If the Sydney Dance Company was a housing mortgagor owing a lot of money in Sydney’s west, it would have been either foreclosed and sold up, or it would have had its loan re-organised with new terms.

But instead, because it is a high profile arts organisation, with a lingering debt of $1.5 million that won’t go away, it is bailed out because the Federal Government wants to keep the arty crafties of the Sydney arts and social set happy. So the Government forks out the loot and the Sydney Dance Company is absolved of any responsibility for its debt.

It’s a piece of financial alchemy that again stands on its head the notion that the Howard Government is bad for arts. It isn’t: from SBS, to the ABC, to orchestras, to the Australia Council and the National Gallery, tens of millions of dollars a year in new funding have been poured into arts groups in recent years. But nothing matches the generosity for the Sydney Dance Company.

The Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator George Brandis, today announced the Australian Government will provide an additional $1.5 million in 2007–08 to the Sydney Dance Company to assist it through a difficult financial transition.

“The Sydney Dance Company is one of our iconic performing arts companies and is our country’s most prominent contemporary dance export,” Senator Brandis said.

“This one-off funding will enable the Sydney Dance Company to eliminate its debt and ensure that it maintains its reputation for producing high-quality contemporary dance.”

Senator Brandis said the new funding will provide the necessary working capital from which the Sydney Dance Company can rebuild and maintain its strong artistic brand.

The Australia Council will provide and manage the funding as part of its ongoing arrangements with the company as a major performing arts organisation.

Senator Brandis said this funding was in addition to the $24.1 million over four years for major performing arts companies announced as part of the 2007-08 Budget.

The Sydney Dance Company’s financial problems go back to 2004 when it lost more than $750,000. It has had other financial strains going back 15 years or so.

Usually when there’s a bailout of this size there’s also a financial straitjacket imposed to prevent the situation from either recurring, or recurring quickly. But there was no mention of that in the minister’s statement.

And why didn’t the Government force sponsors, such as the NSW Government, the City of Sydney Council, Bayer and other friends and contributors, to share in the cost?

Why just taxpayers, including all those millions of people living outside of Sydney?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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