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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
27/05/2015
Estimates
ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO
Screen Australia

Screen Australia

[10:26]

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you for joining us. I have not got long, so we may be able to come back to you later. If you could just tell us quickly: what impact will the cuts of $3.6 million from this year's budget, compounded with the cuts in last year's budget, have on Screen Australia? If you could just provide us with a bit of a snapshot of where most of the cuts will be felt?

Mr Mason : As we said publicly, any further cuts to us would, in this budget, come out of on-screen programing funding. That will be determined on a case-by-case basis, round by round—what we see, what is applied, so to determine what sort of programing it comes out of.

Senator LUDLAM: What kind of cuts are they as a percentage of your operating budget?

Mr Mason : That cut of $910,000-ish a year would be about one per cent.

Senator LUDLAM: Does that amount to job losses directly or indirectly within the industry?

Mr Mason : Within the industry it would be hard to quantify what sort of effect it will have until we see what sort of program it comes against. It also depends on what other entities such as the ABC, SBS commercial broadcasters do.

Senator LUDLAM: In the instance of the Australia Council it was not immediately obvious because the funding rounds were still in play. When will you be able to give us a more detailed idea of what impacts are actually occurring?

Mr Mason : I would assume it will actually be much later into the fiscal year, because obviously there is still a sizeable amount of money that we would allocate out through the years, so it would be much more in the tail end of the fiscal year.

Senator LUDLAM: Were you given any warning? Did Screen Australia receive a courtesy phone call just before the budget? When did you find out that these cuts were in play?

Mr Mason : We normally deal with the minister's office and also the ministry. They walk us through as and when things are confirmed.

Senator LUDLAM: That was on budget day or had you had advanced warning in the lead-up?

Mr Mason : We were given an indication but of course it was confirmed only on budget day.

Senator LUDLAM: You did not get one of these courtesy phone calls?

Mr Mason : I did not receive a call.

Senator Brandis: I did not make a call to Screen Australia. The reason, if you wonder why, I rang Mr Myer but not Screen Australia is that it was a different case.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand.

Senator Brandis: In the case of Screen Australia it was a very small change that did not involve the creation of a new program. This was just an economy, whereas in the case of the National Program for Excellence in the Arts it was a pretty significant rebasing of the way in which arts funding was conducted. So I thought in those circumstances Mr Myer should be told as a matter of courtesy. But, ordinarily, if an agency has its budget cut by a little bit, one would not ordinarily give advance notice of that.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand the distinction. I might come back later if there is time.

Proceedings suspended from 10:29 to 10:49