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Taking note of Min Wong's answer on National Academy of Music

Senator MILNE (Tasmania) (3.35 pm)-I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts (Senator Wong) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today, relating to the Australian National Academy of Music.

It is very clear from the answers from the minister today that the government still has many questions to answer in regard to its decision to close the Australian National Academy of Music. In all of his public performances and utterances to date, Minister Garrett has made it very clear why the Australian National Academy of Music was closed. Minister Garrett always refers to the Mills review and the Grant review.

I want to put on the record now that neither of those reviews recommended closing the academy. Minister Garrett is misleading the Australian community by constantly imply that the justifications for closure came from those internal reviews. Both of those reviews recommended far greater funding of the academy so that any of the gaps and shortfalls that were identified in the reviews could actually be met. In fact, the Mills review made a series of recommendations. It said that the academy should be funded by $6 to $7.5 million to expand its activities across all orchestral instruments, voice, composition and conducting-and to provide a program that delivered orchestral chamber music and soloist training to 80 musicians and to train music teachers and so on.

The Grant review said it should be funded by $6.8 million in 2008, $8.2 million in 2009 and $9 million in 2010, with additional funds required to refurbish its premises.

Funding should be provided to the National Academy of Music on a triennial basis. Neither of those reports recommended closure-let's get that on the record for a start. Secondly, we did not get an answer from the minister as to what the relationship is and what discussions occurred between the government and the University of Melbourne before the decision was made to close the academy, although I notice that in the media today there has been a statement put out saying in an anecdotal report that, as long as three years ago, the deputy vice chancellor stated that it was the University of Melbourne's aim for the national academy to be closed down and its budget and students incorporated into Melbourne university.

We saw from Melbourne university the statement of how pleased it was to sign an agreement with Peter Garrett, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, for the University of Melbourne to plan and develop a new Australian centre for elite music performance training. We know that Melbourne university is very happy about this in order to secure the federal funding and take over what it sees as the role of the National Academy of Music. But the thing is that the Academy of Music offered very specialist elite performance training that the current University of Melbourne offerings cannot replicate. That is not a criticism of it-that is not what it is designed to do at this time. We also have an appalling situation where the transitional arrangements have not been made clear and some of our top young musicians are now going to be stranded for six months without the level and kind of tuition that they enrolled for and were expecting to be delivered.

That is just not on. It is equivalent to saying to people at the Institute of Sport: ‘We're going to shut you down, we're going to start up a new facility in July next year and, in the meantime, we're going to send you around various universities. You can do other courses and whatever and, in six months time, we'll put together something that may or may not suit what you enrolled to do.' It would have been entirely appropriate and much better had the minister at least provided the funding for 2009 to allow a proper consultation and discussion with people at the National Academy of Music-the staff, the students, professional musicians throughout the country-and to make a decision about what is best for Australia. Instead of that, the minister has blundered at the expense of our best and brightest young musicians. It is unacceptable, and I will not allow it to remain on the record that the internal reviews recommended closure.

They did not. They recommended more funding. There are a lot more questions to be answered about exactly what went on between the Rudd government and the University of Melbourne before the decision was made to close this academy.

Question agreed to.

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