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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
24/03/2017
Estimates
COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS PORTFOLIO
Screen Australia

Screen Australia

[09:53]

CHAIR: Welcome back, Ms Cameron. It is good to see you again. Would you like to make an opening statement?

Ms Cameron : No, thank you.

Senator BILYK: In the past couple of months I have read reports in the media of a review into content quota rules. Minister, are you planning to launch a review into the content quota rules, and, if so, when will this be announced?

Senator Fifield: Let me answer that in two parts. Firstly, the House of Representatives Communications and the Arts Committee has a wide-ranging inquiry which would also cover that area. That is a self-initiated inquiry by the committee. The way the House committees work is that they will write to a minister asking the minister to give them a reference on a particular subject, and the minister then writes back and says, 'I'm happy to have you do that.' So it is initiated by the committee. I did at the last estimates—the ones just a few weeks ago—indicate that that is something that is in the government's contemplation, but we have not made an announcement on that.

Senator BILYK: Are you waiting on that inquiry to be completed? Is that what you are telling me?

Senator Fifield: No, that is something that the House committee decided to do, and that is good. Always happy for contributions of colleagues through committees of the parliament.

Senator BILYK: But any potential review is not dependent on that inquiry being complete.

Senator Fifield: No. Correct.

Senator BILYK: Have you had discussions with anyone about terms of reference or when the review might be conducted or anything?

Senator Fifield: As I say, we have not made any announcement.

Senator BILYK: Would you anticipate, then, that the review might complement the inquiry currently underway in the House?

Senator Fifield: The House have initiated their inquiry, but we have not made a decision or an announcement.

Senator BILYK: Should I expect a decision or an announcement soon?

Senator Fifield: I cannot assist you any further.

Senator BILYK: They will be ongoing questions, then. There is a fair bit of uncertainty in the screen sector at the moment. What steps are you taking to get the policy settings right for the Australian screen sector to avoid those rather alarming predictions that I read from Screen Producers Australia that, 'This is a year that will make or break the independent Australian production industry' and, if this does not happen, 'very soon we won't have an independent Australian production industry to produce great Australian stories'.

Senator Fifield: That was Screen Producers Australia, was it?

Senator BILYK: Yes.

Senator Fifield: I think they are Mr Deaner's comments. That is his perspective.

Senator BILYK: You disagree with him?

Senator Fifield: I let industry bodies speak for themselves.

Senator BILYK: Have you met with them about those comments, that were reported on 28 February in the Sydney Morning Herald? Have you had any meetings with them about those comments, to allay their fears?

Senator Fifield: I am always meeting, and the department is always meeting, with representatives of the sector.

Senator BILYK: Has anyone in the department met with Screen Producers Australia since those comments were made?

Dr Arnott : Yes, the department meets regularly with members from Screen Producers Australia.

Senator BILYK: When did you meet with them after those comments were made and reported on 28 February? Can you give me the dates that somebody met with them?

Dr Arnott : I would have to take the precise dates on notice.

Senator BILYK: If you would do that, that would be wonderful. It should not take too long to find out, presumably. Thanks. Are there any plans to replace any of the funds that were cut from the screen sector since the government came to office?

Senator Fifield: I cannot speculate on the budget.

Senator BILYK: Should I get excited about the upcoming budget, Minister, with regard to the screen sector?

Senator Fifield: I assume you are always excited in anticipation of each budget.

Senator BILYK: Yes, it keeps me awake at night with excitement—not. What plans are there, then, to follow up the benchmark Screen Australia study from 2016, Seeing ourselves: reflections on diversity in Australian TV drama? We think there should be more programming reflecting diversity, but it still appears to be the exception rather than the rule. Can you tell me what plans there are to follow up on that?

Ms Cameron : We did release that landmark report last year, which was the first comprehensive study of what we see on the small screen and how it represents the Australian community today. It probably was not a great surprise to recognise that what we see on the small screen—it was television only—does not very accurately reflect the Australian population that we are today, and there is a host of reasons for that happening. In effect, the only great news was that, as far as the Indigenous population is concerned, which represents three per cent of Australia, on screen the Indigenous population represented five to six per cent. So we have done an awful lot in that area. It is just that non-Anglo-Celtic representation on screen is pretty woeful compared to the representation in Australia.

Directly relating to that, we are a small agency and part of our brief is to educate, provide the research and galvanise the sector to take some action. Since that report was announced, we have followed through with a program called Developing the Developers, which is specifically about targeting filmmakers who have a diverse background, whether that is multicultural, sexuality, gender or disability, and getting them into a two- to three-day workshop, which will actually happen over this weekend, to ensure that they are getting the best advice and the most professional expertise and are working through their projects and getting their projects to a point where they can secure Screen Australia development funds and, hopefully, go on to secure production funds.

I also know that the industry has come together with a lot of industry leaders to develop an inclusion diversity committee. It has not been announced yet, but we have met a couple of times. It has on it us, the ABC, SBS and state agencies, and we are looking at doing more in this area so that we can better represent the diversity of Australia on screen. Over and above that, there is the whole gender question—

CHAIR: Gender Matters.

