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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications


CHAIR: We are looking at program 6.1, which is Arts and cultural development. It is part of outcome 6, which is Participation in and access to Australia's arts and culture through developing and supporting cultural expression. I know that we have lots of excellent questions. Some of them are probing; some of them are just fishing. But all of them are excellent.

Senator URQUHART: You have no idea what we've got.

Senator PRATT: He said they're excellent, so I'll take that.

CHAIR: Sometimes you've got to bluff! You've got to have all the tools in your kitbag.

Senator URQUHART: You'll get on the Hansard enough, Chair.

CHAIR: I'm just here to facilitate!

Senator URQUHART: Right!

CHAIR: I don't think I asked a single question yesterday.

Senator URQUHART: No, it's not the role of the chair to ask questions. You've got to keep the rest of us in line.

CHAIR: That's right. Surely there are no complaints.

Senator PRATT: We're happy.

CHAIR: Senator Urquhart.

Senator URQUHART: I want to ask some questions about the RISE program. I understand that it's nearing completion. On the department's website it states that the final round, batch 7, would be announced in late January. Has that been announced yet?

Dr Arnott : No, it has not been announced yet.

Senator URQUHART: Why hasn't it been announced, and when will it be announced?

Dr Arnott : We expect it will be announced imminently.

Senator URQUHART: Imminently?

Dr Arnott : Very soon.

Senator URQUHART: Do you have a date for that?

Dr Arnott : I don't have a precise date yet.

Senator URQUHART: Why hasn't it been announced yet?

Dr Arnott : The timing of announcements is a matter for the government.

Senator URQUHART: We've discussed this over many estimates. The RISE program was heavily oversubscribed. As of now, what is the total number of applications received compared to the number of successful grants given? We usually ask this each time, but I'm after an update.

Dr Arnott : Yes, I can do that. As at the end of December 2021, there were a total of 1,923 eligible applications received. To date, there have been 450 applications approved.

Senator URQUHART: 450 from 1,923?

Dr Arnott : That's correct.

Senator URQUHART: Again, this is a question that's been asked repeatedly at previous estimates, but I want to make sure that I've got the clarification right. Have there been any cases where a recommendation for funding has been made by the department but rejected by the minister?

Dr Arnott : No.

Senator URQUHART: How many organisations have received more than one grant over the life of the grant program?

Mr Cox : We can certainly check that and get that back for you quickly.

Senator URQUHART: That would be great, thank you. Just to follow on, were there any guidelines on whether organisations that were yet to receive any RISE funding should not be preferenced over organisations that had not received any RISE funding before?

Dr Arnott : I think you said 'not received' twice there.

Senator URQUHART: Yes, sorry, I did.

Dr Arnott : Is it those that have received—

Senator URQUHART: Yes, were yet to receive. Were there any guidelines on whether organisations that were yet to receive any RISE funding should be preferenced over organisations that had not received any RISE funding?

Mr Atkinson : I think the answer is no.

Dr Arnott : Yes, the answer is no. That's not part of the guidelines, Senator.

Senator URQUHART: Why is it not part of it?

Dr Arnott : Because it's a competitive grants program. We assess all applications in particular batches for their quality and their eligibility against the guidelines. We don't preference.

Senator URQUHART: What proportion of grants were given to Australian performers compared to offshore performers?

Dr Arnott : No funding goes to offshore performers. All RISE grants would go to Australian artists.

Senator URQUHART: So they're all Australian performers?

Dr Arnott : Yes.

Senator URQUHART: I note one of the requirements listed in the official RISE guidelines is that proposals should demonstrate that activities will provide benefits to Australian audiences and the Australian cultural and creative industries. Was that followed in all cases?

Dr Arnott : Yes.

Senator URQUHART: Can you explain how $600,000 of taxpayer funding for rescheduling assistance for the upcoming Guns N' Roses tour fits with that requirement?

Dr Arnott : Yes. The funding for the Guns N' Roses tour went to support Australian jobs associated with that tour, which obviously has very significant audiences. I do have the numbers here.

Senator URQUHART: I also note that the same tour was awarded $750,000 of initial funding in July 2021; is that right?

Dr Arnott : Yes, that's correct.

Mr Atkinson : Senator, the money actually goes to an Australian company, if that makes sense.

