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Monday, November 29, 2010

Monsters!

Since it looks like we're going to get a despicably malevolent Coalition Government in Victoria, who will immediately set about doing despicably malevolent things like cutting middle-class taxes and upping the numbers of police, I thought it might be interesting to have a long, nostalgic look back at all the achievements Labor have made for the arts*, in their past 11 years in government. Sadly they don't have any.

In retrospect it seems just about the best thing they did for the arts was have Lynne Kosky as the Arts Minister and the Minister for Transport at the same time. Kosky spent so much time implementing bad policies, giving these bad policies worse publicity, and generally stuffing up the public transport system, that she didn't have any left over to do the same for the arts. Whether this was inspired policy on the part of Bracks, or merely an accidental oversight, we have a lot to be grateful for.

On the other hand, we've also had horrible train poetry, and legal graffiti walls. People are probably too distracted by their MXs to bother with the train poetry, but you've got to wonder who the policy wonk was that came up with the idea of legal graffiti walls. 'Legal' and 'graffiti' are not words you'd want to place in a sentence together, after all. Having a legal graffiti wall is like screwing in an empty bottle into a light socket and then trying to turn it on - it doesn't work that way. The two policies pretty much typify how government has seen the arts in the last few years - give the bastards a wall or two in a public place and they'll be happy.

Then of course there was all that stuff about live music, pubs and clubs, etc. You may remember that Labor decided to deal with crime and alcohol-related violence by making things more difficult for licensed venues, etc. (This was of course in keeping with a general Labor approach of longstanding: if a small minority of people are causing trouble, make things more difficult for everybody. The people causing trouble may or may not stop, but it looks like you're doing something.) All of which may help you to understand the announcement by John Brumby, during the election campaign, of $25 million and an 'Australian Music HQ' for Melbourne. Though I have no idea what an Australian Music HQ is I guess it's something to do with education, which was especially thoughtful of Brumby - providing education for hundreds of talented young people who would not be able to play music anywhere in pubs and clubs which have already been shut down. Oddly most Victorians don't seem to have liked this idea much.

Compared to all this I really don't think the Liberals have done too badly. Ted Baillieu's speculated about Melbourne having a Nuit Blanche Festival where the pubs and clubs and bars and galleries and museums and theatres stay open all night, which is pretty much counter to anything Brumby's come up with - the idea that the arts could involve people partying and having fun! Of course, this would involve getting rid of the restrictions on 24-hour licensed venues. Not that this would be a bad thing.

You've got to give the Liberals and the Nationals time, of course. In a few years they'll come up with some really, nastily horrible stuff, like letting more private hospitals into the state so that less rich people have to use the public system - or something like that. In the meantime I rather like the Coalition policy on the arts. Yes, I actually like the sound of art being about people enjoying themselves and having fun, possibly even making money. I'm sick that way.

*As you will observe the author follows the generally established principle of all opinion writers: began with broad sweeping generalisations and then neatly and elegantly segue to one's own area of interest by means of an unexpected non-sequitur.

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