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Thursday, 3 March 1927

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - I am pleased that honorable senators have approached this subject in a non-partisan spirit; it has lifted the discussion out of the rut. Whether a royal commission or a joint committee is appointed is a matter of little concern. I should have preferred the appointment of a royal commission ; but, as the committee will have power to send for persons and papers, and to move from place to place, it should be able to place before Parliament much valuable information which is not now available to it. I am informed on good authority that both in Melbourne and Sydney, and generally throughout the Commonwealth, the releasing of picture films is in the hands of a few persons, and that there are indications that before long it will be in the hands of one or two combinations. Unfortunately, those concerned appear studiously to have refrained from giving to Australian and British pictures that treatment to which they are entitled. The committee will, no doubt, investigate that aspect of the question with a view to facilitating the release of pictures produced in the British Empire. In support of American films it has been argued that the climate of California is eminently suited for the production of pictures; but I understand that, to a great extent, even the pictures made there are produced under artificial light. It is, therefore, not so much a question of climate as of obtaining the necessary talent and financial backing.

Senator Guthrie - In any case, the climate of Australia is, from the picturemaking point of view, equal to that of California.

Senator GRANT - Hitherto financial support to the film industry in the Commonwealth has not been forthcoming to any great extent, and even where £5,000 or more has been expended in Australia in the production of a picture, the films have been so ineffectually released that, in some instances, the promoters have received not more than £150. In that way a desirable Australian industry is being injured. As a result of its investigations the committee should be able to put before Parliament facts which will enable tlie film industry in Australia to be placed on a satisfactory footing. The example of Germany in this respect might well be followed. In that country picture showmen are required to exhibit a certain percentage of pictures of German manufacture.

Senator Guthrie - Fifty per cent, of the pictures screened must have been made in Germany.

Senator GRANT - Doubtless the committee will consider that aspect of the question, and possibly it will recommend the adoption of a. system similar to that in force in Germany. The block-booking system also merits careful investigation. If picture showmen are required to book their requirements twelve months ahead, it will be seen that, even should they screen Australianmade pictures, they will have to pay for all those which they have contracted to accept from the picture combinations. Every day the film industry is attaining greater importance. Since I moved my motion in August last, the industry has developed considerably, until to-day the capital invested in Australian picture theatres is approximately £25,000,000. Moreover, the number of persons who attend those theatres is increasing each week. I appreciate the decision of the Government to agree to the appointment of a select committee from both Houses to investigate the film industry. I trust that the Senate will agree to the amendment proposed by the Minister, so that, before long, the committee will have presented to Parliament a report which will result in the film industry in Australia being established on a satisfactory footing.

Amendment agreed to.

Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 5.3 p.m.

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