Nicholas Rothwell launches a scathing attack on the government’s response to the Senate inquiry.

Quoted from the article published in the Australian:

What does the federal Government’s new pledge to the indigenous art industry contain? A whole lot of nothing. And why is this the best outcome? Because governments have no place as grand moral arbiters guiding the remote Aboriginal world’s proudest success story.

A masterpiece of inaction, handed down after 14 months of temporising, Canberra’s official response to the Senate inquiry on indigenous arts has all the qualities of obscurity and concealment one might find in an exceptionally sacred desert painting.

Peter Garrett may be offering up his qualified support for a voluntary code of conduct regulating dealers and gallerists in the indigenous art trade, but the Arts Minister has briskly turned down demands for new Aboriginal art support funding streams, and squelched other key recommendations with vague promises of “further work” and “scoping studies”.

The determined set of recommendations made by the Senate indigenous art inquiry in mid-2007 were almost entirely overlooked when first made public, since the report came out the day before the Northern Territory intervention turned remote Aboriginal Australia’s heartland upside down.

But those recommendations were bold: the Senate rapporteurs wanted Canberra to spend $25 million over five years on new art centre infrastructure in the bush; to release Aboriginal Benefits Account funds for art centres; and to introduce indigenous communal moral rights legislation, a controversial scheme expanding control over traditional art themes and cultural sites. None of these suggestions has been taken up by the Rudd Government in its response.

A tone of deep scepticism lurks in the response to some of the most urgent pleas for action. A new art centre in Alice Springs to combat carpet-bagging? No, not yet. A new authentic labelling scheme? No rush. Fund more full-time, full-wage jobs at art centres? In progress already, as part of welfare reform.