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More questions to be answered on National Academy of Music

The Government could not deny that the two independent reviews of the Australian National Academy of Music both recommended increased funding to the Academy, not its closure, following questioning by the Greens in Question Time today.

Minister Wong, representing Minister Garrett in the Senate, also avoided explicitly answering a question regarding whether any Government representatives had met with Glyn Davis or other representatives from the University of Melbourne prior to the Academy's closure.

"Minister Garrett has repeatedly justified his closure of the Academy of Music on the basis of independent reviews which in fact recommend its expansion," said Australian Greens Deputy Leader and Arts Spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne.

"The process here has been bizarre and unacceptable, raising an array of questions for the Government and the University of Melbourne."

Minister Wong could not provide the Senate with a single precedent for closing a teaching institution while promising to establish a replacement 6 months later, seriously disadvantaging students who were enrolled to study there. Neither could the Minister clarify the interim arrangements that will be put in place for these students.

"These students were looking forward to an exciting year of tuition, chamber music and orchestral experience that had been organised for them by the Academy.

"The interim solution proposed by Minister Garrett ignores the bulk of what makes the experience of learning at the National Academy so valuable. Without any disrespect to the University of Melbourne, the programs it runs are not geared to the specialist elite training that the Academy's students enrolled for.

"You wouldn't dream of closing the Australian Institute of Sport and sending top young athletes to a university while a new, similar body under a different name was put in place. Why would you do that to musicians?"

The Greens are calling for the National Academy to be fully funded for its plans for 2009 and for any discussions as to its future to be conducted while the Academy is operational, involving staff and students in the planning process. It may be that, with appropriate examination, the Government's concerns over existing administration can be allayed.

"The unseemly haste with which Minister Garrett closed the Academy, without giving any reasonable explanation, raises too many questions. I have asked the Minister many of these in Questions on Notice filed last week.

"The appropriate path would be to take time to discuss the future of elite classical music training in Australia while the existing institution continues to provide its world class services."

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