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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4443

Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs) (Minister for National Development) - As has been stated, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) set up a special committee of Cabinet and, assisted by the Minister for the Enrivonment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson), it investigated a number of matters relating to this subject. It is felt that perhaps the best way to deal with the situation today is to provide a statement to the House of a survey which had been provided to the committee of Ministers giving the historical background of the Interim Council for the national film and television training school and related matters. I hope this will be accepted as a factual interpretation of the information that is available and that has been provided to the committee of Ministers.

The Australian Council for the Arts appointed a Film Committee in November 1968 to examine the future of the film industry. It made 4 recommendations: Firstly, that a policy of protection for the film industry was essential, and recommended that the Tariff Board look into the matter fully; secondly, the establishment of a national film and television training school; thirdly, the establishment of an Australian film and television corporation; and fourthly, the establishment of an experimental film and television fund. This report went to the then Prime Minister in May 1969. In a Press statement in August of that year, the then Prime Minister announced that the Government had adopted the second, third and fourth recommendations. According to this earlier report, the proposal for a film school arose from a national conference organised by the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation. The only estimate of costs that was available at that time was a report to the British Government suggesting that the cost of technical facilities, excluding buildings, would be of the order of $400,000 and the annual running cost would be $200,000. It was on the basis of this report that the Prime Minister established the Interim Council for the film school.

The final paragraph of the report at that time read:

The first function of the Interim Council will be to confer with appropriate representatives of the educational and film fields and to recommend to the Government an appropriate location for the School. The Council will then consider the matters necessary to bring the School up tothe point of an actual operation.

Those honourable members who have read the first report of the Interim Council will see that the Council took this paragraph as its first term of reference. The second term of reference was taken from the previous Prime Minister's statement in his speech at the presentation of the Australian Film Institute Awards on 2nd December 1969. In the course of this speech the then Prime Minister raised the question as to whether the national film and television training school should be part of a university or whether it should be associated with other institutions. He said:

Should it, as another alternative,and perhaps the best of the lot, should it be a part of some entirely new - not college of education, not university - some entirely new centre where not only the national film and television school sets up for its purposes, but where the National Institute of Dramatic Art might perhaps set up for its purposes instead of in the University of New South Wales, where possibly the School of Opera or Ballet might also set up for its purposes, and where all these art forms which have so much in common could perhaps cross-fertilise each other . . .

There is no doubt of the importance these proposals had for the Interim Council. For, in its covering letter of 5th November 1970 forwarding the first report of the Interim Council, the Chairman said:

You will see that the Interim Council has accepted the suggestion you made in your speech at the presentation of the Australian Film Institute Awards last year, that the Film and Television School be part of a larger Centre embracing a number of Schools of associated studies.

The Interim Council has forwarded 2 reports to the Government - the first in November 1970 and the second in March, 1971. The first report recommends, inter alia:

(b)   That the School be established as a College of Advanced Education with its own Governing Council . . .

(c)   That the Film and Television School be regarded as the first major School of a Centre to be established in a group of associated studies.

From this it will be seen that the national film and television school should have the status of a college of advanced education. In paragraph 12.3, the report goes on to say: 'Past experience in establishing other Colleges of Advanced Education indicates that some 60 acres may well be required.' Taken in conjunction, these 2 statements would seem to indicate that 60 acres was a requirement for a national film and television training school. However, it is necessary also to take into consideration paragraph 1 1.4, which says:

The Interim Council realises that it is not a viable proposition to set up the National Film and Television School on its own, with a student body of only limited numbers. In economic terms, this would be unsound . . .

And again, in paragraph l l.S it says:

Therefore, the idea suggested by die Prime Minister of a larger Centre, in which the independent Film and Television School would share the common facilities and services with other similarly oriented Schools, is supported by the Interim Council.

These were the major recommendations in the 2 reports of the Interim Council, the second of which was received by the Government on 25th March 1971.

It will be noticed that there is no reference to the estimate of the cost of these proposals in either of the two Reports. The first time that the costs of these proposals were examined was on 22nd June, when the Minister for the Environment met the Chairman of the Interim Council in Sydney. For this meeting, the Chairman had asked the executive officer to prepare some draft estimates of costs. This was the first time, apparently, on which the Council had made any attempt to look at the financial implications of their reports, for the Chairman has said: T stressed at the same time that they had not yet been considered by the Council'. It was at this meeting that the Minister suggested that the Council should prepare for his consideration a less ambitious programme involving the recommendation to proceed immediately with the least expensive steps and approach the more costly steps over a period of time. It was at this interview that the first mention of an 8-acre site occurred. Nowhere in the first or second reports can there be found any reference to 8 acres.

Following these discussions, the Chairman submitted draft estimates of costs to the Interim Council and then forwarded them to the Minister on 30th June. An examination of these estimates shows that the cost of land for 60 acres would be $2.4m and for 8 acres $350,000; the cost of buildings $1,750,000; capital costs (excluding the cost of land and buildings) $1,69 1,000; and running costs for the first 5 years $1,807,000. The total costs, based on the 60 acre site, were of the order of S7.6m based on a 5-year period, lt will be seen from this report that the Minister had endeavoured to ask the Council to recommend a less ambitious programme. The Government was facing a period of financial stringency and all recommendations for increased Government expenditure were being examined carefully. However, in spile of these discussions, the Chairman of the Council wrote on 28th July 1971, saying:

The Council also is anxious to make perfectly clear that its recommendation on the purchase of the land, now available in a non-intensive subdivision, is based on the belief that the site should nol be confined to the area needed solely for a Film and Television School. Other Schools in associated studies are under active consideration, and their eventual close association and physical location alongside the Film School is considered of great importance to its long-term success. The opportunity to acquire the full site so advantageously will never re-occur.

