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Wednesday, 13 October 1971
Page: 2296

Mr GORTON (Higgins) - I rise to speak on the present confusion which surrounds the Government's attitude to the recommendations made by the interim council for the establishment of a national film and television school. We have been variously told by the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) firstly, that in 12 months time consideration will be given to the recommendations made by the interim council. In my belief this statement was made by the Minister on the direct verbal instructions of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). Secondly, we were told by the Minister that in 12 months time consideration will be given not to the interim council's recommendations but to some other, at present unformulated, recommendations which the Minister believes will be better. We have been told by the Prime Minister that the matter has not been deferred for 12 months because well before 12 months time some proposals - it is not clear what proposals - will receive Government consideration. Today we have been told by Mr Phillip Adams, through a newspaper, that the Prime Minister has assured him, on the telephone, I understand, that Mr Howson's comments in the House were misinterpreted and that it has already been decided that work on the national school is definitely to proceed. At least this is an advance on considering the matter at some time in the future.

Further, this afternoon the Minister answered a question on which I am unable properly to comment because he took the unprecedented step of refusing to allow me to look at the Hansard greens of his answer or to allow me to get a copy of his answer from Hansard. However, he did say - I listened to the rebroadcast of his answer at 7.15 p.m. - that he had given details of the first report of the interim council to the House. I suggest that in fact he did not. I think the House and the country would be grateful if these conflicting statements could be reconciled so that we might have a clear idea of just what recommendations are to be considered by the Government, and when. I express the hope that when this matter does come to be considered by the Government those considering it will not accept the figures given to the House by the Minister as accurate because they are not. We were told that the estimated cost of establishing the school would be over $7m. Leaving aside the consideration that this figure included running costs for the first 5 years, which is surely a dubious method of computing the costs of establishing a school, still the costs given to us are misleading. We were told that the cost of the land for the school would be $2.4m, but this is not the cost of the land required for a film and television school, lt is- the cost of 60 acres of land, contiguous to Macquarie University, which it is estimated can be bought for $40,000 an acre. Those 60 acres of land are required so that in the future, hopefully, a complex or consortium of various post-graduate arts schools may be established on the one site and exert influence, the one upon the other, in a national centre for advanced training in the arts.

We might well have then not only the film and television training school but also a post-graduate school of industrial design, a post-graduate Australian conservatorium, an opera school and, perhaps in the future, a ballet school and a national institute nf dramatic art conferred to the one site, all self-governing, all independent, yet by their nature interrelated and the activities of any one perhaps influencing the activities of others. This would give an opportunity for cross fertilisation of ideas. I had thought that such a concept might well advantage the creative arts in Australia and that if sufficient land was bought to . make this possible there could be no real chance of monetary loss even if the project did not in the future go ahead, because such land could undoubtedly be sold at a profit. The interim council fully agreed with this and, therefore, proposed to buy an area of 60 acres, that being enough to provide room for all these creative schools on the one site. But the interim council believed that all that would be required for a film and television school would be not . 60 acres but approximately 8 acres and at $40,000 an acre the cost of land for such a film school would be $320,000 and not $2.4m which the Minister has worked on as the cost of land for the school.

It would be a very great pity if the recommendations of the interim council were dropped because of such misleading costing. Similarly it would be tragic if the recommendations were held up because of other misinformation. For instance, we were told that it would be too expensive to spend $7m in order to produce 12 graduates a year and we heard doubts raised by the Minister as to whether I had really considered the total number of graduates that would be required by the industry. As to the second point, let me assure the Minister and the Committee at once that I did not consider the total number of graduates that would be required by the industry. I did not feel competent to do so. That is why I set up an experienced and distinguished interim council to consider this and other matters relating to the establishment of the school. The council did examine this matter very fully and had consultations with those engaged in the industry. This is shown by the council's remarks on page 12 of its first report, which honourable members have not had an opportunity to see. It is shown too by an 81 -page report commissioned by the interim council and compiled by P.A. Management Consultants Pty Ltd on the very matter of the number of graduates required by the industry.

So there is no substance in any suggestion that there has not been full, and exhaustive consideration given to how many graduates are required by the industry; neither is there any accuracy in the statement made to us that the school would produce 12 graduates a year. In fact, the second report of the interim council on page 4 anticipates that when staff and accommodation are available the annual intake may well be as high as SO students. Not all of the intake will complete the course but it is clear that the suggestion that the school plans to produce only 12 graduates a year is quite mistaken and quite misleading. The employment survey from P.A. Management Consultants Pty Ltd reports that, all things being equal, the industry believes that it can absorb 30 to 40 graduates a year, excluding any requirements from other quarters such as educational television or those required to train people to engage in educational television. lt is of no use talking of what we have done in the Film Development Corporation or the experimental film fund and using this as an excuse for not founding the school. All 3 initiatives need to be taken and regarded as an interrelated 3- pronged attack on the problem. Indeed, it the Film Development Corporation is to be fully effective the film school is essential in order to improve the standards of production which the Film Development Corporation could use. A cost of $6m or $7m over 5 years should not be too frightening. After all it is only roughly the cost of running the Australian Broadcasting Commission for 7 or 8 weeks and we should be able to meet this expense. There is now no film or television school in the South Pacific nor, indeed, in the whole Southern Hemisphere. We can be the leaders in this half of the world. Let us look not at film and television making in Australia as it is. Let us rather look at it as it could and should be. Let us adopt the recommendations of the expert committee instead of rushing round in circles seeking some way to evade them. Let us regard this as a real contribution to creative art and therefore to the quality of life, as a good long term economic investment and as a way of showing the world the Australian scene presented with the highest artistic, professional and technical skill such as befits the nation we are and the nation we can become.

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