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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1947

Senator EVERETT (Tasmania) - I wish to speak to the amendment moved by Senator Guilfoyle. I make the observation that I have listened for some hours last night and today to the debate in the Committee stage on this Bill. I agree that it is an extremely important Bill. I think it would be a very great pity, in view of the spirit of compromise that at times has been observed in this debate, if at the very end of it, when considering the combined effect of clause 3, as it would read if this amendment were agreed to, and clause 10, one of the basic objectives of the Bill was frustrated by ultimately clause 10 not being agreed to in its amended form.

I find it rather impossible to put to the Committee the suggestion I am about to make without considering clause 10 in conjunction with clause 3, because the amendment to clause 3 that is now before the Committee has as its main thrust clause 10. The purposes of the 2 clauses are intertwined. It seems to me that the Opposition would not wish it to be suggestedtherefore, I do not suggest it- that it would seek to do anything which would inhibit the widespread distribution of films which were made under the power contained in clause 5 (1) (b), which sets out the 3 categories of films that we are considering. As I say, the Opposition would not wish it to be suggested that it would not wish to see a wide dissemination of films which, in the words of clause 5 ( 1 ) (b) (i), (ii) and (iii) respectively, are films that serve the purpose of a department of state, films that deal with matters of national interest to Australia or films that are designed to illustrate or interpret aspects of Australia or of the life and activities of the Australian people. I am sure that, conceding for a moment the sincerity of Senator Greenwood 's desire that private film distributors as he terms them should not find undue competition from films made by the Commission, nevertheless the public has to be considered in this matter. I suggest that it is in the public interest that there be the widest possible dissemination of films properly made pursuant to the power contained in clause 5 ( 1 ) (b) (i), (ii) and (iii).

It seems to me that Senator Guilfoyle's amendment and the thrust of Senator Greenwood's speech which he delivered just before lunch were designed to ensure, as Senator Greenwood said, firstly, that there was not improper competition with private film distributors and, secondly, if I may use my own words to paraphrase his words, that films which might have some improper political bias were not included in the quota. Although the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), who is in charge of the Bill, sought to overcome the second of those objections by the offer that he made this morning, unfortunately it was rejected. Therefore, with the concurrence of the Minister, I put to honourable senators the suggestion that the difficulty would be overcome essentially if after the word 'films' last occurring in clause 10 (2) (b) (i) words to this effect were added: and in the case of films of a kind referred to in paragraph 5 ( 1) (b) (i), (ii) and (iii)--

That is, the films that concern the members of the Opposition- certified by the Commission to be films which are appropriate for inclusion in the proportion so specified.

That puts on the matter a different thrust from that which was rejected by the Opposition this morning pursuant to the Minister's offer. In other words, there would be an additional requirement in relation to clause 10 that not only must the films which are the subject of a requirement under that clause be certified by the Commission to be Australian short films but additionally, I emphasise, in the case of films which were made under the power contained in clause 5 (1) (b) (i). (ii) and (iii) there would be a further certification by the Commission that they were appropriate to be included in a requirement given under clause 10. 1 suggest that that would remove any suggestion that, if ever a film came into existence which had some improper political overtones, it could be included in the quota system. The Commission- an independent statutory body- would have the additional duty of saying: That film is appropriate for inclusion in the specified proportion under clause 10 (2) (b) (i)'. I realise that I am speaking primarily to clause 10. But it is impossible to consider the effect of the Opposition's amendment to clause 3 without examining what is its purpose. Clearly, its purpose is related to clause 10. 1 am grateful for the opportunity to pursue the matter in this way.

So I repeat what I have said in what may be a final effort to avoid a very desirable provision of this Bill being lost. With the approval of the Minister, I ask the Opposition whether it would consider withdrawing the amendment to clause 3 on the basis that when clause 10 is reconsidered by the Committee there will be inserted at the end of clause 10(2) (b) (i), after the word 'films', the requirement that I have mentioned, namely, that there be a further certification by the Commission, completely free of any ministerial control or direction in this matter- a requirement that the Commission should certify the film to be appropriate for inclusion in the films that would come into the quota system. I think I have made the position plain. Finally, I simply say that I believe it would be a sad day if, in the Committee's final consideration of a Bill to strengthen the Australian film industry, there should be deleted from the Bill a provision which is designed to buttress up the Austraiian film industry and, in particular, Film Australia and to ensure a wide dissemination on the public interest of films which are basically in the national interest and which portray national sentiment and associated matters. I put forward that suggestion. If it falls on favourable ears, the Government will know what the position will be when we come to deal with clause 10.

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