Posted: 2:04 pm on 7th May 2013

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has expanded its role to funding the arts sector. It appears DFAT is no longer content with focusing on its core issues like international trade and business.

WasteWatch recently dug up a treasure trove of DFAT grants to send Australian artists overseas.

Snuff Puppets, a group who create puppet shows using oversized and absurd puppets, rode the DFAT Grant gravy train in 2012 and 2013 and managed to score four different grants worth $115,720 that sent them to Chile, Peru, Shanghai, and Mumbai.

The grants were probably justified as a component of Australia’s ‘soft power’ projection into the world, but we aren’t sure this is the best use of taxpayer money.

We think that DFAT should get out of the business of arts patronage and to stop using taxpayer money sending puppet shows on around the world working holidays – we have the Australia Council to do that.

For more details on DFAT’s patronage program, check out this website.

Ingrid says:

I think it is ok for the Snuff Puppets to be funded in this way.
Have you seen their tour schedule?

If you’ll notice – artists- along with scientists – are often the trail blazers – they come up with creative ideas that are copied by the design and manufacturing industry and property developers.
Look at how many artists designs are stolen or altered by manufacturers for profit, including Aboriginal Artists. And Aboriginal Art is one of Australias biggest businesses.

Advertising companies steal imagery and music styles from the creative less commercial musicians (Nick Cave for eg who was blamed by the Melbourne newspapers for death and mayhem in the 1980’s) Look how long it took for the mainstream to catch up and use and plagiarise his music.

DFAT need to ‘project’ Australia to other countries and the arts are a human and colourful way of doing it.
The Big businesses always use and support contemporary artists. Look to BHP. They employ them to work with materials in new and demanding ways, an artist dreams big and engineers must problem solve to construct the art resulting in boundaries being pushed and new solutions invented.

The Aus Gov’t allocates a lot of money on brochures, web sites, logos, catered functions, publicity events, conventions, entertainers etc etc trying to jazz up the dry business of international trade and business. Theatre is one other method.

A cultured country is a civilised country.

Now could you do an enquiry into how much rate payers money goes to the Geelong Football Club. Council Rates are not means tested like Federal taxes are, so poor people are funding non-essential services like stadiums. But I bet Waste Watch could justify money spent on football.

Ingrid says:

DFAT do not only deal with “core issues like international trade and business.”

Their website says-

“Our officers are highly skilled at their work which includes developing and implementing foreign, trade and development policy, negotiating international agreements, delivering an effective aid programme, and providing high quality consular assistance.”

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