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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1471

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services) (10:26 AM) —Regardless of one’s passions, sometimes there is a degree of reticence in speaking on some bills. Having endured a particularly banal attack on me about a year and a half ago by one of our leading gossip columnists, who parades as a political commentator, for having a passion for foreign film—apparently that is a crime—I nevertheless speak on the Screen Australia (Transfer of Assets) Bill 2010. Both the National Film and Sound Archive and ScreenSound Australia have fulfilled very worthwhile purposes for this country. However, looking at the background notes which describe the various manoeuvrings of those organisations and their history, I am reminded of all the double-crosses that Gabriel Byrne experienced in Joel Coen’s film Miller’s Crossing, because quite a tortuous Byzantine process has led us to these two fine organisations. Obviously there seems to be merit in placing the 5,000 items that ScreenSound Australia has, and also its digital educational role, with the other organisation and consolidating into the one body, the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Both organisations have done very good work and they tell us a lot about our history. I was at a recent showing of the preserved film The Last Days of Chez Nous, by Gillian Armstrong. I recall seeing it many years ago, and it really was a film about my period at university et cetera, filmed essentially in Glebe, Sydney. It is good to see that the film is going to be preserved permanently. It certainly is a part of this country’s history. Sydney, inner city life, relationships, a cottage in Glebe: it really is necessary that that kind of thing be preserved. If you look at the reality, 90 per cent of our pre-1930s film is missing. That is a pretty sorry story, but it is not peculiar to Australian film. Occasionally you see very famous German films from the 1920s found in obscure cinemas in New Zealand. It is very worrying that we have not kept this history, but it is great to see some of the work being done. The glass panel at the National Film and Sound Archive was a revolutionary item in film in 1927, when it was utilised in For the Term of His Natural Life, which of course is a major story in this country.

It is also interesting to look at the history. The previous speaker briefly referred to the work done on The Story of the Kelly Gang and the fact that we now have about a third of it. It is interesting to look at that in the context of its social history. When it was shown in 1906 it returned £25,000. Interestingly, the film was banned in Victoria, in Benalla and Wangaratta. It was stated that the showing of that film caused young boys to commit a robbery in Ballarat. It is interesting to look at the impact that the film was seen as having.

As I said, Screen Australia has 5,000 titles that cover everything from royal visits to the migration history of this country—the arrival of people, which is very contemporary, with a recent SBS production—the social life, agriculture, the armed forces and all of those things. It is also actively engaged in international film festivals around the world, trying to promote Australian films, a very difficult process. It is involved in developing production market intelligence and it is gradually putting up Australian biographies on the website, the stories of people who are relevant to our industry—their experiences and the way that they came to the industry.

On the other hand, the National Film and Sound Archive is described as aspiring to be ‘the world’s premier archive of Australian audiovisual and emerging media cultural heritage’. In its last annual report, it notes that it faces the critical challenge of finding adequate storage for the collection. That is obviously important, because the reason we do not have 90 per cent of our pre-1930 material is that the films would have lain around cinemas in Guildford or Prahran and basically, over time, been forgotten about or found to be getting in the way of other things et cetera. So it is interesting that even our national film archive body has challenges in regard to its storage capacity. The NFSA also expresses concern in that same report about the challenges of the collection’s digitisation and accommodation for the material. However, I am pleased to see that it is engaging with Indigenous film and also with ethnic communities in this country so that we make sure that what we do preserve, promote and are actively engaged in is not just what could be seen as mainstream.

Some of the material they hold is of interest on a local level. I am surprised that they have film of 1930s soccer in this country. There is a local facet to that because two of the few areas of soccer’s popularity in New South Wales, besides the mining fields and the Wollongong south coast region—because of British mining migration—were around Granville and Auburn in Sydney. They were two of the few areas where soccer was strong in the 1930s, so it is worth while that we are preserving that period in Australian history, when the teams were essentially run by companies. Metters and Goodyear were basically running the sport in this country.

Another instance of the kind of work they are doing is Captain Thunderbolt , a 1953 production. Because it was not released widely in this country, despite being an Australian production, it reached the stage where it was eventually cut by one-fifth for television, and that part was essentially lost.

The NFSA is an organisation that has, as people have noted, 1.6 million items, composed of over 300,000 audio recordings, over 400,000 moving image recordings and 870 very variegated artefacts and documents. Having noted the operation, over two years, of the separate organisations, there seems to be a sound logic behind making sure that that which is the major archival site for Australian material does in turn receive those other 5,000 items, and that the commercialisation, promotion and, as I said, digital education role does lie with the one organisation. I commend the bill to the House.