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Doorstop Interview, NPY Womens's council
8 June 2010
GARRETT: It is fantastic to be here in Alice Springs today to announce the delivery of significant support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture across a range of programs - the Indigenous Broadcasting Program, the program that supports Aboriginal art centres in remote and regional and urban Australia, Maintenance of Indigenous Languages programs and others. And to do so on the eve of the beginning of a resale royalty scheme for visual artists in Australia which we believe will provide significant benefit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists in particular.
The boom that we have seen in Indigenous art over the last 15-20 years has meant that the values of work that people have painted, sometimes in remote communities, has gone up dramatically. And yet, because we haven't had a resale royalty scheme in place, artists have not been able to benefit from those increased values which we have seen happen both here in Australia and overseas. That will now change. And Australia's visual artists including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders join with artists around the world in some other 50 countries who now have resale royalty right.
And I am very pleased that we have been able to bring this through the parliament and I think this is a landmark day for Australian visual artists and a landmark for Australia's art and culture generally.
JOURNALIST: There are media reports already branding this as similar to the insulation scheme and catastrophic. What do you say to this pre-emptive backlash?
GARRETT: Well, I just think that it is time for people to recognise that there has been a great deal of notice provided for this resale royalty scheme; that we have gone through a comprehensive tender process to appoint the Copyright Agency to administer the scheme, and that there has been a significant degree of consultation underway. And it is time for art dealers and the art industry to come on board and recognise that this is an important scheme which provides a long-term benefit for Australia's visual artists. And I would say that the last minute concerns and anxieties that people have will be well settled as we start to roll this scheme out. I am very confident of the mechanisms that will be put in place to make sure the scheme works effectively. And I am absolutely positive that it will provide the benefits for Australia's visual artists that the government intends them to receive.
JOURNALIST: .galleries in Alice Springs, though, saying there is going to be huge amounts of paperwork and that there is just bureaucracy, and they just can't deal with this. It is actually going to be defective for the industry?
GARRETT: Again, what I would say to those dealers and others is that it is well within their capacities to be able to effectively and prudently administer a retail royalty scheme of this kind.
After all, they have a primary responsibility to make certain that they properly record and identify the work that they sell. They have to do that for taxation purposes. And there is absolutely no reason at all why they cannot put in place effective mechanisms to enable this scheme to be rolled out.
Let's face it, songwriters receive their royalties of varying values, sometimes from complex collection arrangements. Authors receive their royalties similarly. There is no reason why artists can't as well.
JOURNALIST: A lot of art galleries are concerned about how to track down the artists. How will the government ensure that the money will actually reach the artists and the families?
GARRETT: The whole purpose of this scheme is to make sure that we have an orderly collection of appropriate material and information about the sale of work and who the artist is. And also, the capacity, ongoing, to ensure that those artists actually receive the income that they are due. And my expectation is that the Copyright Agency will provide the necessary information and communication to artists to make sure that they know what their rights are.
You know what, we are on the brink of something really good today - something which will provide positive benefits for artists into the future. And I am very, very confident that both the art industry - the dealers and the artists themselves - will be able to work through any issues that arise as we unfold the scheme to make sure that they get the benefits that they deserve.
JOURNALIST: Yet the ABC has contacted a lot of Central Australian artists today to get comment about this scheme and most of them, in fact all of them outside of Alice Springs, said they don't actually know anything about it. Whose responsibility is it to actually inform the artists of what they are entitled to?
GARRETT: The fact that we now have in place a resale royalty scheme means that every time we have a resale of work by an Aboriginal artist, or by a non-Aboriginal artist, the fact of that scheme will come into play on that resale. And that will provide the necessary guidance and understanding for artists that are involved.
Be aware of the fact that the Copyright Agency has already extensively consulted with the industry. Be aware also that Aboriginal art organisations and Aboriginal art centres will be in receipt of the necessary information about that. And they too will be able to communicate to their artists.
