Australian actors respond to budget
Actors Equity is relieved that the most extreme recommendations of the audit commission report – notably the proposal to halve Screen Australia’s funding and merge it with the Australia Council – have not been picked up in the federal government’s Budget.
“However it still seems that the arts has taken more than its fair share of pain,” said Equity director Sue McCreadie.
“The cuts to Screen Australia ($38m over four years) and the Australia Council ($28.2m) are well beyond what we would expect from an efficiency dividend”.
Actor Richard Roxburgh, co-creator, producer and star of the critically acclaimed Rake, said: “Government support in the form of extra funds for ABC drama, the producer offset, and ongoing support for Screen Australia has really paid off. Our screen industries are currently thriving and this ongoing support has enabled Australian actors such as myself to work on great shows such as Rake in our home country.
“The cuts to Screen Australia funding are significant even if the most alarming predictions haven’t come to pass. It would be a great shame if this resulted in fewer projects being funded at a time when our Australian screen industry – particularly television drama – has found its stride and is making its mark internationally,” said Roxburgh.
Rake received Screen Australia funding as well as being a beneficiary of additional funding to the ABC for drama production.
Sue McCreadie said that while the $35 million cut to the ABC’s base funding, at 1% a year, were modest compared to some predictions, the description of these initial cuts as a down-payment for the ABC/SBS review were of concern.
“The extra funds provided in recent years to the ABC for drama production are no longer quarantined, leaving drama, comedy and children’s drama potentially vulnerable. We will be taking every opportunity to make the case that the efficiency cuts, by definition, should not affect ABC programming. Any cuts that make audiences the poorer should not proceed”.
The budget cuts impacting on the screen and arts sectors include:
• A cut of $38m over four years to Screen Australia, which includes $25m reduction in the agencies appropriation and $10m savings from terminating the Australian Interactive Games Fund
• A cut of $28.2m to the Australia Council over four years, which is likely to impact smaller companies and individual artists and could put the newly created ‘unfunded excellence’ grants in doubt
• A cut of $43m over four years to the ABC and SBS, representing a 1% cut to base funding