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Thursday, 10 June 1926


Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to add the following new paragraph to sub-item (c) : -

(c)   Films for public exhibition, per lineal foot, British free, intermediate1d., general 3d.

I desire to give tangible security and encouragement to the production and exhibition of Australian pictures. I am sure that the Minister (Senator Crawford) and the supporters of the Government will agree that action should be taken as early as possible to encourage what has become in other countries a large and important industry. During the last twelve months approximately 20,000,000 feet of films were imported into the Commonwealth, of which no less than 19,000,000 feet came from the United States of America. I have nothing whatever to say against the quality of the American productions, but it is the duty of the Australian people to realize that ever since the moving picture industry was established we have had more than a fair share of American films. It is practically impossible to see Australian films exhibited in the Commonwealth. There are about 1,074 picture theatres in the Commonwealth, which are visited by no less than 100,000,000 persons every year. As American pictures, some of which are of a high standard, introduce American propaganda to the detriment of Australian sentiment, the question arises as to the best way in which to substantially increase the number of Australian pictures and decrease the number of American pictures exhibited. I am informed by the picture-show proprietors that they are obliged tomake contracts with the film corporations at least twelve months in advance, and that, if they show Australian pictures, they are. debited, not only with the cost of the time occupied in showing them, but also with the costof showing an American production which is not actually exhibited. The combine has taken advantage of the position to discourage the efforts of Australian producers to exhibit Australian pictures.


Senator Reid - That is nonsense!


Senator GRANT - That is the opinion of those engaged in the business.


Senator Reid - They can exhibit any pictures they wish.


Senator GRANT - The honorable senator may be an authority on nonsense, but I admit that I am not. It may be all right to have New York sky-scrapers brought under our notice, but, personally, I am dog-tired of them. We have seen pictures of the Niagara Falls so often that we are utterly sick of them. As the scenic beauties of Australia cannot be excelled in any part of the world, it would be a relief to see on the screen photographic reproductions of such beauty spots as Russel Falls in Tasmania, and the Barron Falls in Queensland. . Probably there is no agency in existence to-day which provides such an excellent means of educating the people as picture-shows. Australia is so large that there are few who can say that they have visited every part of the Continent. It is only by attending picture shows depicting Australian scenes that many of our people can gain any knowledge of this country. How many members of this Parliament, notwithstanding the facilities placed at their disposal, have visited the Northern Territory? How many have gone to New Guinea? Very few. Many have never been to Tasmania or Western Australia, and the first-hand knowledge which some members have of Queensland is nil. If members of Parliament have not availed themselves of the opportunity to travel, the average citizen certainly cannot afford the time or find the means to do so. We are not doing our duty by this country in allowing the 1,074 picture shows to be monopolized practically by foreign-made films. I do not object to an occasional foreignmade film. It may be all very well in its way, but if we wish to see pictures of pastoral life in Australia or learn something of life on our mining fields, or in our great industrial concerns, we shall have to organize the film industry in Australia. The necessary talent can be secured, and, provided we give sufficient protection against the American combine, it should be possible to produce up-to-date films in this country. This may be done most effectively by increasing the general tariff. Possibly it would not be good policy to exclude foreign films altogether, but I am sure that, if the proper steps were taken, Australian film producers would rise to the occasion in a way that would surprise us. Since the Commonwealth is pledged to a policy of protection, our film producers should receive the same amount of encouragement that is given to other industries. I hope that the committee will send a request to the House of Representatives for a substantial measure of protection for Australian film producers against foreign combines. I do not know if the Commonwealth Government has power to make a regulation - I doubt if it has - insisting upon a certain proportion of Australian films being shown at every picture theatre throughout Australia.


Senator Duncan - If the people agree to the referendum we shall be able to do that.


Senator GRANT - Those amendments of the Constitution have not yet come before the people. But if the Government had the power, and if it insisted upon, say, 25 per cent, of Australian pictures being included in the programme at every picture theatre in the first year, 50 per cent, in the following year, 75 per cent, for the next year, and finally on all Austraiian films being shown, it would be doing something to build up an important industry. All that is required is proper organization and the development of an Australian sentiment that will insist upon Australian films dealing with Australian subjects. In recent years we have seen everywhere the slogan, " See your own country first." It is a good idea. The people of Victoria should see that State first; then if they turned their attention to other parts of the Commonwealth they would be profitably occupied for many years in learning all they could about this great Commonwealth. If the committee agrees to an increase in the import duty on foreign films the revenue will benefit very substantially, but I am not interested in that so much as I am in the encouragement of a great Australian industry.


Senator Crawford - The honorable senator will better achieve his purpose if he moves a request to amend paragraph b, under which the general tariff is lid a foot. He can move to leave out " lid." and insert "3d."


Senator GRANT - If the Minister can give me an assurance that the word "Other" includes films for public exhibition, I shall do that.


Senator Crawford - That is so.

Request, by leave, withdrawn.

Request (by Senator Grant) proposed -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty sub-item (c), paragraph 2 (6) per lineal foot, 3d. general tariff.

Senator CRAWFORD(QueenslandHonorary Minister) [5.45 j. - I cannot accept Senator Grant's requested amendment, much as I would like to encourage the importation of British films, and, still more, the production of Australian films. The proposed increase in the general tariff is not likely to have that effect, because very little has been done in the way of producing films in Australia, and Great Britain is not in a position to supply anything like the requirements of our picture theatres. Instead of leading to an increase in British or Australian films, Senator Grant's request, if agreed to, will probably be made an excuse for an increase in the charges for admission to our picture theatres. American films, I understand, are invoiced at a very low price - only a. few pence a foot - the producers relying chiefly upon royalties for their revenue. Some pictures are very costly to produce, so I am afraid that Senator Grant's amendment will not lead to the establishment of a new industry in Australia. I agree with him as to the scenic beauties of Australia and the Mandated Territory, as well as other parts of the Southern Hemisphere, and I should very much rather see films depicting Australian scenes than many of the pictures that are shown. The Tariff Board, however, went exhaustively into the subject, and the duties imposed are in accordance with the recommendations of that body.







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