New arts minister Mitch Fifield has shown his true colours in continuing the Abbott government’s antipathy toward the arts sector, starting with $20 million in cuts to our national cultural institutions.

During a Senate estimates hearing it emerged that the six flagship institutions in Canberra – the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the Film and Sound Archive and National Library – have been forced to absorb the massive cut, starting with more than $3 million in this financial year.

None of the institutions could rule out job losses as a result of the cuts that were implemented without notice just before Christmas last year.

It is unfeasible that these $20 million in cuts can be absorbed without impacting on services, forcing the institutions to consider reducing programmes and beg private donors for money.

“It is clear that Senator Fifield is reading from the script handed down by the Abbott government which had no respect for the arts in Australia. Nothing has changed. Mr Turnbull was all smiles at the National Gallery when he opened the Tom Roberts exhibition last year, but he can't mask the effect of these cuts,” Shadow Minister for the Arts Mark Dreyfus said.

“Australians love their national cultural institutions and are proud of them. This government, which pretends to be a friend of the arts community, should be ashamed.”

“Canberra, as the home to several national institutions, proudly plays the role as the custodian of a great deal of our national culture and history. The boards and staff of these institutions have no alternative but to look at job losses, reducing programmes and turning to private supporters as a way of ensuring they can continue their service to the Australian community,” Senator for the ACT, Katy Gallagher said.

“The $20m savings will not be able to be found without impacting on services or on Canberra - it's as simple as that.”


Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness and the Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on State and Territory Relations.

This is a joint release with Labor's Shadow Arts Minister Mark Dreyfus MP.