Arts Minister Paul Fletcher says it's "business as usual" for the Department of the Arts, despite it being swallowed up by the Department of Infrastructure in a restructure of the Australian public service.
Mr Fletcher's Department of Communications and Arts will be merged with the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, as part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's push to slash the number of federal government departments from 18 to 14.
The new department will be named the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, meaning Australia will no longer have a named department for the arts.
Criticism is mounting of the decision, which is being interpreted as a blow to the arts sector.
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy said the decision set a "new low".
"The absence of the word 'arts' from the new department's title says it all," he said.
A series of change.org petitions have also sprung up, urging the Prime Minister to reverse the decision.
But Mr Fletcher said in practice, not much had changed.
There was no change to his ministerial responsibilities, which meant the arts were still represented by a minister in cabinet, he said.
There would also be no change to the number of people working on arts policy and issues, even though they were now part of a merged department.
"My message is it's business as usual," Mr Fletcher said at the National Press Club on Wednesday.
"There have been two periods in the last 10 years where relevant arts has sat within departments that do not have arts in the title. One under Labor, one under the Coalition.
"In Queensland, arts officials sit within a department that does not have arts in its title. Ditto in NSW, so this is not unusual or unprecedented.
"There is no change in the resources committed to the arts. $749 million is what the Commonwealth is committing to the arts in 2019-20. There is no change to the Australian Council or to Screen Australia or to all of the other agencies within my portfolio which deliver arts outcomes."
Mr Fletcher said the merger offered up the prospect of "cross-pollination" between the arts and regional development sections.
"One of the things that arts people say to me often is that they don't want to be just put into a bucket that is only about arts. It is a sector that is full of very creative, innovative, thoughtful people, and they want their expertise to be available more broadly," Mr Fletcher said.
"This is a good opportunity to do that. Certainly I think the arts focus and capability is really interesting going into a department which also has responsibility for regional development, the more we can make the arts available to people in regional Australia."