Way, way back in the time of lead that we now know as the Abbott/Hockey/Credlin years, the newly minted Government let loose the usual Commission of Audit. Chaired by the usual rightist businessMAN, the so-called National Commission of Audit came up with a series of recommendations. One of those recommendations related to how AFTRS might be managed in the future and by which government. No official word was ever put out about the Commission's recommendation. This question was asked of the Government by ALP Senator Catryna Bilyk during the Senate Estimates Committee hearings in February 2016.
1. Has the Federal Government made a decision regarding the recommendation of the National Commission of Audit (2014): “The Australian Film, Television and Radio School could be transferred to a university or vocational education institution with an option for the Arts Council to fund scholarships. This is consistent with the principle that the Commonwealth should withdraw from activities that are outside its areas of core responsibility and could be more efficiently and effectively undertaken by the private sector or another jurisdiction.”
2. Has the Minister, his advisory staff or any Federal Government officials engaged in any discussions with the NSW State Government regarding the possible transfer of AFTRS or any of its activities to the NSW tertiary education sector
3. Has any member of AFTRS Council or staff engaged in any discussions with the NSW State Government regarding the possible transfer of AFTRS to the NSW tertiary education sector
4. Has the Minister or the Ministry received any request or proposal from the AFTRS Council with a view to initiating or responding to proposed discussions regarding its future as a Federal Government institution
5. Has the Minister or Ministry requested any proposal or submission from AFTRS Council or management regarding proposed activities over the next three to five years or longer.
1. No. 2. Not applicable. 3. No 4. No. 5. No.
So...what's to say. The answers, contained in just six words, are a model of economy even if they leave questions still unanswered. However, the answers such as they are do make you wonder whether it is still possible that at some point the Commission's recommendation will be taken up by some bright spark Minister or bureaucrat and pursued with the NSW State Government or with some private vocational training provider to get AFTRS off the Commonwealth's books.
This may well be less likely now that AFTRS seems determined to lift itself out of the TAFE status it was resolutely heading for until Neil Peplow's arrival. Peplow's decision to re-institute programs and course levels designed to educate students to become high quality film-makers via the offering of significantly higher level degrees to elite students may well be crucial in keeping AFTRS out of the hands of State Government bureaucrats keen to acquire a prime location and institution.
But for the record, the Turnbull Government is saying nothing to guarantee AFTRS future as a stand alone Commonwealth entity.