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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4437

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - That is not necessary. The right honourable member for Higgins may speak in the debate.

Mr GORTON - Thank you. The discussion on the establishment of the national film and television school, during this session, was initiated by a question asked by the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley). In reply the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) made a statement which was in part an answer to that question and in part a statement to the Parliament. This happened on 8th September, and the answerstatement said to the House that the cost of establishing the school would be over $7m - spread over 5 years. On 10th September the Minister informed the House, in answer to a question, that this expenditure of over $7m would result in the school providing to the industry 12 graduates a year.

The Parliament is entitled, when a matter of this kind is to be decided by it, to be provided with accurate facts on which the Parliament can base its judgment. If inaccurate information, for whatever reason, is provided to members of Parliament by a Minister the Parliament has no chance of reaching a proper conclusion as to what should be done for it would be acting without full information. I, therefore, on 16th September questioned the Minister on these matters. In reply the Minister reasserted that the cost of the school would be over $7m though he did not at that stage repeat the allegation that this sum would result iri an output of 12 graduates a year, nor did he correct his former statement as to this. I believed the facts given to the House to be wrong or mistaken, or whatever it is, and on 13th October I said so in the Parliament. I said that the sum quoted by the Minister was not in fact the sum required for the film and television school alone but included an amount of $2m, in round figures, which was required not for the film and television school alone but for a number of other schools which might, in the future, be associated with it.

I also said that the figures given to us included $1.8m, again in round figures, which was not in any way a part of the capital cost of establishing the school but a sum representing recurrent expenditure over a period of years. I interpolate that it was made clear by the Minister that this was a recurrent cost, but it was incorporated in the total cost given to us. I know of no other instance, in the establishment of a university, a college of advanced education, an institute of marine biology, or anything of that kind, when recurrent expenditure for 5 years has been added into the ostensible capital cost of establishing such an institution. It was, I think, an extraordinary thing to do. In fact, if the capital required for establishments other than the film school and the first 5 years running expenses are taken out, as they should be, the cost of establishing the school is to be not in excess of $7.6m but $3.8m.

Subsequently, on 26th October, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made a statement in which he supported the Minister's estimate of a cost in excess of $7m but corrected the estimate of the output of graduates from 12 to IS graduates a year. The Prime Minister had, perhaps, been misled since he justified his statement by asserting that the Council had not recommended that the film school should be established on an area of 8 acres. In fact, the Interim Council had so recommended. It was not the Council's preference; it was not its prime recommendation or first recommendation. But the Council did recommend in paragraph 4.5 of its second report that the school should be established according to a timetable which was applicable whether the Government bought 60 acres for a number of schools or whether it decided to purchase the smaller area of 8 acres for the film and television school.

The actual wording of paragraph 4.5 of the second report, after setting out the programme and timetable, is:

The programme as set out in. the timetable is applicable whether the Government accepts the recommendation to purchase the larger area required for a Centre-

That is, a number of other schools:

.   . or a lesser area sufficient for the film and television school alone.

That surely makes that matter clear. It is made clear also in the first report of the Interim Council where in paragraph 11.7, all of which I will not read, but none of import of which I will exclude, the Council concludes by saying:

The Interim Council recommends therefore that the establishment of a film and television school should not be delayed pending its incorporation in the larger area.

The Council suggests the school itself should go ahead at once. So, I suggest that it is clearly shown by the first and second reports of the Interim Council, which were tabled in this House, that although the Council would have preferred a larger area, most of which was for other than the film and television school and, therefore, the cost of which should not have been debited to the film and television school, nevertheless it wished the establishment of the school to go ahead even if the larger area were not bought.

This conclusion is borne out by the papers subsequently tabled on 10th November in this House which make it quite clear that the Minister had been presented with 2 costings by Mr Coleman of the Interim Council - one for 60 acres and one for 8 acres - as early, as 1 understand the papers, as June this year. The papers also made it clear beyond doubt that only 8 acres would be required for the film and television school alone. That appears in the second lot of papers laid on the table of this House.

The Council still urged that the best course was to purchase land for a number of schools but that only 8 acres was required for the film and television school itself. If that was all that was required for that school and that school were to go ahead, the cost of that area, 1 suggest, is all that should have been charged to that school. Nowhere does it appear that the Council is saying in any way that unless an area of 60 acres is bought the film and television school should not be proceeded with.

