Thursday 26 May 2005
Budget Response - Arts Funding

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I just want to continue on from some comments I made yesterday in my budget response. Here we are running the highly successful operation of imported culture from islands around the world for Ten Days on the Island while we seem to be neglecting exporting our own island culture. I referred to the dismal and at times cumbersome funding for Tasmania's culture exports in my budget response yesterday.

Some do get funding. I talked about a trip to Japan. The members get $250 each. Another group was given $10 000, the sing-along choir last year, but felt that they had to jump through hoops to in fact secure that funding.

Ms Thorp - You cannot give money away lightly.

Mr FINCH - You might be right too. I think we need to consider more and I am going to elaborate on the tremendous potential that we have for displaying Tasmania's culture around the world which might just get through to government members to perhaps think about securing some more funding for those people who are going to present Tasmania in the best light around the world. A good example of the potential was the Tasmanian Ensemble that went to Aichi to the World Expo.

The four ensemble members performed from 14 to 18 May to rapturous audiences. That ensemble includes Ben Austin, 14 years of age, a wonderful pianist from my electorate; guitarist, Tom Ward, aged 22; soprano, Di Briffa, and tenor, John De Jong; and their promoter/manager, Susie Clarke, accompanied them to Japan. They were invited to perform at the World Expo by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, an invitation which I would imagine just did not come about out of the blue or by luck, but no doubt through a lot of hard work by Susie Clarke.
Susie reports that 5 000 visited the Australian pavilion during the first six weeks of the expo which runs until 25 September. I will quote from her report of the visit:

'When we first arrived at the huge spectacular Expo grounds on May the 14th, a group of Tasmanians in our black polo shirts bearing our Tasmanian logo as well as our JBoags and Sons logo on our sleeves, and a map of Tasmania and names of our artists on our backs, we felt very lost amongst the continuously moving multitude of people.'

Not so, Mr President, when they appeared for their first public performance before an audience of 1 000 people and there were calls from the audience of bravo and very loud applause after each performance. So well were they received by the Japanese audiences that they were under pressure to perform privately on a number of occasions during the visit, which they did. An Australian government representative, Paul Molloy, said the Tasmanian Ensemble was a highlight of Australia's cultural program. He told a Japanese function that all Australians were proud of the ensemble and Tasmania was a beautiful place with a vibrant and sophisticated arts scene that Japanese visitors could enjoy. Australian Expo executives were so pleased with the ensemble that two of its members, as I mentioned yesterday, Ben Austin and Tom Ward, will return to the expo to perform again in August and September, but this time with all their expenses paid.

The impact of this cultural visit and its importance to Tasmania could perhaps best be illustrated by a phone call to Susie Clarke from the Japanese executive, Mr Andy Sumino, who is a tourism consultant. He is also chairman of the policy-making group with the Japanese Academic Society of Tourism and he owns hotels in Japan and America - 40 in Japan and 50 in America. He wanted to meet her and those two younger artists of the ensemble when they return in August to discuss some transactions with him. Susie Clarke's report says that the visit demonstrated that not only is Tasmania known for its beautiful scenery, its clean, green image, but also its cultural richness. She says that many of the Japanese and Chinese people that they met are now interested in visiting Tasmania. Mr President, this all speaks for itself. Tasmania has a great opportunity to promote itself through exporting our culture. Enthusiastic and hardworking groups like the Tasmanian Ensemble need greater recognition in Tasmania and greater support and funding from the State Government.