Ms Cameron : which, I am very happy to report, has done an awful lot since we released our findings last year and since we released the program Gender Matters. In fact, we had reason to take stock recently because we did a question and answer with the magnificent Geena Davis, who was here for the All About Women conference in Sydney early in the month. Of course, she is of Thelma and Louise fame and, in fact, she said that it was that movie that made her such an advocate in Hollywood for women on screen to be seen, heard and represented. Just musing, it is interesting that that movie, with such strong female protagonists, ends up with them driving over a cliff.

Senator Fifield: It was not a happy ending.

Senator BILYK: It was not, sadly.

Ms Cameron : I was just thinking in the plane on the way down this morning: if those protagonists had been men, I reckon they would have got the girl, got the money and left on a high note, making us all feel bloody brilliant about ourselves.

Senator BILYK: I absolutely agree.

CHAIR: While we are talking about Gender Matters, I am a particular fan and think it is a great program. Have you been measuring the impact and the progress of Gender Matters?

Ms Cameron : We have. Leading into that session we did with Geena, we did a stocktake. Geena was great; she has developed a software package which identifies when women are represented, what they say and how long they are on screen. The findings have just come out. Two hundred of the top films in the world have been measured. Would you believe that only 17 per cent of leading people in movies are women? In other words, women were only cast as leads in 17 per cent of those 200 films. Women talk half as much as men and are seen half as much as men in those 200 films, but the box office success for the female led films is 16 per cent more than the male led films. It is these sorts of stats that Geena takes to studio executives and says, 'Hey, what about this?' And they are taking note and paying attention. The trouble is that it starts with kids, and that is what we have all come to realise. If boys and girls go to the theatre today or watch television, they are very lacking in inspiration. They cannot see themselves as the scientist or the adventure hero or even the President.

CHAIR: Or a superhero.

Ms Cameron : The superhero—and they cannot relate. If you cannot see it, you cannot be it. So we have got a lot of work to do. Even in the film Finding Nemo, which you have all seen, in all of the oceans in all of the world, that movie would have you believe that there was only one female character. Even all the schools of fish spoke in unison with a male voice. So you begin to realise the extent of gender bias throughout our industry.

So Screen Australia, a little organisation of a hundred-odd people, are trying to start to do a little bit with reference to gender matters. We have funded 58 companies and projects to develop female-led stories; they do not have to be a female story, but the creative team is female. Since we have released the program we have had a 10 per cent increase in applications from female-led teams—which is really good—but, most importantly, those projects that we have developed and have seed funding in now are looking extremely exciting. They are at different levels—some are at script development, some are releasing pilots, some of them have released proof of concepts online already. And there is market interest in television, there is coproduction interest in some countries including France and the UK and there is 45 stories being developed. If we can develop 20 to 30 per cent of those and get the market to broadcast and distribute them, then we will begin to make a difference and begin to shift that needle.

Over and above the stories, we have also funded a number of companies and professional development programs, including the Natalie Miller Fellowship. A couple of weeks back I was lucky enough to be in an audience where 170 women in the screen industry came together, and 200 were online, for a professional development workshop to talk about brand, to talk about promotion, to talk about sponsorship of women—not just mentoring women, but women bringing women up through the ranks. There is not enough senior women in leadership roles in Australia—not just in the screen industry, but across the board. Without women in those senior leader positions, nothing will change. Nothing has changed in 30 years so, unless we do something, we will be sitting here in 30 years time with the same stats and facts. I think I owe it to my daughter, and I think we all owe it to our daughters, to ensure that there is an equal opportunity for them to be able to get behind the scenes and in front of the camera, both in our industry and more broadly. That brings you up to date.

CHAIR: On a point you raised: I certainly see that your industry—and your organisation in particular, while you are a small organisation—has a very powerful and important role to play in changing gender attitudes across the country. Again, it is getting more young girls seeing women being scientists, having a voice and doing all these other things that is so important. It is not just important for bringing more women up through your organisations; I think your industry plays a much wider societal role that. Do you have any comments on that?

Ms Cameron : I think that is right, and it is the partnerships we strike as well, such as with the Australian Directors' Guild and with production companies. Last week The Australian Directors' Guild announced 10 attachments to commercial television production companies for women. A lot of our women learn their trade and craft in commercials, yet commercials is one of the last bastions of male-dominated influence. Being able to get women to work in production companies and in the context of story and narrative to get credit is the barrier you have to break down. If you have a credit to your name you will be asked to do more jobs, but getting that credit is the difficulty, so we develop those partnerships and we work with the industries and the companies.

With Endemol Shine, Imogen Banks and Alice Bell, who are responsible for some of the best television, got some funds for us to develop female writers. They had 12 placements for writers—this is, uncredited writers who get an opportunity to work with the best in our business—and for those 12 placements there was over 900 applications. It is not merit that stops us, it is barriers to entry, in a lot of ways. Breaking down those barriers will allow us to progress and, ultimately, merit will get us there.

