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Monday, 7 September 2009
Page: 8785


Mr TURNOUR (5:25 PM) —I too rise today to support the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2008. For too long, our visual artists have not been recognised in a way that enables them to earn a sufficient living from their trade. This bill seeks to put in place legislation that will enable visual artists to receive the same financial recognition that other artists receive, whether they be composers, conductors, musicians, actors, recording artists or authors, so it is a very important piece of legislation.

The passing of this bill will deliver on another Rudd government election commitment. We made a commitment to introduce this legislation and, like all of our other election commitments, we are delivering on it. This bill will enable visual artists to earn income not just from the initial sale of their work but from ongoing sales, as is the case for other artists. At the moment, visual artists sell their work and earn some income from that, but if their work is resold they get no cut of that resale. This legislation will change that. The resale royalty right will entitle visual artists and their heirs to a five per cent royalty on the resale of original artworks which sell for $1,000 or more on a secondary art market. The right will apply for the same period as copyright—that is, for 70 years after the death of the artist.

While an important benefit of this bill is the extra income royalties will bring to artists, another clear benefit that should be highlighted is the improved transparency it will bring to the art market. The right will be inalienable and unable to be waived, protecting artists from potential exploitation, which unfortunately is more common in Indigenous communities. Sadly, many have been exploited by unscrupulous people over the years. As a member who comes from Far North Queensland, from tropical North Queensland, and represents large numbers of Indigenous peoples I am very passionate about ensuring that they have greater rights and greater economic opportunities into the future, and art provides them with a real opportunity to not only protect and promote their culture but also earn an income to support them and their families.

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. Key data will be published in its annual report, which will also be tabled in parliament.

The Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2008 was referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts. The committee did good work, and the government agreed to make some minor amendments to the bill as recommended by the committee in their February report, to further clarify its intent and to ensure the smooth operation of the scheme. The definition of what constitutes an artwork has been amended. The change is consistent with the existing policy intent of the bill but will clarify the situation for stakeholders. This gives more certainty for both artist and art market participants. The commencement date of the scheme will also be altered. July 2009 was initially set down as the start date but, due to the bill’s referral to the committee for inquiry, the date has been revised to allow sufficient flexibility to accommodate the passage of the legislation and the appointment of a collecting society. The provisions will automatically commence at the end of six months from the date of royal assent if they are not proclaimed.

So we are putting in place good legislation that is going to support visual artists. We are also doing it in a responsible way that recognises that those people working in the sale of art and the purchase of art need certainty and time to adjust to this new framework. The work of the committee and the subsequent delay of this legislation will enable it to be put in place in an appropriate way.

This bill is delivering an election commitment, as I said earlier, and will be warmly welcomed by artists all across the country but particularly artists in tropical North Queensland where I come from and which I seek to represent. Some of Australia’s best contemporary art comes from tropical North Queensland. We who are fortunate to live in this part of the world are very lucky to be surrounded by such a diverse natural environment. While we have the reef, beaches, rainforest, outback and savannah all at our doorstep, on top of this we also are lucky enough to live amongst a hugely diverse mix of cultures. I believe this remarkable diversity is a real gift and is part of the reason why art in tropical North Queensland is so vibrant, innovative and exciting.

Last month the inaugural Cairns Indigenous Art Fair was held at the Tanks Art Centre, bringing together and showcasing the incredible talent from the Far North Queensland region possessed by Indigenous artists. Artwork from our best known artists as well as emerging new artists was on display at the fair. Galleries from across Australia and Indigenous art centres from Cape York and the Torres Strait, studios, collectives, arts organisations and book and magazine publishers were all represented at the fair. The fair was opened by the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, and the Australian government is working in partnership with the Queensland state government in support of Indigenous artists in the tropical north.

Indigenous art and culture offer many opportunities for local Indigenous people. One that warrants further consideration and investment is the tourism potential of Indigenous art products. Our local Indigenous culture is very rich and with the region already a major player in the nation’s tourism industry this avenue offers great economic development potential for local Indigenous people and their communities. We are already known for the Great Barrier Reef and the wet tropics rainforest. Cairns is the gateway to the Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait. This is home to some fantastic Indigenous culture, some fantastic Indigenous artists, and we are developing and building on what is already good work happening in that area. This bill will provide further incentive for artists to do good work and to see the rewards of that. There are real opportunities for us to continue to build links between the arts community, and in particular the Indigenous arts community, and our tourism sector, and I certainly encourage that.

There are also a number of social benefits which can flow from this. Art is a platform by which to engage Indigenous youth. Elders possess extensive knowledge and experience of their culture and this is a means by which their tradition and history can be preserved and passed on to younger generations. I have been to a number of art centres in my electorate where you see older Indigenous men and women working, doing and developing visual art, and you see young people with them, learning the skills and about their stories and about their culture through the work that they are doing in developing art. It is a fantastic area to engage with Indigenous young people and ensure that they are given new opportunities to learn about themselves and their culture and also, through this legislation, opportunities in the future to earn an even greater income from the production of visual art.

