Articles

TAX LAWS - A LETTER TO SIMON CREAN
NOVEMBER 2012

Dear Mr Crean,

The sinking of the visual arts in Australia is being marked by a thunderous silence, notably from the responsible minister. The recent change to superannuation law stipulating that works of art owned by private super funds will have to be housed in managed storage away from the owner's home and regularly professionally re-valued and insured makes an investment in most art completely unviable, especially when combined with the new Doit de Suite provision.

Imagine the public reaction if a piece of tax legislation incidentally devastated the business of football or wrecked the music scene. There would be no shortage of protesting voices and I am sure yours would be one of them. But what are you doing to defend visual artists?

Dwindling confidence in the economy has hit artists and the art business very hard already, without this extra burden. Investment in Aboriginal art has evaporated. Now we have a scramble to sell as owners try to offload their collections before the due date. There is a glut of artworks for sale, pushing down their value and making those who have bought art feel that it probably was a mistake. If this government cares at all about the arts it is a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. But it looks more likely that you just aren't interested.

Artists are among the poorest people in the community and often live with a level of deprivation that the rest of us couldn't take. For most of them poverty is not a youthful phase; it lasts for life. We would like to introduce you to our friend who is widely known as a successful artist, living in his seventies in a windowless, unheated, unventilated garage, hoping the council doesn't spring him. And a Dobel Prize-winning friend who is thought to be "doing well" for an artist, living secretly in her tiny rented studio, without a kitchen or shower, trying not to make a sound at night. There are plenty more. The Tax Department knows about this poverty better than anyone and aparently does not care.

You don't see visual artists on Dancing with the Stars or read about their diets in womens' magazines. If artists become even poorer it will hardly cause a ripple, but our welfare is your portfolio Mr Crean. How sad that it is the party that the arts community has always supported that has hurt us so blithely. We don't deserve to become collateral damage to a beancounter's bright idea. This legislation must be reconsidered.

Rick Amor
Megan Williams