By Michelle Grattan
Next month’s budget will provide $535.3 million extra over four years for nine major cultural and historical institutions.
The funding will go to the Australian National Maritime Museum, Bundanon Trust, Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House), National Archives of Australia, National Film and Sound Archive, National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia, National Museum of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
The money includes the $33 million earlier announced for the National Library’s digital archive Trove.
The government also promises that beyond the four years, the institutions will get indexed funding.
“Our institutions will be able to meet their financial obligations and invest for the future knowing they finally have a government that values them just as the Australian people do,” a statement on the funding says.
The government says it will “establish clear line of sight over future capital works and improvements to ensure the institutions never again fall into the state of disrepair they did over the last decade”.
But it has not abolished the “efficiency dividend” requirement that has been a bane of the institutions over many years.
Finance Minister Katy Gallagher this week defended the efficiency dividend, telling The Canberra Times it was appropriate as long as the funding was adequate.
“Putting a productivity efficiency component into any funding I think is a responsible part of government and making sure we keep the budget on a sustainable footing,” she said.
The efficiency dividend dates from the 1980s and has been again criticised by the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents staff at the institutions.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the extra funding was another example of his government having to clean up the mess left by the Coalition.
Arts Minister Tony Burke said the former government had left the institutions in “a shocking state of disrepair” and the funding would get them “back to where they should be – where the government delivers strong core funding and philanthropists take them to the next level”.
The financial squeeze has led to some institutions having to reduce staff and services and neglect some activities and maintenance.
The government recently appointed former ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy as chair of the Old Parliament House board.
This is second time around for Cassidy, a one-time staffer to Bob Hawke. He was appointed chair of the Old Parliament House advisory council at the very end of the last Labor government but resigned after the Coalition won the 2013 election. Cassidy (who was still with the ABC at the time) was pressured to go by then arts minister George Brandis.