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Staking a claim on the future: prospects for the Australian interactive multimedia industry

Good morning and welcome.

Your conference has taken on the challenge of re-inventing the Future.

I have a much simpler job to do this morning, namely opening your conference.

However I would also like to use this opportunity to launch an important Report prepared for me on the interactive multimedia industry.

I will also be announcing a couple of initiatives focussed on enhancing the marketing and investment prospects for Australian multimedia products and services

Returning to the title of your conference, let me say that I believe that reinventing the future is one of the main jobs of Governments. The major reforms involved in the internationalisation of the Australian economy have dramatically reinvented our trading future.

Many of you here today in fact epitomise the new breed of innovative, global-minded Australian firms that are flourishing in the competitive environment.

As people in such a dynamic industry as yours know better than most, the key to ongoing success is continually reinventing products, processes and services.

Innovation is the word that best sums it up.

For me, working to continue to build a culture of innovation in Australia is one of my main mission statements.

And there is certainly a good base to build on.

Just two days ago an important book was launched on my behalf by my Parliamentary Secretary Ted Lindsay. Called "The Rebirth of Australian Industry", the book focuses on Australia's performance in producing and exporting elaborately transformed manufactures--ETMs.

The impressive statistics have attracted quite a degree of media attention. And no wonder, because with growth of ETMs averaging 14.5% a year since 1985, it is no exaggeration to talk of a rebirth in Australian industry.

A critical factor underlying the reinvention of the future of Australian industry is the point made in the very first paragraph of the Book, and I quote: "the world economy is moving to more knowledge intensive and less resource intensive patterns of output".

This fact has also been highlighted by the recent LEK Report on our services industries, appropriately called "Intelligent Exports".

Now the players in the exciting multimedia industry are perfect examples of new industries based overwhelmingly on brain power and creativity.

And the power of multimedia applications and products is such that I have no doubt your industry will play a key role in reinventing our industry future as well as reinventing the way we go about our daily lives.

And while much attention has been focussed on the investment strategy of the carriers, a quiet revolution has been occurring.

Australian multimedia firms have been making their mark at home and abroad with some highly innovative products aimed at the corporate, entertainment and training markets. For example:

. Citibank's first "virtual" Personal Banking Centre is now in operation at Chatswood in Sydney with core systems developed by Big Animated Digital

. The US, European and Japanese markets for entertainment titles have been successfully penetrated by Beam Software in Melbourne which now employs 65 professionals

. Organisations as diverse as Smiths Snackfood Company and the Reserve Bank have successfully used multimedia training products developed by Applied Multimedia of Sydney

In Brisbane the public can now access information in multiple languages on a variety of services via a network of information kiosks established by the Brisbane City Council and North Communications

. Over 14,500 ANZ Bank Staff have been trained in the workplace on a new accounts package using products provided by Creative Informatics of Melbourne

I am sure that most of you here today would be able to cite many more such examples.

Despite this activity, the public discussion has focussed mainly on the communications infrastructure with content and applications being discussed mainly in terms of Pay TV.

Wednesday's media coverage of the Optus/Channel 9/Channel 7/Continental Cablevision announcements is a fair example of this view of content.

It is not surprising that these sort of developments should dominate public perceptions, given the size of investments occurring in this area.

Clearly an efficient competitive communications infrastructure is a critical element of any developed economy.

Australia already has one of the more advanced telecommunications networks in the world.

The challenge is to ensure that this continues to develop in a way which provides a flexible, accessible and competitive platform for the marketing of on-line services from Australia for global markets as well as for the domestic market.

But right here and now some very exciting and innovative work is being developed in Australia which has the potential to grow into an important export earner.

This potential is in fact the main subject of the Report I am launching this morning.

This Report is entitled Commerce in Content: building Australia's international future in interactive multimedia markets.

It was commissioned by my Department, with support from CSIRO and the Broadband Services Expert Group to improve our understanding of the dynamics of the multimedia industry.

I would like to congratulate the consultants, Dr Roger Buckeridge and Dr Terry Cutler of Cutler and Company for their excellent work.

The Report provides a very welcome assessment of the current developments in the multimedia industry, and gives us a vision of what we could achieve in Australia.

The consultants put the view that with the appropriate strategies in place a domestic interactive multimedia market of $2 to $3 billion dollars by the end of the decade is highly likely.

There is a major opportunity for Australia to develop online multimedia businesses which directly serve consumers in the US, Europe and Asia. The consultants see exports of the order of $200 million as an achievable target by 1997/98.

And the message comes across clearly that overcoming distribution constraints is critical to achieving significant returns to multimedia services and content developers.

