PJ Collins Saves the World
Interview Steve Proposch | Photos by Kyle Ford
Our audience needs no introduction to the ‘whys’ of the Arts Party, so when we interviewed its Leader, Patrick James Collins, we wanted to concentrate more on the ‘wheretofores’. Here, after all, is a serious political party standing candidates in the coming Federal Election, which was concepted as half-drunken pub banter and is currently being run on credit card and crowdfunding. What’s more Australian than that!
Give us the origin story of The Arts Party – how long ago were you exposed to radioactive waste, and what kind of superpowers did it give you?
PJ COLLINS: We came up with the idea of the Arts Party over beers at the Coogee Bay Hotel in Sydney. I was involved for quite a few years in running the Coogee Arts Festival and the Australian Film Festival up the road. Barry Watterson and I (Baz was also the founder of both events) were moaning about the state of support for the Arts, the Aussie film industry, and how hard it was to get any kind of funding from local or state governments for cultural, musical and arts-based community events. I think it was after the third jug of beer that the idea of starting a political party struck us. Perhaps there was something radioactive in that beer!
A few days later we started a crowdfunding campaign to see if we could find 500 people on the electoral roll willing to join us as founding members of the Arts Party, paying $20 each. In 4 weeks we had over 600 members and we’ve well over 2000 now. We were officially registered as a federal party in August 2014 and are standing candidates in the 2016 Federal Election.
Crowdfunding, of course, is not for the faint-hearted but the reward is twofold. You receive both the actual cash you’re after, as well as clear validation that there’s people who believe in what you’re doing. Plus, we attracted more attention generally from the media. We still have hardly any money (what we’re spending on our entire campaign is roughly the same as what one of the major parties spends on a single candidate), but we have enough to stand candidates across the country, against Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, and plenty of others, which is great.
Taxes are a bit like crowdfunding anyway – your comments?
PJ: Absolutely! Though it’s mostly unwilling contributions and the amount given varies a lot! As we found with crowdfunding for this election, those with the least often give the most, which sadly also mirrors the overall tax system. But in the end what we are talking about are the schools and hospitals and community support that should benefit each and every one of us. For example we need to see education, not as some selfish investment, but rather as something that increases the overall IQ and ability of the community, which benefits us all.
Most if not all of the money we pay in tax should be invested directly back into the Australian people and our communities to help us be the best we can be. That’s the point isn’t it?
On policy matters outside of the arts, how will you cope with discussions on areas as disparate as immigration and corrupt banking practices?
PJ: Arts, culture, creative industries, education and community are our core issues, but these are all built on working together, a sense of fairness and opportunity for all. We’re a lucky country but some are luckier than others. You’d put the banks at the top of the list ($100m profit a day anyone?) and refugees at the very bottom. We’ve actually got a well developed refugee approach, which is essentially about treating people with respect, processing them more quickly, and doing that on the mainland. We think off-shore detention is just a terrible way to treat people, and it’s incredibly expensive. To spend $1 billion a year locking up less than 2,000 people who are guilty only of seeking asylum – it would literally be cheaper to house them in the Hilton!
How do you plan to get those messages across to the public when you will most likely be seen as a one-issue party?
PJ: I think that one issue, of supporting the arts and the creativity of everyone, is a worthy cause in itself. These things feed into all areas of our lives: health, education, community-building, and basic human happiness. Every business starts with a bright idea and only turns into reality through having the right skills to develop that idea into something profitable. We need to be digging more value out of our minds, not our mines, if we’re going to have the shared future we all deserve.
Put simply, if you like films, tv drama, music, theatre, fashion, writing, visual arts, design, gaming, radio or live performance of any kind, then you’re already a supporter.
Your target is to gain a million votes for the coming election – what do you think that will prove?
PJ: Like the crowdfunding, it will prove that looking after the Arts and investing in our future is actually a vote winner! We reckon that the only thing that every politician of every party absolutely cares about is votes. If we can show that there are votes in supporting the Arts, we can get a better deal for us all, as artists, audiences and communities from every party. So it doesn’t matter who wins the election, because we all win!
Specifically, tell me how The Arts Party – if it gains a Federal or State seat – may help support, for example, a small, regional art magazine down on its luck 😉
PJ: Mate, small regional art magazines are the lifeblood of this great nation. We’ll be looking at special funding streams from the Australia Council just for you guys! The “Cultural Publishing Fund” sounds like a great fit.
VISIT – artsparty.org