Senator URQUHART: I was going to ask on what basis was it judged that a very popular, very famous international group like Guns N' Roses required such funding. Tell me how it works, Mr Atkinson.

Mr Atkinson : It goes to TEG Dainty Pty Ltd. The funding supports delivery of the tour to support 16,000 Australian job opportunities, 130 arts professionals and 7½ thousand technicians and support crew, and employment in allied industries as well.

Senator URQUHART: You're saying the $600,000 and the $750,000 didn't actually go to Guns N' Roses; it went to TEG Dainty Pty Ltd, who then would have paid Guns N' Roses and everyone else? Is that how it works?

Dr Arnott : It's correct that it went to TEG Dainty Pty Ltd as the promoter of the tour. No funding went to the Guns N' Roses singers, performers or their crew. All of the funding went to the Australian workers that supported that tour.

Senator URQUHART: The Guns N' Roses people would have been paid from the takings from the show; is that right?

Dr Arnott : Yes, that's correct.

Senator URQUHART: Can you explain why, in the same round that Guns N' Roses, or that company, received $600,000 for rescheduling assistance, a funding application for Australian band Midnight Oil to expand their final tour into six regional centres was rejected?

Dr Arnott : As I said, departmental assessors assess the applications based on the eligibility criteria and the guidelines. Those are scored and the amount of money is allocated to the top group of assessed applications.

Senator URQUHART: What are the guidelines for those assessments?

Dr Arnott : They're in the RISE guidelines generally. There are a number of them.

Senator URQUHART: So it's against those?

Dr Arnott : Correct. Criteria need to be taken into consideration, including employment numbers, audience numbers and so on.

Senator URQUHART: Is the department aware of Guns N' Roses having any Australian support acts?

Dr Arnott : Not that I'm aware of.

Senator URQUHART: You're not aware or you don't know?

Mr Cox : No, we're not aware of it at the moment.

Senator PRATT: It wasn't part of your criteria for the funding?

Mr Atkinson : Senator, can we take that on notice? Certainly, the data we have here has Australian arts professionals in it. I want to check who they are.

Senator URQUHART: Yes, sure. Is the department aware that Midnight Oil's tour had up to 10 Australian support acts, including Indigenous artists?

Dr Arnott : In the event that was included in the application, yes, we would be aware.

Senator URQUHART: Is the department satisfied that the RISE Fund has been adequately targeted towards supporting Australian culture, Australian performers, Australian workers and Australian stories?

Dr Arnott : The RISE Fund has been targeted at trying to make sure that the arts and entertainment sector can adequately restart after the COVID disruptions. It has gone to a very broad range of projects put together by both not-for-profit arts organisations and commercial businesses, because all of those parts of the sector have needed support to restart.

Senator URQUHART: I haven't looked at the website; I don't know. Are the successful applicants of the RISE Fund listed anywhere?

Dr Arnott : Yes, they're all published.

Senator URQUHART: They are published?

Dr Arnott : On the department's website and on the RISE website.

Senator URQUHART: Okay, so the latest ones are up there?

Dr Arnott : Yes.

Senator URQUHART: I haven't looked at that. I want to ask about the extension of the SCREEN funding for independent cinemas which occurred at the end of last year. When did the government first become aware of a significant underspend of the initial $20 million funding, and when was the first contact made by the industry to request that leftover money to be used for a new round of funding?

Dr Arnott : I can't give you the precise date, but the SCREEN Fund remained open for applications during that whole period; so it was available. We became aware that some cinemas required multiple grants, a second grant round, because their businesses hadn't returned to pre-COVID levels. The government announced on 23 December that there would be a second round of funding, which is currently underway.

Senator URQUHART: Okay, so you're not sure of the date. Are you able to provide that to us?

Dr Arnott : I can see if I can find that.

Senator URQUHART: What was the initial response to that request for that initial $20 million funding?

Dr Arnott : In round 1 there was $10.4 million allocated.

Senator URQUHART: With the request for the underspend of the $20 million, what was the initial response to that request? Was it agreed that the leftover money could be used for a new round of funding?

Dr Arnott : Yes. As I said, the minister announced on 23 December that $9.6 million that was remaining could be used for the second round of funding.