The second lot of papers also shows that Mr Coleman is advising the Minister, in paragraph 11.7 of the first report which 1 have already quoted, that the Council - and 1 quote from Mr Coleman's communication to the Minister tabled in the second group of papers:

.   . specifically recommends going ahead with the film and television school even before a decision on the centre - that is the 60 acres - has been made.

The second group of papers also shows that the estimate of 12 graduates a year made by the Minister was incorrect and that the estimate of 15 graduates a year given by the Prime Minister in his statement was incorrect also. This is brought out clearly in the record of discussion between the P.A. Management Consultants Pty Ltd and the Innterim Council. The paper is too long to go through in detail. But in this discussion Sir Ian Wark points out that the analysis of the position gives a figure of 50 graduates rather than the figure of 15 graduates required each year. It is a pity that this second lot of papers was not tabled on 26th October. They had then recently come to the Minister's possession, as I understand it, and their existence, and I believe their contents, were known to the Prime Minister.

They give us additional information which it would have been useful to know earlier. But at least their contents are now known, and I submit to the House that they clearly show that the capital cost of establishing the school is, as I said, not $7. 6m but $3. 8m and that the number of graduates for whom places can be found is not 12 or 15 but something at least between 40 and 50 a year. If that has been established - and I submit that the papers before us do establish that - at least the Parliament has proper facts on which to base its judgments, whatever those judgments might turn out to be. 1 consider the eventual establishment of this school as being most important. It is part of a 3-pronged programme to improve the capacity of the Australian film and television industry to produce films of high standard or a standard at least equal to the best world standards. That 3-pronged programme consisted in the establishment of an experimental film division, in the establishment of the Australian Film Development Corporation to finance Australian productions of merit and in the establishment of the school to give us better producers, better directors, better writers and better technicians so that the films financed by the Corporation would incorporate the highest standard of skills in their production. That ought still to be the objective of the Government.

I am disturbed at developments which now seem to be taking place. Mr Hector Crawford and Mr Mauger of Consolidated Press Ltd have been added to the Interim Council. It appears that Mr Crawford at least is more interested in delaying or sabotaging the establishment of the school than in acting to establish it. The arguments advanced for this course are apparently that a school to produce excellence is not needed - at any rate, at present. The argument is that there will not be employment for the graduates. What is suggested is that, instead of a school - I emphasise instead of a school - what is needed is tariffs on imported films and, presumably, television productions and for the holders of television licences and, I presume, the distributors of films, to be forced to include in their programmes a larger quota of Australian made drama and for the distributors to be forced to provide proper outlets for Australian made drama and perhaps, though this is not clear, for subventions to be made to established television producers. It is suggested that this is more important than the setting up of a school.

I do not quarrel with those propositions per se. I do not say that actions of this kind are wrong. They will, if implemented, or they should, if implemented, provide more opportunity and more employment for Australians engaged in the television industry and in the film making industry, whether as actors or as producers or as writers or as technicians. But whether or not this is done there will still be an overriding need for us to train to and above world standard our own Australians. If the proposal for tariffs and quotas and for making distributors do something results in an Australian television industry which calls for more actors, gives more opportunity for producers, directors and writers, surely that in itself means that there is a greater need for graduates of excellence of the kind of school we are discussing. If we do not set out to provide this standard of skill and excellence then taking merely the steps proposed on tariffs and quotas could well condemn Australians either to paying much more to see a film or to watch a television programme or to watching second rate productions. And unless we do this we will not get that world wide distribution which we can only expect to get if wc turn out first rate productions.

When we do have first rate productions we can justifiably require that distributors use them both in Australia and overseas. We can say to overseas distributors: 'If you will not show our productions we will use tariffs and other weapons to stop your productions from coming into our country'. But this can only be properly done if our productions are of a standard equal to or better than those produced abroad. If we do this we will be in a position of strength. (Extension of time granted). I thank the House; I will not trespass upon its patience. If we did this we would be in a position of strength but we will only attain this position of strength by attaining excellence and we are most likely to attain excellence from the establishment of a proper school. 'Make it Australia' is a slogan with which I agree. Make it Australia, yes, but only if it is also made excellent, because it is in that way alone that Australia will be able properly to get into overseas markets and properly to disseminate throughout the world, as films so perfectly do, a picture of Australian life at the same time as we build up what is a necessary Australian industry.

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