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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 810

Mr SYMON (6:19 PM) —I speak in support of the Screen Australia (Transfer of Assets) Bill 2010, which will transfer Screen Australia’s film library and related sales and digital learning functions to the National Film and Sound Archive, consolidating these collections. This bill deals with consequential and transitional matters relating to the transfer of staff, assets, liabilities and other matters to the NFSA. The bill also changes the name of the NFSA to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

As is well known, the Australian film and television industry has made an enormous contribution to the cultural life of our nation. The impact of quality cinema and television on the Australian community and the perceptions that the world has developed of our nation from exposure to this product cannot be overstated. Quality local television and film ensure that Australian children grow up watching local shows and films or at least have the opportunity to on our particularly good services such as ABC3. I recommend that all parents steer their children, if they watch TV, in that direction because there is a lot of Australian content there.

I think a frustration of many parents is that their children too often watch on TV imported product. While some of that is good, I think it is also very important from a parent’s viewpoint that children are exposed to their own country’s output. Australian children’s TV and films, both short and long, are some of the best in the world. I think they compare more than favourably with any of the imported products that come along. The other thing of course is that local production means jobs for people in Australia. The more locally made films and TV shows are promoted and shown at cinemas or on TV, the better it will be for people in the industry.

Films like Crocodile Dundee and television shows like Neighbours have made long-lasting impressions on the rest of the world of the Australian nature and character. Sometimes it is a little extrapolated but many times they get across the quirks that make our country the best in the world. Films that portray Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee live long in the memory. They have been used to advertise Australia year after year. Although some people might say that they are not the bee’s knees in arts films, they are certainly culturally important to Australia.

This bill is about the cultural heritage for current and future generations. Screen Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive were established as separate statutory authorities on 1 July 2008. The agencies have completed over two years of operation as separate statutory authorities and in that time it has become clear that certain functions associated with Screen Australia’s film library and related sales and digital learning functions would be best placed within the National Film and Sound Archive. The film library of Screen Australia contains substantial archival resources. The National Film and Sound Archive, as Australia’s premier collecting institution for audiovisual material, is the agency that would best preserve and support the development and exploitation of this fantastic resource.

Screen Australia’s library has a collection of approximately 5,000 films and associated material produced by the former Film Australia Ltd and its predecessor agencies or acquired from third-party producers. I am sure we have all seen over the years many films that have been financed with the help of Film Australia. The library collection also has over 60,000 items on film, video, sound and digital file formats and 150,000 stills, which the Commonwealth owns the copyright of.

Spanning a century of Australia’s history, it is one of the largest and most historically significant sources of archival, documentary and Indigenous footage and stills. Providing support to the independent documentary sector, Screen Australia offers a zero-fee licensing initiative, offering all media worldwide in perpetuity rights for up to 10 minutes of footage and 40 stills of Screen Australia’s copyright materials without fee. During 2009-10, 36 local documentaries accessed footage and stills under the zero-fee licensing scheme. This greatly assisted our local industry. This support to the local industry and the preservation of this cultural heritage will be continued at the NFSAA.

The National Film and Sound Archive is the Australian government’s collecting institution for the nation’s audiovisual heritage. This national collection includes more than 1.6 million items. So, in addition to the disks, films, videos, audiotapes, phonograph cylinders and wire recordings, the collection includes supporting documents and artefacts such as photographic stills, transparencies, posters, lobby cards, publicity, scripts, costumes, props, memorabilia including sound memorabilia and video and film equipment. That is a very extensive collection, and of course no collection of that size can ever be totally put on public display. But it needs to be stored, it needs to be catalogued and it needs to be accessible one day so that Australian people can see it and see what our history actually contains.

The NFSA provide their collection for loan and conduct a number of preservation projects, searching for lost films and preserving our film and sound heritage. Through cutting-edge research and preservation practices, the National Film and Sound Archive has become internationally recognised as a centre of excellence for restoration and preservation of audiovisual material. The National Film and Sound Archive has leading-edge technical facilities and teams of expert technicians skilled in handling all audiovisual media. Although in these days of digital production and digital storage it is far too easy to burn things onto your own computer and have a back-up file somewhere, in many cases the materials that our old films and images are stored on are quite volatile and must be stored with proper archival practices; otherwise they can be gone for good.

Screen Australia is the key federal government funding body for the Australian screen production industry. Its functions are to support and promote the development of a highly creative, innovative and commercially sustainable Australian screen production industry. Screen Australia and the industry I would say have been enjoying not only recent success but ongoing success. In 2009, 1.4 million more Australians went to the cinema to see Australian films than in 2008—a 45 per cent increase—and that momentum continues. Screen Australia invested in several distinctively Australian films that performed well at the box office—films such as Bran Nue Dae, The Kings of Mykonos, Beneath Hill 60 and Animal Kingdom. These successes reflect Screen Australia’s focus on audience engagement, creative storytelling and increased screen business viability. In the two years since its inception, Screen Australia should be proud of its impact on the Australian film and television industry. Noting the success of Screen Australia and its core duties, it has become apparent that the role of maintaining a film and sound collection does not appear to be a core activity of Screen Australia, so, by transferring its collection to the National Film and Sound Archive, Screen Australia will be contributing to the expansion of the NSFA’s collection and will retain its focus on supporting the Australian screen production industry. The 60,000 films, documentaries, stills and other shows currently held at Screen Australia will significantly add to the collection at the National Film and Sound Archive.

The Screen Australia (Transfer of Assets) Bill 2010 also deals with staff and administrative matters related to the transfer of the collection to the NSFA. Any assets and liabilities specified by the minister at transition time will cease to be assets and liabilities of Screen Australia and will become assets and liabilities of the NFSA. The bill will ensure the transfer of relevant Screen Australia employees currently working in connection with the film library and will ensure that all their entitlements transfer over to the NFSA. It is very important that that is done properly when you are dealing with skilled people, especially in an area such as this, where there is a worldwide demand but not many opportunities for training to get new people into the industry. Current Screen Australia staff are non-APS employees engaged under the Screen Australia Act 2008. They will be transferred to the NFSA, subject to the Public Service Act 1999, all accrued staff entitlements to annual leave, personal leave and carers leave will be transferred to the NFSA, and staff will retain continuity of service.

In addition to moving the cultural collections to the NFSA, this bill will have the effect of changing the name of the NFSA by adding ‘of Australia’ to the end of it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—It being 6.30 pm, the debate is interrupted. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting and the member may seek to continue his remarks at that time.