Broadcasting, arts, sports and parks

Budget Review 2019–20 Index

Dr. Tyson Wils

Australian Government expenditure on recreation and culture in 2019–20 is estimated to be $3.8 billion, representing less than 1 per cent of the Australian Government’s total expenditure.[1]

The Recreation and Culture function has four sub-functions:

  • broadcasting
  • arts and cultural heritage
  • sport and recreation and
  • national estate and parks.

Broadcasting is largely made-up of expenses for public broadcasting i.e. the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

Arts and cultural heritage consists of a number of components, including items from the Communications and the Arts portfolio and the Veterans Affairs portfolio i.e. Australia War Memorial. In terms of the Communications and the Arts portfolio, it includes funding for arts agencies and activities such as:

  • Australia Council for the Arts
  • Creative Partnerships Australia
  • Australian Film Television and Radio School
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • National Library of Australia
  • National Museum of Australia
  • Screen Australia
  • National Film and Sound Archive
  • Old Parliament House
  • National Portrait Gallery of Australia
  • Department of Communications and the Arts administered programs and support and
  • Australian Screen Production Incentive.

Sport and recreation includes components within the Health portfolio. It can involve funding for the Department of Health’s specific sport and recreation programs and expenses for agencies such as Sport Australia (formerly the Australian Sports Commission) and the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority. It can also include funding for specific sports related measures administered through other Commonwealth departments.

National estate and parks includes funding for the marine and terrestrial reserves managed by the Director of National Parks, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Australian Antarctic Program as well as assistance for the Australian properties on the National Heritage List, the Commonwealth Heritage List and the World Heritage List.

Table 1 below indicates total expenditure for the Recreation and Culture function from 2018–19 to 2022–23.

Table 1: total recreation and culture expenditure 2018–19 to 2022–23

($ million) 2018–19
Broadcasting  1 490  1 476  1 482  1 494  1 500
Arts and cultural heritage  1 455  1 437  1 379  1 390  1 380
Sport and recreation   584   489   397   337   329
National estate and parks   459   448   480   494   487
Total  3 988  3 849  3 738  3 714  3 696

Note: Figures may not add due to rounding

Source: Australian Government, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1, 2019–20, pp. 5–29.

Table 2 below indicates the breakdown of expenditure between the sub-functions of the Recreation and Culture function:

Table 2: proportion of total recreation and culture expenditure

Proportion of expenditure (%) 2018–19
Broadcasting  37.4  38.3  39.6  40.2  40.6
Arts and cultural heritage  36.5  37.3  36.9  37.4  37.3
Sport and recreation  14.6  12.7  10.6  9.1  8.9
National estate and parks  11.5  11.6  12.8  13.3  13.2

Note: Figures may not add due to rounding

Source: Parliamentary Library.


The ABC and the SBS will receive $3.2 billion and $851.8 million respectively in base funding over three years (p. 57). This base operational funding is determined on a triennial basis. It should be noted that in the 2018–19 Budget, the Government announced that there would be a pause in indexation of the ABC’s operational funding for three years from 2019–20. It was stated that this would ‘result in savings to the Budget of $83.7 million over three years from 2019–20 to 2021–22’ (p. 79).[2] Since the 2014–15 Budget (p. 66) and the 2014–15 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) (p. 141) both broadcasters have also been subject to efficiency measures; in November 2014 then Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, said that:

The Government has released the final funding arrangements for the next five years, which will see the ABC and SBS eliminate inefficiencies in their back office operations ensuring they deliver Australians even better value.

In total, including the 1 per cent down-payment announced in the May budget, the overall savings to the broadcasters is $308 million over five years or 4.4 per cent of taxpayers' investment.

For the ABC this means it will receive $5.2 billion over five years rather than $5.5 billion—a saving of $254 million or 4.6 per cent.

For the SBS this means its operating budget will be reduced by $25.2 million or 1.7 per cent over the five year period.

These efficiency measures have decreased expenditure in broadcasting along with the pause in indexation announced in the 2018–19 Budget.

These decreases are partly offset by measures that provide additional funding to the ABC and the SBS. The 2019–20 Budget’s Guaranteeing Australia’s Public Broadcasters – funding for the ABC and the SBS measure will see the ABC receive $43.7 million and the SBS $29.6 million over three years from 2019–20. The $43.7 million is for ‘the ABC to continue to support local news and current affairs services, particularly in regional areas’ (p. 57). This measure continues the funding that the ABC has been provided since the 2013­­–14 Budget for the Enhanced News Services initiative, although it represents a slight increase on the $41.4 million provided over three years in the 2016–17 Budget.

