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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22738

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade) (4:14 PM) —This MPI is about the threat to Australia's cultural identity from the government's trade agenda. The member for Melbourne launched into one of those extraordinary arguments—the whole basis of the argument was false but what he was trying to say in his attack on The Nationals was that they had defied their support base by supposedly going against support for Australia's cultural identity. It is a load of nonsense because we know that the Minister for Trade has said the government will not enter into any agreement that does not offer significant benefits to Australian exporters or the nation as a whole.

It was interesting that we were being accused—quite falsely, can I say—of supporting Australian farmers rather than supporting perhaps what might be seen as the cultural sector of Australia. That is quite untrue. It was an interesting argument from the member for Melbourne but we will deal with him later. What I want to speak about now is the commitment that has been made on the free trade agreement by minister Mark Vaile and the exaggerated claims that the free trade agreement with the US threatens the continued viability of local film and television production. The ALP has added to this confusion with its split personality. The Labor state premiers have enthusiastically supported the free trade agreement. I would like to quote Bob Carr:

It is in Australia's interests to link ourselves with the world's most dynamic and creative economy.

Steve Bracks said it had `potential ... benefits for the Victorian economy'. Mike Rann from South Australia said, `An FTA would give access to 280 million consumers.' Even Peter Beattie, the Queensland Premier, said `It could be the most momentous boost for our primary industries for a hundred years.' I note also that all Labor premiers signed a letter endorsing the signing of the free trade agreement with the United States. However, the split personality in the ALP continues. The left wing of the union movement opposes it and the federal parliamentary party is desperately split on it.

But let me assure those who work in Australian film and television that the Minister for Trade has made it quite clear that Australian culture is not under threat. Australian viewers will continue to see Australian stories told in Australian voices. We will continue the direct government support for Australian culture, including film production. None of that will be affected in any way by the free trade agreement. There have furthermore been extensive consultations with the film and television industry. Our local content rules will remain in place. Commercial free to air television networks are to broadcast 55 per cent local content during prime time. There are guarantees that 80 per cent of TV advertising is Australian and that the drama channels on pay television allocate at least 10 per cent of their program expenditure to local production. Those rules are in place now and will remain in place. The Minister for Trade has made that quite plain.

But, as the minister has also made plain, we are not inclined to overregulate and restrict the future and the development of new media technologies and platforms. Australia consumers are best placed to decide what they want to watch. Overwhelmingly, that will plainly be local content. There is a strong consumer demand for local entertainment. However, what those new platforms will be is anyone's guess. But they will certainly offer consumers greater choice. People talk about 200 channels via broadband Internet or digital television. But the future will unfold as it will. As new media develops there will be plenty of room for Hollywood and plenty of room for local content.

I often say to people in my electorate that we are in a unique position—a window in time and history. In John Howard we have a Prime Minister who is widely respected in the United States and across the globe. We have a President of the United States with a strong personal rapport with our Prime Minister and moreover a decided respect for Australia. And we have a very active and energetic and committed Minister for Trade in Mark Vaile.

I often say to people, `What if we had that reversed? What if we had Mr Crean, Al Gore and the opposition spokesman for trade?' I do not much hear from the opposition spokesman for trade—I think it is the member for Rankin. The people I talk to all say, `Thank goodness we've got what we've got.' Sixty per cent of Australians are like my constituents. They support a free trade agree-ment with the United States. They know it is going to be a tough deal; they know they may not get everything they want. But they support going forward. If we wanted to have an Australian re-run of an American classic, Crean, Gore and the member for Rankin could be `The Not Good, the Bad and the Ugly'.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—The member for Dawson will refer to members by their position or seat.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Indeed I will. I apologise for that. The Leader of the Opposition; the previous candidate for President, Mr Gore; and the member for Rankin in a remake of such a film could be `The Not Good, the Bad and the Ugly'.

Mr Murphy —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It might help the member for Dawson to know that Senator Conroy is the spokesperson.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Excellent. That will not change the re-run of the film, I assure you. I noticed that the member for Melbourne was concerned about Zed, tomato sauce and barbies. Come to Queensland; we actually talk like that. But the member for Melbourne need not worry. Australian culture is alive and well. All he needs to do is to turn on to Kath and Kim, one of Australia's great successful comedy productions. I love it, I have to say; I absolutely love it. They are both fantastic actresses. I love it and so do 2.15 million other Australians. So do not worry: the barbie is okay, Zed is there and the tomato sauce is on the table for Kath and Kim.

But I now want to turn to some of the comments made at the AFI Awards. One was by Sue Brooks, the director of Japanese Story. She said:

Like everybody else's been saying tonight, it's an honour to be able to tell Australian stories. But it's also important that our cultural entity is intact and we just can't trade that off for a few lamb chops.

I want people to remember that. Of course our cultural identity is important; of course our film and television industry is important. But to dismiss Australia's agriculture industry as a few lamb chops sells Australia's farmers very short.

Let me share with the House our major exports to the United States. Our major export is bovine meat—$1.6 billion worth, even with a massive quota and tariffs. Our second major export is meat at $321 million, even with the quota. The third is dairy products and eggs at $72 million. The fourth is crustaceans, then we go on to fruit and nuts—fresh and dried—food and live animals, and alcoholic beverages. You have to go a long way down the list to find something that Australian farmers do not produce very well and very competitively. We will stand up for all Australians in the free trade agreement, but I do not want to see Australian farmers and Australian farm products denigrated as `a few lamb chops'. I think that they deserve better than that.

I would now like to turn to some film remakes we could do in Australia. For ALP policies, we could have Legally Bland. For Mark Latham, the member for Werriwa, working hard to get his tax cuts, we could remake In the Cut and call it In the Rough. Looking at the National Conference of the ALP, what else could you call it but the current favourite, Intolerable Cruelty, which is one you cannot miss. For the attitude of the ALP to responsible management—what they have done in the Senate to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, to border protection, to the new Medicare bill—we could remake a film out at the moment called Kill Bill. Looking at some of the Left in the Labor Party and their attitudes, you could not do better than Titanic 3D—Ghosts of the Left. Let us talk about our Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, and what he is doing. He is presently in the United States working to get an increase in the standard of living for all Australians. What better film for him than Master and Commander—the Far Side of the World? Well done, Minister Vaile; keep up the good work and ignore the weeping wailers from the Labor Party.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! The discussion is now concluded.