CHAIR: Further to that, in terms of disability, I have noticed recently, particularly on foreign-sourced things on TV, that there are increasing numbers of people with disabilities who are in mainstream roles, but I do not think I have yet seen much of that here in Australia. What made me think of it is that we had Down Syndrome Day this week, and their logo was: 'Not special needs just human needs'. I am thinking about the opportunity for your industry to give an example for society that people with disabilities can perform any role in society, to change people's attitudes to disability. I think your industry also has an enormous opportunity to change perceptions in that area, as well. What is your focus? You mentioned, in passing, disability, but what focus have you had on this area of diversity?

Ms Cameron : To your point, leadership is a big role that we play. There is the report we released last year. I will have to check the figures, but, off the top of my head, 11 per cent of Australians identify as having a disability, and represented on screen is less than three per cent. So that goes directly to that point. Our responsibility is to get the data, disseminate the data, start a dialogue, include ourselves in some of these industry bodies and organisations that I referred to, and then also develop some programs such as Developing the Developers. We have filmmakers with disabilities coming through our door this weekend to develop their skills.

CHAIR: Developing the Developers sounds like a very smart program. Casting companies and casting directors look at the role and, normally, they might just look for a white male. Could they be challenged? 'Why couldn't this be somebody with talent?' It might be a woman with a disability or someone from a different ethnic origin. Is there any work in that area to encourage them at that point, after the screenplay has been written, to think about changing the role a bit?

Ms Cameron : Blind casting across different industries works an absolute treat. That process was demonstrated extraordinarily effectively when one of the world's best orchestras were trying to address—

CHAIR: Yes, I have seen that.

Ms Cameron : You heard this. It was 80 per cent to 20 per cent in favour of male music plAyres to female. They thought they would address that. They drew a curtain around the auditioner. The auditioner came and played. At the end of the first stage, they still ended up with 80-20. Someone twigged that you had to take your shoes off.

CHAIR: They could hear the high heels walking across the stage!

Ms Cameron : Once they took their shoes off, it ended up being 50-50. You could take that to our industry. In Tropfest two years ago, there was only one female finalist. This year they took the names off the application forms and, coincidentally, 50 per cent are female this year. Our subconscious gender bias is not something that people do deliberately. It is subconscious. There are ways to address those sorts of issues and blind casting is something that the industry is looking more at and that will definitely help level the playing field across the board.

Senator BILYK: Chair, some of your questions went to some of my areas, so that is good. How do they do blind casting for roles when you can generally tell whether a voice is a male voice or a female voice? This is just a question off the top of my head. Do you know of anywhere they can do that?

Ms Cameron : You are quite right. It helps with applications; it helps in the instance I told you about with orchestras. Where it helps, more to the point, is in writers rooms when they are starting to think about a character. I remember Secret City. I do not know if many of you have seen that. It was screened here. In the novel, as you would be aware, the protagonist is a male. In the writers room they change that to a female. That is just to balance it. Night Manager is a big Hollywood production and in the original John le Carre novel it was a man. It was set in an era when the main protagonist was always a man. I remember reading about him saying that it was wonderful to watch that series and see his protagonist turned into a modern day, pregnant woman. I think writers rooms are where you are going to do that, and you need to inject more women into senior positions in distribution and in television commissioning roles. Predominantly they are men and they do not think particularly outside that sphere. It is when a board table or parliament has more representation that you get, obviously, more balance.

Senator BILYK: Going back to Developing the Developers, did you say that is on this weekend?

Ms Cameron : Yes it is. It starts today and grows through to Saturday and Sunday.

Senator BILYK: Here in Canberra?

Ms Cameron : No, it is in Sydney. I think it is being streamed. We have people from all over—

Senator BILYK: That is free?

Ms Cameron : Yes, it is. We did a call-out for 15. Once again, over 90 people applied and then we assessed based on what they are doing, where they sit and how they position themselves, and then we will be taking them through.

Senator BILYK: How many women to men are attending that session?

Ms Cameron : That is a very good question. I am fairly sure it is fairly equal, but I do not know the exact numbers. I will take that on notice.

Senator BILYK: I took some notes while you were speaking. The inclusion diversity committee: did you say that has met?

Ms Cameron : It has. We have not announced it—sorry, if this is announcing it—but it is, basically—

Senator BILYK: Sorry, Minister!

Ms Cameron : No, it is not government; it is industry.

Senator BILYK: It is yours? Right.

Ms Cameron : It is an industry—in fact, my hat goes off to the head of AFTRS, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, who has brought us all together and who is managing to try and get more people onboard. We have met twice, and we are looking at hosting a couple of days for filmmakers of diverse background, so we will probably formally announce it at that stage. It is an industry group that says, 'Look, these figures aren't good enough. One organisation like AFTRS or Screen Australia cannot do it on their own. We've all got to be part of it.' I think we are calling ourselves the inclusion and diversity group.

