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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1882


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I greatly appreciate the speedy passage that is being given to the Australian Film Commission Bill which I regard and which I am sure all members of the Senate regard as being an important and an integral part of the development of a commercially viable film and television industry. I emphasise the second portion of that phrase. The recommendations came to the Government from the old Tariff Board after it had conducted an inquiry into the matter generally. I join with Senator Hall in commending a former Prime Minister of this country, Mr John Gorton, for having been responsible for introducing the legislation to establish the Australian Film Development Corporation in 1970. Honourable senators opposite will recall that at the time of the introduction of that legislation the then Opposition, now the Government- the Labor movement- did not oppose the introduction of the legislation and indeed commended the Prime Minister at the time for his foresight and wisdom in bringing down legislation to establish a corporation.

I think it is fair to say that that legislation followed upon a report by a Senate Select Committee which was presided over by the late Senator Vincent from Western Australia. The Select Committee was required to report upon the encouragement of Australian productions for film and television. That Committee became commonly referred to as the Vincent Committee. At page 30 of the Committee's report, which was tabled in the Parliament on 29 October 1963, the Committee recommended that funds from Consolidated Revenue be made available for all purposes connected with the recommendations, provided that the appropriations did not exceed the sum of $lm. Whilst commendation must be given to the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, for his foresight in establishing the Australian Film Development Corporation, basically the decision to establish the Corporation evolved from a recommendation coming from an allparty Senate Select Committee, of which at the time I was a member.

Senator Guilfoyleand Senator Webster referred to the ability of the Minister under the proposed legislation to exercise an authoritarian hand. Those matters will be debated and discussed during the Committee stage of the Bill. But from my knowledge and experience of this industry, in order to ensure that effective financial assistance and other tangible support is given to the industry for its successful development, the industry must have a real voice in the Cabinet if it is to receive a fair share of the community's financial cake. Perhaps Senator Webster, in his criticism to date of the apparent discretion given to the Minister under this Bill, should also have a look at the Canadian National Film Board legislation which is often cited by some people in the industry as being the criterion that should be adopted by any government which is embarking on the legislative course which this Government is now taking. I mention that merely in passing at this stage; I realise that it will be the subject of discussion and debate in the Committee stage. The Australian Film Development Corporation, throughout its three or four years span of existence, has been the subject of a lot of criticism. But I think one must concede that over that period it has been quite successful as far as its investment policies are concerned. I know that it was the subject of a great deal of criticism in evidence which was presented from a wide cross-section of the industry when evidence was being taken by the Tariff Board. But the Corporation has weathered the march of time. It is now commencing to earn substantial revenue from some of its investments.

Having considered the Tariff Board report, we believe that the stage is now set for further development in line with most of the recommendations in the Tariff Board report. We believe that the Commission which we are contemplating in this legislation should be established in order to encourage, whether by the provision of financial assistance or otherwise, the making, promotion, distribution and exhibition of Australian films and television programs; to make, promote, distribute and exhibt any films or television programs or to commission these activities on its behalf; and, through Film Australia, which is the Australian Government film production arm, to make or commission the making of films serving the purposes of a department of state or an authority of Australia, films dealing with matters of national interest to Australia and films designed to illustrate or interpret aspects of

Australia or of the life and activities of the Australian people; to assist a State or State authority to purchase Australian films of an educational nature and of national interest of importance; and to encourage the proper keeping of films in archives in Australia, providing financial assitance for this purpose if necessary.

Hopefully, this Commission, when established, will be an investment commission, a production commission and a promotional commission. Whilst Senator Webster used the words a socialist commission', we believe that it certainly will be a very effective and efficient coordinating commission. This is part and parcel of the general expansion of the Australian film and television industries which has taken place under the administration of the Labor Government. Now we are acting basically in conformity with the old Tariff Board's report and recommendations. We will be increasing the finance available to the commercial sector of the industry. When we came into office in 1972, 4 feature films had been made in Australia in that year. Last year 8 feature films were made in Australia. This year, hopefully and expectantly, about 20 feature films will be made in Australia. We have established the points system for commercial television to which Senator Hall made reference. As a result there has been a very substantial increase in expenditure by Australian commercial television stations on Australian television productions. We have increased operational expenditure for the Australian Broadcasting Commission from $66m a year in 1972 to $98m a year in 1974. Now television productions which are made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, either in its own right or by way of co-production with other organisations, are being exported. Those things, to mention but a few, I suggest are tangible evidence of our determination to be successful in these new developments.

We have done this also by trying to bring about conference, consultation and co-operation within the industry. When we came into office the industry was very much split. In many respects it still walks the tightrope. But I believe that, as a result of conference between the industry, the Government and the unions which are involved in this sort of production, that tightrope has been eased very much. We established the Interim Board of the Australian Film Commission, representing a wide cross-section of the Australian community. One of the persons to whom Senator Webster referred and whom he lauded, Mr Hector Crawford of Crawford Productions, was one of the first people appointed to the Interim Board when it was set up by this

Government. The Board has played a very effective part in bringing about a better understanding on all sides of the industry of the problems confronting the industry as a whole. We as a government and my Department as a department have conducted seminars. We have published a guide to the facilities available for film production purposes in Australia. We have sent that to all our missions abroad. These things which we have done already will be able to be done more effectively by the new Commission which is to be established under this legislation. I know that there will be considerable debate in the Committee stages on several of the clauses now appearing in the legislation, but I appreciate the speedy passage of the second reading of the Australian Film Commission Bill which, as a Minister in the Labor Government, I am honoured to be handling in the Parliament today.

Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.

In Committee

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to. Clause 3.

(   1 ) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears- authorised person' means a member of the Commission or of the staff of the Commission authorised by the Commission for the purposes of the provision in which the expression occurs;

(2)   In considering whether a film has or will have a significant Australian content, the Commission shall have regard to-

(a)   the subject-matter of the film;

(b)   the place or places where the film was, or is to be, made;

(c)   the nationalities and places of residence of-

(i)   the persons who took part, or are to take part, in the making of the film (including authors, composes, actors and technicians);

(ii)   the persons who own, or will own, the shares or stock in the capital of any company concerned in the making of the film; and

(iii)   the persons who have, or will have, the copyright in the film;







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