Yesterday I attended a public forum of writers, librarians and others at WA’s State Library, organised by Writing WA, to put their case and present a petition to three Western Australian politicians, with the WA State Election set for 11 March 2017. The politicians were from government, shadow ministry and the Greens. Writing WA wrote that the forum was:
To enable members of the writing sector and wider community to hear from the Liberal, National, Labor and Greens Parties regarding their policies concerning writing in particular, and its place in arts policy more broadly.
For those not informed on Western Australian politics: Liberal is our conservative/private sector party. Their guy wore a suit on a 37^C day with horrendous humidity. Labor is the party seen as representing the labour movement. Greens is pretty much the same as Greens anywhere. Environmental concerns and social change. Please don't jump on me for my definitions. These are only broad sketches for the assistance of any readers who don't live here.
Neither of the actual Ministers for the Arts were present. The State Government [Liberal] has the Hon. John H.D. Day as Minister for Health; Culture and the Arts. He was represented by the Hon. Mark Mischin, Attorney General; Minister for Commerce. This probably explains why he kept talking about KPI. I could not remember what this stood for and had to look it up afterwards. Google told me it was this:
Short for key performance indicator.
"by setting KPIs the company enables the team to make smart business decisions about the direction of all current projects"
It hurt my brain to try to think about writers centres and supporting writers in these terms.
Labor did a bit better, in my opinion, fronting with Dr Bill Leadbetter, an historian and Labor candidate for Hasluck. Majorly into the Roman Empire, which for me is a win J and actually better than if the actual Minister had attended. This is the Hon. Michelle Roberts MLA. Look at her swag of portfolios, with the Arts coming in last. Despite what Dr Leadbetter said about her passion for books and reading, it’s hard to believe she’s got much time to consider either. She’s the Manager of Opposition Business; Shadow Minister for Police; Road Safety; Crime Prevention; Culture and the Arts.
Third was the Hon. Lynn MacLaren MLC, of the Greens. Much though I like the Greens, all Lynn could really do was agree that writers were a necessary part of a creative society and promise to raise the questions which were asked, though being a burr in Parliament is certainly a necessary task, in my opinion.
I got rather lost in the talk about numbers and dollars and how much funding was actually being offered as against what was needed, and whether the Premiers Book Awards needed to be every year or every two years for the sake of funding. It boiled down to “We’re already doing a great deal and we don’t think more is actually required” or “If we get elected to government, we will throw money at this, this and this.”
A sitting government has the advantage; the connections and the inside information, plus the key to the treasury. An opposition government does not, which leaves them open to accusations of “You can’t say that, because you don’t know these figures.” That could be true; they won’t know for sure if and until they’re actually elected. So all I could really glean from the speeches was that all of them know there are these people here, who are anxious for more support and who will fight to keep what they have. The pollies have been reminded that writers are out here, both by the packed theatre and by the petition which was given to all of them at the end.
The forum was being recorded, but it’s probably too soon for it to appear online. That would have been at least three hours of transcribing there [my day job] but I’ll try to locate it and update it to this post. Part of my reason for writing this is to see how well I could do on a couple of hours work, fairly soon after I went to the actual event.