Senator BILYK: Can you tell me who is, actually, in that group and on that committee?

Ms Cameron : It is growing. Every time we meet we invite someone else. It has ABC, SBS, AFTRS, Screen Australia, the state agencies, the Screen Producers Association and the Australian Directors Guild, which is representing the entire screen guilds committee. And we have gone out to the commercial television broadcasters, as of the last meeting, and distributors. We are trying to get the broad industry represented in some fashion. Also, when we start looking around the table and we look at ourselves, we see a lot of white women and white men, so we need some diverse representation as well.

Senator BILYK: You mentioned, very early on, that there were a lot of reasons for the lack of diversity, and we have heard some of them. Are there any others you want to mention to us?

Ms Cameron : Gender is the easiest one because when you contemplate gender you remember that 51 per cent of the population is not a minority. Our sector is no different to any sector. I was invited, on International Women's Day, to talk to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. If we think we have problems in the screen industry, female surgeons, which only represent 11 per cent of their industry, have much more dire problems. But they have the same issues. They have 51 per cent graduating from medical school. We have 51 per cent graduating from film school. Twenty-eight per cent of medical students go into a surgical round. The number of people who go into directing and producing drops off to under 20 per cent for directing and over 20 per cent for producing. And the number of women who actually stick to surgery is 11 per cent. So they are there but, as they go through, things push them off. One of the medical students told me that her colleague next to her, who is a man and who is 25, said, 'You shouldn't do orthopaedics. You'll get pregnant.' Or, 'You can't lift.' It is this ingrained feeling that certain things are for certain—

Senator BILYK: Cultural attitudes.

Ms Cameron : And it is who is in those positions and how you see it to be it. If you cannot see it, you are not going to be it. So it is uncertain. It is a long time. If you are going to be a med student or if you are going to work as a producer and director, you do not know where your next money is coming from. And if you have children. One of the surgeons who is an orthopaedic surgeon—only three per cent of orthopaedic surgeons are women in Australia—had to spend five years spending more than her wage on child care. So there is an awful, huge commitment, and it is not for everyone. Women are still considered the primary carers.

Senator BILYK: Thanks for the update. It was really good to hear all of that.

CHAIR: Thank you for that. We are very interested, and it is great to hear about the leadership role that Screen Australia is taking in this area. I would just like to finish off with a little bit of glitz and glamour. I think, like most Australians, we were very delighted to see such a high representation of Australians across the various categories at the Oscars this year. I am just wondering if you could comment on it in terms of why that is—can we leverage off that; and what are the opportunities and the implications, apart from passing on a great congratulations to the Australian industry more generally?

Ms Cameron : Yes, it has been an extraordinarily successful summer, a record number of Oscar nominations—13. It was a hell of a year to have them in with La La Land, and Moonlight and so many great international films but not forgetting that 13 nominations and two wins for Hacksaw Ridge and for the first time ever, two Australian films were nominated for best film, which is a hell of an achievement. Hacksaw Ridge and Lion—extraordinary filmmakers, extraordinary stories. It has been brilliant.

Lion at the moment is sitting at the Australian box office of $30 million, and worldwide it has made $130 million. Lion has—it has been out for five weeks—already entered the top five all-time Australian films at the box office. It is going to move up further.

Hacksaw Ridge, which was made in Australia by Australians, has taken over $230 million in the global box office. It did not do as well at Lion here in Australia but, internationally, the story has done terribly well. It has become the biggest foreign war movie ever in the Chinese box office, earning $70 million in China alone. Both those films were nominated for six Oscars, as I said, including best picture. Significantly, we got our first-ever nomination for best foreign language film with the movie Tanna, a film made on the tiny Pacific Island of that name with a cast drawn entirely from the local population.

Certainly, while some of us have been enjoying sunshine—no sunshine in Sydney, I might say—the northern hemisphere film festival season has been in full swing with six Australian films at Sundance and an incredible nine at Berlinale. Geoffrey Rush, if you missed it, received the Berlinale Camera, the festival's highest honour for his body of work and terribly well deserved. And a young Queensland filmmaker, Claire Randall, received the Crystal Bear for the best short film for Wolf.

Esteem, of course, is always welcome but sales are also welcome and our documentary Casting JonBenet and the thriller Berlin Syndrome were both snapped up by Netflix. Cargo, an Australian film, will become Australia's first-ever Netflix original feature film. So while there are challenges for the sector for sure, there are great opportunities with new distribution channels and great stories will continue to shine through.

Television ratings have kicked off very well, and we are looking forward to Seven Types of Ambiguity, which is coming up on the ABC. Newton's Law is just about to finish and documentaries, Life On the Line and My Year 12 Life, are also fantastic.

