefs. That's why we live in a community with people, rather than simply individuals desperate to find the next dollar.

25 Comments:

Blogger boredinHK said...

Antony ,
do you choose subjects to write about based on the subject's ability to stir up responses?

You wrote "Personally, I believe in the concept of taxpayer(s) fund (ing)work to shape, mould and provoke the wider community. True market fundamentalists argue that if the private sector can't fund something, it's clearly not worth doing."

The private sector can fund whatever willing investors will put their money into. This is the role of theatre "angels"- I'm sure the various theatrical agencies in Sydney can let you have access to any number of projects just waiting for the money.

Is it the role of government to decide where to invest ? A sure recipe for mediocrity and poor results, artistic decisions by committee and PC limitations which by their nature stop any radical theatre developing.
The theatre is sadly looking like an outmoded form of entertainment these days - persons of Mr Marr's vintage harking back to the halcyon days of their youth have a sympathetic view of the role of the theatre when in fact it should fade away gracefully ( something boomers have yet to try !)like vaudeville and music hall.

Monday, October 10, 2005 1:17:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I just write about what interests, not really too fussed about the response from readers.
You disagree. Fair enough. Marr is certainly from a different generation to me, but believes in that the state should play an important role in society, not just re interest rates. It's imperfect, though, to be sure.

Monday, October 10, 2005 1:29:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, October 10, 2005 4:03:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

And here we see the statist at work.

We pay taxes because we want - or certainly I do - governments to support work that both confirms and challenges our own beliefs.

So you think it's okay for you to enforce your prejudices and priorities onto everyone else? I suppose so - after all, it's what being a leftist is all about. Tell me about how you're an individualist, too - I'd love to see you walk that micrometre-thick tightrope.

Antony, how deeply have you thought about this? Why do you need government to challenge you? And before you cry "that's not what I said!" - think about it. The government doesn't have infinite resources; it can't support everything, thus it has to be selective in what it is to support. So the government is choosing what it's supporting based on the priorities of its constituent parts. What a fabulous outcome! You're being challenged by the government's choice of art, sport, literature, the works. Sounds like serfdom to me. Can't you seek out your own challenges independently? Get up off your knees and have some faith in the independent choice of individuals.

Monday, October 10, 2005 4:07:00 pm  
Blogger paul said...

Why are lefties so keen on spending other people's money? Mainly because it subsidised things that you're interested in. A little selfish, don't you think? Why should a Blacktown boilermaker who couldn't give a fuck about the yartz subsidise you own asthetic sensibilities? Jeffrey Smart nailed it- only bad art needs public funding.

Monday, October 10, 2005 4:07:00 pm  
Blogger paul said...

BTW- who the hell voluntarily pays tax? If we weren't taxed so highly, you and your fellow travellers would have more disposable cash to spend on disabled lesbian puppet theatre, and the rest of us could blow it on poker machines, beer and ciggies.

Monday, October 10, 2005 4:10:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

You said it, Paul. Public funding of the arts is one of the most disgraceful boondoggles around.

The Blacktown boilermaker you mentioned, and a whole manner of people in other professions of varying complexity and sophistication, are also likely to be insulated from their "beliefs being challenged" by some over-mighty publicly-funded arts programme. It's just a wet dream of the elitist left-wing - people like Marr. They are so clueless and out of touch, it's laughable.

And the greatest irony is that it's often those whinging about the arts needing greater funding who are least likely to put their hands in their own pockets to support the industry.

Monday, October 10, 2005 4:15:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Westmore said...

So why aren't private enterprise funding schools, after all they are the primary beneficiaries of an educated workforce?

Or roads as they are mostly used to transport goods and workers to/from work? Trucks cause most of the damage to them, too.

And any number of things that aid PE more than it does the general public.

Think how low taxes would be if the corporate sector paid the full amount for all the infrastructure and services we subsidise.

While we're at it lets get rid of the laws decreeing Australian content on TV and import everything from America or Britain, even the ads. Lets face it you can never get too many variations of CSI, can you? I'm sure Packer would be delighted - $20,000 for an hour of American pap is a lot less than a million or more for the local stuff. We might even save half a cent on every packet of washing powder when he cuts advertising costs, especially if he stops paying millions to the AFL/NFL/Cricket Australia and gives us a steady diet of gridiron and baseball.

And while the boilermakers of Blackstown may not give a damn about the arts I bet they wouldn't be very pleased if governments stopped subsidising sports including racing and football (all codes). Governments, both federal, state and local give much more to sport than they spend on the arts - over 2 billion a year.

Or why not abolish sport altogether - it only wastes time that could be better spent slaving for the boss. Lets bring in the 112 hour week.

BTW, I don't drink or smoke, exercise regularly and eat sensibly, so why should I subsidise the health costs of that Blackstown bloke who stereotypically smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, eats nothing but hamburgers, fish and chips or pies and whose only recreational exercise is hitting the buttons on the remote?

