Chris Hodges is always happy when potential buyers come knocking. But he wants no part of the Rudd government’s resale royalty scheme, a new form of payment that is supposed to benefit artists such as him. “I’m going to opt out,” he says. “If somebody is generous enough to buy my artwork, I don’t think they should have to give me any more money.”

The new arts levy comes into force today in what the government describes as a landmark for Australian culture. A royalty of 5 per cent will apply to all works resold for more than $1000, with the charge also applicable to the sale of bequests and gifts.

“We are on the brink of something very special and very good,” Arts Minister Peter Garrett says.

Speaking in Alice Springs – where one of the nation’s most acclaimed indigenous art centres, Papunya Tula Artists, has serious misgivings about the scheme – Garrett said yesterday the royalty will deliver long-term benefits to artists, and that gallery owners have been given enough time to prepare for implementing the scheme and should be able to handle the increased workload.


Garrett points to indigenous artists as particular beneficiaries of the scheme. “It’s my expectation that a resale royalty scheme will provide indigenous artists for the first time with the benefits of that [market] growth,” he says.

But Ian Plunkett, director of Japingka Gallery in Fremantle and president of the Australian Indigenous Art Trade Association, disagrees. He says the scheme will be a debacle for indigenous art, claiming it does not take into account the unique nature of the sector.

“We are fans of a resale royalty on the secondary market, but this is something else,” Plunkett says. “It’s having the opposite effect [of] what they’re trying to achieve in regard to indigenous art sales. It penalises indigenous artists from getting up-front payments.”