The Secret Daughter is coming back. The Wrong Girl, Doctor Doctor—one of my favourites—and The Family Law all had very impressive ratings last year. We have had a huge amount of production in the sector. Yes, it is hard to get those finance plans to work; however, people want content, people want great stories and we have just got to work with the producers and the industry to ensure that they continue to provide Australian stories on Australian screens. Why, you ask? Why is it so?

CHAIR: You took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to say: what do you attribute it to? Is it just a one-off, or do you think this will continue and grow?

Ms Cameron : I think Australia has always creatively kicked above its weight. I think we continue to do so. I think there is something in our psyche. I think it is to do with our antiauthoritarianism, our kind of everyday, our sense of humour. We cut through; we do not take ourselves seriously. We understand that a productive nation is a creative nation. I do not think there is any magic formula; I just think it is something we are passionate about. We have got great stories. We have got great talent. We have got a great landscape, and it all comes together to create extraordinary stories.

CHAIR: We might have to suspend it there but, Ms Cameron, thank you very much for appearing—

Mr Eccles : Senator Bilyk, you asked about meetings with SPAA. We met with them—or officers with the department met with them—on 14 February and the 21 March.

Senator BILYK: Thank you.

CHAIR: Ms Cameron, thank you very much for appearing here today. We always enjoy our time with you and just hearing the amazing things that the industry is doing. We greatly appreciate your enthusiasm and passion for it as well. So thank you very much.

Ms Cameron : My pleasure.

CHAIR: The committee will now suspend for morning tea.

Committee suspended from 10:24 to 10:40

CHAIR: This hearing is now re-opened. I call officers from the department in relation to program 2.1: arts and cultural development.

Senator BILYK: On 9 February the 2016-17 portfolio additional estimates statements revealed a depletion of the Australia Council cash reserves of $5 million in 2016-17 and another $5 million in 2017-18, to be used for increased support for the small to medium arts sector. Did the Australia Council request the drawdown of its cash reserves? If so, in what amounts?

Dr Arnott : Yes, the Australia Council did request to draw on its reserves. It requested $10 million over those two years.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to tell me what form the request took and what advice was provided to the minister on those requests?

Dr Arnott : It was a formal request to the minister, and the department provided advice to support that.

Senator BILYK: That request was from Mr Grybowski, I presume.

Dr Arnott : I would have to check. It might have been from Rupert Myer, the chair.

Senator Fifield: We will check it. It might have been the chair.

Senator BILYK: What is the balance of the Australia Council cash reserves after the drawdown of the $10 million? What proportion does this represent of annual average appropriations to the organisation? How does this compare to the cash reserves of other organisations in the arts portfolio?

Dr Arnott : You would need to ask the Australia Council directly about its balance of reserves and so on. In terms of how that compares to other agencies in the portfolio, we would need to take on notice to do that analysis.

Senator BILYK: Can you take on notice whether that is a sufficiently prudent level of reserves for the organisation to maintain?

Dr Arnott : Yes. That is also a question for the Australia Council, but certainly we would say that is correct.

Senator BILYK: Am I able to get a year-by-year breakdown of funding to the Catalyst projects and other projects using arts funding from July 2015 to June 2021?

Dr Arnott : Let me just check my material and I will see what I can tell you. I can certainly tell you that over the course of the program since it commenced in November 2015 $35 million over four years has been allocated to 189 projects. Regarding the amounts for 2015-16 and 2016-17, the full allocation of approximately $12 million per annum has been committed, and over the forward estimates a further $11.8 million has been committed.

Senator BILYK: That is all the Catalyst stuff we are talking about.

Dr Arnott : That is all Catalyst.

Senator BILYK: What about other projects using arts funding? Are you able to tell me about those?

Dr Arnott : We obviously have a number of other programs, including the Indigenous programs, Festivals Australia, Visions of Australia and so on. I do not have all of that information with me, but certainly—

Senator BILYK: You will take that on notice?

Dr Arnott : Certainly we would spend the full appropriation for each of those programs each financial year.

Senator BILYK: Can you take on notice to provide the year-by-year breakdown of those other programs for me as well?

Dr Arnott : Yes.

Senator BILYK: On 28 October 2016 we were advised that the government agreed with recommendation 7 in the Senate Legal and Constitution Affairs References Committee report Impact of 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth budget decisions on the arts and that consultation between the department, the Australia Council and state and territory governments is ongoing. Recommendation 7 is:

The committee recommends that the Ministry for the Arts work with the Australia Council, the state and territory governments and the arts sector to develop and implement streamlined and coordinated grants processes and timelines, to the greatest extent possible, in order to minimise the administrative burden on applicants seeking funding from different bodies and programs.

What progress has been made to develop and implement those streamlined and coordinated grants processes and time lines?

Dr Arnott : We always work closely with the Australia Council and state and territory governments to ensure that programs are as aligned as they can be. Obviously there are different priorities for different agencies in different jurisdictions. Clearly the announcement that the minister has made regarding the rebalancing of funding will have an impact on that, and work will be done to ensure that there is a smooth transition for the sector for the new arrangements and that programs are aligned and most effective for the sector.