CHAIR: We will rotate the call and come back to you, Senator Urquhart. Senator Hanson-Young, do you have questions on RISE?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I do. We were talking a little earlier this morning about some of the programs that had been funded under the recovery package. We've heard a lot lately from the Prime Minister about visiting people's workplaces, washing people's hair at the hairdressers, and putting on the hi-vis and the hard hat in the factories and out on the road. What arts job has the Prime Minister gone and seen?

Mr Atkinson : I don't keep track of the Prime Minister's movements.

CHAIR: I don't think that's a question they can answer.

Senator HANSO N-YOUNG: Has the Prime Minister's office asked for any help in organising the Prime Minister to go out and see an industry that has been devastated through COVID, in terms of the creative industry?

Mr Atkinson : I don't think I could—

CHAIR: I don't think it's a question they can respond to.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I just asked whether the Prime Minister's office had contacted the department. Can I get an answer without the interruptions?

Mr Atkinson : I haven't been contacted by the Prime Minister's office about arts.

Dr Arnott : It's not normal practice. The Prime Minister's office would contact Minister Fletcher's office, then Minister Fletcher would make whatever arrangements needed to be made with the Prime Minister's office. We wouldn't usually be involved in that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has the Prime Minister's office ever sought a briefing from the department about the impact on the arts industry and the creative industry of COVID?

Mr Atkinson : Discussions around particularly these response packages have been extensive through normal cabinet and budget processes that have involved all of the central ministers, obviously with Minister Fletcher leading those conversations. The billion dollars worth of support measures here have been well discussed through budget processes by all of the senior ministers.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Minister, are you aware of any onsite visits that the Prime Minister has taken in recent months in terms of the creative industries? We've seen him at the hairdressers and we've seen him in hi-vis.

Senator Hume: That's probably a question better directed to the Prime Minister's office.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You're the minister representing your government.

Senator Hume: Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I'm asking you—

Senator Hume: And you're asking me what the Prime Minister's office—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I'm asking you whether you are aware.

Senator Hume: I'm not aware. I know the Prime Minister has done visits to areas where there are apprentices. I know the Prime Minister has done visits to areas where there is advanced manufacturing or something within the Modern Manufacturing Initiative. I'm sure that there is more to come.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Surely, his engagement with the arts—

Senator Hume: I would imagine—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: isn't to the extent of trying to play the ukulele.

CHAIR: Order!

Senator Hume: Sorry, I don't need to be yelled at here.

CHAIR: Order! This is Senate estimates. You have the call. I expect you to ask questions to the department officials or to the minister, who would then be able to answer the questions. The questions ought to be reasonable and in line with the mandates to this committee.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: To be fair, you cannot direct me as to what questions to ask.

CHAIR: I am not directing; I am saying they need to be relevant to the committee's mandate.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We are talking about a sector that has been devastated by COVID.

CHAIR: I understand that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is highly relevant.

CHAIR: I don't think Minister Hume can be expected to be able to answer the appointment requests of the Prime Minister or his office. I don't think it is a reasonable question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I don't care whether you think it is reasonable; it is the question I asked.

CHAIR: It is not a question that the minister can be expected to answer here in this meeting.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: She can take it on notice. The minister is able to take questions on notice.

CHAIR: The minister is able to answer the question here or take it on notice; that is correct. The questioning you are pursuing here is not reasonable.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We must have hit a sore point.

CHAIR: It is not reasonable.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We must have hit a sore point here.

CHAIR: It is not a sore point. It is not a reasonable line of questioning.

Senator HANSON- YOUNG: The Prime Minister carries on—

CHAIR: Hang on! I am speaking. I am the chair of this committee.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay, but you cannot dictate what questions I ask. If you want to rule the question out of order, rule it out of order. But it is not out of order, is it?

CHAIR: We are wasting the committee's time here. All I am saying to you is that I don't think this minister can be expected to know all the appointments the Prime Minister has undertaken in recent months. So let us get back to questions and answers. Minister, either take this question on notice or answer it, if you are able to. I imagine it would be a difficult question to answer.

Senator Hume: I am not privy to the intricacies of the Prime Minister's diary. What I can say is that I have been notified that the Prime Minister did visit the Powerhouse in Brisbane last December.

CHAIR: Okay.

Sena tor Hume: If there are any other appointments in this sector that we become aware of, I will happily take that on notice and come back to the committee.

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. We invite you to proceed, Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you, Minister. I am glad we have established that he has been to at least one creative workplace.

