Anthony Albanese’s new Labor Government looks like it’ll be making some significant changes to two much maligned sectors: the arts and the environment. A tentative yay there.

Both of these portfolios were pretty massively impacted by ex-PM Scott Morrison’s decision to merge a load of departments back in 2019.

The environmental responsibilities of the Department of the Environment and Energy were merged with the Department of Agriculture to form the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. One of the other areas significantly impacted by the department merges was the arts.

In a massively controversial move, Morrison got rid of a standalone Department of Communications and Arts. He merged it with other departments to make the completely rogue Department of Infrastructure Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

Like, just say you don’t care about the arts and be done with it.

At the time Esther Anatolitis, who was the executive director of the National Association for Visual Arts, spoke to SBS about the decision.

“Deliberate choices have been made — value choices, ideological choices,” she said.

“Someone has made the choice to devalue a $111.7 billion [per year] industry.

“We would expect a government at the highest level to reflect what makes us who we are and where we see our future as Australians. That makes this step of removing the name of the arts ministry a massive backwards step culturally for Australia.”

Obviously since those changes in 2019, the arts industry has been absolutely decimated by COVID-19.

But the new Minister for Arts Tony Burke has come out absolutely swinging since Albanese announced his appointment. Burke was Minister for Arts back in 2013 during Julia Gillard’s second ministry and was made Shadow Minister for the Arts in 2016.

An arty boy, you could say.

In a statement, Burke described himself as “deeply passionate” about the portfolio.

“The nine-year political attack on the arts and entertainment sector is now over. The neglect, the contempt and the sabotage of the previous government has ended,” Tony Burke said.

I’m absolutely feeling the heat there Tony.

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Tony Burke highlighted the impacts of COVID-19 on the industry.

His big plan is introducing a “comprehensive cultural policy” which will “bring drive, direction and vision back into the sector”.

“In the coming months I will embark on a thorough, nationwide consultation in each State and Territory to inform this cultural policy. It is important for us to get this right — but speed is of the essence,” he said.

“Australia’s arts and entertainment sector has a government that cares about it. A government that doesn’t see the arts as an optional extra, but as fundamental to our society and national identity”.

So, a glimmer of hope there for the arts industry which is absolutely fkn invaluable.

One of the other big changes of the Albanese Government will be a new department focused on environmental issues; specifically energy, the environment, climate and water.

Albanese’s new Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water will basically instruct how the new government goes about introducing its climate policies, per The Guardian.

It would be great to have some genuine, radical action on climate change… but we shall see. Labor promised to end the climate wars in its pre-election Budget. But it still backs fossil fuels and coal. Like, come on.

One of Labor’s big commitments is reducing our emissions to 43 per cent below 2005 levels before 2030, which the new department will advise on.

Classically, news of the new environment department dropped right as one of the Coalition’s final acts was revealed.

Former environment minister (and now deputy leader of the Liberals) Sussan Ley got rid of recovery plans for 176 threatened animal and plant species, and habitats.

The Wilderness Society’s Tim Beshara told The Guardian he hoped Tanya Plibersek, who’s taking over the environment and water portfolio, would go back on the decision. He highlighted the fact that scrapped recovery plans includedthe Tasmanian Devil and the Christmas Island flying fox, which is critically endangered.

“I can’t think of a better way that the incoming minister Tanya Plibersek can come to understand the entrenched policy dysfunction in her portfolio than through this example of administrative ineptitude and contempt for the community,” he said. 

In short: change is seemingly afoot for two areas which sorely need it — the arts and the environment. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how exactly the new Labor Government protects these genuinely essential elements of our society.

Image: Getty Images / SOPA Images / Lisa Maree Williams