Thursday, 26 November 2015
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for the Arts, Senator Fifield. Can the minister confirm that Senator Brandis, in his final days as arts minister, approved a grant of $2.4 million to the Australian World Orchestra? Can he further confirm that Senator Brandis's arts policy adviser at the time was a former board member of the Australian World Orchestra?
I thank Senator Bilyk for that question. Senator Bilyk asks about the Australian World Orchestra. It is true that the government has committed funding of $2.42 million over four years to the Australian World Orchestra to support its operational costs and program delivery from 2015-16 to 2018-19. I think we would all agree that that was an extremely good use of funds. It is a terrific program, and I know that Senator Brandis was delighted to be able to find the resources to support that particular opportunity for that organisation. I note that those opposite are doing what they often do—that is, seeking to pull staff into matters. My understanding is that he was formerly a board member of the Australian World Orchestra, but that that role ceased before he took the position with the Attorney—and then arts minister—as is entirely appropriate. So my response in summary would be that there is nothing to see here.
I think it is important to make the point at the outset that the former arts minister's chief of staff handled all matters in the office in relation to the orchestra. I know the dots that those opposite are seeking to join, but I think that is an important place for me to start. The question really is: what was the approval process for this funding? The former minister provided approval on 17 September 2015 under the Financial Framework (Supplementary Powers) Act 1997. The proposal was assessed as representing an efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of public resources and meeting the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines. The Minister for the Arts assessed the proposal against the Arts and Cultural Development Program outcome of 'Participation in and access to Australia's arts and culture through developing and supporting cultural expression'. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that this is at least the third tranche of funding for the Australian World Orchestra under the former Minister for the Arts Senator Brandis? How many millions of dollars has been allocated to the Australian World Orchestra since the coalition came to power and will the organisation continue to receive the same largesse under the new minister?
Thank you, Senator Bilyk, for that question. I can share with the senator something I am sure she will be delighted to know. In 2012-13 the Australian World Orchestra received $100,000 to support the orchestra's operational cost—and, if I am not mistaken, that might have been under the previous government.
My point of order goes to direct relevance. I know the minister wants to grasp for a grant of $100,000 or thereabouts to justify the millions of dollars that this minister allocated, but the question was about the millions of dollars that this minister, Senator Brandis, allocated to this organisation.
Thank you, Senator Wong. That was part 2 of the question. There were three parts to the question. The first part was: is this the third tranche? I think the minister is entitled to explain how many tranches there were. I do not know the details of the answer. I am just saying that the question was: is this the third tranche? You have a further point of order, Senator Wong?
Yes. Again, it goes to direct relevance. What you have just read out, Mr President, does not reflect the first part of the question. The question was: can the minister confirm this is at least the third tranche of funding for the orchestra under the former Minister for the Arts Senator Brandis? That is an entirely different proposition from the one the minister is answering.
I can confirm that this is the fourth tranche of money—the first tranche of money being allocated by the previous government. And what a good thing it is that there is broad support across the chamber—
Again, it goes to direct relevance. The question was: how many millions of dollars has been allocated to the orchestra since the coalition came to power and will the organisation continue to receive the same largesse under the new minister? Does the minister not think taxpayers are entitled to an answer to that question?
There is funding which has been allocated under this government and there is funding which has been allocated under the previous government. As I have indicated, it is several million dollars and I will seek the exact figure and come back to colleagues. (Time expired)