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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4440

Mr SHERRY (Franklin) - by leaveThe right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) has touched upon the relevant statistics with regard to the cost of the school and the number of graduates that would ultimately emerge when the school is established. Time, and indeed patience, might well be taxed if I repeated them. I find myself in some difficulty in speaking in this debate and in a state of perplexity and doubt as to the person to whom one should direct one's remarks. Is it to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson)? Is it to the council of Ministers headed by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden)? Is it to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), that sensitive gentleman who resides in another place? fs it to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), a radical and sensitive man so close to the contemporary trends in our society? This is no easy assignment. This debate has all the ingredients of a second rate film because the question at the moment is: Who really is responsible for this complex and fragmented portfolio? On 24th November the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said:

The simple fact is that, because this matter was so sensitive, I thought it was desirable to appoint a group of Ministers lo handle it and to receive letters and correspondence direct . . .

A very arduous task - so that they would be able to prepare a speech for me and advise me as to the action that should be taken. They did this. Consequently, i divorced myself from the details as completely as I could. 1 wanted to rely upon the ministerial which, i think-

And 1 repeat for honourable members, T think'- is under the chairmanship of my colleague, the Treasurer, and also has the Attorney-General on it.

That was the Prime Minister's statement on 24th November. What an extraordinarily simplistic statement it was. This prodigious revelation was made by the right honourable gentleman, but what does it mean? What is the significance of it? It means that the Minister has been eclipsed. The Minister, appointed only a few months before, was deposed from his own environment by a group of Ministers. This was surely a massive humiliation andI extend my sympathy to the Minister for the invidious position in which he now finds himself. A Minister with a portfolio, but a Minister without authority; a Minister without direction, humiliated and humbled by his own Prime Minister. This is a ministry dismantled by a Prime Minister who has the creative vision of a computer. This, then, is the current situation, a situation almost without precedent, in which we find a council of Ministers supervising the Minister for the Arts in his first turbulent and confusing months of stewardship.

Since 8th September when the Minister made a statement in the House - indeed, one of the few that he has made on this matter - the whole issue has been clouded in secrecy. In that statement the Minister outlined his reasons for the Government's deferment of the film and television project. It was because of the costs involved, that is, $7½m over the next 5 years. Even if one accepts this figure, it would cost 11c or 12c per head of population per annum. This is the nub of the argument: Whether this school is worth while, whether it will be established on 60 acres or 8 acres, whether the consultants were right in their recommendation, and whether the Interim Council for a national film and television training school was satisfied with those recommendations. This is nothing but humbug. One cannot blame the consultants and one should not blame the Interim Council; certainly they have been constricted and inhibited to a very great degree by the shifts and indecisions by the Prime Minister who suddenly emerged on taking office earlier this year as the economic overlord of the arts in this country.

One must confess to having some doubts as to the Minister's grasp of the situation which has been outlined precisely and most accurately by the right honourable member for Higgins. On 10th September in answer to a question from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) about the possibility of losing the services of the eminent Professor Toeplitz, the Minister said, and it is recorded at page 1 112 of Hansard:

I think that there is a fair chance we may not get the professor to whom the honourable gentleman referred because he is probably going to London.

In fact, he was in residence at the La Trobe University in Victoria, the Minister's own State.

Mr Morrison - He would not know that.

Mr SHERRY - Yes. I suppose one has to be generous in these matters. The professor was employed at the Latrobe University. On another occasion, in answer to a question I asked, the Minister said he did not know of the opposition of the Federation of Commercial Television Stations to the project. On yet another occasion he did not know the number of graduates which the school would produce. It must be admitted that the Minister was appointed to this portfolio only on 3 1st May, but even in a moment of excessive charity it could not be said that he has displayed an intimate knowledge or a comprehensive grasp of this portfolio. In response to my quest ion on 28th October a letter from Mr Peter Coleman to the Minister was at last tabled. It was not tabled on 26th October when the Prime Minister made his statement in this House. The letter clearly indicates the Council's unhappiness - indeed, its very justifiable suspicion. To use a colloquialism, it was getting the run around. This then is the brief narrative of the Minister's involvement inhis needlessly protracted dialogue. What does one hope to achieve? What do we anticipate will be the benefits that will flow from the establishment of the school? The right honourable member for Higgins has already touched briefly on this essential point. We would hope that an expertise, a technical excellence and, above all, a continuity of that excellence would be available for the nation to project its own image and the cultural energies of our own indigenous talent.

