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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1588


Mr CHARLES —I ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment: Has he seen media reports related to the suggestion that the Australian Film Commission be abolished?


Mr COHEN —The recently leaked document of the Liberal Party that fell off the back of the bus, indicating where cuts would be made to reduce the deficit, indicated that there would be a closure of the Australian Film Commission. I hope the honourable member for Wentworth has something to say about this. If such a thing happened--


Mr Tuckey —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order. This question is hypothetical.


Madam SPEAKER —I found the question in order and I am listening carefully to the Minister to ensure the answer is in order.


Mr Tuckey —Madam Speaker, on a further point of order: The question must be hypothetical if it deals with something that is not happening. It cannot be dealt with. If the Minister wants to state how he would save money by closing down the Film Commission he may, but his answer will be hypothetical if he addresses it to the decision of anybody else, which is not his responsibility.


Madam SPEAKER —I understood that the Minister was getting to how the film industry would be affected. I hope that is what he is doing.


Mr COHEN —If this were to happen it would end the bipartisan support for the film industry that covers the period of John Gorton, Sir William McMahon, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, and now the Hawke Government. It would be the end of direct government involvement in one of the outstanding successes of the past 15 years. It is particularly unusual that it should surface in the year in which the industry has come of age. It seems to me to be a knee-jerk reaction to the current upsurge of philistinism, particularly on the other side of the House. It shows a great deal of ignorance of the vital role that the Australian Film Commission plays in co-ordinating the activities of the industry-the role it plays in script development, equity investment and back-end guarantees. Many of the great films of the last 15 years would never have got off the ground without the financial support of the Australian Film Commission. The abolition of the Australian Film Commission would mean an end to the marketing and promotion that has been done by the Commission to promote Australian films overseas. It would mean an end to any possibility of future co-productions we are now planning with Britain, France, New Zealand and the United States, and an end to the thousand and one other activities which support an industry which has done more than any other industry in Australia to give Australia a high profile overseas. That is reflected, as I am sure my colleague, the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism will agree, in the enormous increase in tourism to this country. It is sad that the success of this Government in bringing about stability in this industry will be undermined if the Opposition ever gets the opportunity to abolish the Australian Film Commission.