Minchin’s brutal Hillsong jab at ScoMo
Comedian Tim Minchin has slammed Scott Morrison for abolishing the arts department in a sweeping overhaul of the public service, saying the Prime Minister should spend more time at the theatre and less time with Hillsong founder Brian Houston.
Appearing on the Sunday Project, the songwriter and creator of the award-winning Matilda the Musical said he was concerned that Mr Morrison was not someone who "reads widely and expands his mind".
Under the dramatic cuts announced last week, five high-paid department heads will lose their jobs including Communications and Arts Secretary Mike Mrdak.
Those two areas will instead be rolled into a new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, with "arts" to be dropped from the title.
Minchin was asked by host Lisa Wilkinson for his thoughts on the change, which has caused concern in the artistic community about potential funding cuts.
"Obviously it looks really, really bad when it's an already overfull portfolio (to) stick the arts in there," he said. "And losing it from the title, it's an indicator they don't think it's important, obviously."
Minchin predicted it would mean more fighting for funding for the arts both from the government and within the now expanded portfolio.
"Scott Morrison, this government, I have no doubt that they don't have any understanding of the trickle down value of arts in this country," he said.
"The difference between a good, functioning democracy and not is art. I know that sounds wanky and I'm not one of these people (who says) let's give grants to everyone, but it's very hard to measure the impact of a well funded arts culture and when it's not easy to measure, people like this government just are not interested."
He added, "ScoMo spends a lot of time with Brian Houston and not enough time at the theatre. I just don't believe he reads widely and expands his mind in the way I wish our PM would."
Host Hamish Macdonald suggested that the government has to "make tough decisions from time to time and this was not something that happened in isolation".
"Do you kind of accept that they're always juggling budgets?" he asked.
Minchin replied, "We're one of the wealthiest countries in the world just because we dig primary resources out of someone else's turf. We're not short on a dime. And his government is not progressive in tax."
He said he was "not a screaming socialist and don't even want people looking at this to really know what my politics are".
Minchin admitted that "how you deal with your budget is not my field" but said arts under this government is "slowly getting worse and worse and worse".
"Of course, you have to tighten your belt and this government is going to think the arts aren't a measurable positive in the country - it's really scary," he said.
Wilkinson then asked whether "we could put out a petition" to the government making Minchin's song Drinking White Wine in the Sun an official Christmas carol.
"I might get away with that with pretty much any PM in the last 50 years but this one, I don't know (if) ScoMo has much of a sense of humour about my utter contempt for the idea that Jesus was magic," he said.
The Australian arts community expressed widespread outrage and disbelief at the PM's announcement last week, which Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke described as a "shocking and shortsighted change".
"It's hard to see this as anything other than a downgrade to arts policy," Mr Burke said in a statement on Friday.
"Australia's artists, actors, filmmakers, writers, musicians and broader creative community has every right to be concerned by this decision - apparently made without any consultation with the sector."
Opera singer Jacqui Dark suggested "all of us in the arts sector stop working for a year and see what happens to the economy", noting that the industry contributed $112 billion in revenue last year.
"What an appalling, shortsighted move," she wrote on Twitter.