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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1884

Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria) -Mr Chairman,on behalf of the Opposition I move:

In sub-clause ( 1 ), paragraph (b), omit the words: 'subject to the approval of the Minister'.

This is the first of the amendments which we shall move having in mind the attitude that I expressed when speaking on this Bill earlier today. We believe that the functions of the Commission are the functions of a statutory commission and that the persons who are appointed to the Commission should have the responsibility for their decisions and for the exercise of their functions. We seek to eliminate the philosophy behind the Bill that the functions are subject to the approval of the Minister. We believe that the Commission should exercise the functions that were stated by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) in his second reading speech- to encourage the making, promotion, distribution and exhibition of films and television programs. There is no lack of accountability to Parliament for any of the actions of the Commission. It is the type of statutory commission which has the same accountability to Parliament as any other statutory commission. Although the Minister said that it must be subject to parliamentary authority, we take the view that it is subject to the accountability of Parliament for the funding which is given to it through Parliament, and for the reporting which it does annually to Parliament through the Minister. As a general philosophy the approval of the Minister for the day to day operations of its functions and for the directions and accent which could be placed on its work is an undesirable feature of the Bill.

We deplore in the strongest terms possible this attitude to the creation of a statutory commission to assist a developing industry. If it is to be a Commission comprising members who have experience, wisdom and expertise, that should be applied without being subject to the direction or the approval of the Minister. I have some particular interest in the matter because in the estimates committees we talked about the work that will be done for Film Australia. Bearing in mind that this Commission is to amalgamate the operations of the Australian Film Development Corporation and the Film Australia unit, and that its functions should concern both those bodies, the accent that is placed on the development of the studios at Lindfield for Film Australia should have priority in the encouragement which is given by the Commission to the film industry in this country. When I asked at the estimates committee about the facilities at the fine new studios which are being developed at Lindfield I was told that although their facilities are larger than required at present for the activities of Film Australia, they would be completely absorbed for that style of film making and there would not be a possibility for them to be leased or used for commercial film making. I stress that Film Australia intends to develop further the activities which have been undertaken. If the functions of the Commission must have the approval and direction of the Minister, a greater accent could be placed on the film making activities of the style of Film Australia than on balance would be placed on the development of the whole of the film industry in this country. For that reason we are seeking to remove the approval of the Minister from the functions of the Commission.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator WebsterSenator Guilfoyle, I note that the next amendment has similar wording to this one. Would it be acceptable to you if they were taken together?

Senator GUILFOYLE - Yes, it would be.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I do not object to their being taken together.

Senator GUILFOYLE - I move:

In sub-clause ( 1 ), paragraph (c), omit the words: 'subject to the approval of the Minister'.

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