The Undoing of Australian Cultural Policy: the 1976 IAC Inquiry Assistance to the Performing Arts

Julian Meyrick


This article examines a critical juncture in Australian cultural policy, the 1976 Industries Assistance Commission’s Assistance to the Performing Arts Report. Rejecting public good arguments for government support of arts and culture, the Report articulated the first economic rationalist case for evaluating their benefits. The article looks briefly at the style and arguments of the Report before turning to the issue of who wrote it. It sketches a prosopography (multi-career line analysis) of the 25 Commissioners appointed to the IAC in the 1970s, their ages, backgrounds, educational credentials etc., then investigates the biographies of three in more detail: Alf Rattigan, the founding Chairman, and Richard Boyer and Peter Robinson, the Commissioners responsible for writing Assistance to the Performing Arts. The focus is the social and intellectual milieu of the Commissioners and their network links to Australia’s political, administrative and media elites. A later section considers the positive reception of the Report by some researchers on the left in the ‘cultural policy moment’ of 1992. I argue these researchers were insufficiently aware of the IAC’s role in promulgating an ascendant neoliberal order and its dephenomenalisation of culture in a managerialist logic lacking genuine commitment to progressive social policy goals.


cultural policy; performing arts; economic rationalism; neoliberalism; Productivity Commission; Assistance to the Performing Arts.

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