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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 828

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wish to take up a few minutes of the time of the Senate to raise a very serious matter relating to the development of the Australian animation film industry. That industry has been operating for about 38 years by the efforts principally of a Mr Eric Porter. That industry, as a result of very hard work on his part and as a result of the efforts and dedication of the men and women who have worked for him during that period, has developed into a very successful industry. After 38 years of hard work it has now reached the stage at which export income is being earned. I am told that there are 2 Australian companies in this field, one known as Eric Porter Productions Pty Ltd and the other known as Air Programmes International which is more commonly referred to as API. In the last 12 months the 2 companies have earned for Australia $1,500,000 in export income. Next year their productions are expected to be worth about $5m in export income.

These animation films have been made in Australia. They have had considerable success overseas. One of the companies, namely API, was involved in the making of 117 separate cartoons and animated films of stories about King Arthur. They were shown throughout the whole of the United States of America. There was another film dealing with Charles Dickens' story 'A Christmas Carol' which was sold by one of the Australian companies for screening on the American CBS network, and I am told that that programme had a viewing audience in the United States of some 25 million people. These 2 companies between them have been able to employ in recent times about 300 people - cartoonists, choreographers, dancers, musicians and people of that nature.

However, in recent weeks an American animation enterprise has established business in Australia in competition with the 2 Australian companies. The American company, because of its size and the distribution outlets available to it, now is able to offer to the staff of the 2 Australian companies about a 50 per cent increase in salaries if they go to work for the American enterprise. I am told that the American company, known as Hanna and Barbera, a multi-million dollar production company in the United States - a company which produces animated films such as The Flintstones', 'Yogi Bear', The Jetsons' and about 30 other popular television programmes in the United States - now has established business in Australia and employes about 1,500 people. It has its own distribution outlet and, as I have said, it is a multi-million dollar company setting out on production in this country.

Certainly I, as a member of the Labor movement, cannot object to any worker going from one business to another for a 50 per cent increase in wages. I certainly do not object to that. But Mr Porter assures me that Mr Hanna of the American company has told him that, if necessary, the American company can pay double the price that the Australian companies can pay in order to attract workers from the Australian companies. These Australian companies, having nurtured the tree and being about to pick the fruit of their efforts after so many years of hard work, now find that this giant American enterprise can transplant a much larger tree in Australia and virtually reap the pickings of an industry that has been pioneered by a couple of Australian over a period of 38 years of hard work and dedication.

An American company of this size can absorb the total work force of the Australian animation companies and put the Australian companies completely out of business overnight. This is not a takeover, a subject about which we hear so much in the Australian Parliament; this is a case of a foreign company coming in and virtually choking the Australian animation film industry. It is a fact, of course, that Australian wage standards are much lower than those of the United States, but I imagine that the profits that will be made by this American company operating in Australia will be returned to Hollywood instead of Australia being able to earn, as it has been able to do over the past 12 months, a healthy export income. If something is not done about this, then I am afraid that a great deal of the money that is being invested by the Australian taxpayers in the Australian Film Development Corporation will be just going down the drain. If the situation that has developed in the animation film industry is allowed to develop in the film industry as a whole, when the Australian film industry eventually becomes viable and healthy, then I can well imagine the same thing happening at that time.

I understand that 2 representatives of the 2 Australian companies to which I have referred recently saw the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson). I already have spoken to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) about this, both in his capacity as AttorneyGeneral and as Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. I urge the Senate and the Government to give this matter close attention and serious consideration. The Government will have to protect genuine Australian companies which cannot possibly compete on the international market with giant foreign competitors who have all the access in the world to distribution outlets and markets.

Frankly, I do not know what the solution is under the present system. Perhaps the Government can impose a very heavy withholding tax on the American company. Perhaps it can assist the Australian companies to find additional overseas markets. Perhaps it can impose an investment tax on overseas competitors of Australian businesses. But surely these people who have worked so hard to develop a very effective Australian animation film industry are entitled to all the protection that the Australian Government can give them. Therefore, in the interests of this nation, and particularly in the interests of the development of an Australian film industry, I urge the Minister to give this matter all the consideration that he can to see whether the Government can come up with a solution to this very pressing problem.

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