I just have to say to people that we are on the brink of something very special and very good. This is a scheme that has been welcomed by the majority of visual artists in this country. It has been welcomed by Aboriginal art organisations and by most Indigenous artists. And there is a reason for that. It is a good scheme. It will provide them with some economic benefit for the value of their work when it goes up over time. And putting in place mechanisms and processes in order to make that happen is well within our capacity in Australia in 2010.
JOURNALIST: Is it the government's responsibility or arts industry's responsibility?
GARRETT: Well, we all want to make sure that there is significant opportunities for people to understand and be aware of that scheme. And I am absolutely confident that that is going to happen. It is already happening and it will continue to happen.
JOURNALIST: So how will they receive that information because the art galleries say it is not their responsibility to pass it on?
GARRETT: Well, you know, let's be very clear about the way in which a transaction will occur once this scheme is in place. There will be a responsibility on the part of galleries, through the collecting agency, to ensure that if a work falls within the remit of the scheme then the right is recognised and the benefit is paid.
So what I would say is that the galleries need to get behind the scheme. They need to recognise that we came into government with a promise to bring forward a resale royalty scheme - we have delivered on that scheme. And we did it on the basis of initial recommendations, not only by the Senate committee, but by others expert in the field. We did it with the very strong support of the art industry, in Central Australia and in northern Australia - the Aboriginal art industry. And we did it in a way which provided surety for a scheme which is simple - it is not complex in nature.
And seeing as we are on the day before this scheme is introduced, I am very confident that if I stand in front of you in three to six months time, people will have had an opportunity to bring that scheme into play, they will have an opportunity to work out how they want to administer their own specific paperwork and reporting requirements, as are required. And that they will be able to manage that very effectively and without too much fuss or bother.
JOURNALIST: Is the government absolutely confident there won't be a drop in the sales of art or is that a necessary victim, I guess, of implementing a scheme that is benefiting the artists.
GARRETT: The trajectory of the sales of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art over time continues to rise. There may be ups and downs in the visual art market depending on economic conditions and other matters but, over time, I am very confident that we will see increased value in the work that is produced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and that we will see a return, an economic benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander painters both here in Central Australia and right around Australia.
JOURNALIST: Have there been projections? Has the government done projections, is there a time period when there will be a drop?
GARRETT: Well no government has a crystal ball that can predict the future direction of the art market. What we can say is that based on past evidence, it is very clear that the Indigenous art market is one which has been subject to continuing growth over time. That is my expectation, over time. It is also my expectation that a resale royalty scheme will provide Indigenous artists with the benefits of that growth.
JOURNALIST: What evidence do you have that there has been growth because a lot of the galleries today are saying that the industry is quite flat at the moment?
GARRETT: Galleries may have a view on where the market is sitting today, in June in 2010. The fact of the matter is that if we draw a line between the period when people were sitting in the town of Papunya and starting to produce that work a number of decades ago, through to where we were sitting 10 years ago in terms of the value to the market, to where we are sitting today, it is very clear that the value of the market, over time, is increasing.
JOURNALIST: Can we move briefly to other issues. What has been the fallout from your revelations on Sky in relation to the emissions trading scheme and your knowledge of it? Penny Wong says it was a cabinet decision.
GARRETT: I have already spoken to this and made clear that all matters that constituted the decisions, including that matter, were approved by the cabinet. I made those remarks in the context of an article that appeared in a newspaper at a preliminary stage. I've said all I need to say about it, I think that is understood.
JOURNALIST: Briefly, we are in Central Australia and there has recently been another death at Uluru. Does that change your mind about moving forward with the management plan for the park? Is it necessary for action to happen earlier?
GARRETT: It is a terrible thing when we have a fatality at Uluru but we laid out a series of steps which we wanted to go through in order to determine whether or not the climb ought to be closed as a matter of course. We will continue to work through those processes that we outlined when we made that original announcement.
JOURNALIST: Have you had pressure from traditional owners and people from that area about trying to speed up that process after that incident?
GARRETT: There hasn't been any specific communication to me on that matter other than an affirmation that we had at the beginning that this was the right way to approach it. We are acting consistent with the wishes of the board and I think we laid out a fairly orderly process to consider ultimately the decision about closure of the climb, or not, and we'll just stick to those processes and see them through.