Sadly, today, 20th January, is both a designated Day of Action (and Mourning) because it marks the last day that ABC Radio National will air ‘The Daily Planet’, ‘The Inside Sleeve’ ‘The Live Set’, ‘The Rhythm Divine’, ‘Soundproof’ and ‘Jazztrack’. While “Jazztrack” will continue in digital format, the other shows have been “decommissioned” (an ABC and naval term for ‘terminated’, or sent for scrapping).
As the MJC has explained to our Minister for the Arts, this represents the greatest case of (post-indigenous) cultural vandalism in our history, and will cause irreparable damage to independent Australian music. In this huge country of ours, we like to talk of a national identity in the arts, yet with the tyranny of distance (and cost of touring nationally), how can this develop when this Government has destroyed the one national platform for effectively promoting and disseminating Australian music across the continent?
While our State Minister for the Arts, Martin Foley, has emphasised the overdue recognition of the arts as a major industry with the rebadging to “Creative Victoria”, our Federal Minister for the Arts, Senator Fifield, is – like several other Federal Ministers – seemingly ‘asleep at the wheel’. He was handed the portfolio after Senator Brandis was removed following his unpopular action in stripping $104 million from the Australia Council’s budget to fund his own arts funding scheme. While a significant percentage was returned to the Australia Council budget by Fifield, this action represented an unprecedented attack on the Australia Council (which had traditionally been treated as ‘arms length’ by both Labor and Coalition governments since its inception in the Whitlam era). Combined with the recurring interference with the management of the ABC by the Abbott/Turnbull governments, this has set a highly disturbing precedent for the politicalisation of both the ABC and Australia Council.
While everyone understands the need for budgetary restraint and responsibility, this seems to be unfortunately juxtaposed to the generous salaries given to outside appointments such as Michelle Guthrie, ABC Managing Director, or Ahmed Fahour, the CEO of Australia Post, whose salary package was estimated to be worth $4.8 million last year (let alone considering the pure hypocrisy of some Federal MP’s travel expenses, or Peter Dutton’s wine bill in Washington).
However, in a country which spends very significant amounts on supporting sport, surely ABC Radio National’s budget is relatively not that sizeable as to require such drastic action (that is, if our politicians did actually value our Australian “voice” in the arts).
Therefore, if you have not done so already, please consider signing the online petition at Change.org, and spreading the link to it and the website www.savernmusic.com. And it would be a good think to tell your Federal member what you think about this…
This last week I was fortunate enough to visit a friend of my late father’s in Mildura, who recently turned 99. A highly decorated WWII veteran, and a very successful orchardist, he has always cared for the environment, and thought about how he could contribute for what is best for this country long-term. Frightened about climate change, he bemoans the short-sightedness and lack of vision from our current politicians. Unfortunately, real ‘vision’ seems to be in short supply in Canberra these days, and this ABC tragedy is just another instance (sadly). The legacy we inherit is often thoughtlessly and irredeemably ‘trashed’ in the name of budgetary rationalism, and then the perpetrator blithely moves on (as happened with the management of Stonnington Jazz).
PS: To read comments by some of our leading musicians (Paul Grabowsky, Kutcha Edwards, Shane Howard, Joe Camilleri, Deborah Conway, et al), visit the “Hands off Radio National Music!” or their website www.savernmusic.com