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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 729

Senator VIGOR(5.30) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

In the 1960s there was much industry and community pressure for the establishment of a national school to provide professional production training in film and television. An interim council was appointed in 1969. The Australian Film and Television School Act was passed in 1973.

The last report of the School certainly points out the international success achieved by some of its students. It offers the hope that new premises at North Ryde will vastly improve the often primitive conditions in which work and training now take place. It raises the problem of antiquated equipment which is continually breaking down. There just is not enough money to buy new equipment, given the fall in real value of the School's funding allocation. Yet this is an area in which there are many new developments in technology, an area in which Australians have proved their ability. What can be done to give us a chance of developing the local television industry, of which the stations spoke glowingly in the 1950s and 1960s?

The report points out that in 1981 a cost recovery policy was imposed on the Australian Film and Television School. This means that if the School drums up funds from private enterprise, there is no guarantee that the extra money gained will go towards new equipment or for funding new courses. The School cannot risk diverting staff time to chasing dollars from financial institutions in the community and from the film and television industry itself, simply because under this financing arrangement the money might have to be returned to the Department of Finance.

The School has a rapid staff turnover. There are 500 students applying for 25 full-time television course positions, and a record 2,700 people from within the industry are participating in the Open Program seminars, workshops and courses. It just does not have the money to attract the top creative people needed to do the teaching. If we really want to encourage a local industry instead of depending on imported material, we must give money to this area.

For the financial year 1982-83 the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal put the total after-tax, after-licence fees profit of the commercial stations at more than $51m. Commercial radio stations earned more than $19.5m. In the accounts in this report we find that the princely sum of $8,072 was donated as part of the twenty-fifth birthday endowment by Channel 9 in Sydney. Surely the commercial media can do better than this. They are happy to employ the well-trained people produced by the School. They ought to have the foresight to make a slightly more impressive contribution. If we want a local television industry, we need a local training school. In order to have that, the School needs funds.

Debate interrupted.