Senator Hume: He wants to acknowledge that $10 billion in wages and cash flow support for this sector from the government during the COVID-19 pandemic is something this government is particularly proud of.

Senator Chisholm interjecting

CHAIR: I didn't hear that; maybe it is best that I didn't. Proceed. We have had such a collegiate time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you remind us of the time frame for where the extended RISE funding is up to? It got extended in the last budget. Will there be a review of it ahead of this 2022-23 financial year? For those organisations which haven't been able to put on shows because of the disastrous summer we have had, what are the prospects of extension?

Mr Atkinson : I'll pass to Dr Arnott to give you the timings of where things are up to. We are expecting the next round imminently. But, in terms of future considerations, at any point in time it is open to the government to choose to extend any of our programs. Dr Arnott, just the updates to the next round.

Dr Arnott : Yes. The status is that $200 million has been allocated to the program; $179.9 million has now been announced, with just over $20 million remaining to be spent in what is currently the final round of RISE.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Will there be any further funding for the Australia Council or another type of RISE funding in the next budget?

Mr Atkinson : I don't think we can ask Dr Arnott to pre-empt any budget announcements.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has there been any analysis as to what the needs of the Australia Council are funding-wise, going forward?

Dr Arnott : The Australia Council is funded more than $200 million per annum. They allocate their money through a mix of what they call government-directed and competitive funding programs. Obviously, demand from the sector is always strong.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, but surely you must have some analysis as to whether there is a need for more or less support for the next year going forward and for the forward estimates.

Dr Arnott : There is money allocated for next financial year for a range of arts programs in the usual manner. The Australia Council's budget is set by the government and by the budget.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you done any analysis about what the financial needs of the sector are over the next year and for the forward estimates?

Mr Atkinson : Could I just add a bit of history. Funding for the Australia Council and bodies like it go through the normal budget process, supported by analysis from the department. In particular, a key question is: if more money is in the space, what would that be invested in as part of those conversations? It is sort of the additionality piece. Also when there is structural change, what would be the changes to availability of funding for existing recipients? Those are the sorts of analyses that we bring into the budget process.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. But what I am asking is have you done that analysis.

Dr Arnott : We work closely with the Australia Council on a daily basis. The Australia Council looks closely at the finances of its regularly funded organisations. There is still $20 million in RISE to allocate. There is funding under the Sustainability Fund for nationally significant organisations to be allocated. So we are constantly working with council to look at the financial needs and there is still funding to be allocated to support companies through this period.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I turn to the issue of Australian content on streaming services.

CHAIR: Your time is about to expire, so do you want to start a new line after we do the next rotation?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sure.

CHAIR: Senator Urquhart.

Senator URQUHART: I am still on the SCREEN Fund. On 16 December it appeared as if the minister had made up his mind and would refuse the industry's request for an additional funding round. In a release on that day, the minister said the remaining funds would be allocated to the COVID-19 Arts Sustainability Fund because the independent cinemas didn't need it anymore. I quote from the minister's release. He said:

With COVID-19 restrictions being rolled back, states and territories opening up and Hollywood movies now in theatres, the business circumstances that created the need for this exceptional support are now in the past.

That sounds like a pretty definite 'No' to me. But then on 24 December, the day the first round of funding was due to expire, there was another release from the minister stating that there would be a further round of funding of $9 million. That release says:

Many independent and regional cinemas have enjoyed months of lockdowns and, while trading conditions are now starting to return to normal, the legacy of these very difficult months means that cinemas are concerned about whether they can survive.

What happened between 16 December and 24 December to bring such a 360-degree turnaround?

Senator Hume: Omicron.

Mr Atkinson : Omicron moved in the early weeks of December from being fairly localised in Africa, up into Europe and then into Australia.

Senator URQUHART: So, if the minister announced on 16 December that the remaining funding in the SCREEN Fund was being reallocated to the Sustainability Fund, where did the $9 million announced for a fresh round of funding for independent cinemas on 24 December come from?

Dr Arnott : It was provided specifically to have a second round of the SCREEN Fund. So there is an additional $9 million in the Sustainability Fund, and there remains $20 million in the SCREEN Fund, $10.4 million of which is already spent.