The $29.6 million for the SBS ‘is to guarantee the ongoing quality of its television, radio and online services’ (p. 57). In the 2018–19 Budget the Funding for Australian Film and Television Content and the National Broadcasters measure was also announced. The SBS would receive $17.6 million over two years from 2018–19 ‘to contribute to the production and distribution of Australian film, television and radio content’ (p. 79). It was stated that this would include $8.7 million in 2018–19 and $5.9 million in 2019–20 (a total of $14.6 million) ‘to replace revenue that could not be raised as legislation to allow the SBS further advertising flexibility was not passed by Parliament’ (p. 79).[3] Previous support has been given to the SBS to compensate for revenue that could not be raised from advertising. This includes the 2015–16 Additional Estimates when $4.1 million of the funding cut from the SBS in the 2015–16 Budget in anticipation of legislation being passed was returned to the broadcaster.[4]

Arts and Cultural Heritage

Since 2017 there have been decreases in expenditure in the Arts and Cultural Heritage sub-function due to ‘fewer productions applying for and receiving taxation rebates through the Australian Screen Production Incentive’.[5] The Australian Screen Production Incentive is made-up of a range of tax incentives for screen production. However, in the 2018–19 Budget, the Government announced that it would be providing ‘$140 million over four years from 2019–20 to attract international investment to sustain Australian jobs in the film production and related industries through a competitive incentive program’
(p. 79). The Location Incentive Funding Program complements the other tax measures in the Australian Screen Production Incentive scheme and offsets the decline in tax rebates through the other tax incentives.[6] 

In the 2018–19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook the Government announced that it would ‘provide $4.6 million in 2019–20 to contribute to the development of Australian film and television content’ (p.  161). This would include $2.9 million to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and $1.7 million to Ausfilm. This measure was said to build on the Funding for Australian Film and Television Content and the National Broadcasters measure introduced in the 2018–19 Budget (see Broadcasting above). The Government also said that it would build on the 2018–19 Budget measure National Gallery of Australia – additional capital funding and ‘provide $63.8 million over four years from 2018–19 (and $14.4 million per year ongoing) to the National Gallery of Australia’ (p. 162).

In the 2019–20 Budget the National Library of Australia (NLA) will receive $10.0 million over four years from 2019–20 to create a Digitisation Fund (p. 58). The measure will be used to fund a range of projects, including ‘the digitisation of the papers of eminent Australians ... as well as all Australian books, journals and newspapers published before Federation’ (p. 58). This measure extends the $16.4 million provided to the NLA over five years ‘for digitisation of material and upgrade of critical infrastructure’ (including the Trove digital information resource) announced in the 2016–17 MYEFO (p. 140) and part of the  Public Service Modernisation Fund. It should be noted, however, that the NLA, along with other ‘cultural and collecting entities within the Arts portfolio’, has been subject to the efficiency measures introduced in 2015–16, which aimed to achieve Budget savings of $36.8 million.[7]

The Government has also said that it will ‘provide $30.9 million over five years from 2019–20 (including $5.1 million in 2023–24)’ to fund a range of measures aimed at supporting the Australian music industry (p. 60). This includes $25.2 million to create new grants programs, including for Indigenous musicians, and ‘$2.0 million to extend the Australia Council for the Arts’ Contemporary Music Touring Program’. (p. 60).

Sport and Recreation

In August 2018 the Coalition Government released the national sports plan Sport 2030. The plan outlined strategic priority areas and target outcomes, including ‘building a more active Australia’ and ‘achieving sporting excellence’.

In the 2019–20 Budget the Government has announced Implementing Sport 2030 (pp. 92–94). $385.6 million is to be provided over six years from 2018–19, although ‘the cost of this measure will be partially met from existing resources and funding that has already been provided for by the Government’ (p. 94). Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission), the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, Tourism Australia and the Department of Health will all be involved in implementing various aspects of the measure.

