Budget Review 2020–21 Index
Total funding for ‘recreation and culture’ in the 2020–21
Budget is outlined in the Expenses section of Budget
Strategy and Outlook: Budget Paper No. 1: 2020–21. Allocations are
summarised against four sub-functions: broadcasting, arts and cultural
heritage, sport and recreation, national estate and parks.
These terms do not entirely do justice to the diversity of public
sector agencies, commercial organisations and programs supported by
Commonwealth funding, or the relations between them. In practice, some
allocations cross these boundaries: for example, money provided through the
arts agency Screen Australia to support production of Australian screen-based
media content (the Media
Reforms Package) is named in Budget Paper No. 1 as partially
offsetting the indexation pause applied to the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation (ABC) (p. 6-29).
expenditure for recreation and culture in 2020–21, as shown in Table
1, is estimated to be $4.4 billion, which represents approximately 0.7 per
cent of the Australian Government’s total expenditure of $670.3 billion (p. 6-7).
This is an overall increase on the 2019–20 actual spend on recreation and
culture of 9.4 per cent in real terms (p. 6-29). Note that this includes $618
million for the ‘national estate and parks’ sub-function, which is not
addressed in this Budget Review article. The Government forecasts total
expenditure for recreation and culture in the forward estimates to remain
relatively stable in nominal terms; however in real terms this represents a
decrease of 14.5 per cent for the period 2020–21 to 2023–24.
Table 1: Summary of expenses—recreation
and culture function, $ million
|Arts and cultural heritage
|Sport and recreation
|National estate and parks
|Total recreation and culture
Source: Australian Government,
Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1:
2020–21, p. 6-29.
For broadcasting, the major component of which is
funding for the ABC and the Special Broadcasting Service Corporation (SBS), nominal
funding will remain relatively stable over the forward estimates. In real
terms, however, expenditure will decrease by 0.7 per cent from 2019–20 to 2020–21,
and by 3.7 per cent from 2020–-21 to 2023–24.
For arts and cultural heritage, nominal funding in
the forward estimates is forecast to increase by $208 million in 2020–2021,
largely as a consequence of a range of temporary support measures for arts and
cultural agencies in response to COVID-19, but then to decrease by 8.9 per cent
in real terms from 2020–21 to 2023–24.
For sport and recreation, nominal funding is forecast
to increase by $57 million in 2020–21, but then to drop back significantly over
the forward estimates. In real terms, expenditure will increase by 10.0 per
cent from 2019–20 to 2020–21, but is then set to decrease by 47.2 per cent from
2020–21 to 2023–24. The increase in the current period reflects an allocation
of $26.9 million for three Building an Active Australia programs and,
according to Budget Paper No. 1, ‘COVID-19 related delays to sports
grants programs which have moved expenditure from 2019–20 into 2020–21’ (p.
6-30). The reduction from 2020–21 to 2023–24 is based on an expected completion
of community sports participation projects and the completion of further
elements of the national sport plan, Sport 2030.
The Government’s responsibility for media, arts, sport and
recreation has been much debated during 2020. For example, the Senate
Select Committee set up in February to inquire into the Government’s
administration of sports grants prior to the 2019 federal election has held ten
public hearings and received over 50 submissions. The Government’s decision to
ask the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in April to develop the News
Media Bargaining Code, which will determine appropriate remuneration for
Australian media companies whose news is published on digital platforms, has attracted
significant attention in Australia and around the world.
The decision by the Government in August to request the
Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts to hold an
inquiry into Australia’s cultural and creative industries and institutions, has attracted much less publicity. Terms of
Reference include an assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has had an enormous impact in these areas. Arts
and cultural industries have been hard hit by restrictions on public and
workplace gatherings: many screen productions have been halted, live events
cancelled, and cultural institutions closed. The Australian
Sports Foundation claimed in July that almost one-quarter of community
sports clubs nationally were at risk of closure as a consequence of physical
distancing restrictions. While those restrictions have eased in some locations,
the impact on productions, events, participants and audiences will likely
continue until a vaccine is in circulation.
Funding announced before the
The Government responded to the pandemic by outlining a
range of measures in the areas of media, arts, sport and recreation in the months
prior to the Budget:
Funding announced in the 2020–21 Budget
Funding for the ABC is always
controversial. This year has been no exception, with significant public
debate about real
versus nominal funding figures, and a claim
by ABC management that a series of cuts to the Corporation’s funding since
2014 have had a direct impact on jobs and services within the organisation.
