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Wednesday, 30 June 1926

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) (Honorary Minister) . - I move -

That the request be not pressed.

When this item was previously before the committee it was represented that an increase in the duty would lead to the production of films in Australia and to a larger importation of British films. It was also urged that it would have the effect of preventing the showing of undesirable pictures. Of the 21,000,000 feet of films imported last year, the great bulk came from America, and a very small proportion from Great Britain. To show how completely the picture business has passed into American hands, and that no effort is made by British producers to push the sale of their films in Australia, almost every American producer has his representative here, whereas there is not one representative of the British film industry in Australia. Some years ago an effort was made to encourage the industry in Great Britain by the imposition of a duty of 33 per cent., but it was a failure. There was a gradual annual diminution in the output of films, and finally the duty was abolished by the MacDonald Government. An extra penny per lineal foot on films would mean - an increased revenue of about £90,000 a year. It would not have the effect of establishing the picture industry in Australia, but it would probably mean an increase in the charge for admission to picture theatres.

Senator McLachlan - The honorable senator does not think that the duty has been made high enough.

Senator CRAWFORD - If the duty were made 2s. 6d. a foot it would not lead to the establishment of the film industry in Australia upon a scale that would supply our picture theatres with a substantial proportion of the films required by them.

Senator McHugh - Who has advised the Minister to that effect?

Senator CRAWFORD - I am now giving my own opinion. It costs as much as £500,000 to produce some pictures, and it is not at all likely that such large sums would be spent to produce films which probablywould not be shown outside the Commonwealth.

Senator McHugh - We can do in Australia what can be done in any other part of the world.

Senator CRAWFORD - I have no doubt that we can, within limits, but it would not be possible for us to produce some of the pictures that are produced elsewhere.

Senator McLachlan - I should be sorry if we did.

Senator CRAWFORD - I should hope that our moral sense would prevent the production of some types of pictures. A great deal was said receutly in this chamber about certain films which had been shown in Australia, and particular reference was made to one which had been held up by the censor. Many honorable senators who saw a private screening of that picture agreed that, although some modification would be necessary before it could be screened, it did not merit the complete condemnation expressed in this chamber. An increase in duty would not bring about the screening of a larger propoition of British or Australian films. To achieve that desirable end other means are necessary, and I am informed that within the next few months legislation will probably be passed in the State of Victoria requiring a certain proportion of the films shown, at any screening for which admission is charged, to be of British origin. That practice has proved most effective elsewhere. As an increase in the duty would not have the effect which honorable senators had in view when this request was forwarded to tlie House of Representatives, and would lead to the picture theatres passing it on to their patrons and possibly charging them two or three times the amount of the increase, I ask the committee to reverse its previous decision, and not to press the request.

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