Among the initiatives is the creation of a new body, Sport Integrity Australia, and a new National Sports Tribunal, which the Government says will cost $33 million over two years from 2019–20 to implement. In February 2019 the Government announced that in response to the 2018 Report of the Review of Australia’s Sports Integrity Arrangements it would establish ‘a new single national sports integrity agency – Sport Integrity Australia’, which would ‘bring together the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), the National Integrity of Sport Unit and the national sports integrity functions of Sport Australia’. It was stated that, ‘ASADA will receive ongoing funding over the next two years in the lead-up to the agency’s formal establishment’.

Other initiatives include ‘$150.0 million over four years from 2019–20 to support the development of female change room facilities at sporting grounds and for community swimming facilities across Australia’ and ‘$54.1 million over two years from 2019–20 for high performance grants to National Sporting Organisations and to support athletes through the Direct Athlete Support Scheme, and expand the Mental Health Referral Network’.

The Government has said that the Implementing Sport 2030 measure builds on previous measures. This includes the Sport 2030–high performance funding measure announced in the 2018-19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook where the Government said it would ‘provide an additional $50.7 million over four years from 2018–19 to support athletes preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics’ (p. 190). This would include $50.4 million over two years from 2018–19 for high performance grants to National Sporting Organisations and athletes and $0.3 million over four years from 2018–19 (and $0.1 million per year ongoing) for payments to Disability Support Pension Paralympic athletes (p. 190). Minister for Sport, Senator Bridget McKenzie, stated in October 2018 that the proposed investment in high performance sport for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics aligned with Sport 2030 which, she said, ‘sets out a long-term roadmap for Australian sports and physical activity at all levels’.

National estate and parks

In the 2019–20 Budget a range of initiatives are funded as part of the Hobart City Deal, including for Australia’s Antarctic Division. A number of agencies are involved in implementing these initiatives. The funding includes:

  • $465.2 million over 10 years from 2019–20 to upgrade Australia’s Antarctic research station network and supporting infrastructure to enhance Australia’s environmental, economic, scientific, security and strategic interests in Antarctica
  • $7.6 million in 2018–19 to develop a second-pass business case for the construction and maintenance of a new year-round aviation facility near Davis Research Station in Antarctica and
  • $0.5 million over five years from 2018–19 (and $0.1 million ongoing from 2023–24) to establish an Australian Antarctic Science Council to support reform initiatives announced as part of the Government’s response to the Australian Antarctic Science Program Governance Review 2017 (pp. 128–129).

Increases in expenses in this sub-function are also due to the operating and maintenance costs for the new icebreaker.

The Securing Tourism and Jobs in Kakadu Budget Measure will also provide up to $216 million from 2018–19 through 2028–19 for tourism, transport, environment protection and national parks in the Kakadu region. No annual breakdown of this funding is available at this time. The funding for programs under this measure involves a number of agencies:

  • $51.2 million to development of a Tourism Master Plan for Kakadu and upgrade campground infrastructure, walking tracks, viewing platforms and interpretive signage
  • $35.0 million to assist with the remediation of contamination in Jabiru, including asbestos
  • up to $70.0 million to improve roads to increase tourist accessibility to significant tourist sites in Kakadu and
  • up to $60.0 million towards the construction of a Kakadu Visitor Centre in Jabiru, if subject to the development of a business case and market soundings.

Table 3: proportion of total budget expenditure relative to the total budget

Proportion of expenditure (%) 2018–19
Broadcasting  0.3  0.3  0.3  0.3  0.3
Arts and cultural heritage  0.3  0.3  0.3  0.3  0.2
Sport and recreation  0.1  0.1  0.1  0.1  0.1
National estate and parks  0.1  0.1  0.1  0.1  0.1
Total  0.8  0.8  0.7  0.7  0.7

Note: Figures may not add due to rounding

Source: Parliamentary Library.

[1].          See Appendix 1.

[2].     For more detail see T Wils, ‘Funding for the national broadcasters’, Budget review 2018–19, Research paper series, 2017–18, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2018.

[3].          For background context to the legislation see the Parliamentary Library’s Bills Digest: R Jolly, Communications Legislation Amendment (SBS Advertising Flexibility and Other Measures ) Bill 2015,95, 2014–15, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2015.

[4].          Australian Government, Portfolio Budget Statements 2016–17: budget related paper no.13, Communications and the Arts Portfolio, p. 323.

[5].          See Australian Government, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1 2018–19, p. 6–31 and Australian Government, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no.1, 2019–20, pp. 5–30.

[6].          For more information and context see International film investment in Australia: the Location Incentive Funding Program.

[7].          See Australian Government, 2015-16 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.


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