Some 70 years after the emergence of this revolutionary art form - perhaps it would be conceded that the cinema is the only true art form of the twentieth century - we in this country are arguing whether this is an investment which is worth while, which will enrich our society and stretch and exercise the minds of our creative people. In a copy of the British Cinema, Sound and Television' of April this year, during the discussion with various members of the Film Training School in London, it was pointed out that in 5 years' time teenagers will have their own television sets and will play programmes as they play long playing records today. As a consequence the density of information and entertainment will have to be much higher and we will need new talent from established film schools to supply this demand. One dominant theme that emerges is that a film school can provide an environment for experimentation, development and a society of its own which does not conform to the society outside. Within this environment the boundaries of film and television communication or experience can be pushed forward and this to me seems an excellent idea.

I want to touch very briefly on the concept that has been developed at the University of California in Los Angeles. At this University they have a total concept film and television school for teaching motion picture and television which was opened in 1967. This whole concept is established under one roof. There are sound studios, editing rooms, standard 16 mm and 35 mm projectors, and included in this pre-production school are halls, theatres, facilities for scenic design, presentation of music and sound effects, and complete libraries. The post-production facilities include 26 film editing rooms, 10 video tape editing rooms and sound transfer rooms. This school, which is probably the finest of its type in the world, even goes into the highly difficult and technical field of animated production. The recording studios are equipped for double system projection and the area will allow multiple track microphone recording of voice, music and sound effects. I wonder whether this Government has examined this project which is already a living entity in the United States.

This is a very vital and creative industry. It is a dependent and thoughtful industry. It is from such a film and television school as the right honourable member for Higgins envisages and I support, that the creative talent will emerge and it is from the encouragement and stimulation of this creative activity that I suggest our society will bc enriched. Yet when this opportunity is presented to us we quibble on the cost of an acre here or an acre there, a graduate here or a graduate there. The communication of ideas through the medium of television and film is the most comprehen sive means of communication available to man. I want to turn now to some areas that are specifically embraced here. The Australian Film Development Corporation must be seen as the final creative entity that is so dependent upon the Australian film and television school. In the Budget this year, there was no further addition to the initial allocation of Sim made. when this Corporation was set up. One of the very great difficulties facing film makers in this country is that of distribution. For example, the producers of 'Stockade' which, incidentally, was backed by the Corporation, now find themselves in the extraordinary position of being offered uneconomic distribution deals by distributors. One can only conclude that distributors are not interested in the indigenous product and they are, in the main, controlled by overseas interests.

I want to turn specifically to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 26th October when he announced on page 6 of that statement that the Government had decided to add 2 new members to the Interim Council, namely, Mr Hector Crawford and Mr Len Mauger. Mr Crawford's reputation is well known and Mr Mauger's reputation is equally well known. But for the life of me I cannot imagine - in fact it defies any logical explanation - why the Prime Minister should appoint these 2 men to the Interim Council when in point of fact both of them may well be opposed to the entire concept. Mr Crawford is on public record as saying that he considers the establishment of such a school an extravagance and unnecessary. Mr Mauger, as a senior executive of the Packer group of companies and the Channel 9 network, has never, as far as I am aware, expressed any warm enthusiasm about this project. Time simply will not allow me to pursue all of the statistical details at any great length, but I would like to suggest in conclusion that through this film and television training school we will create a professional talent and a creative ability. We have every opportunity to do so.

We are one of the few nations in the world which do not do so. If we accept this challenge then we can emerge as a beacon of creative originality in this part of the world, for if this school is established it will be the only one of its kind in the Pacific area and will therefore be making a vital contribution to our own industry and our own people. It also will provide an opportunity for so many of our near neighbours and it will allow for the dissemination of our particular talents. I am appalled and ashamed that in this, the last half of the twentieth century, we are still confused and totally uncertain and unconvinced that we can project a maturity and a sophistication through this incredibly persuasive medium that can and will shape our attitudes. If this film and television school is scrapped or is emasculated because it was given birth by the right honourable member for Higgins it will be to this Government's eternal shame. Let us have an end to this indecision and uncertainty and create a worth while, tangible and productive stage for our artistic and creative talents.

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