There is a plethora of artistic talent in the region and we are fortunate to have a number of strong local organisations that have the force and ability to harness this talent. Arts Nexus is a leading arts organisation in Cairns which facilitates strategic sustainable development across the cultural and creative industries in North Queensland. They have recently been involved in the development of a cultural tourism strategy for the region, a strategy that recognises that we need to strengthen the links between the tourism sector and the cultural sector in tropical North Queensland.

KickArts is a great contemporary visual arts organisation based in Cairns that is dedicated to facilitating and promoting contemporary arts and extending the experience and cultural life of Northern Australia. It seeks to support local artists but also to run exhibitions that demonstrate and provide an opportunity for artists to showcase their work in Cairns to visitors from all across the world and the country as they come to visit Cairns.

We also have a peak Indigenous art organisation in Cairns, UMI Arts. UMI Arts is a not-for-profit company that is managed by an all-Indigenous board of directors. Their current board consists of Leo Akee, from the Torres Strait; Priscilla Major, from Kowanyama; Henrietta Marrie, from Cairns; Roy McIvor, from Hopevale; and Alberta Hornsby, from Cooktown; and their chairperson is Lisa Michl, an accomplished young artist from Cape York. I have seen Lisa’s work being presented at a gallery down here in Canberra. She was showing her Story Places of Pinnarinch exhibition at the local Helen Maxwell Gallery, and it was great to be able to go down and see Lisa’s work. She is a young Indigenous artist and leader in Cairns and tropical North Queensland and she and the board of UMI Arts are doing a fantastic job, as are KickArts with their director, Rae O’Connell, and her team, and Arts Nexus. We have some fantastic organisations in Cairns and tropical North Queensland that are looking to support the arts community, and I am very proud to be part of a government that is introducing the legislation that provides the support they need to support their artists towards having an ongoing income from the work that they do. We have some fantastic Indigenous artists also in the Far North. I have mentioned Lisa Michl but we also have Thancoupie Fletcher and artists like Arone Meeks—great people who are doing good work.

The Rudd government is supporting visual artists through this bill and that will be very welcome. This has been a long campaign and one which has been strongly supported by the visual arts community. We are also supporting arts, particularly Indigenous arts, in my electorate through a range of other mechanisms. As I have said, Indigenous arts need support. They need some initial support and funding from the government. We have done this through delivering on commitments and strengthening our support for the Australian arts and cultural sector with an investment of $62.3 million in the 2009-10 budget. This includes boosting support for Australian Indigenous artists—a key source of Indigenous employment—and developing opportunities for young emerging artists to build sustainable careers.

Locally, in recent times we have been able to deliver over $90,000 to UMI Arts, an organisation I spoke about earlier, to help with operational costs and to allow them to deliver professional development and advice on best practices to artists and art centres in the region. This was under the National Arts and Crafts Industry Support program. I know they are looking for further funding. I am looking forward to working with them and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Mr Peter Garrett, to continue to build their capacity, ensuring that there is long-term support for the organisation going forward. We have also been able to provide support to the Aurukun and Lockhart River arts and cultural centres—$174,840 for Aurukun and $124,000 for the Lockhart River arts centre. This has been a significant funding boost for these centres in their training and development of local Indigenous visual artists. It was also funded under the National Arts and Crafts Industry Support program.

Recently I was in Hopevale and visited their arts centre up there after it was officially opened. Unfortunately I could not go to the official opening because I was travelling in the Northern Territory as part of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs inquiry into remote Indigenous stores, but they are doing a fantastic job up there. Roy McIvor, the chair of the board, is a well-known Indigenous artist and does great work, and I managed to purchase a piece while I was at the Hopevale arts centre. So we are supporting centres like the Aurukun centre, the Lockhart centre and the Hopevale arts centre in my electorate.

In an effort to promote and maintain the traditional languages of Pormpuraaw and surrounding outstations, we committed $32,000 in a grant last year to the local council under the Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records program. This is not directly for visual artists, but language is particularly important to Indigenous communities and supporting and strengthening language in Indigenous communities will indirectly lead to local people strengthening their culture. They will represent that and deliver that through visual art. That will directly benefit as a result of this bill. Combined with a strong commitment from the Queensland state government, particularly through their Backing Indigenous Art program, we are building a strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts industry. I have travelled through the Torres Strait over an extended period of time now, not only as the member but during campaigning. I have been to the Kubin arts centre up in the Torres Strait, to the Gab Titui arts centre on Thursday Island and out to other arts centres in the outer islands. They are doing fantastic work. Really strong visual artists exist not only in the cape but in the Torres Strait and in Cairns.

This legislation will be welcomed by non-Indigenous artists. After this legislation is passed, it will enable visual artists to get an economic return from their artwork. They will also get a five per cent return through subsequent sales. We have seen people in other areas—the recording industry, authors, conductors and the like—continue to make money out of their work long after their work is first published. It is appropriate that visual artists are rewarded in a way that enables them to get a return from their work after it is sold the first time.

This bill will be welcomed by the arts industry and by visual artists. It is further good work by the Rudd government, which is again delivering on an election commitment. This legislation is something I know the Prime Minister is very committed to, as are all members of the government. I strongly commend this bill to the House and I look forward to talking about it with local artists in my community.