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Political Wars: The Arts Party Strikes Back

By Madeleine Gray on June 2, 2016 in News

Photo: Grant Brooks

Photo: Grant Brooks

The Australian political situation at present is rather dire. Amidst the reams of broken promises, leadership spills and raw onions, it can be very difficult for voters to know whom, if anyone, to trust. As such, when a party comes along with a principled platform that seems unlikely to shift, voters take note.

Enter the Australian Arts Party. Back in 2013, while chilling out with a few beers at the Coogee Bay Hotel, Sydney-based artist PJ Collins and creative director Barry Watterson decided that enough was enough: support for the Arts in Australia needed to change. Collins had been involved in the running of the Coogee Arts Festival and the Australian Film Festival at the Spot in Randwick. Watterson founded both.

According to Mr Collins, it was “three jugs in” that he and Watterson hit their bemoaning stride. They were “sick of the inadequate state of support for the Arts and how hard it was to get any kind of funding from local or state governments for cultural, musical, arts-based community events.”

Not letting their hangover defeat them, in a few days they had started a crowdfunding campaign to see if they could find 500 people on the electoral roll willing to join them as founding members of The Arts Party, paying $20 each for the privilege.

As it turned out, people were keen. In four weeks they had over 600 members. Now, in 2016, they have over 1700 members, and are an officially registered federal party, planning to run candidates in the 2016 federal election.

The Arts Party understands that funding for the arts means cultural enrichment for everyone.
“People are naturally creative, but when we invest in that creativity, we can change the way people think and act,” Mr Collins said.

Unfortunately school curriculums are involving less and less art and music education, only three youth theatre groups are running in the country, and the Australia Council for the Arts is in a funding crisis.

In our basically two-party system, it is an overwhelming challenge to try to effect change from the outside. When questioned about what the Arts Party can hope to achieve, Mr Collins conceded that the party won’t “win the election and run the country”, but the more votes they receive the better.

“We just want to show the clear support we know exists for the Arts among Australians, and suggest better ways to support it, to whichever party ends up forming government later this year,” he said.

“Of course if we manage to get a senator for the Arts elected, that would be the best possible result.

“Introducing a positive intelligent artistic voice to the cacophony of lawyers, accountants and lobbyists that run Canberra would be a very good thing for us all.”

The Arts Party has received endorsement from a plethora of renowned Australian artists like Ben Quilty, Bryan Brown and Geraldine Turner. It has also successfully crowd-funded in excess of $35,000 in order to stand candidates at the federal election.

Whether you’re a fan of the Libs, Labor, or even the Socialist Alliance, if you believe in the power of the Arts, you now know where to vote.