Senator BILYK: Have there been any meetings with state and territory governments or the arts sector about implementing the coordinated grants process and time lines?

Dr Arnott : There are regular meetings with state funding agencies organised by the Australia Council and also with the involvement of the department. The most recent one was last year. There has not been one since the minister's announcement, but I would anticipate that there will be one shortly. Also, in the context of the meeting of cultural ministers, which occurs every year, there are two sets of officials meetings every year, at which those kinds of issues are frequently discussed.

Senator BILYK: When do those meetings take place? Are they generally at the same time each year? Can you give me a time line.

Dr Arnott : The meeting of cultural ministers has taken place in September-October, and there is a meeting of officials immediately before that. About six months after that there is usually another meeting of officials supporting cultural ministers.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to point me to any deliberative progress that has been made other than general meetings? Has this been discussed at meetings? Do you know if this has been discussed? What has the outcome of those discussions been? I am asking about the progress that has been made.

Dr Arnott : I do not have any specific things that I can identify at the moment. Certainly the Australia Council would be able to comment more extensively about how its programs align with state and territory governments. You could ask the Australia Council to provide some further information on that.

Senator BILYK: But does the ministry also work with state and territory governments? I thought you said you did.

Dr Arnott : Yes.

Senator BILYK: What about the arts sector? Have there been meetings with them about trying to sort this out?

Dr Arnott : I am not aware that there are any specific concerns from the arts sector about the timing of the Department of Communications and the Arts arts program rounds. I think they are welcomed by the sector, and the timing is well-known and is included in the various program guidelines. I am not aware that there is anything that needs to be addressed in that particular area.

Senator BILYK: Have you asked them?

Mr Eccles : We talk very regularly about a whole range of things, and there is always an opportunity for them to air any concerns. As the minister said, we are lucky that in this sector they are not backward in coming forward in letting us know what their views are.

Senator BILYK: I am just trying to get a handle on the actual progress that has been made around that recommendation.

Mr Eccles : I think the key thing is that where the rubber hits the road is really the interface between the Australia Council grants programs and the state and territory grants programs. If the senator wishes, we can have a chat with the Australia Council and provide you with a more full response.

Senator BILYK: Thanks. That would be good. In relation to each recommendation that was not accepted in full, are we able to shed any light on why the full recommendation was not accepted, particularly in light of the minister's statement of 18 March, which included $80.2 million in committed and uncommitted funds for the Australia Council?

Dr Arnott : As the minister explained, the government's position at the time was made clear in the response to the Senate inquiry. Since then the minister has made the announcement that he made on 18 March.

Senator BILYK: You do not want to add anything, Minister?

Senator Fifield: Maybe if you could be more specific as to the things that you think have been—

Senator BILYK: I do not have the recommendations in front of me, but there were a number that were not accepted in full. So I was just wondering why the full recommendations were not accepted, bearing in mind on 18 of March you—

Senator Fifield: I think we have substantially responded to the recommendations.

Senator BILYK: I asked earlier about the National Opera Review. I just want to ask the department a couple of questions about that. The National Opera Review final report was released on 25 October 2016, and on 1 November we were advised that the minister was considering the report and would provide a response in due course. Did your statement on 18 March contain the government's full response to the final report?

Senator Fifield: No. I think it is fair to characterise that as the government's initial response to those recommendations in the report which were urgent. There will be a response, I think, which addresses medium-term issues and also long-term issues, but that is still under consideration.

Senator BILYK: Is there any time line for when we might get that response?

Senator Fifield: I cannot give you a date. But, as I said, I think you can expect that there will be responses that are related to medium-term issues and those that are related to long-term issues.

Senator BILYK: So how does the partial response affect the future sustainability of the other opera companies included in the review?

Senator Fifield: It affects those that we made announcements in relation to.

Senator BILYK: So the others just have to sit and hope that eventually they get something—that there is a response about the rest of them?

Senator Fifield: There absolutely will be a response—

Senator BILYK: But you cannot tell me when.

Senator Fifield: but I thought that it was important to respond, particularly to that which was pressing in relation to the Opera Queensland, rather than delaying that until we had a full response to everything.

Senator BILYK: I am not quite sure why there is a delay—

Senator Fifield: It is not that there is a delay. There were 118 specific recommendations in the Opera Review, some of which are short-term, some of which are medium-term, some of which are long-term, some of which have significant financial implications and would be a significant call on the budget. There are others that are not a call on the budget. I think the opera sector is keen to be involved and consulted in relation to the substantive response to the 118 recommendations.

Senator BILYK: So you will be meeting with the opera sector?

Senator Fifield: I have already met with some elements of the opera sector. The department will be meeting with them. But bear in mind that there are 118 recommendations, and to address those and do justice to them does take a bit of time.

CHAIR: Are the changes to Opera Australia in the recommendations in the report all funding related? What other categories are there? Do they relate to governance or other issues?

Senator Fifield: Yes. There are some that relate to governance issues. There are some that relate to new funding propositions such as an opera innovation fund—there are a range.

