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Monday, 7 September 2009
Page: 8789


Mr CHEESEMAN (5:41 PM) —I congratulate the member for Leichhardt for his contribution to the debate on the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2008. Having spent some time up in Cairns on various family holidays, I certainly know the importance of Indigenous visual art to that community. I believe that the legislation will be very important in strengthening the culture of Indigenous communities, enabling them to continue to tell the Dreamtime and to derive a lasting economic benefit from their work. So I congratulate the member for his contribution and particularly recognise his Indigenous community and the significant contribution it makes to the visual arts community in Australia.

It is a great pleasure to rise and speak on this bill. When I was first elected to parliament I anticipated that bills would be of a much more mundane nature and of a much more concrete nature. Today, we are speaking on a bill that is about recognising and rewarding people’s talents and creativity. That, of course, is very important in our civilisation. Rewarding creativity and providing encouragement are the base values that we as Australians instil in our kids. We encourage people and the unique talent that everyone undoubtedly has. That is what we teach our children and we should continue to do that. But this bill is also about people’s livelihoods and the worth of their livelihoods and the significant creativity that particularly reflects upon our Indigenous friends. These people do have a story to tell and visual arts can play a very significant role in telling that story and they ought to be able to derive a lasting economic benefit in the telling of that story.

I believe this bill is groundbreaking because it opens the way for us to provide lasting economic benefit for many creative artists in our communities. We are extending the formal, legal recognition of, and the recompense for, a much broader range of art than was previously the case. In doing that, this bill goes to the fascinating question which is always fraught with danger and difficult to answer, and that is ‘what is art?’ Many people say that that question is unanswerable. In my view, there are some answers—even if they are not of a complete or definitive nature. I think this bill has got some of those answers right—some of those answers that we as a community continue to seek.

This bill has got the principles right, and it has done that by providing important recognition and reward for our visual artists. The rights bestowed by this bill will entitle visual artists and their heirs to a five per cent royalty on the resale of original artworks which sell for more than $1,000 on the secondary market. This right will apply for the same period as copyright has provided for, which of course is 70 years after the death of the artist. The right will be unwaivable in its application. The right will apply to many types of artworks but will exclude buildings and plans and models for buildings and circuit layouts and manuscripts. The right will acknowledge artwork created by more than one artist.

Not surprisingly with a bill of this nature, its development has been a bit of a trial. The Resale Royalty Rights for Visual Artists Bill 2008 was introduced to parliament and then referred to the House Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts. The committee’s report was released on 20 February 2009. In response to the House of Representatives standing committee, the government has agreed to make some minor amendments to the bill to further clarify its intent and to ensure the smooth operation of the scheme as envisaged by the bill. The government has partially agreed to a number of the committee’s recommendations for amendments to the bill. The amendments relate to two areas—the definition of what constitutes an artwork, which is spelt out in clause 7, and the commencement of the scheme, which is spelt out in clause 2. The first amendment addresses the government’s acceptance of the committee’s recommendation 1, to broaden the definition of what is an artwork to include further examples that were previously listed in the explanatory memorandum, such as batik, weaving or other forms of fine art textiles, installations, fine art jewellery, artists’ books, carvings, multimedia artworks—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms JA Saffin)—I draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that he will have an opportunity to speak to the amendments when we go into consideration in detail, so it would be good to stick to the bill.


Mr CHEESEMAN —Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for that. The change also requires some consequential amendments later on, and we will deal with those in due course. The government has spent some time talking to stakeholders in order to understand which artworks qualify for the scheme. That is very important, and the committee has spent a lot of time working through some of these questions. I know that there are some traditionalists who say that getting some of these things right is a very difficult challenge. I am positive that the actions of the government with respect to this particular bill have struck the right balance between the rights of artists and the rights of those who may wish to acquire art from future generations.

I would like to conclude with this particular point: for a long time our traditional Indigenous artists have not been recognised to the same extent as the European masters. I think this bill will go a long way towards providing recognition for those Indigenous masters who have contributed significantly to maintaining Indigenous culture. It will go a long way towards enabling our Indigenous communities to become economically sustainable in the work that they undertake. This bill is important in terms of its process and its implementation.

The second amendment, which I think is very important, will deal with a number of very important recommendations that did come out of the standing committee and I certainly look forward to seeing further developments on this. Royalties for artists will be collected by a single organisation appointed by the minister following a competitive process. The government has committed $1.5 million over the next three years in the 2007-08 budget for the establishment of this scheme to enable its operation to continue.

I believe this is a landmark day for the people’s artists. I believe that this day will very much encourage our arts communities to continue their development. I believe that on this day we can celebrate the worth of many of our artists, particularly our traditional artists, and it is a day on which we bring back to the arts community the equality that has long been sought. This is another strong Labor bill and I certainly commend it to the Main Committee.