Laidlaw, Hon. Diana

26 Nov 2003 archivespeech
This speech is to express that the council congratulates the Hon. Diana Laidlaw for being awarded an honorary doctorate by Flinders University for her commitment to creating a supportive climate for the visual and performing arts in the state.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I move:

That this council congratulate the Hon. Diana Laidlaw for being awarded an honorary doctorate by Flinders University for her commitment to creating a supportive climate for the visual and performing arts in the state.

Other members' former colleague and my predecessor, the Hon. Diana Laidlaw, will become a doctor honoris causa of Flinders University for `her commitment to creating a supportive climate for the visual and performing arts in South Australia.' Di received several accolades in this place and in the other place, so I will try to be brief in my comments in support of this motion.

As minister for the arts, Di Laidlaw oversaw the establish¬ment of several new organisations for arts, including the Windmill Performing Arts for Children, the Cabaret Festival, the Festival of Ideas, and Wagner's Ring Cycle, which was staged in 1998 and which very successfully generated some $10 million in economic activity. She was also a very heavy advocate of Music Business Adelaide and Music House, the ASO, Country Arts SA and the Fringe Festival. One of her most significant contributions to this state has been in obtaining funding for redevelopment of the North Terrace precinct, the riverbank development ($13.5 million) and the West End and Hindley Street precincts.

Those four great institutions that benefited from her advocacy as minister for the arts included the Art Gallery, with extensions in 1996 which doubled the size of the gallery (that had been promised for many years by Labor but was delivered by Diana Laidlaw), the State Library ($40 million), the Festival Centre upgrade ($18 million) and the South Australian Museum ($20 million). They are some very significant infrastructure upgrades that were well in need of being carried out, and it took Diana Laidlaw to do it. The Liberal Party shadow minister for the arts, Martin Hamilton-Smith, has stated that it is now time to ensure that funding is getting to the artists themselves.

Diana Laidlaw was known as a reformist minister, and she cut through red tape that existed in the arts. When she took over the South Australian Film Corporation in 1993 it was in a bit of a sorry state, but it has gone on to become a stunning¬ly successful organisation. Some of its greatest highlights were the movie Shine, which received $2 million in funding (directly through Diana Laidlaw's intervention), and McLeod's Daughters, which was brought to South Australia by the member for Frome (Hon. Rob Kerin). In regard to the film industry, in 2000-01 South Australia recorded the highest level of direct film spending in its history—some $33 million. As arts minister, Diana Laidlaw obtained significant resources—and I remind the chamber that these were under difficult budgetary circumstances, thanks to the State Bank. Diana Laidlaw was a member of a cabinet whose members could perhaps be described as not naturally being the most frequent attendees of arts activities.

With the exception of a few of our notable colleagues here. Well over $100 million of capital funding has been spent in that portfolio, and $55 million has been committed under the new administration, which is all to the credit of Di Laidlaw and which was achieved through her passion and enthusiasm.

When mentioning someone's abilities and record, I think it is always worth comparing and contrasting it just to see what the other options are. The new Labor government's arts minister is none other than Premier Rann, who has followed in Don Dunstan's footsteps in taking on the arts portfolio while being Premier. While he may have taken on the role, his commitment to the arts has been quite different. In its first budget, Labor cut $3.3 million, in its second budget it cut $1.2 million, and that amounts to some $6.6 million over four years.

In The Advertiser of 10 June 2003 the state was warned that the pattern beginning to emerge under Labor is of a continuing decline in recurrent arts funding and a shut down on capital works. Some of the organisations that have suffered are country theatres, the Australian Dance Theatre (which lost funding of 26 per cent), youth arts groups, community arts groups, Music House and the Barossa Music Festival. In August this year, we saw the resignation of Arts SA director Kathy Massey.

Yesterday, however, we saw one of those cute reheat funding announcements, which was rather falsely claimed to be a funding boost, announcing the arts industry development grants. I would like to point out, for the benefit of The Advertiser, that it failed to highlight that recurrent funding for this program has decreased by $3.8 million over the coming four years. The Premier also has chosen to ignore the advice of the arts industry in advocating peer review as the best approach to the allocation of arts funding. Without peer review, of course, the Premier has the opportunity to cherry pick programs that will fit within the government's unwritten policy of maximising headlines and retaining funds in the lead-up to the 2006 election. There is a lack of genuine commitment, I would say, by the Minister for the Arts, and the arts do not really know where they stand.

The opening statement of the Premier in estimates this year revealed that funding was being redirected from smaller community-based (including several country) activities to `iconic Festival of Arts and the reborn Adelaide Film Festival'. It was also stated that `increasing community involvement in the arts at every level is one of the prime aims of the government'. I would say that that is a contradiction, given that the arts industry development grant funds have been cut and the funding redirected to these `iconic' (which is code for headline) programs.

In fact, in The Advertiser of 2 November 2002, it was predicted that `Mr Rann is embarking on the negative first half of a pork-barrelling exercise, and he might be taking his lead from Steve Bracks', and that `Mr Rann has bolstered major festivals but recurrent funding is markedly worse today than it was two years ago'. When arts organisations have made noises (understandably) that their funding has been cut, he has used the same sort of emotive language that he has used on lawyers and electricity companies of late: he told them to `grow up and stop whining'. I ask the government whether that is the sort of language that we ought to be using with any organisation, given that Mr Rann is the Leader of the Government in this state.

I have seen Di, and she looks well. But no doubt she is very disappointed at what has been happening to the arts that she worked so hard to build up in this state. Nevertheless, she has been recognised for her contribution and, as Professor Anne Edwards, the Flinders University Vice Chancellor, stated in the press release, the arts could have no better champion. I leave the chamber with a suggestion for the government. Russell Starke of the City Messenger, in noting Diana's receiving this award, suggested that she really ought to be recognised in some greater way. He said that Laidlaw's battles were just as tough and her success just as notable, in comparing her to Don Dunstan. His suggestion is to rename Festival Drive `Diana Laidlaw Way'.

I encourage the govern¬ment to consider that proposition and to stop being so dishonest and un-community minded in the way in which it treats the arts in this state. I commend the motion to the council.