From this letter, it is clear that the Interim Council's proposals involved the purchase of a 60 acre site, together with the other recommendations contained in the estimates of costs referred to above. This was the basis of the statement that the Minister made on this matter in the House on 8th September. It was the first occasion on which the matter had been raised in the House, and, in the course of his statement, the Minister said:

Whilst the Council's enthusiasm for the project is fully apparent, the continuing economic stringencies and the substantial cost, which is estimated to be over $7m during the first S years, have led to consideration of their proposals being deferred for 12 months.

It is clear from the documents that have been tabled that, if the Government had endorsed the reports and proposals of the Council, its recommendations would have involved the Government in an expenditure of over $7. 6m over the next 5 years. These recommendations were endorsed by the Chairman of the Interim Council as recently as 25th October 1971, for in his message at that time be said: . . lt is the continued view of the Interim Council that the School would succeed best, and some say only succeed, if it were part of a consortium of Schools. The School should not exist in isolation but should be part of a Centre of Schools of related activities. In other words, the Interim Council has never recommended the Film School being established on 8 acres, although this is the area of land suggested if the School were established in isolation.

However, the recommendation of the Council always has been, and remains, that the best interests of the School would be to establish it in conjunction with other Schools in related subjects, upon when basis the recommendation was made for the purchase now, at an advantageous price, of the full area of sixty acres. . . .

So far I have dealt with the details of costs of the proposals of the Interim Council. I now turn to examine briefly the estimate of the number of graduates who should be trained at the film school for employment in the industry in Australia. There is no indication in the original report of the film committee that there had been consultation with the industry in Australia or any estimate of the likely requirements of graduates, lt is also clear from the first report of the Interim Council that it did not consider itself able to estimate the requirement for graduates. In paragraph 9.3 it states:

Because of the difficulties involved in the Council itself making a thorough analysis of the industrial opportunities, as distinct from those in education, P.A. Management Consultants Pty Ltd have been engaged to conduct a survey of employment prospects in the film and television industry.

In fact, at this stage the Interim Council had put in a report recommending the establishment of a film and television school and the purchase of land before it obtained any estimate of the required number of people to be trained in the school. The consultants, P.A. Management Consultants Pty Ltd, then produced a report in which they say categorically 'the School should plan for an initial output to the industry of a maximum of 15 graduates per year'. The 15 graduates would be the total requirement of the following categories: producer-director, editor, script writer, film cameraman, and art director.

The Interim Council was now in the position of having suggested a large complex of schools including the film school only to find that the experts concluded that the immediate need is for only 15 graduates per year, lt was at this stage, that the Council proceeded to examine and evaluate the conclusions of the report. The dialogue that ensued is reported in the attachment to the letter that the Chairman of the Council sent to the Minister on 25th October and which was tabled by the Minister on 10th November.

Examination of this discussion shows that a number of estimates were made as to the requirements of graduates - some relating to a period 20 years hence - yet there is still only one concrete recommendation available, and that is the conclusion of P.A. Management Consultants Pty Ltd.

At this stage, the matters that have been considered relate to the means by which the Interim Council was established and the reports that the Council has made up to this moment. However, it is now necessary to examine the future of this important industry. It will be seen that there are a number of questions to which complete answers have not yet been given. The first refers to the relationship of the proposed film and television school to the film and television industry as a whole, lt is important that every effort be made to ensure that the film and television industry is prepared to co-operate with the proposed film and television training school so as to ensure that the graduates emerging from the school would be employed, especially as at present there is some degree of unemployment in the industry in Australia. In order to ensure this co-operation between the industry and the Interim Council of the Film and Television School, the Government has agreed to the appointment to the Interim Council of Mr Hector

Crawford and Mr Len Maugher, 2 experienced men recommended to the Government by the Interim Council. The terms of reference for the Interim Council have also been widened. They have been asked to review the relationship of the training already undertaken by the ABC, the commercial television organisations and the film industry to the programme of the proposed school. The Council will now seek the co-operation of those interested in connection with this review, and, as soon as the Government receives its report, it will consider the most appropriate way in which it might act to assist the industry in this important area.

The next question relates to the proposal for a multi-school centre, which some members of the Council refer to as a polytechnic of associate disciplines. It has been suggested that this polytechnic could include the Australian Ballet School, the Australian Opera School, the National Institute of Dramatic Art, a post-graduate school of industrial design, a post-graduate Australian conservatorium, and a school of communications. Consideration is being given to asking the Australian Council for the Arts to examine these proposals in greater detail.

Finally, however, it is necessary to return to the first report of the Film Committee of the Australian Council for the Arts, and to the recommendation made at that time. This was that a policy of protection for the Australian film industry in some form would seem essential in the long-term, and the Committee recommended that the Tariff Board, or some specially constituted body, look into this matter for it. The Prime Minister has announced that this recommendation is now to be implemented. (Extension of time granted). I thank the House. Recent reports on the Australian film and television industry indicate that there is probably no other country in which English is the common tongue which is so poorly protected against American and British imports of film as is Australia. Within these conditions of unequal opportunity and what can, from many points of view, be called unequal competition, it is hardly surprising that Australia has had such trouble in creating a viable communications industry of international quality. Foreign television producers can afford to sell their programmes at 'dump' prices to

Australian stations, having spent perhaps 10 times on a programme what an Australian company could afford to spend, and selling it for about a quarter of what it would cost to make in Australia, lt can be seen that many people believe that this is the first problem that needs to be solved. Until a solution has been found, the Australian film and television industry will not expand. When a solution has been found, expansion will take place. The decision of the Government to refer the industry to the Tariff Board shows that it now sees the whole problem, and that it is determined to assist the industry to expand and to relate all the proposals so that they fit in to this objective.

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