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While reading my Kindle version of Deane Williams‘ fascinating book, Australian Post-War Documentary Film: An Arc of Mirrors, I came across the following two portions which show that post WWII Australian government funding of film, the Arts, and higher education were supported somewhat by very explicit Keynesian economic theory.

(Line breaks added to original. Highlighting added by me)

Excerpt A:

For this discussion, one of the closest parallels between the United States in the 1930s and post-war Australia hinges on the reforms brought about by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction.

These included the Department’s aim of full employment which, along with a focus on immigration, Bolton asserts, ‘could result from a banking policy on Keynesian principles: expansion of private enterprise could be encouraged together with increased activity by the government in funding social services and projects of national development.’

Part of this ‘national development’ was, as Shirley and Adams recall, to include support for the arts and higher education including setting up a Commonwealth Cultural Council and a National Film Board in 1945.

 

Excerpt B:

In December 1942 the Department of Post-war Reconstruction was hived off from the Department of Labour and National Service.

The Ministers in charge, Chifley and (from 1945) Dedman, were among the ablest in cabinet and they were supported by an outstanding group of public servants, mainly young graduates.

They created policy in an atmosphere of intellectual excitement seldom encountered in Canberra.

Some of them were influenced by the ideas of Keynes and Laski.

Equally, if not more, potent was the example of the United States President Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal legislation and sponsorship of the Tennessee Valley Authority provided a model of purposeful social engineering in a free enterprise capitalist society.

 

As noted above, the National Film Board was established on 1945. It was renamed the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit in 1956. It was then renamed Film Australia in 1973. Then in 2008 in was merged with Film Finance Corporation Australia and Australian Film Commission, and became Screen Australia. (Wikipedia reference)

Some questions I’d like to research further:

  • Has the Keynesian rationale remained intact and untouched across all this time?
  • Related: Is the Keynesian rationale detectable in film funding policy today?
  • If Keynesian economics “proved” that government spending boosts the economy, was the argument made that film funding therefore kills two birds with one stone? i.e. That it both improves film production and on top of that makes Australia richer?
  • If it is argued that “we can’t afford more government/taxpayer-based film-funding” because the economy is in the dumps, would a Keynesian argue: “Well, to improve the economy more spending is exactly what we need!”?
  • How much taxpayers’ money has the Australian government spent on film funding since 1945?
  • How much was spent before 1945?
  • Similar questions for spending on the Arts and on Higher Education.
  • How would the Austrian School approach this issue?
  • How would other Schools of Economics approach this issue?

Notes:

  • John Maynard Keynes: Born 5 June 1883. Died 21 April 1946
  • Keynes’ book, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” was published in 1936.
  • IMDb list of Australian National Film Board productions.