Monday, October 10, 2005 6:03:00 pm  
Blogger boredinHK said...

Ian Westmore,
You shouldn't have to fund others for their diseases, choice of sports,schooling or infrastructure -that's the point.
When did private eneterprise stop paying tax by the way ?
I've never heard of any government having to subsidise gambling.

Monday, October 10, 2005 6:13:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, October 10, 2005 6:49:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

So why aren't private enterprise funding schools

They do. They pay 30% of their profit to the tax man. And they collect a shitload of consumption tax, too.

Trucks cause most of the damage to them, too.

Ever had to pay registration for a truck? I can assure you it's considerably more than your family car. Also, transporting an oversized load requires further (expensive) licencing.

they are the primary beneficiaries of an educated workforce

No they're not, the educated individual who gets a better job is the primary beneficiary.

While we're at it lets get rid of the laws decreeing Australian content on TV

Good idea. Let the market decide.

Lets bring in the 112 hour week.

Nice to see the sane out in action.

BTW, I don't drink or smoke, exercise regularly and eat sensibly, so why should I subsidise the health costs of that Blackstown bloke who stereotypically smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, eats nothing but hamburgers, fish and chips or pies and whose only recreational exercise is hitting the buttons on the remote?

I'm glad to see you support user-pays, despite the initial sentiments in your post. I don't like subsidising (or being a burden on) others, either. I'd much rather pay my own way and take responsibility for myself, rather than delegating it to the government. You've arrived at classical liberalism. Congratulations.

Monday, October 10, 2005 6:59:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Also, Ian, I'm finding it difficult to see how anything you've said in your comment relates to Antony's or Marr's befuddled opinions on arts funding. I'm sorry to inform you, but the publicly-funded arts industry is not analagous to private enterprise.

Monday, October 10, 2005 7:08:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Oh. And private enterprise also generates a crapload of PAYE income tax through employment of individuals. Oh, and it also collects that tax and pays it to the government. So, Ian Westmore, how is private enterprise shaping up as a financial supporter of schools, roads, hospitals etc?

Monday, October 10, 2005 7:11:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Steady on, Waterton.

Was the 112 hour week any more ridiculous than the disabled lesbian puppet theatre?

Monday, October 10, 2005 7:12:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

No. But I never said anything about a disabled lesbian puppet theatre, nor was the person who mentioned it directing their comment at me, so I felt no need to address that issue.

And, DBO, is that all you've got? What about the important points - as opposed to the tangential ones - that I and others have raised?

Monday, October 10, 2005 7:33:00 pm  
Blogger paul said...

Private enterprise also puts a lot of its own money into the yartz, through sponsorships and purchase of works. It always amuses me that those most keen on userous taxation generally don't pay any themselves.
As to the ridiculous nature of disabled lesbian puppet theatre, I agree- most subsidised and publicly-funded art is ridiculous; if you mean the concept is silly, you haven't been to many fringe festivals (or the Brisbane Powerhouse). Any of these facilities and functions feature more bollocks than a testicle warehouse.

Monday, October 10, 2005 7:37:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Paul -

if you mean the concept is silly, you haven't been to many fringe festivals (or the Brisbane Powerhouse)

I don't doubt it. This doesn't, however, justify the case against the existence of such art simply because you or I think it's silly - as I'm sure you agree. I'm also sure you agree that it is those who demand that the state support art (that most think is silly) are also most reluctant to personally support the art they appreciate and promote. For if they did, it wouldn't need government support.

Monday, October 10, 2005 8:31:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Sorry, Waterton. I can't play right now. I am time poor. You'll have to play by yourself.

Monday, October 10, 2005 8:34:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Westmore said...

James Waterton said...

Also, Ian, I'm finding it difficult to see how anything you've said in your comment relates to Antony's or Marr's befuddled opinions on arts funding.

I'm sorry you didn't appreciate the irony.

As for your other comments, if you believe that business pays anywhere near the real cost of the infrastructure and services governments provide then you are greatly mistaken.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005 2:28:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005 9:18:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Um. Perhaps you should update your definition of irony, Ian. Remember, Alanis Morissette isn't the best source if you're wanting to improve your vocabulary!

if you believe that business pays anywhere near the real cost of the infrastructure and services governments provide then you are greatly mistaken.

Prove it. You can't. You're just speculating, based on a gut instinct borne out of distrust and lack of understanding of markets. That statement of yours betrays such a deep ignorance that I can barely be bothered. If it weren't for private enterprise we wouldn't have a government to provide infrastructure. How do you think governments get income? Private enterprise is the greatest social force for good we possess.

Anyway, we should re-focus on arts funding. What do you have to counter the arguments made against government arts funding given by boredinhk, Paul, myself etc above?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005 9:21:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

What percentage of the federal budget is spent on the arts?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005 10:32:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

If it's above 0 it's too high.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005 11:35:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

That goes for sport as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005 11:35:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

I see.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 7:35:00 am  

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