Senator BILYK: You mentioned that you had consulted with parts of the—

Senator Fifield: Dr Arnott is happy to go into some other categories of recommendations.

Dr Arnott : There are all sorts of recommendations, particularly around access for regional audiences to Opera Australia's performances and trying to make sure that is secure and ongoing. There are some recommendations about the mix of repertoire that the opera company performs in Sydney and Melbourne, from popular operas to less popular, less familiar operas. There are recommendations about how to grow its audience base, how to increase its number of subscribers. There is a very extensive suite of recommendations around the future of Opera Australia.

CHAIR: It is really about how to transform it to be sustainable into the future?

Dr Arnott : That is right.

Senator BILYK: Minister, you mentioned that you consulted with some parts of the opera area. Obviously, you have consulted with the four that were mentioned in your release. Have you met with other areas?

Senator Fifield: Well, I talk, in the course of each week and month, with different organisations in informal settings and formal settings. The department does as well.

Senator BILYK: Besides the four mentioned, who else in the opera area have you met with?

Senator Fifield: I will take that on notice.

Senator BILYK: I do not actually want access to your diary, but if you could give me the dates as well while you are looking into it.

Senator Fifield: Where that is possible. Not all discussions that I have are diarised or minuted. There are phone calls and you see people at events. We will provide what we can.

Senator BILYK: Thank you.

CHAIR: Who chaired and who participated in the review?

Senator Fifield: Helen Nugent chaired the review, who is well known to us as Chairman of the National Portrait Gallery and has recently been appointed Chair of the NDIS. I will ask Dr Arnott to take you through the other members of the review.

Dr Arnott : We had Moffatt Oxenbould on the Opera Review expert panel, who was a former artistic director of Opera Australia; we had Ms Kathryn Fagg, who is a very well-known businesswoman who is on the Reserve Bank board and is also Chair of the Melbourne Recital Centre; and we also had Andrew McKinnon, who is a well-known independent producer of works for the stage.

Senator BILYK: At previous estimates, I have asked questions about fake or inauthentic Aboriginal-style arts and crafts. We know that there is a large amount around. It is available in arts and crafts outlets, primarily directed at the tourist market in Australia in areas such as The Rocks and Circular Quay, Swanston Street and Vic markets, and the main tourist precincts in Adelaide, Alice Springs, Cairns, Darwin, Fremantle and Perth. On 18 October 2016, we were informed that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had commenced an initial assessment of the suspected inauthentic objects purchased for use in the Fake Art Harms Culture campaign initiated by the Indigenous Art Code and the Arts Law Centre of Australia. Do you know if that assessment been completed?

Ms Allan : I do not know whether that has been completed. I think you would need to check with the ACCC.

Senator BILYK: Do you have any knowledge about what is going on in that area?

Ms Allan : Yes. With regard to that specific investigation, I do not have the details; that is something that the ACCC are managing directly. With the fake art issue, yes, I can answer questions on that.

Senator BILYK: Have you had any discussion with the ACCC around this issue of who should be consulted, who is being consulted and that sort of thing?

Ms Allan : Yes. We have regular discussions with the ACCC on the matter. Since the campaign has started, we have also been talking to the sector quite regularly about it. We have also established an interdepartmental committee. We have a number of agencies across government on that to consider what possible options there might be at government level that we could implement to assist or rectify the situation.

Senator BILYK: You said you are talking to a lot of Indigenous people. Are you able to tell me what Indigenous organisations and people are being consulted with?

Ms Allan : We talk to the Indigenous Art Code, the Arts Law Centre and The Copyright Agency, who are all involved in that campaign. We also talk regularly to all of our Indigenous art centres that we fund across the country. We fund roughly 80 Indigenous art centres, mostly in remote and very remote communities across the country, and we speak to them very regularly, including on this issue.

Senator BILYK: Last year we were told that the department, in conjunction with Prime Minister and Cabinet, was convening a meeting of the relevant government agencies, including the ACCC, to discuss a more coordinated approach to dealing with this issue. Has the meeting been held?

Ms Allan : Yes; that is the IDC I referred to.

Senator BILYK: Can you tell me when that was?

Ms Allan : The first meeting was on 9 March 2017.

Senator BILYK: Was there any outcome from that meeting?

Ms Allan : Not a final outcome, but it was a very good discussion. It is quite a complex issue, and there are all sorts of things that we need to consider. We had quite a number of agencies there and we talked about all of our various areas of interest and where we thought there might be potential for further development of options.

Senator BILYK: I am presuming that there were Indigenous artists present at that meeting?

Ms Allan : No, not at that meeting. That was a government meeting.

Senator BILYK: You did not invite any Indigenous artists to participate in that meeting at all?

Ms Allan : Not in that specific meeting, no.

Senator BILYK: You might not know the answer to this, but do you have any idea at all when that inquiry might be completed by the ACCC? I will not hold you to ransom on it, but have they given you any sort of guideline on how long they think it might take?