Senator URQUHART: Right. It does look pretty messy though, doesn't it? Then there is the stress that this kind of mess puts on small business owners. I have a few questions around the insurance scheme. On 12 January, in a welcome development, the government announced it would extend the Temporary Interruption Fund until 30 June 2022. Why was that decision made?

Dr Arnott : It was made on the basis of representations from the screen sector that the Temporary Interruption Fund was still needed through this next period.

Senator URQUHART: How many times has the TIF had to pay out on an insurance claim to date?

Dr Arnott : No claims to date.

Senator URQUHART: Why does the government believe the screen sector deserves an insurance scheme, but not the live events and entertainment sector?

Dr Arnott : That would be asking me to give an opinion on government policy, which I am not able to do.

Senator URQUHART: What is the rationale for that?

Dr Arnott : I am happy to explain that. The reason the Temporary Interruption Fund was put in place was because the private investors who screen production companies rely on to finance their portions of their productions were not willing to invest that money unless there was an interruption arrangement in place. No commercial provider was willing to underwrite those risks. So, very early in the COVID history, back in the first part of the government's support, the government agreed to provide a sum of $50 million to assist screen productions to continue.

Senator URQUHART: Is the department aware of the many festivals, concerts and events that have had to be cancelled in recent months due to the omicron wave?

Dr Arnott : Sadly, yes.

Senator URQUHART: Do you know how many there are?

Dr Arnott : I don't know off the top of my head, no.

Senator URQUHART: Do you keep a running file on that?

Dr Arnott : We do for RISE funded productions, but not generally. Under RISE, most projects that haven't been able to proceed have been rescheduled. Only a very few have been fully cancelled.

Senator URQUHART: But that is only under the RISE? So, if they didn't come under the RISE, you don't know, do you?

Dr Arnott : We don't track that nationally, no.

Senator U RQUHART: Has the department modelled the cost of a national insurance scheme for live events and entertainment which would cover, for instance, insurance against the key performer being infected or exposed to COVID?

Dr Arnott : We've looked at the state insurance schemes closely, and they have a range of different options available. Obviously, the Victorian scheme is quite extensive; around $240 million has been provisioned for interruptions in that state. New South Wales has also allocated a significant amount of money.

Senator URQUHART: So you have done modelling—or have you just looked at the various schemes?

Dr Arnott : Yes, we have looked at the various schemes.

Senator URQUHART: So you haven't done any modelling?

Dr A rnott : Not specifically, because the interruptions are as a result of the actions of state governments. The government's position has been that it should be the state government that supports that.

Senator URQUHART: I struggle with why the screen sector deserves the confidence and stability given to it by a government underwritten insurance scheme, but not the live events and entertainment sector. Why is that the case?

Dr Arnott : The Temporary Interruption Fund for screen was put in place because those productions wouldn't be able to go ahead without the private investors putting money into them to finance them. There was a clear case that screen production would pretty much stop without that Temporary Interruption Fund, whereas live performance has largely been able to continue, albeit at reduced rates.

Senator URQUHART: There have been lots of cancellations, though. You know that anecdotally as well as I do.

Dr Arnott : Yes, there have been some cancellations and many rescheduled or postponed shows.

Senator URQUHART: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young has some more questions.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Before I go on to the questions in relation to streaming services and local content, I want to go back to the RISE Fund, Dr Arnott.

Mr Atkinson : We have answers on your question about the timing of the ABS data as well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Atkinson : That will be received at the end of May, so we should be in a position to have updated analysis in June, I think.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. So not in time for informing the budget?

Mr Atkinson : I think the ABS release is on 28 May. I'll clarify if that's not correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That's great. Thank you for that, Mr Atkinson. Dr Arnott, you said there's about $20 million left in the RISE Fund for this final round. I'm interested in how many applications are currently on the books for that—and what is the net worth of those applications?

Dr Arnott : I think we answered on notice that we'd received, at that time, applications to the value of $766 million.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Wow! And we've got $20 million left.

Dr Arnott : That's over the course of the whole RISE period. For the $200 million that was allocated we'd received $766 million—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Still well and truly oversubscribed, right?

Dr Arnott : A strong demand, yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You're not then looking at this final round and saying, 'X number of these are going to be considered,' or are you?

Dr Arnott : We have a batch of applications for the next one.

Mr Cox : There are 746 applications in that final batch.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: 746 applications. And how much are they worth?

Mr Cox : I don't have that figure off the top of my head, but I'll get it for you while we're sitting here. Have we got that?

