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Monday, 7 September 2009
Page: 8778


Mr HALE (4:54 PM) —It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2008. The bill creates a right which will entitle visual artists and their heirs to a five per cent royalty on resales of original artworks which sell for $1,000 or more on the secondary art market. The right will apply for the same period as copyright—for example, for 70 years after the death of the artist. Royalties will only be payable on resales of works of art which were acquired after the legislation takes effect. The bill creates a statutory scheme to enforce the right and collect royalties. A single collecting organisation to manage the scheme will be appointed by the government through a competitive tender process.

Historically, the achievements of our visual artists have not been recognised to the same extent as those of our composers, authors and performers, who are able to earn copyright and performance fees from their work and thus have an ongoing financial interest in their creative efforts. Visual artists, on the other hand, have very little ability to earn income from their work other than through its initial sale. When a work sells for a large sum on the secondary art market, the artist receives no direct financial benefit from that sale. The scheme will have a positive economic impact on artists and their families, including the families of deceased artists, who may receive royalties for up to 70 years as beneficiaries of an artist’s estate. Royalty income over the medium term will contribute to the economic wellbeing of the Indigenous artists, their families and their communities, although it is possible that this could also place additional pressure on artists to support their extended families. The scheme will not, however, provide an income support mechanism, as the majority of funds will go to successful artists.

Australian visual artists and their advocates have been campaigning for the resale royalty rights for at least a decade. They have emphasised its importance both as a significant statement of the esteem in which Australia holds its visual arts culture and as an economic reward and incentive for the creators of high-quality art. As the resale royalties scheme grows throughout the years, Australia’s artists, like artists from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and a growing list of other countries, will share in the proceeds of the trade in their works on the secondary market. The bill has the support of my colleagues as it implements a Labor election commitment.

The government’s resale royalties scheme addresses an inequitable situation by creating a right of visual artists to a royalty payment each time their work sells on the secondary art market. This is a right that has now been recognised by over 50 countries around the world, and it is long overdue in Australia. The scheme that the government has developed delivers the rights for visual artists. It also, very importantly, introduces the right in such a way as to ensure minimal impact on the Australian arts market. The scheme is administratively simple and straightforward to understand. The flat five per cent royalty rate is fair to all artists, with no cap on the maximum royalty which may be earned on an individual resale. Joint creators of artwork will also be recognised under the scheme.

The royalty will apply for the current period of copyright, as I have already said, which is 70 years following the death of an artist. That is very important as it can often be the case that the artists only achieve recognition and success late in life, having spent a lifetime developing their creative skills with modest means. Resale royalty rights are not just about raising additional income for artists; they introduce a right that will significantly increase the transparency of the art market, which is particularly important for Indigenous artists, who have, sadly, continued to be exploited by unscrupulous people. I have often spoken about the need we have for a really close look at how art is sold and who is making money on art, particularly Indigenous art. The bill requires sellers to notify the collecting agency each time a work is resold on the secondary art market. This means the collecting agency will keep detailed records of all relevant sales occurring and will need to publish key data in its annual report, which will be tabled in the parliament.

Importantly, the royalty right will only apply to resales of art that is acquired after the right comes into effect—in other words, after this bill is passed. This is to ensure that purchasers of artworks are aware at the time they make their purchase that a royalty may be payable to the artist if they choose to resell the work. It will also allow the art market to adapt gradually to the new right. It is important that the resale royalty right be introduced in such a way that it does not have a negative impact on the art market, which, in the end, would not help artists.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 26th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. It was a great occasion. It is an important annual survey of the abundant and varied expression of Indigenous artistic practice, and this year’s award exhibition demonstrates the ever-widening range of artistic endeavour.

At the national art award, the Director of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory said:

It is surprising, challenging and indeed splendid. The award encourages participation from across the country, and it is exciting to witness the continued participation of artists from remote communities.

It was a truly memorable night for the artists involved.

In my electorate we have quite a few artists who have become renowned around Australia. Kenny Reid is a local Larrakia man, a traditional owner of Larrakia through his grandmother. He also has family ties to Alice Springs. He is an artist and a carver and does both very effectively. Joe Raymond is another Larrakia artist from the Darwin area.

Christine Christophersen was highly commended at the prestigious 2004 Telstra awards. She received an Australian arts council grant in 2005. Her paintings are in the permanent collection at the National Gallery and the Darwin Museum and Art Gallery.

I have a painting of another Larrakia artist, Dorothea Fejo, in my office. Aunty Dottie Fejo is a Larrakia mother who has lived in Darwin all her life. She started doing art in 2000, specialising in painting on canvas. She picked up a brush because she was bored and since then she has not stopped. She was taught painting by her father and uncle, who are known for their carving and art within the Larrakia community.

Pedro Wonaemirri from Goose Creek on Melville Island, born in 1973, is a very well known practising Tiwi artist. He is also a traditional dancer. He first performed a Tiwi ceremonial dance in public in 1981, when he was only five years old, for the opening of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin. During his secondary education his favourite subject was traditional dance.

They are just a few of the artists in my area, the Top End. The Northern Territory has a very strong history of art, in particular Indigenous art and people leading the way in it. This bill further supports them in earning a livelihood from their talents, and I fully support and commend the bill to the House.