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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 224

Mr HARDGRAVE (5:44 PM) —I am pleased to rise on this matter again, a matter of leftover business from the 38th parliament. On 28 May the predecessor of the member for Denison, in the shadow ministerial role, agreed broadly with the principle of the bill. The then member for Canberra, Bob McMullan, who is now the member for Fraser, made similar points at the time. Essentially, the point I made in rebuttal to those points I will make again: $27 million out, $40 million in. That is what the government has done because this is a vehicle for real investment in a real industry. It is not an industry that is a by-product of some sheltered workshop which seems to be the basis of the Labor Party's argument—that, if you do not have government involved in the constant financing of films and television in this country, it is not going to happen.

It is important also to correct a number of the falsehoods from the member for Denison in his contribution today. I am sure that, as he gets the brief of this particular portfolio, he will realise, when he looks back on this speech, that to make a suggestion as regards the Film Finance Corporation being under some sort of threat by this government is to turn your back completely on the central premise of the success of the Film Finance Corporation; and that is that this is a government instrumentality which rightly looks around for success. It views in a professional way, based on both cultural and artistic values, the short films, motion pictures and scripts that are submitted to it, makes suggestions to potential producers and potential recipients of assistance about ways to improve those scripts, and finances them accordingly. It provides seed money, provides incentive, provides a signal to the market that this is a worthwhile project. And guess what? There is great success that comes out of the Film Finance Corporation.

Mr Kerr —Why don't you give the assurance I've asked for?

Mr HARDGRAVE —This is a government which rewards success. We are not in the business of rewarding lethargy. We are in the business of rewarding success. The Film Finance Corporation also makes available money, in limited amounts and under rules and regulations, to those sorts of projects which have no market value but which have intrinsic cultural and artistic value: it is all about developing an important and growing industry.

The member for Denison wants to know why there is not some assurance about the continuation of funding. That is just one of those typical cheap-shot, budgetary, bureaucratic nonsenses that we hear normally in the first year of every government. You are not going to see any line in a budget paper past three years. It is just a simple matter of procedure that there is a zero in the column after the third year. So what?

The government is very committed to the Film Finance Corporation because it is successful. It is producing results; it is turning out onto the world stage movies like Shine—which, by the way, is the movie that Geoffrey Rush won the award for—Muriel's Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Strictly Ballroom, which have all gone on to be huge commercial successes because of the professional people who are involved in the Film Finance Corporation—people who will continue to be encouraged by this government as it seeks excellence in an important industry.

The other thing the member for Denison talks about is the Commercial Television Production Fund. Essentially, the premise of what he is saying is that the Labor Party does not want money turned into vital expenditure, such as for the poor and the elderly in my electorate of Moreton; it prefers me to look them in the eye and say, `No. We're going to give it to Kerry Packer and to Kerry Stokes, because they've got to be able to produce television programs. Never mind the fact that you haven't got enough food; Labor says, "Let's not give you cake. We'll give you a television program instead."'

Mr Kerr —You are a cheapjack.

Mr HARDGRAVE —The member for Denison can say `cheap' all he likes; but, at the end of the day, the government has got a responsibility also to the children of tomorrow to run the economy properly. The other half of the premise that the member for Denison has put in his contribution today is `Go further into debt. Clock up more money and just throw money at the problem.' If throwing money at a problem had fixed problems, the Keating government would have gone down in history as successful—and, of course, it never shall, unless the Labor Party gets back into the treasury bench and starts handing money out for things like artists-in-residence in trade union movements all around this country so that they can try and organise the cultural history of this nation in some particular way.

The other ruse that the member for Denison has offered today is the question of 10BA under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936. Now 10BA stays—and Gonski, in fact, had recommended in his report that you replace 10BA with FLICs. Acting cautiously, in the spirit of being a responsible government, handling the finances of this nation well, as well as encouraging a vital industry like the film and television production industry, the government has said that 10BA stays. At the same time, it has put together the film licence investment company concept to encourage greater investment into this particular sector.

If those opposite were truly interested in advancing the cause of television and film production in this country, as we always seem to hear at glitzy, once every three years presentations where they troop out ex-prime ministers—except for the one, Mr Keating, whom they sent off overseas during the most recent election campaign—and if the Labor Party were truly interested in this particular sector, they would not try the constant stunts of delays in the Senate; they would get this bill passed.

We have had to bring in a number of amendments relating to the particular dates that this bill will work towards because of those deliberate delays, not based on good policy but just based on cheap politics, in the Senate. The simple amendment we have put forward is that investing capital has to be secured by 30 June 2002. It was 2001. The particular film involved has to be completed by 30 April 2003. It was 2002. Essentially, what the government is doing is extending the concept of FLIC by 14 months to accommodate those sorts of delays that I fear the member for Denison, as he learns his portfolio brief, will probably inspire amongst his Senate colleagues.

Over time I am certain that this government will continue to promote the mature growth that we are now starting to experience in this sector. The industry is employing a lot of people; it is making a mark on the world stage. We do not need to go back to the cultural cringe concept of a by-product of a sheltered workshop industry. We need to give it life. We need to give it incentive. This bill, this approach, is an experiment—yes—but it is an experiment worth working for because, after all, what we want to get is those people in Australia, those people in the world who have an interest in earning a dollar out of investing in a worthwhile project, to do so. That is what this bill does and I look forward to further debates with the member for Denison on these matters and others in the future.