MODEST WINS, MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENTS
There were a few modest wins for libraries and the broader GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) in the federal Budget 2019-2020, but also some major disappointments, with the potential for a long term damaging impact on the national cultural institutions.
School libraries and literacy
In the main speech of the night, it was good to hear Treasurer Josh Frydenberg refer to school libraries. He talked about a new local school community program with a $30.2 million fund for upgrades to libraries, classrooms and play equipment.
The Treasurer also spoke of $62 million for new language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy programs for at-risk workers and people living in remote Indigenous communities.
Funding for national collecting institutions
The national collecting institutions continued to see declining government investment, mainly as a result of the punitive efficiency dividend. Seven institutions in the Communications and the Arts Portfolio, including the National Library of Australia, were slated to lose almost $16.8 million in government funding between them, year-on-year.
On a positive front, the National Library gained an equity injection of $9.5 million in 2019–20 for the acquisition of heritage and cultural assets, and seed funding of $10 million over four years to establish a Digitisation Fund. The Digitisation Fund, seeking philanthropic contributions, would continue the work of digitising the collection and making it available through Trove. The Arts Minister’s media release read, “The Fund's flagship project is the digitisation of the papers of eminent Australians including Sir John Monash and Sir Robert Menzies. These collections are important research assets, with a large body of Australian heritage material made available online for the first time.”
On the negative side, the National Library was warned of the loss of $5 million in 2020-2021, mainly due to the cessation of the Public Service Modernisation Fund support for innovation, productivity improvements and efficiency.
Capital expenditure of $15.4 million on the National Museum of Australia, made up of $13.5 million for the asset replacement program and an equity injection of $1.9 million from the Government for the acquisition and development of heritage and cultural assets, featured in the Portfolio statement.
At the same time, the National Film and Sound Archive received an equity injection of $1.3 million in 2019–20 for investment in the collection and property, plant and equipment, and a feasibility study was scheduled for 2019-2020, with the prospect of the future construction of a new home for the institution.
In total, the Government promised an additional $8 million for maintenance and capital works projects for Australia's national collecting institutions.
A drop of nearly $5 million in Australian National Maritime Museum funding reflected the phasing of capital works expenditure – $1.5 million in 2019–20, compared with $6.1 million in 2018–19.
In other arts and culture funding announcements, the Australia Council’s base funding increased by $3.9 million, from $208.2 million to $212.1 million, including an extra $0.5 million for its Contemporary Music Touring Program.
Jobs in national cultural institutions
Despite the funding cuts for national collecting institutions, staffing numbers were virtually the same in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. AIATSIS, in Prime Minister and Cabinet, was also steady with 121 jobs for both years. There were an additional 12 positions noted for the Australian War Memorial, in Defence, up from 291 (2018-2019) to 303 (2019-2020). By contrast, the National Archives of Australia, in the Attorney General’s Department, noted the loss of 10 positions, from 355 (2018-2019) to 345 (2019-2020).
National collecting institutions
funding and jobs
2018–19 Estimated actual
Payments made to corporate entities within the Communications and the Arts Portfolio
Australian National Maritime Museum
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
National Gallery of Australia
National Library of Australia
National Museum of Australia
National Portrait Gallery of Australia
Old Parliament House
The Government allocated a further $200 million towards a fourth round of the Building Better Regions Fund, bringing the total commitment for this program to $841.6 million from 2017–18 to 2022–23. In previous rounds, heritage and community facilities gained infrastructure funding, while cultural activities were successful in the community investments stream of the fund.
The Government also allocated $22.7 million to deliver a fifth round of the Stronger Communities Programme, bringing the total commitment to $103.9 million between 2015–16 and 2019–20. The program will continue offering grants of between $2,500 and $20,000 to community organisations and local governments for small capital projects that deliver social benefits for local communities.
The Budget papers spoke of the National Broadband Network, now 92 per cent complete in regional Australia, and the Government’s $380 million investment in the Mobile Black Spot Program.
There was also mention of continued funding for GovPass, the trusted digital identity program, led by the Digital Transformation Agency and implemented by the Department of Human Services.
For more information about the federal Budget 2019-2020, visit https://budget.gov.au.