5 April 2000

Cultural Ministers' Council The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, today announced that the Cultural Ministers' Council meeting scheduled for April 7 had been deferred.

The Council comprises the Commonwealth's representatives—Senator Alston and the Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation, Mr Peter McGauran—and the State and Territory Ministers for the Arts, with representation from New Zealand.

'The major agenda item for the next Council meeting will be the response by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to the Major Performing Arts Inquiry chaired by Dr Helen Nugent,' Senator Alston said.

'The Commonwealth and States have made significant progress toward a national response to the important findings of the Inquiry. The deferral of the Council until after the Commonwealth budget of 9 May will allow further time to fine tune this national response. 'All States have agreed on the desirability of this approach, given the serious nature of the Inquiry's findings.

'The ground breaking Inquiry was commissioned by the Commonwealth in December 1998 and reported in December last year. It identified serious concerns about the long term financial viability of Australia's major performing arts sector, which includes opera, ballet, symphony orchestras and other major music, dance and theatre groups. 'This sector is noted for its excellence. But the Inquiry found that the sector faced ongoing challenges to its financial and audience base which must be addressed for excellence to be maintained.

'The Commonwealth, States and Territories are confident that the national response to the Inquiry will ensure that Australia continues to enjoy a financially healthy, artistically vibrant and broadly accessible major performing arts sector.'

5 April 2000