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Monday, 7 September 2009
Page: 8783

Mr GEORGANAS (5:14 PM) —I am very pleased to be able to speak today on the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2008. The introduction of this bill is a great day for Australia’s visual artists, who will now, for the first time, have the right to an ongoing economic interest in their works in Australia. Other creative professions—composers, authors and performers—are able to earn copyright and performance fees in some form from their work and have an ongoing financial interest in their creative efforts, whether it be theatre, music, films or other forms of professional arts.

The achievements of our visual artists have not been recognised to the same extent as those of the other types of artist that I spoke about. Visual artists have had very little ability to earn income from their work other than through its initial sale—in other words, through the first sale that is made of the painting or work of art. When a work sells for a large sum on the secondary art market, the artist receives no direct financial benefit from the sale. We have seen this, as we heard earlier from other speakers, with many, many Indigenous artists who create some work, sell it and then that particular piece of art is on-sold in the future for far more than it was sold for at that first point. Indigenous artists in particular stand to benefit from the introduction of the resale royalty scheme.

Minister Garrett has raised the example of a Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula painting which was called Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa. It originally sold for $150 and was resold in July 2000 for $486,500. That is a huge difference. This highlights what has become a very common situation in the Indigenous market, usually with the Indigenous community and Indigenous artists being the ones missing out after there has been a resale for an enormous amount that could have contributed quite a bit not only to that particular artist but to the entire community.

It is clear that the situation faced by artists in general is that they often struggle to make a living. A 2003 report on artists’ working conditions called Don’t give up your day job: an economic study of professional artists in Australia found that 50 per cent of artists earn less than $7,300 from their art in a year. The situation is arguably worse for Indigenous artists. The government’s resale royalty scheme addresses this inequitable situation by creating the right for visual artists to receive a royalty payment each time their work sells on the secondary art market. It implements an election commitment made by the Rudd Labor government. This is a right which has now been recognised in over 50 countries around the world and is long overdue in Australia.

I will provide an example of how it will work. Suppose that, in July 2009—which is the date from which the resale royalty right legislation takes effect—a gallery owner negotiated with an Indigenous arts centre the outright purchase of a range of works and one canvas was purchased for $10,000. The gallery owner puts the work up for sale at an exhibition in December 2009 and the canvas is purchased by an investor for $16,000. This means a royalty payment to the artist of $800, less administration costs, is automatically triggered, as the gallery owner acquired the work following the introduction of the resale right.

The scheme the government has developed delivers a right to visual artists but also, very importantly, introduces the right in such a way as to ensure minimal impact on Australia’s art market. The scheme is administratively simple and very straightforward. A flat five per cent royalty rate is fair for 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 this scheme. The royalty will apply for the current period of copyright—that is, 70 years following the death of the artist—so that artists can pass on their right to their families and heirs. This is important, as it can often be the case that artists achieve recognition and success late in life, having spent a lifetime with modest means developing their creative skills, or after they are long gone.

The royalties will be collected by a single collecting organisation, which will be appointed by the government through a competitive and transparent tender process. The collecting organisation will be vested with the powers necessary to access the information required for it to determine quickly when and to whom royalties are payable. Importantly, the right will apply only to the resale of artworks that are acquired after the right comes into effect. 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 is introduced in such a way as to not have a negative impact on the art market, which in the end would not help artists.

The resale royalty right is not just about raising additional income for artists. Introducing the right 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. We have seen many examples of this in years gone by. The bill requires sellers to notify the collecting agency each time a work is resold on the secondary art market. This means that the collecting agency will keep very detailed records on all relevant sales that occur. It will need to publish key data in its annual report, which will be tabled in the parliament.

Australian visual artists and their advocates have been campaigning for a resale royalty right for at least a decade. They have emphasised its importance; they have emphasised how significant this is. It is a significant statement of the esteem in which Australia holds its visual arts culture and it is an economic reward and incentive for creators of high-quality art. As the retail royalty scheme grows throughout the years Australia’s artists, like artists from the United Kingdom, France and Germany, to name just a few—as I said before, there are over 50 countries that have similar schemes—will share in the proceeds of the trade in their works on the secondary market.

The government’s response to an inquiry into the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2008 was tabled in parliament on 28 May. In its response the government agreed to review the scheme within five years and expand the definition of an artwork to include forms of fine art textiles, installations, fine art jewellery, artists’ books, carvings and multimedia artworks. Again, these are areas where there is usually no benefit to the original artist when the work is resold. This bill finally provides for the rights of artists, giving them a fair go.

This government values the work of visual artists. We are committed to enlarging the creative endeavour and recognising artists’ contribution to our culture and to our economy. The decision to introduce a resale royalty right for visual artists has been a long time coming. Australian art is a great asset. It forms part of our culture. As I said earlier, in theatre, film, music and other art industries there is some acknowledgement in monetary terms when that art is passed on. Unfortunately, for visual artists that has not been the case. Our Indigenous artists are the most disadvantaged artists in this area, and this bill will go a long way towards assisting them. I commend the bill to the House.