(This letter was the lead item on the Canberra Times letters page on Saturday 13 February, 2016)
I have lost count of the number of “efficiency dividend” cuts imposed on our national memory institutions (Canberra Times 11 Feb) by both Liberal and Labor governments, but they have long ceased to have anything to do with either efficiency or dividends. Our stressed institutions are losing hard-won expertise as staff numbers and budgets decline. They can cope only by closing functions, reducing access and failing to acquire what should be preserved. As their communities rally to help, volunteers and corporate sponsors can assist. But this cannot, and should not, relieve government of its fundamental duty of care for the national memory and national treasures.
As Lloyd George once said, “national culture and identity is too important to leave to the politicians”. The Prime Minister’s dream of an innovation nation is hardly compatible with a mindset which regards cultural institutions as an expense instead of an investment. Compared with the untaxed profits being offshored by multinationals, harming our institutions contributes next to nothing in the budget balance sheet.
Dr Ray Edmondson
President, Friends of the National Film and Sound Archive