New Arts Minister Mitch Fifeld expected to correct damages by outgoing minister George Brandis

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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull listens to a question after announcing his new federal cabinet during a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, September 20, 2015. Australia got its fifth prime minister in as many years on Monday after the ruling Liberal Party voted to replace Abbott with former investment banker Malcolm Turnbull, following months of infighting and crumbling voter support. REUTERS/David Gray

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dropped George Brandis as the Minister for Arts and appointed Mitch Fifield in his place, a much awaited change for the arts community. Brandis lost the support of the arts fraternity for overseeing huge cuts to the Australia Council so that it favour his own funding body.

"I think [Brandis] was a terrible Arts minister; I think history will show that clearly," said Nicole Beyer, co-convenor of Arts Peak, the confederation of national peak arts organisations. "With the new Arts Minister, we ultimately hope that he will see sense and return the funding taken from the Australia Council."

During the four years of his reign, Brandis has announced more than AU$104 million budget cuts to the Australian Council that allocates arts funds from the government. The money instead went into National Programme for Excellence in the Arts, a new body administered by the Arts Ministry.

The move did not go down well with many in the arts community who feared the funding would only go to Brandis’ favoured arts organisations that included major ballet, symphony and opera companies. This would in turn deprive the small and medium companies as well as individual artists.

The new body, which has been described by the Labor as "private arts fiefdom" and “slush fund,” has been put through a Senate enquiry.

Beyer, who is also the director of Theatre Network Victoria, said the Senate enquiry itself shows that the change brought in by Brandis had only contributed to destabilise the arts industry. It had put a number of arts organisations and individual artists into turmoil by striking them out of the list of NPEA beneficiaries. She also noted that since the NPEA is not yet official, there is still time for Fifield to dismiss it and return funding to the Australia Council.

"Arm's length funding has been proven to be a really great way to ensure a broad range of art gets funded, not just what the minister of the day fancies," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Beyer as saying.

An open letter, signed by more than 263 prominent arts personalities including author and songwriter Nick Cave, Miles Franklin award winner Michelle de Kretser and many others, was sent to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling upon him to sack George Brandis and restore funding to the Australia Council.

Fifield, who is from Victoria, has previously been the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Manager of Government Business in the Senate.

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