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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 9004

Senator RONALDSON (12:50 PM) —This might be in the non-controversial slot in the Senate Order of Business, but it certainly is highly controversial legislation. The coalition will not seek to frustrate the passage of the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2009 and the related bill. These bills create a resale royalty right scheme so that visual artists will be able to claim a share of the proceeds of the second and each successive commercial sale of their artwork during the course of the artist’s life; and their estate will hold the right for a period of 70 years after the death of the artist.

Resale royalty rights for visual artists have been recommended by numerous reports over the years and they exist in many countries. The coalition has consulted very widely on these proposals and has found that there are sound arguments both for and against the introduction of rights. There are strong supporters and opponents of a resale royalty right—in the main, artists are supportive of the principle, whereas intermediaries, such as gallery owners, are opposed. Yet even this is an oversimplification, and prominent Australian artists themselves sit on both sides of the debate.

Some artists see a resale royalty right scheme as a fundamental recognition of their intellectual property rights. Other artists see the introduction of the resale royalty right as an unnecessary interference with the business model they have already established for selling their art. All have highlighted problems with the legislation as currently drafted. Tamara Winikoff, Executive Director of the Australian visual arts peak body, the National Association for the Visual Arts, said:

This legislation alienates all sides of the visual arts sector. It is an election promise gone horribly wrong.

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According to art industry studies, most of today’s artists, especially Aboriginal artists, will see no benefit within their lifetime and will not enjoy the dignity of earning income from the increasing value of their art work.

The model contained in the government’s bill will see the payment of the royalty to artists delayed until the second sale of their artwork after the commencement of the scheme. Art industry studies of auction houses show that of the artworks which were sold in 1988 only six per cent have been resold 10 years later. This gives an indication of the length of time most artists will have to wait to see any benefits, and the scheme itself will be complex to administer. It is also highly unlikely to secure reciprocal rights from overseas sales of Australian artists’ work. This means, again, that artists are being denied another potential source of income.

In summary, let me make it clear to members of Australia’s visual arts community that, firstly, we strongly support the arts in Australia and, secondly, we support the principle of a resale royalty right scheme being an appropriate way of recognising the intellectual property rights of Australia’s visual artists. We are just not convinced that Labor’s approach is the best way of doing that. In spite of our concerns about the detail of these bills, the coalition will not be opposing these bills, noting the government’s election mandate on this issue. I can also indicate that the coalition will not be supporting the Greens amendments.