Funding for the ABC and SBS over the 2020–21 Budget’s
forward estimates period, as noted above, remains static in nominal terms and
is therefore reduced in real terms by approximately 3.7 per cent. The SBS will receive
an additional $7.6 million over four years to provide ‘enhanced
language services’ (p. 128), but there are no other categories of new funding
for either broadcaster.
release issued by the ABC after the Budget notes that the expiration of the
enhanced newsgathering initiative at the end of 2021–22 will be a significant
loss, and that it will make representations to the Government for that program to
be funded as a permanent part of the ABC’s budget:
There was no change in last night’s Federal Budget to the
ABC’s funding for the remainder of this triennial funding period, which
concludes at the end of the 2021–22 financial year.
The Budget papers show ABC funding will fall below current
levels in the next triennium because funding for the enhanced newsgathering
initiative is due to expire at the end of 2021–22.
This program has been in place since 2013 and has previously
been renewed twice by the Coalition Government.
Prior to the expiry of the current funding the ABC will
continue to make submissions to the Government for this important initiative to
continue as a permanent part of the ABC’s budget.
for community broadcasting is forecast to rise slightly for 2020–21 (from
$19.7 million to just under $20.0 million), but then reduce to $16.4 million by
2023–24 (p. 69.)
to the Senate inquiry into the Radiocommunications Legislation Amendment
(Reform and Modernisation) Bill 2020, the Community Broadcasting
Association of Australia expressed disappointment about the funding reduction,
and noted it will seek urgent talks with the Minister about options to address
the shortfall (p. 8). It should be noted this is a sector busy working through
a complex process of transition from analog to digital delivery, in radio
as well as television
The Government has announced an extension of funding for the
Access Satellite Television (VAST) service, which provides digital
television and radio services to remote and rural areas, and to viewers in
terrestrial black spots. Funding
will be provided over four years, from 2020–21 (p. 144). Costs will be
partially met from within existing departmental resources. It is not possible
to know the extent of the Government’s commitment at this point, as no
expenditure details are provided ‘due to commercial in-confidence
The extension comes at a point of heightened audience
expectations about the availability of reliable news services, whether in
relation to bushfires or the COVID-19 pandemic, and after a decision by NBN Co
to respond to user demand by doubling
the download allowance for customers of its Sky Muster service.
review of VAST in 2018 found that other technologies (including the
National Broadband Network, mobile networks, or an expansion of the terrestrial
transmission network) would not provide the same level of service as that
provided by VAST.
Government has allocated $39.4 million, over three years from 2020–21, for
the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, to ‘enable the Office of the eSafety
Commissioner to respond to a sustained increase in demand for its existing
programs and fulfil additional functions and responsibilities, including
overseeing a new adult cyber abuse takedown scheme under the new Online Safety
Act’ (p. 142). This funding is in addition to the $10.0 million already
announced on 28 June 2020 for the
Office of the eSafety Commissioner to respond to an ‘increase in online
an Active Australia
Three separate allocations were made
in the Budget for the Building an Active Australia program:
- $4.7 million will be used by the Australian Sports Foundation to
‘increase the fundraising capacity of community sport clubs and enhance the organisation’s
information technology network and cyber security functions’
- $2.4 million will be given to the Football Federation Australia
to commence the planning and delivery phase of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
- $39.6 million will be provided to the Australian Sports
Commission, to increase children’s participation rates in sporting activities
across 6,000 schools (pp. 91–92).
Budget included funding of $102.8 million to fund new projects that ‘support
local communities across Australia’, over three years from 2020–21 (p. 126). Three
projects were named:
- $23.0 million for the new Rockhampton Stadium in Victoria Park,
- $5.0 million towards the Regional Indoor Aquatic and Leisure
Facility in Mount Barker, South Australia and
- $5.0 million towards the Goolwa Sports Precinct, South Australia.
Recipients of the remaining $69.8 million are not listed in
any of the budget papers.
Given the recent controversy over the administration of
sports grants, as noted above, it is not surprising this measure has attracted media
Guardian has reported that while the Centre Alliance MP for Mayo, Rebekha
Sharkie, claimed credit for the grants in her electorate, the Australian Labor
Party has described the program as a ‘slush fund’.
All online articles accessed October 2020
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