"I don't think that arts companies should reject bona fide sponsorship from commercially sound, prospective partners on political grounds.": George Brandis.

"I don't think that arts companies should reject bona fide sponsorship from commercially sound, prospective partners on political grounds.": George Brandis. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Arts Minister George Brandis has promoted moves to block government funding for organisations that refuse corporate sponsorship following the ''preposterously unreasonable'' termination of Transfield's sponsorship of the Sydney Biennale.

And Senator Brandis appeared to include tobacco companies among sponsors that arts companies should not refuse. He said when pressed about tobacco sponsorship on ABC Radio National: ''I don't think that arts companies should reject bona fide sponsorship from commercially sound, prospective partners on political grounds - I don't.''

Senator Brandis has written to the Australia Council asking it to develop a policy that would deny funding to events or artists that refuse private sponsorship after the Biennale board severed ties with Transfield over its involvement in processing asylum seekers offshore.

"The Arts Minister should remind himself of the freedom that political parties keep for themselves to refuse donors based on moral principles.": Lieven Bertels.

"The Arts Minister should remind himself of the freedom that political parties keep for themselves to refuse donors based on moral principles.": Lieven Bertels. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Senior members of the arts community have reacted strongly to Senator Brandis' view, with many divided on the merits and the decision to sever Transfield's sponsorship.

Sydney Festival director Lieven Bertels said artists were entitled to ''decide if they will accept someone's money''. ''The Arts Minister should remind himself of the freedom that political parties keep for themselves to refuse donors based on moral principles.''

However, Mr Bertels also noted that while artists had protested about funding from a business that had ties to offshore detention centres, they had not raised concerns about funding from the government.

"How arts organisations find the money to pay for events is really not the artists' business...Transfield has done wonder things for the arts in Australia.": Leo Schofield.

"How arts organisations find the money to pay for events is really not the artists' business...Transfield has done wonderful things for the arts in Australia.": Leo Schofield. Photo: Marco Del Grande

''The government is ultimately the body that has put in place the policies that the artists are criticising,'' he said.

Arts entrepreneur and director of the Hobart Baroque Festival Leo Schofield said it was ''ridiculous'' the Biennale would cut their 40-year tie with Transfield, arguing it would ''send the wrong signals'' to any businesses contemplating sponsoring the arts.

''This impacts throughout industry and will make business very wary. Transfield has done wonderful things for the arts in Australia and they haven't done it for cynical reasons. They've done it because it's a passion.

''How arts organisations find the money to pay for events is not the artist's business,'' Mr Schofield said. ''This is a gross example of people exhibiting self-importance that they haven't earned.''

Biennale board members hit back at criticisms from Senator Brandis that they had delivered an ''appalling insult'' to the Belgiorno-Nettis family.

Acting chairman Andrew Cameron said the board had contacted Senator Brandis' office ''and given them the facts and we haven't heard back from them''.

Mr Cameron said it was the decision of his predecessor, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, to end Transfield's sponsorship of the Biennale.

However, his statement appears to contradict last week's announcement from the Biennale board, which announced the severing of ties with Transfield over the company's involvement in the offshore processing of asylum seekers.