Senate debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


Australia Council Amendment (Creative Australia) Bill 2023, Royal Commissions Amendment (Enhancing Engagement) Bill 2023; Second Reading

11:30 am

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—


This Bill is introduced to amend the Australia Council Act 2013 to support the implementation of the Albanese Government's new National Cultural Policy—Revive. The Bill will allow the Australia Council to operate under the name Creative Australia, and expand its functions to support the upcoming establishment of the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces, Music Australia, Writers Australia and the First Nations First body. This Bill delivers on our election commitment to transfer the functions of Creative Partnerships Australia to the Australia Council.

Since 1975, the Australia Council has been the principal Commonwealth arts investment and advisory body, with a strong profile in the arts sector. It supports and promotes creative arts practice that is recognised nationally and internationally, and provides research and advocacy on issues affecting the sector.

A restored and modernised Australia Council—to be known as Creative Australia—is the centrepiece of the Government's National Cultural Policy. It will strengthen the capacity of the Australia Council, provide for greater strategic oversight and engagement across the sector, and ensure that funding decisions continue to be made on the basis of artistic merit and at arm's length from Government. It will also include the establishment of independent bodies and funds for First Nations arts and culture, contemporary music and for writers, as well as a Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces.

The implementation of the Australia Council reforms under the National Cultural Policy will be staged to allow for necessary consultation across the sector, however there are a number of elements that require implementation from 1 July 2023 which are covered in this Bill.

The Bill provides for the Australia Council to operate under the name Creative Australia.

Additional functions in this Bill will also enable the Australia Council to commence work on the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces and Music Australia from 1 July 2023. A follow-up Bill will be introduced later this year to establish these bodies, which are critical in building partnerships and expertise that will both support artists directly and benefit Australian audiences. Consultation with the sector will continue, and will inform the legislation. It is important that we get the legislation right so we can open up the Government's principal arts funding body to more areas of the creative economy while increasing core funding.

The Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces will work with artists, industry workers and employers to raise and maintain standards, remuneration and safety for all art forms and arts organisations, and ensure matters are referred to relevant authorities, as appropriate. The Centre will ensure that companies will need to adhere to these standards as a condition of their government funding.

Music Australia will support the Australian music industry to grow, including through strategic initiatives and industry partnerships, research, training and skills development and export promotion. 2

The Bill will also provide authority for Creative Australia to deliver the functions of Creative Partnerships Australia, including to attract and recognise public sector, private sector, philanthropic and commercial support for, and investment in, the arts, and undertake research on the same. The transfer will leverage Creative Australia's expertise and bring together arts philanthropy and arts funding within one entity. It will create synergies between public and private partnerships, as well as government, philanthropic and commercial investment. This increased access to private sector funding for the arts will maximise the impact of public investment and support a sustainable arts sector.

The Bill also allows Creative Australia to assume responsibility for the Australian Cultural Fund, from 1 July 2023, including all donations made into the fund prior to the transfer. The Australian Cultural Fund is an important mechanism utilised by Creative Partnerships Australia to deliver its objectives to grow the culture of giving to arts and culture, bringing donors, businesses, artists and arts organisations together.

Through this legislation Creative Australia will assume responsibility to assist Australian artists and arts organisations to attract and maintain support from donors and businesses, diversifying their sources of revenue and encourage and celebrate innovation and excellence in giving to, and partnerships with, the arts and cultural sector.

This Bill includes transitional elements to support a smooth transfer of functions and ensure continuity of business between Creative Partnerships Australia and Creative Australia. These transitional elements cover the transfer of assets, liabilities, records and staff entitlements and will ensure that at the time of transfer, employees of Creative Partnerships Australia will be taken to be Creative Australia employees and receive equivalent accrued entitlements to benefits.

This Government is committed to improving the quality of Commonwealth investment in the arts sector, and to strengthening and streamlining access to support including for artists and arts organisations. A properly resourced Creative Australia is key to delivering on this commitment. The transfer of the functions of, and funding for, Creative Partnership Australia to Creative Australia will align with this objective. As will the expanded functions and new funding of $199 million over four years from 2023-24, announced as part of the National Cultural Policy.

Timely passage of this Bill will allow these initiatives to commence from 1 July 2023, for the broader benefit of the artists and arts organisations.

Full details of the measure are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum.


The death by suicide of any Australian is a tragedy.

Unfortunately, the rate of suicide among our veteran community is significantly higher than across the broader Australian community.

That is why the Government strongly supported calls to establish the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide while in opposition, and why we are acting swiftly in response to the findings and recommendations made by the Royal Commission in its Interim Report.

It is critical the Royal Commission hears from the broadest possible range of people who have stories or experiences relating to defence and veteran suicide. Individuals need to have the confidence that they can safely share these with the Royal Commission.