Mr Atkinson : We'll come back with that. It will be in excess of $20 million.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. We might go on to the screen and local content announcements, if that's okay, as part of the green paper response from the minister.

Mr Atkinson : Yes.

Sena tor HANSON-YOUNG: I just want to get clarity over some of these issues. Firstly, will we require legislation to bring in the tier 1 reporting scheme? Will that be a legislative change?

Mr Atkinson : I'll just ask Mr Penprase to answer your questions.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you.

Mr Penprase : Legislation is likely to be required to implement the proposed scheme.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Will that be a standalone piece of legislation or is that an amendment bill?

Mr Penprase : It's yet to be decided, but most likely it would be an amendment to existing legislative arrangements.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I'm wondering what modelling was used to support the choice of the five per cent expenditure level. Did the department do their own modelling on that or did that come from somewhere else?

Mr Penprase : A range of analysis was undertaken to inform the advice we provided to government in relation to the scheme. There was obviously a very extensive process of consultation undertaken through the green paper; 110 submissions were received through that process. The department also engaged very widely with all aspects of the media sector in relation to those proposals. There were some 69 meetings with 48 groups over the period to elicit views about the possible arrangements for a scheme in relation to streaming services. Those positions and that analysis certainly informed the advice we provided to government in relation to the scheme.

Senator HAN SON-YOUNG: But there is no specific modelling that says, 'If it's set at this level or this level or this level, this is what the impact is going to be on jobs creation or a financial dividend'?

Mr Atkinson : Senator, can we go with the word 'analysis'? 'Modelling' is a very technical term.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You may have just belled the cat there, Mr Atkinson, because I guess that's my point. How specific and technical were we when this decision was made, or was this made on who whistled the loudest as the number was put up on the whiteboard?

Mr Penprase : I would say it's a proposal at this stage. The government, on 7 February, released a discussion paper with a set of arrangements that it's proposing to take forward and is seeking views on. The five per cent figure in the scheme as proposed is the trigger for designation by the minister of an entity to be a tier 2 entity—to face a formal investment investigation. Five per cent would be the trigger for when the decision-maker could consider whether or not that particular entity may be subject to an investment requirement.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Does the current voluntary reporting that was requested by the minister almost two years ago now, or 18 months ago, require the collection of data on revenue?

Mr Penprase : That reporting arrangement, no. The details that are provided through ACMA in that process relate to the availability of Australian content on the services in question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It would be good to know—if you can table some documents or give us some information as to what you've used in the analysis, as the secretary just said he prefers to describe it—what was done to help inform that five per cent of revenue versus hours of content or length of time.

Mr Penprase : We've certainly assessed the subscriber numbers for these services, which are publicly available. With a number of assumptions, you can support some analysis of what the likely revenue of these services is, which, while it's based on a number of assumptions, is certainly part of the process of assessing potential regulatory structures.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do we have any numbers that you can point to to say what the current level of expenditure on streaming services is on local content?

M r Penprase : At the moment, through the reporting program for 2020-21, the four services that participated in that voluntary reporting arrangement expended $178.9 million on Australian programs through that process. That was for the 2020-21 year.

Senato r HANSON-YOUNG: So $178.9 million across the four. So we're clear, who are those four?

Mr Penprase : Netflix, Disney, Amazon and Stan.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Do we know what percentage of their revenue that $178.9 million is?

Mr Penpra se : No, we don't have a percentage figure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it could be well below five per cent, it could be more than five per cent, it could be five per cent? You've got no idea?

Mr Penprase : No, we don't have a precise figure. Those revenue figures are not available through that reporting process through to the ACMA.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So how do you know five per cent is in the ballpark of what is achievable then?

Mr Atkinson : I think Mr Penprase was talking earlier about how you can make various assumptions about subscriber numbers and those sorts of things to get ballpark figures on revenue.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So what are the ballpark figures then? You must have done this analysis, otherwise how did you come up with five per cent?

Mr Penprase : The five per cent figure is the percentage of overall revenue that would, under the scheme, enable the minister to consider whether to impose an investment obligation. We've certainly looked relevantly at overseas developments. A lot of overseas jurisdictions impose either levies on SVOD services or direct financial investment requirements. Most of those jurisdictions tend to be around the five per cent level, say three to five per cent. There are a couple of jurisdictions in Europe that go higher, but most of them are around that mark. As I said, this five per cent figure is not the amount that they would be required to invest; it's the figure that would enable the minister to consider the imposition of an investment obligation.

