An article today Other states embarrass NSW funding (Brisbane Times online Fairfax publication) suggests that funding for the arts and creative sectors in Australia’s most populous State has plateaued or even declined whereas states to the north (Queensland), South (Victoria), and west (South Australia) have boosted funding efforts.Quoting drama producer Brett Poppplewell:

“Over the last five or six years,” he says, “I’ve probably done over $US200 million [$238 million] of production and not one of them has been in NSW.”

Speak to people in certain sectors of the creative or content industries sectors such as games and animation and they will almost invariably tell you the same: Melbourne and Brisbane are the places to be – specifically due to favourable regulatory environments and specific industry policy support from the Victorian and Queensland Governments respectively.

A quick question (or five) to ponder for now:

  1. To what extent do subsidies, tax concessions, and grants from state governments lead to location tournaments between states where investors can ‘pick and choose’?
  2. How much do Queensland and Victoria feel the need (and New South Wales does not) to actively attract investment away from NSW given that Sydney is the biggest city and will tend to attract the most domestic and inward foreign direct investment? Similarly, on the arts front for example, does the NSW art scene benefit from larger donations from private sector patrons and sponsors?
  3. How much does production location actually matter in the creative industries? Of course, theatrical performances, ballet, and other live productions need to be performed locally, but does producing a movie in one location necessarily mean that the most valuable rents accrue to that region? Are we not in an age where post-production for example, can be done anywhere?
  4. How much emphasis is placed on the trickier and far more ‘slippery’ notion of attracting the activities that mean the IP and rights reside locally rather than just the jurisdiction being used for location shooting and supplying lower-end services?

Certainly, much contemporary thinking recognises the vital role played by the cultural industries in contributing to a thriving creative sector; a sector that the influential economist Richard Florida has argued is essential to a thriving economy.

Which brings me to a 5th and final question (for now): Isn’t one of the key takeaways from Florida’s work that a region’s lifestyle and importantly openness to new ideas is key to it attracting creatives (rather than giving tax concessions to investors and propping up local creative industries)?