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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Cultural Ministers Council endorsement of Indigenous Art Code of Conduct; Wellington Weir; Hey, Hey it's Saturday skit

E&OE Transcript
Doorstop interview
Tandanya, National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide
9 October 2009

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GARRETT: Today is an important day for Indigenous visual artists because arts ministers in Adelaide have endorsed a Code of Conduct, an industry Code of Conduct. This is an important step, an election commitment of this Government and I now look forward to the industry putting a Code in practice and I look forward to Indigenous artists having the additional security of a Code as they go about the business of producing work and knowing that they can do it in an environment which has got strong and clear measures in place to support good ethical practice in Indigenous visual arts.

JOURNALIST: Minister, how can you be sure that artists are being paid fairly with a voluntary code and when there don't appear to be any sanctions in the Code?

GARRETT: Well the Government took the view that it was important to work with industry to determine the best way forward for advancing ethical practice for Indigenous visual artists and that a voluntary code was the appropriate measure at this point in time. And by so doing, all those parties who sign up for the Code, if there is instances of behaviour or activity that isn't ethical, then clearly the committee will look at that and there is always the potential for them to no longer be signatories to the Code.

Additionally, I will give this Code once it is in place, two years to prove its effectiveness. So I think the onus is on the industry to show that by a voluntary code it can produce an ethical framework for dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait artists.

I have every good wish that they can have success in doing that but we will look very closely at the progress of the Code, once implemented, and if after a period of some two years, we don't believe that the Aboriginal artists are properly taken into account and their interests properly taken into account through the way in which the Code has been considered, then we will consider other measures.

JOURNALIST: So would you make it mandatory?

GARRETT: Well, at this point in time let us give this Code an opportunity to both be implemented and to be put in place and let us consider, after a sensible period of time which is some two years, its success.

JOURNALIST: The Code still allows for artists to be paid in non-monetary forms, presumably with cars but it could be anything. Are you comfortable with that?

GARRETT: Well the advice of the tax office was clear, that the Code ought to enable those sorts of payments, which are legal to continue. They would be payments which would have to be registered and noted under the Code, by dealers or by others. And I am sure that if those payments in whatever form they are made are properly noted and recorded by the entities, the Code has every opportunity to consider whether or not there are unethical aspects relating to any particular transaction.

Remember that the Code places a premium on the ethical management of the transaction, of the interaction between Indigenous artists, dealers and galleries. And so as a consequence of that the committee will have an opportunity to consider specific instances that come before them in relation to any number of matters including that one.

JOURNALIST: So the safeguards are in place so that artists won't be ripped off?

GARRETT: Well there is no doubt at all that this is a really substantial step forward. It provides a very clear and prescribed framework for ethical activities to be undertaken in relation to Aboriginal art and it also provides the Code administration committee with the means of determining whether or not those activities that are drawn to its attention do in fact breach the Code or not.

JOURNALIST: But you can't guarantee though, you can't guarantee that there won't be exploitation because there will be other parties who aren't party to the Code and even people in the Code. I mean it is very difficult to say what is ethical and what is not ethical I would have thought?

GARRETT: Well the Code is very clear...

JOURNALIST: So can you guarantee that there won't be anymore exploitation?

GARRETT: Well no one can stand in front of you and make guarantees about human behaviour. What we can do is say that we have put in place a Code of Conduct which we think provides the industry with every opportunity to ensure that there is ethical treatment in relation to Indigenous visual artists.

Now that has been the concern, that our Indigenous artists haven't been subject to ethical treatment. We are putting place a Code of Conduct for the industry. It is not a government Code, I need to stress that, it is an industry Code. It has been developed in consultation with the industry, it has the support of much of the industry and I urge all of the industry to get involved and recognise that this Code can play a really important role in ensuring that there is much better, ethical treatment of Indigenous artists.

JOURNALIST: How many people have actually signed up to the Code so far?

GARRETT: Well at this point in time, the decision of cultural ministers today is to endorse the Code. It will now be a case of the Code administration committee being formed, doing the work to invite all those portions of the Indigenous arts industry to sign up.

I expect and very much hope that we will have a Code implemented by the end of the year and I am looking forward to seeing how many people sign up and I hope many, many do.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just on another matters, your decision on the Wellington Weir here in South Australia is due by Monday. Have you come to a conclusion on that yet?

GARRETT: Look I am giving consideration as to whether or not I do require additional information in relation to making that decision. I am aware of the timelines and at this point in time I am giving some thought as to whether or not I will actually require additional information and I will make an announcement soon.

JOURNALIST: Mr Garrett just on a completely different topic, do you have an opinion towards the Hey, Hey it's Saturday 'Red Faces' skit that was on recently?

GARRETT: Look, I didn't see the skit, I don't have an opinion on it, I know that they have apologised and I think that all of us will probably now move on.

Thanks.

[ENDS]

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