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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1945

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - The Opposition has 2 major purposes which it desires to achieve in this area. I would have thought that in the expression of those objectives we ought to have the 'support of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) and also of Senator Hall. The first objective is to ensure that the independent film producers, the small operators, those who produce films commercially for sale, will have a means by which they can be assisted by the Commission and have outlets in the theatres whereby they can show their short films. We want to stimulate and promote that objective. The second major concern that we have is that we should not create a situation under which thi: Minister can virtually superintend and direct the affairs of this Commission in the making of films and then require that theatres will show those Com mission- made, government-directed, ministerially-controlled films. We have insisted throughout this debate that we do not want 10 join in creating a government commission i.i which films are made by ministerial direction - that is what we believe this requirement of ministerial approval will become- will be propaganda films designed to present a case for a government, whatever complexion it might be, through the theatres of this country. Our attitude is based primarily on those 2 objectives. Last night wc were faced with a situation that in clause 10 the Minister was taking a power through the Coinmission under which the Commission woun.1 direct the theatres to show a proportion of Australian short films. The definition of 'Australian short films' includes Australian films made by commercial producers and it also includes films which are made by the Commission subject to the approval of the Minister.

If one examines the functions of the Commission as contained in paragraph (b) of clause 5 one sees that the Commission may make films subject to the approval of the Minister that serve the purposes of a department of state or an authority of Australia; that deal with matters of national interest to Australia; and films that are designed to illustrate or interpret aspects of Australia or of the life and activities of the Australian people. They are all films which the Com - mission may make but before it can make any of those films it must have the approval of the Minister. Because of the way in which the approval of the Minister would operate in that context, the Minister could get what he wants. Therein bes the enormous power which government can take to ensure that this Film Commission becomes a propaganda arm for government if it should want it to be that propaganda arm.

Therefore, we feel that if, in clause 10, there were a requirement under which those films could be shown in theatres, we would be just adding to the power which the Commission was taking. Not only could the Commission make these films as the Minister wanted it to make them but the Commission could also direct the theatres in which they were to be shown and could also insist that the films be shown to the exclusion of other films. Of course, the commercial independent producers could be shut out by the operation of that provision. Therefore, we believe that the appropriate course- as we have failed in an effort to persuade the Committee at an earlier date to exclude the power of ministerial approval or direction over the making of these films- is to remove that power to make a requirement. That is the view which, if our amendments which we have put forward today fail, we shall adhere to in the vote which we will cast on clause 10. But taking advantage of the suggestion made by the Minister last night, we have produced an amendment which we believe -

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - You have transposed an amendment.

Senator GREENWOOD - What we have done is to produce an amendment to the definition of 'Australian short films' which will ensure that 'Australian short films' means the films which are produced by the commercial independent operators. If our amendment is accepted then it is those films which the Commission can say are to be shown in the theatres. That will be the encouragement to the film industry in this country because, consistent with what the Tariff Board report said, an outlet will be provided for those films. We will ensure, by our amendment to the definition of 'Australian short film', that the films made by the Commission cannot be insisted upon by the Commission as films that must be shown in a theatre. Of course, clause 5 of the Bill still remains and the Commission will have the ability to make films- as many films as the Commission and the Minister want to make- but it will not have the power to require that these Commission-made, ministerially-directed films shall be shown in the theatres. We believe that in that way we are avoiding the risk which we see in parts of this legislation that the Film Commission will become an arm of Government propaganda. At the same time we are promoting those whose interests really we want to see promoted and they are the small producers and operatorsthose persons who have a livelihood and who can sustain a livelihood by operating in the commercial film producing world. It is quite wrong, as the Minister has suggested, to say that we are denying to the public of Australia an opportunity to see films made by the Commission. We are not doing that. We are not, by this amendment, doing what the Minister said we were doingpreventing the public from having an opportunity of seeing a film about the Sunderland flying boat. If such a film is made it can be available to any theatre to show. It can be available to anybody who may want to exhibit it. There is nothing which will prohibit it being done.

We believe that the Government ought not be allowed to take a compulsory power to direct what films shall be shown. There is nothing in our amendment which will facilitate the taking of that power. Therefore, we accept, as Senator Guilfoyle has indicated, the proposition that we can amend the definition of 'Australian short film' so that we can overcome the problems which we saw in the existing clause 10. If the Government does not agree with the viewpoint put by the Opposition about amending the definition of 'Australian short film' then we are back, in a sense, to the position which we were in last night. But we object to clause 10 in the form in which it is presently cast.

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