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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 415

Senator CAMPBELL —I seek leave to make a short statement on the announcement made earlier by the President in relation to the film on the operations of parliament.

  Leave granted.

Senator CAMPBELL —I thank the Senate for its indulgence. I want to raise a few issues on which I would like the President to give some answer to the Senate in the next 24 hours. One matter that concerns me is that we see tenders for government work going out to the market and then, all of a sudden, an announcement that the successful tenderer is a government company. We had a recent example with the Maralinga clean-up contract where 38 people indicated their interest in doing that work. There were people from all around the world with expertise in nuclear clean-ups. The Australian Construction Services won the job, but that is another issue.

  I would like the Senate to be informed by the President in good time about who was invited to do the work of making this new film about the operations of parliament. It is a worthwhile project and I certainly enjoyed watching the last episode which had Senator Collins and Senator Patterson in it. I would also like the President to address himself to the criteria which were set down in the Hilmer report where, specifically, in the national competition policy report it said, `Government businesses should not enjoy any net competitive advantage by virtue of their ownership when competing with other businesses.' It is quite a specific recommendation which this government has reiterated as being a crucial part of its micro-reform agenda, particularly in its rhetoric to the states in relation to many of their businesses.

  I would like the President to inform the Senate whether the Joint House Department, when giving this contract to the ABC, did heed the national competition policy. Specifically, I would like to know whether the ABC will make a contribution to sales tax when it is making this film for the parliament. Does the ABC pay fringe benefit taxes? Does it pay building insurance and other insurances? Does it receive cut price rental vehicles from Dasfleet? Does it pay market office rental for its accommodation and facilities? Does it make any allowance for capital costs for its buildings and other equipment? Does it pay state payroll taxes? Does it pay council rates? Does it pay the training guarantee levy? Does it pay all of the costs that the private film industry in Australia has to pay when it is competing for this sort of work?

  These answers are quite crucial if we are going to make Australia a competitive nation and ensure the future of the private film industry, which is flourishing in Australia. There are so many film producers who could do this work, but most of them will be discouraged if, when they put in bids for this sort of government work, they keep being beaten by government-owned businesses, and if they suspect that the ABC unit that is doing this work has an unfair advantage over private Australian film producers and film makers.

  There is a flourishing industry in the community which could compete for this work. It is fair for it to know whether it is playing on a level playing field. I would like the President to report back on this matter. There are many budding film makers and producers in the community. It is possible that a contract such as this could give a young Australian a start—a Francis Ford Coppola could be waiting out there to make this film; Kevin Costner could be in the community waiting to make this film; a young protege of Steven Spielberg could be in the community waiting to make this film. One thinks of the special effects around Parliament House which could well give a person a break or, probably more appropriate to Parliament House, someone with experience in fantasy such as Walt Disney may be appropriate to make the film.

  It is an opportunity for a young person in the private sector to get involved. Quite seriously, it is fair that those people know that when they compete for work for government business—in this case the parliament's business—they are doing so on a level playing field and not against an ABC that has an unfair advantage in the race.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I will draw those matters to the President's attention.