Sexual Harassment of Women in Australia’s Cultural Industries Must End, Says Arts Minister | Tony Burk
As the first minister to hold the joint arts, employment and labor relations portfolios, Tony Burke promises to use government policy to tackle allegations of sexual harassment within Australia’s cultural industries.
Speaking to Guardian Australia just before announcing the start of a seven-week nationwide consultation period on Friday, Burke said he had been following the growing controversies over the treatment of women in the performing arts industries closely. , while he was in opposition.
“I want to make sure that the national cultural policy addresses the particular challenges of the arts industries and within that policy there must be assurances of a safe workplace for women,” he said.
He cited allegations of systemic harassment and sexual assault within Australia’s music industry, including those revealed by singer Jaguar Jonze, and criticism of historical workplace culture at Sony Music that led to the ousting its longtime CEO, Denis Handlin, last year after more than 25 years. Burke also referred to allegations of inappropriate behavior made by actor Eryn-Jean Norvill against Geoffrey Rush, the airing of which led Rush to win a libel case against the Daily Telegraph. Burke said all were evidence of an industry marred by a work culture in need of serious overhaul.
Workplace culture reforms form part of one of the five pillars of the new government’s cultural policy plan, which takes as its starting point Labour’s short-lived Creative Australia plan, formed under the Gillard government, in which Burke briefly served as Minister of Arts.
That prior experience, along with the added urgency that Covid-19 has brought to a sector particularly hard hit by the pandemic, convinced Burke that there was no time to create a new policy from scratch.
Artists have learned the hard way during the pandemic, he said, that the government and large swaths of the community and media view them as non-essential. The terms and conditions of the Coalition Government’s Job Retention Scheme meant the majority of performers, largely dependent on short-term contracts or freelance payments, were ineligible for income support during the shutdowns.
While the country’s cutting-edge arts and cultural institutions have been kept afloat by the Morrison government’s $2 billion Rise (Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand) fund, many individual artists have been left with no income or safety net. when the pandemic hit.
While supporting the nation’s cultural institutions, both public and commercial, the Labor Party will resurrect the concept of the centrality of the individual artist, as articulated in Gillard’s previous policy, with First Nations artists given priority.
First Nations art and cultural practice will be the foundation of the government’s new arts policy, Burke said, which will also see the end of ministerial discretion and a return to the principles of independent decision-making in the allocation of funds. .
“There was never any transparency or due process that would explain how certain projects were funded and how others weren’t under Rise,” Burke said.
“I’m not necessarily critical of individual funding decisions, but I am overwhelmingly critical of the process that was used to achieve this. Although the decisions of the Australian Council are always criticized, I think we are in a situation where, despite all the challenges of independent funding, all other processes are worse.
The minister also promises to bring states and territories together to put in place tougher legislation to regulate ticket resale.
“There are a lot of problems with what resellers are doing,” he said. “They sell counterfeit notes, which undermines trust throughout the industry; they eliminate the direct relationship between the artist and the ticket buyer; and they rip people off.
“I don’t have the time or respect for companies like Viagogo and want to see what we can do to make sure the advertised ticket price becomes the paid ticket price.”
In 2020, the ACCC successfully sued Viagogo and the ticket resale platform was fined $7 million.
The government consultation will close on August 22. Burke said he expects to have a fully drafted national arts and culture policy by the end of the year.