It is particularly important that people who have not yet engaged with the Royal Commission due to concerns about protecting their sensitive or personal information are encouraged to do so.

This Bill will make important amendments to the Royal Commissions Act 1902 to establish greater protections of certain sensitive information. The amendments will ensure people can engage with the Royal Commission knowing that that any information of a sensitive, personal or confidential nature they disclose can be protected during and after the life of the Royal Commission. This in turn will expand the information available to the Royal Commission on which to base its findings and recommendations.

The Roya l Commission's Interim Report

The Government welcomed the Royal Commission's Interim Report, which was released on 11 August 2022 and is available on the Royal Commission's website.

The Interim Report made 13 recommendations requiring urgent and immediate attention.

This Bill will implement recommendation 6(1) of the Interim Report.

Existing confidentiality protections in the Royal Commissions Act

The Royal Commissions Act already contains strong protections which ensure that sensitive information given to the Royal Commission can be kept confidential.

People can already share their experiences with the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide through private sessions. These allow information to be shared with the Royal Commission in a trauma-informed and less formal setting than a hearing, and there are significant protections in place regarding the use and disclosure of information given in private sessions, which apply both during a Royal Commission's inquiries and after it has concluded.

The Royal Commission is also able to use pseudonyms in public hearings and published material, and it is able to issue non-publication directions, which prevent the publication of sensitive information.

These protections are important mechanisms to ensure that information shared with a royal commission on a confidential basis will be treated confidentially. The amendments contained in this Bill extend those protections.

New confidentiality protections in the Bill

Due to the nature of this Royal Commission's inquiries, information that serving and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force, and their families, wish to share with the Royal Commission is often sensitive and highly personal.

The Royal Commission has made extensive use of private sessions as a way for people to share information in a confidential and trauma-informed way, having held over 250 private sessions to date.

People have also provided and will continue to provide sensitive information to the Royal Commission outside of private sessions, with an expectation that it will be treated confidentially. For example, individuals may provide confidential written statements or accounts to the Royal Commission, or may share information with a staff member supporting the Royal Commission's work during an interview.

It is appropriate and important that information provided in this way is protected in the same way as information given in a private session.

New clause 6OQ, which this Bill would insert into the Royal Commissions Act, will provide that certain information provided to the Royal Commission outside of a private session is protected in the same way as it would if it was given in a private session, if the Royal Commission treats that information as confidential at all times.

The confidentiality protections in the Bill would mean that:

          Archives Act 1983

        The protections established by this Bill would be available to any person who wishes to provide information to the Royal Commission about their experience or the experience of another person. This includes not just serving Australian Defence Force members, but also, for example, ex-serving members or family members.

        These new protections will give people assurance that if they have sensitive information to provide to the Royal Commission, such as highly personal accounts of their experiences or that of their loved ones, they will be able to do so in the knowledge that it can be kept confidential, even long after the inquiry has ended.

        New clause 6OQ has been modelled on existing section 6OP, which was enacted in September 2021 and established equivalent protections for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The introduction of section 6OP was sought, and subsequently welcomed, by the Disability Royal Commission and its stakeholders. In its Interim Report, the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide considered it appropriate and desirable that this same framework be made available to it, and the Government agrees.

        Consultation with stakeholders

        In developing this legislation, the Government has been mindful of the importance of consulting the section of the community that will benefit from these amendments.

        The Government has consulted with:

              There was strong support for the proposed amendments from the Royal Commission and among these stakeholder groups. The Royal Commission and stakeholder groups noted the deeply personal nature of the information that people wish to share with the Royal Commission, and the importance of being able to do so safely and confidentially.

              The Government is taking swift and comprehensive action in response to other recommendations of the Interim Report. For instance:

                      In the Federal Budget, the Government committed substantial funding to progressing responses to the recommendations in the Royal Commission's Interim Report, as well as significant funding of other measures devoted to providing long-term benefits for Defence personnel, veterans and families. The Government is committed to providing practical supports to support to Defence personnel, veterans and families to ensure a better future for the veteran community.


                      The Government wants people to come forward and share their stories and experience with the Royal Commission. This is crucial to ensuring the Royal Commission is able to obtain as much information as possible to inform its inquiries and support its ultimate findings and recommendations.

                      The Government recognises that in order for that to happen, people need to feel confident that any sensitive information they share, including highly personal accounts or experiences, will be kept confidential if it is communicated on that basis.

                      The Royal Commission recommended introducing similar protections to those legislated for the Disability Royal Commission in 2021.

                      The Government agrees that these protections should be legislated as a matter of priority. This is why the Government has introduced this Bill.

                      The measures in this Bill have been the subject of careful consideration by the Government and consultation with the Royal Commission and key stakeholders who will benefit from the new protections it will introduce. There is strong support for the protections proposed in the Bill to be in place as swiftly as possible.

                      Debate adjourned.

                      Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.