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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1901

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - I would be prepared to support this clause on certain reasoning. I would have thought that if the Opposition has a view on this clause it would have tried to put the clause in order according to that view. Surely the Opposition cannot take the view that the whole of the clause must be omitted, because I think it has a lack of conception on the practical side as to what the departments may need. As I understand it, there is nothing to stop a department from saying: 'We will devote a certain amount of our yearly vote. We have allowed for a certain amount in our submission on the Budget for the making of a certain amount of promotional material for our department or some aspect of our department. 'The department can go to a private organisation and commission it to make the film. It can give the organisation a script and say: 'We are the customer'. I am quite sure that that is done. I cannot think of an instance but, of course, in the totality of the Commonwealth Government service it must be done over and over again. 1 think the Minister said that the Government spends $3m or $4m a year in film production. I ask the Minister whether I am correct in saying that he said that the Government spends $3m or $4m a year in film production.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Nearly $4m on its own film production unit.

Senator STEELE HALL -The thing I therefore draw to the Opposition's attention is that it is not as though the Government is going to make its first film via this Commission. As I see it what we will be doing by means of this Bill is giving the Government, through its departments and Ministers and so on, the right to say: 'We want this film; we want this script'.

Senator Greenwood - The Bill is setting up a Commission which will do these things; it is not the Department.

Senator STEELE HALL - Yes, absolutely. What I am saying is that if the Opposition's view prevails -

Senator Jessop - You do not understand it.

Senator STEELE HALL -For the benefit of Senator Jessop -

Senator Jessop - I am interested in you because you obviously do not understand it.

Senator STEELE HALL - I would like to hear Senator Jessop 's views. He has not spoken on this Bill yet.

Senator Jessop - I have.

Senator STEELE HALL - I am sorry. He has certainly given the impression that he has not spoken. Perhaps he did not impress. What I am saying to the Opposition is that the Government has a need for a considerable footage of film to be produced each year for its various departmental needs. If the Opposition is successful in omitting clause 8 the departments or the Ministers will not be able to go to the Commission and say: We want this film on these terms with this script'. Whoever goes to the Commission in those circumstances might be lucky, but, as I understand it, what I have stated is the case. The Minister is prohibited in paragraph (b) (i) of caluse 5(1) from giving approval to make films that serve the purposes of a department of State or an authority of Australia. The Opposition proposes to remove the Minister's power to make directions in that instance. He can give approval but he cannot give a direction in the simplest of terms. Under clause 5 the Minister may promote, distribute and exhibit films but he cannot give a clear direction in relation to the script. I can speak only of an instance about which I know from the past. What the Opposition is saying is that in that instance the South Australian Government was wrong in saying to its own film maker: 'We want this script, and we direct you to take that line out and put this line in in order to promote a particular aspect of this Government'. The Opposition is saying that it would be wrong for the Government to do that if the Film Commission is the maker of the film. Why is it wrong?

Senator Missen - We do not want to create a department of political propaganda.

Senator STEELE HALL - In that case the South Australian Government would have had to go outside its own film-making organisation and give the project to an outside group. It would have had to say to its own people: 'Sit there. The Opposition in South Australia, through its dominance in the Upper House, will not allow us to make use of you, so we will go outside and get it done'.

Senator Bonner - No.

Senator STEELE HALL - It is no good the honourable senator saying 'no'. That will be the effect of the amendment. I am only drawing upon that instance from my own experience because I believe it cannot be faulted. I suppose in the Commonwealth sphere departments can go outside the government film maker on many occasions. In a funny little way I suppose that is helping free enterprise. The rejection of the clause would prevent the Minister from dictating to the Commission. The Commission could say: No, we will not allow you to dictate those terms. The debate went on in the Parliament and you were expressly forbidden from doing that. That clause was omitted and therefore you cannot dictate to us. You can give a general approval but you will have to agree to the details in your general approval.' I suppose the Government can go outside and have the film made more expensively and help free enterprise. I am quite sure that the Government will still get its films, whatever the Opposition does, but it will not be such a tidy arrangement.

If the Opposition objects to other more major aspects of the clause, surely it could tidy the clause. Because I think that this is an extremely valuable Bill to the free enterprise film industry in Australia I would ask the Opposition not to destroy it in an overall move- to abandon its previous tactics of simply defeating something entirely when there are only certain aspects that it does not like. Perhaps the Opposition can at least look at this clause later and put it in order with its thoughts. Surely it does not believe that every part of this clause deserves to go in the rubbish bin.

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