Copyright as the legal basis for intellectual property based industries is also crucial. Because multimedia producers draw content from the existing film, TV, music and book producing industries in order to produce a new product, they are influenced by the policy environment in which those content industries operate

In particular they are affected by an intellectual property regime which must be able to adapt to the digital revolution.

The recent report of the Copyright Convergence Group has focussed attention on the issue of whether some fundamental rethinking of the system of law in this area is appropriate.

There are a number of other areas "Commerce in Content" brings to the attention of Government. These include the need to:

. promote Australia to the major ITT, entertainment, music, games and publishing multinationals as a location for multimedia content development,

expand vocational and on the job training opportunities in Australia,

. use the Government's purchasing power to act as a leading edge user, and encourage Australian based enterprises to do likewise; and

aggressively promote Australia's multimedia capabilities overseas.

The report also makes the point that the opportunities for growth and export development will not last forever.

Other countries including those in the Asia Pacific region have recognised the significance and potential of this industry and are putting in place substantial infrastructure to secure a leading position for their industries.

The report also outlines a number of ways that Government bodies such as Film Australia, National Film and Sound Archives and the CSIRO can promote and develop the interactive multimedia industry.

The report's analysis is based on an extensive program of consultation and data gathering which has been synthesised by the consultants into some carefully constructed and sometimes challenging arguments and recommendations.

I believe that the report will make an extremely valuable contribution to discussion on how best to develop the interactive multimedia industry in Australia.

Copies are available in the foyer, and I understand that you will have a chance to hear more about the consultancy during one of the conference sessions later today.

The report is a very rich body of work which will be very useful for Government. As Industry Minister I am keen to work with your industry to realise the potential we are all seeing.

I would encourage you to read the report, discuss it with the consultants and make your views known to them and to me through the Audiovisual Task Force in my Department.

I would now like to take the opportunity to announce three initiatives to promote the international profile of Australia's multimedia products and services.

First, my department will contribute $50,000 towards the development of a CD-ROM to promote Australian multimedia capability, for use by Australian companies overseas.

This contribution will be made on the basis of equivalent support from the industry for the project.

It is hoped to have the CD-ROM finalised for use at the MILIA multimedia publishing trade fair in Cannes, France in January 1995.

Second, the Market Australia program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has agreed to fund research to analyse the investment patterns of major multinationals which are investing in multimedia content and on line services development.

The market research will be used by the Government in targeted campaigns to promote multimedia investment in Australia and will also be available for use by Australian companies.

Third, I am also pleased to announce on behalf of my colleague Senator McMullan, that Austrade will provide $25,000 to fund an exhibition stand for use by Australian companies at the MILIA trade fair in France.

This cooperation between Austrade, DFAT and the Industry Department shows that the Federal Government is already working closely to provide practical assistance for Australian multimedia companies.

These specific initiatives build on the Government's existing programs to attract strategic foreign investment, to encourage innovation, to improve the uptake of technology and management skills, to enhance access to finance and to encourage exports.

The creation of AusIndustry will help improve the efficiency with which these programs are delivered and ensure that firms have access to the programs most relevant to them, no matter the source of the program.

This is particularly relevant for small to medium sized innovative companies such as many of those constituting the multimedia content development industry.

To further improve access to industry programs my Department has released today a two part video series which provides an overview of the industry and explains the Department's programs to multimedia developers.

The first of the two videos is intended to provide policy makers, potential investors, business people and, dare I say it, my Parliamentary colleagues at both State and Federal level, with a brief but watchable introduction to the Australian Interactive Media Industry

These videos would not have been possible without the support of AIMIA and I would like to extend my personal thanks to all those firms that contributed to the project.

I would also note that Ben Cardillo, a producer specialising in multimedia with Film Australia, has been appointed to the Services and Consumer Products Committee of the IRD Board to upgrade its multimedia expertise.

This appointment will serve to improve the Committee's understanding of your industry.

Mr President, I am very pleased to be here today.

This is a twenty first century industry which will live or die on the strength of its ability to seize opportunities and respond to change.

It is encouraging that Australians have shown a remarkable capacity to accept technology and adapt to change while maintaining a very high degree of social cohesiveness.

The Government wishes to see multimedia products and services applied in a way that improves the efficiency of our enterprises and enhances our living standards and quality of life.

I believe that there are substantial opportunities to grow the Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry and that the cooperation and communication which has been established between my Department, your Association and firms in this industry is an excellent example of how Government can contribute to this process.

I look forward to hearing more about your industry and have much pleasure in opening the 1994 AIMIA Global Multimedia Conference.