The 2022-23 Budget is grim for Australia’s arts and entertainment sector, with overall Federal Government spending on its Arts and Cultural Development Program declining by 20% from almost $1 billion in 2021-22 to $800 million this year and a further decline to around $740 million per year over the forward estimates.

These cuts represent a return to pre-covid levels, as shown in the chart below:

Federal Arts and Cultural Development program 2016-17 to 2025-26 Economic value; Source: Agency Budget Statements, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

This return to pre-covid funding is problematic for many reasons. Even pre-pandemic, Australian Government spending on culture was among the lowest in the OECD, at 0.9% of GDP. Nordic nations by contrast were far higher – Iceland’s 3% being the highest in the OECD, with Norway (1.8%), Denmark and Finland (around 1.5%) and Sweden (1.3%) all exceeding the OECD average of 1.2%.

As importantly, the sector is still reeling from the pandemic when much of the sector shut down entirely. The two years of above average spending shown above have not been sufficient, particularly given the problems with distribution of Federal assistance. Many workers were ineligible for JobKeeper and the relief package was slow to be rolled out and poorly designed, with many artists and smaller organisations missing out.

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