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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee - 14/02/2012 - Estimates - REGIONAL AUSTRALIA, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, ARTS AND SPORT - Screen Australia

Screen Australia

[22:23]

Dr Harley : When Screen Australia was formed on 1 July 2008, one of the purposes was to achieve a reduction in the administrative expenses that the three prior agencies collectively spent. We have reduced our administration expenses from some $30 million down to about $22 million, so we have managed the efficiency dividend in that context.

Senator MILNE: I hope you were here, Dr Harley, to hear the department's response to my questions in relation to the tax offset for film location and also in relation to the announcement in November last year of the possibility of extending the 40 per cent producer tax offset to games developers. I would like to ask you, since the government was not able to tell me a moment ago, what impact has it had that the offset is still at 16½ per cent whereas the other two offsets are now at 40 per cent. What does that mean in terms of attracting films to Australia and to the health of the film industry in Australia?

Dr Harley : I do not think I can add to what Dr Arnett said. I agree with him that it is correct there has been very little in the way of international production shooting in Australia in that period and the dollar has a lot to do with that but it is also true that there have been substantial scale productions which have shot in Australia and indeed post-produced in Australia because of the 40 per cent offset. I think there are swings and roundabouts on that.

Senator MILNE: And what about the games industry? Is Screen Australia supporting a producer tax offset for games developers and why?

Dr Harley : That is correct. We have had representation from the industry and we accept that that is an area of potential growth for the Australian screen sector.

Senator MILNE: Given that, we did not hear very much detail from the government. Has there been any consultation with Screen Australia in relation to the tax offset for either increasing it to 40 per cent for film location or the games? Has there been discussion with you on that particular matter to get more detail?

Dr Harley : I would like to take that on notice. I do not know the answer to the question.

Senator MILNE: I would like to come back to the National Gallery to talk about the opportunity cost. We have heard across all cultural institutions that everybody is not filling positions, reducing the number of touring exhibitions and basically restricting the growth of the cultural sector in Australia in order to meet what might appear to be quite a small dividend. What is the opportunity cost, Dr Radford, to the National Gallery or more broadly as you see it across the cultural community in Australia?

Dr Radford : Sorry, I do not understand your question.

Senator MILNE: What is the opportunity cost to the National Gallery of having to continually meet efficiency dividends? What difference would it make if you did not have to meet efficiency dividends across yours and all of these sectors in terms of the arts?

Dr Radford : I suppose it would mean more exhibitions because we have had to postpone or cancel shows. It would mean more digitisation and more of the things that we have not been able to do.

Senator MILNE: To come back to the National Library: how important is digitising collections to community access, given we are going to go to fast broadband?

Ms Schwirtlich : The National Library considers that digitising its collections is a major way of enabling access to and opening the collections for the nation and indeed internationally.

Senator MILNE: So the efficiency dividends are slowing down by what sort of factor? Are you delayed by a year from where you would expect to be or have you a plan when you intend to reach a certain achievement level in that regard?

Ms Schwirtlich : The first phase of the National Library is digitising related to newspapers. That was completed very successfully. The size of the collection is such that there is no way of saying that there is a deadline in 2050 but we are seeking to continue to place the premium on digitising because of the importance of the strategy.

Senator MILNE: What about the Film and Sound Archive? Are you behind in your strategy in terms of digitising the collections for national access, given we are going to have fast broadband?

Mr Vogt : Certainly the extent to which we can digitise the collection is limited by the resourcing we have. That is certainly the equation. We prioritise what we can digitise based on what the access demand might be and the attractiveness of digitising certain parts of the collection. This simple equation is the more resources the faster we can digitise. So we just operate within the confines of what we have in our existing budgets.

CHAIR: Thank you for your evidence.