Under that scheme, I should note that, if it is implemented as proposed, there would be formal reporting requirements on those entities to disclose to the regulator their revenues so that the decision-maker—in this case the minister—would have that information available to them in considering whether or not they have or haven't met a five per cent expectation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I do want to move on, but I just want to be clear. Out of that $178.9 million that you know was spent in Australia, do you have any sense of what the current percentage of expenditure is to make up that figure?

Mr Penprase : Not precise figures, no.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I've got quite a few other questions in this line of questioning.

CHAIR: On streaming?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

CHAIR: This is the place to ask.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, but the buzzer has gone off.

Senator URQUHART: We're fine.

CHAIR: Just exhaust your questions.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Great. Do you have any analysis that you can table that allows us to see what this new scheme would generate, what the proposed or the forecast is being based on?

Mr Penprase : There is no specific information we could table about the precise figure if it were to be applied in future, bearing in mind that the percentage that would be applied would be a matter for the minister at the time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has any of this analysis been to cabinet?

Mr Penprase : There was a cabinet process associated with the development of this proposal and the related proposals that stem from the media green paper consultation process.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So a briefing paper proposing this scheme?

Mr Penprase : It was wound up in part of normal cabinet processes for the consideration of these types of things.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: As part of that, there was some type of analysis around revenue forecast?

Mr Atkinson : We won't go into the analysis that we provided to cabinet, but we did provide advice to government with respect to these things.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How does the amount of investment expected under this new scheme compare to what we know is a decline in investment on free-to-air? We all know there's been a decline and there has even been a lifting of the legal requirements. Surely you've had to kind of match those up?

Mr Atkinson : Just before we get to Mr Penprase answering in detail, I think one of the important things to note here is that there is a change in viewer patterns, and assumptions or estimates—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I'm not arguing against that.

Mr Atkinson : We're trying to attach content requirements to, I suppose, the rising tide, as it were, which has a much broader base potentially in future. As with all revenue projections, there's an element of judgement as to how fast that will rise. But I think that attaching—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I don't discount that. For the record—and I think Dr Arnott would be aware of this; it is possibly before your time, Mr Atkinson—I was one of the first people out of the blocks saying we needed something on streaming services because of the change of audience.

Mr Atkinson : That's right.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What I'm trying to ascertain—we've seen a massive decline in free-to-air and the investment in local content. We need something to be able to show the sector and those who invest in the sector what the comparison, at least in the short term, if not the long term, is going to look like.

Mr Penprase : We certainly have data that's reported through the Australian Communications and Media Authority via the free-to-air broadcasters on their level of expenditure. For the most recent reporting cycle for 2019-20 we have those figures and they're obviously relevant to the analysis and advice we provide to government. They do show a decline in the general expenditure levels on Australian content within the bounds of the regulatory requirements that those entities have.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Penprase : We also, obviously, have data reporting in relation to subscription television broadcasting licensees and channel providers in terms of the amount of Australian drama that they provide. Those are both publicly reported streams. We've had, for two years, the voluntary reporting arrangements that were put in place with the larger streaming services. That evidence base is there to provide and inform deliberations over regulatory arrangements going forward.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you table some of those that you've referred to, please? That would be helpful.

Mr Penprase : Yes, that's fine.

Senator HANS ON-YOUNG: Thank you. Perhaps we can get the answer to that question about RISE?

Mr Atkinson : Mr Cox has a couple of answers to read in.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay, if we could do that.

CHAIR: Yes, of course. Please provide your clarification. We look forward to that.

Mr Cox : I'll just knock these over. There were 746 applications in batch 7 asking for $264 million. With respect to the outstanding answers to Senator Urquhart, 36 organisations have received RISE more than once, eight for rescheduling costs for the same event, others for different activities and events.

With respect to the Guns N' Roses issue, around $450,000 of the $600,000 funding for TEG for Guns N' Roses is for Australian bands as support acts. They haven't announced those acts yet because it's a rescheduled event, and that's not unusual for those acts to not yet be scheduled.

CHAIR: Thanks for that. We really appreciate you providing those clarifications. We now close off 6.1.