Labor will today launch its plan for Arts Policy: Renewing Creative Australia. The plan puts a renewed focus on the telling of Australian stories through all art forms. 

This election will be a choice between a united Shorten Labor Government, which will restore the arts and culture in Australia, or more of the Liberals’ cuts and chaos. 

The policy announcements contained in the policy include: 

  • Restore a National Cultural Policy by renewing Creative Australia. 
  • Restoring the “Brandis cuts” to the Australia Council. 
  • Support for existing First Nations theatre companies to become major performing arts companies and the establishment of a new First Nations theatre company to produce, co-produce, and commission new work as well as provide skills development in the sector. 
  • Funding for the ABC and SBS for scripted drama, children’s television and music. 
  •  Support for live performance venues. 

For the last six years there has been no policy framework for the sector, only cuts and chaos. 

Labor supports a vibrant arts sector, telling our stories to each other and the world. 

The Liberals have only bought chaos and cuts to the arts. 

Labor’s full policy can be found here

Funding for this commitment has been included in Labor’s Fair Go Budget Plan, available at





This election can throw up a few surprises, but I didn’t expect Saturday afternoon at the Espy so this is a good one. 

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

And if we want to start with storytelling, how lucky are we in Australia that for sixty or seventy thousand years of continuous connection to country we’ve got the greatest tradition of storytelling of any continent, of any nation in the world and I pay my respects to our First Nations People. 

You know there were some lovely performances just before, so amazing, so clever. It just gets you thinking how good we are as a people if we just give our people a chance. 

So, Tony’s outlined so many of the accomplishments that have happened despite the last six years of government. But I want to explain to you why I think arts are important for our nation. Why it should be important to a party who seeks to form a government. Because for me when I think about the arts and that marvellous collective term that that comprehends, it’s not just a particular performance, it’s not just a particular form of presentation. 

For me, when I think about the arts I think about our identity. How we tell our story, who we are as a people, how do we go forward and explain to the rest of the world and to future generations who we are. 

How do we, as Whitlam would say, liberate the talents of our people and uplift our horizons? 

For me, arts policy is not an add on. It’s not something which you do as an afterthought or a footnote to other matters. For a Labor Government, if you choose to vote for us, we put our story of our arts at the centre of what we do as a nation. The arts is a political issue, the arts does deserve attention and support, the arts does deserve to have a government at least as brave and at least as creative as our own Australian artists and that’s what we will give you next Saturday if you vote Labor.

I was trying to visualise what this country would be like without Australian artists. To visualise what a dull and boring proposition we would be. To take away all of our artists as if they were miraculously taken somewhere else and what would be left with. We wouldn’t be left with the dynamic society we want to see in the mirror.

But, really, the proposition I want to put to you today is not our policy – it’s a fantastic policy you should know you all helped write it. It is a down payment on our future. It’s a down payment on our story telling. It’s an investment in our people. It’s an investment in all those parents who encouraged their kids to take up the creative arts at school. It’s an investment in our music and our dramatic arts teachers at those schools. It’s an investment not only in our fulltime musicians and performers but our part time musos and art time performers. But, fundamentally we’ve got seven days people, to help change the nation.

You make your judgement on our arts policy – I reckon it’s a ripper. But I want you to exercise your judgement and I’m here to enlist you in something even bigger than the arts.

This nation is at a turning point. We’re like a nation where the door is ajar but we haven’t quite pushed through it to the next destination. Next year we will be 20 years through the 21st century. This country hasn’t done enough in the last 20 years of our new century. We don’t have the time on our side to wait. To become a mediocrity. To become a conservative backwater frightened of the future, frightened of our neighbours, frightened of taking action on climate change, frightened of treating people equally.

This nation is at tipping point. Do we really want three and six and nine more years of this conservative government? Are we really satisfied with the last six years and the lack of progress as a nation?

As a nation we’ve become more unequal. Our carbon pollution’s increased. We’ve become a more divided society less tolerant of each other, where we see majorities and minorities arguing and criticising each other in a way which I don’t think we thought was the case as we finished the 20th century. 

This nation is at a tipping point. The door is ajar but the question we ask ourselves in the remaining seven days of this election is: Are we a nation with the courage and the hope to push through that door into the future? Or do we just accept more of the same?

There are vested interests in this nation who do not agree with Labor’s priorities. You will not see the conservatives having an arts policy launch when they don’t even have a policy. But that’s not stopping their launch tomorrow on other matters.

But for them the arts is something to be suspicious of. To be cut. To tell people what they should produce and how they should perform. We see that in the cuts to the ABC for example but not just that., this nation is at a tipping point. 

So whilst I present our arts policy to you and the greater arts community I’m actually here to ask something of you: I’m here to ask you to use your capacities for creativity, for telling the story – just like that marvellous video at the start. I ask you in the next seven days, to not just perform and create and write and sing and design.

In the next seven days I’m saying to you this is a very close election. This is an election where the nation makes a decision to embrace the next decade of our century with hope not fear, with optimism not pessimism, with a sense of looking forward and not looking back, with a sense of including all of us, not just leaving people behind.

Tony’s right, what this community does and all of its marvellous extensions and forms is remarkable. But I’m asking the whole arts family of Australia – all those marvellous music teachers who perform on weekends and teach our kids during the week, all of the comedians, all of the designers, all of the technical experts – I’m saying to you that if you want a bolder, brighter vision for Australia, if you want not just to tell the Australian story but tell a bigger Australian story -tell a story of hope, tell a story of fairness, tell a story that says we are capable of meeting challenges and letting our best selves be our best selves going forward. 

We need you. I need you to exercise your judgement. I need you to exercise your energy.

In a campaign you make choices about where you go and what you do and what you say. I made a choice to back in lower paid Australians over the wealthy. I made a choice to reform the taxation system, the intergenerational scam against our young and the income earners.  We made a choice not to retreat on real action on climate change but to say, ‘we can do this together.’ I make a choice that we treat women equally to men and the presentation of our MPS, so many being women, right through to equal pay. I can make this choice. Labor can make a choice. But I need you.

I love our arts industry. I love our creative sector. I love what you do. I love the stories you tell, the hope you give, the joy you bring, the talents you fulfil. 

But today I say that if you like what you see, if you bemoan the lack of vision and passion in politics, if you think that the system is broken, if you think that the fix is in and the top end of town or the vested interests seem to get what they want and everyone else gets very little at all. If you think you would like to see a better politics, a more civil politics, a less toxic politics a less hate ridden One Nation, Pauline Hanson, Clive Palmer style cynicism of Australian politics. If you want to see better, then I’m going to ask you in the next seven days; tell your friends, tell your colleagues, tell your families, tell you audiences.

What we will get on May the 19 is the government that we fight for. What we get on May 19, on the Sunday after the election, what we get next weekend is the government that we want to see in the mirror of our own identity. 

You are the best story tellers this nation can produce in every form and creative medium possible. But I’m putting it on you today. It is not enough. What we now need is action, not words. 

What we now need is to change the government of Australia to stop the chaos and write Australia big for the next decade. 

We’ve got the plan and the vision and with you we’ve got the energy and capacity.

Let us bring this home together in the next seven days. Thank you very much.