Ms Allan : I do not know when they are going to finish that. How long those investigations take can depend a lot on complexity.

Senator BILYK: I do understand that. I might talk directly to the ACCC and try and get some feedback there. The last part of my questions today refer to the final report of the Productivity Commission. You released the final report of the Productivity Commission into Australia's intellectual property arrangements on 20 December 2016 and you announced a consultation period for submissions on that final report, which was due to close on 14 February 2017. Can you tell me when you might release the submissions received on the final report, and when will the government provide its response to the final report?

Senator Fifield: The government response to the Productivity Commission report is being led by the Industry portfolio—let me refer to it as the intellectual property report. There is an important component of the recommendations that falls within our portfolio. The government is preparing its response to that review. I cannot give you a date yet as to when the government response will be released. I will ask officers if there is anything they wish to add.

Mr Eccles : There is really nothing to add. As you would expect, we are working very closely with the department of industry, which has the portfolio lead on the Productivity Commission report. As the minister said, the work is ongoing.

Senator BILYK: Will the submissions be released?

Mr Eccles : I would need to check with the department of industry. I will take that on notice.

Senator BILYK: Are you able to tell me what advice, preliminary or otherwise, has been provided by the department to the minister, or to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, on the final report?

Mr Eccles : We clearly cannot go into the nature of advice, but I think it is fair to say that we have been active in holding discussions with the department of industry and working closely with the minister and his staff as well.

Senator BILYK: Have there been any costings undertaken, or planned to be undertaken, into the effect on the Australian economy and/or Australian artists of the implementation of each of the recommendations in the final report, including the potential for development of copyrights from one form to another—a book into a play or a film into a musical?

Mr Eccles : I do not want to be evasive, but it is very difficult for me to speculate on what may or may not be in a government response that is still under development. But I think it is fair to say that we are looking at the issues very carefully and thoroughly.

Senator BILYK: Including the costings area, and the effect on the economy?

Mr Eccles : I cannot add to what I have already said.

Senator BILYK: Chair, I am happy to put the rest of my questions on notice because I have to catch a plane.

CHAIR: I have a couple of questions that have arisen from the discussion this morning. I am wondering if you can clarify in relation to Catalyst, what will happen with the Catalyst applications underway in terms of process?

Dr Arnott : All Catalyst contracts will be honoured, so all of the 189 projects that have been committed to today will be honoured. Those contracts that have payments commencing next financial year and beyond will transfer to the Australia Council because the Australian Council will have the funds to be able to meet those. So there will be no disadvantage for any current Catalyst applicants.

CHAIR: A very technical question now—it may be a little too esoteric but I think it might be important—is the name change from the Bureau of Communications Research to Communications and Arts Research. Could you explain what the rationale for that is, and the implications of that?

Dr Smith : It does reflect obviously the MoG change when Arts came into the department, and given how much synergy we see between the communications and the arts sector, it has been, I guess, a natural evolution in terms of the issues that we should be looking at. Looking at the creative sector's contribution to the economy is an area that we have been working on over the last few months.

CHAIR: So is this sort of economics and statistics?

Dr Smith : It is.

CHAIR: To what purpose? Is this to have a look again at innovation or change, or is it more just to keep the statistics?

Dr Smith : The bureau's role is to provide internal work to support our policy advice. It has also done work to support the government on particular issues and also to support the minister. There is a lot of work around big themes and around productivity, but there is also really detailed work. The work on the arts sector going forward—we still have to map that out—but, in the first instance, it is really to get a sense of the scope of the sector's contribution, which is where we started the work on the communications sector.

CHAIR: So it is really back of house but important nonetheless?

Dr Smith : Indeed, and we would expect it to evolve more over the next year as well.

CHAIR: We had a discussion this morning in relation to Catalyst and the Australia Council funds, particularly in relation to regional and Indigenous programs. I think it is an area that perhaps we do not focus on enough, so I think the attention on it has been good. Can you give us a quick overview of any other programs for regional Australia and also for Indigenous Australia?

Dr Arnott : In terms of the department I can certainly can. The department administers a couple of very significant Indigenous programs, the Indigenous Languages and Arts program which provides significant funding for reviving, maintaining Indigenous languages and obviously supports a broad range of Indigenous arts organisations and artists. We also, as Lyn Allan mentioned just then, we have the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program, which supports around 80 Indigenous arts centres around the country, mostly in regional and remote areas. We administer the Visions of Australia program, which is a touring exhibition program which ensures that high-quality exhibitions reach regional galleries and museums around the country. We administer the Festivals Australia program, which provides support for works to be seen in regional festivals, again right around the country. That is a bit of a snapshot of some of the work that the department does in terms of supporting regional and Indigenous artists.

CHAIR: Thank you for that because quite often, especially for us in the cities, we do not get to hear of some of the fabulous work that is actually happening out in rural and regional Australia, particularly in Indigenous communities. I now call officers from the ACMA.