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Thursday, 3 February 1994
Page: 365

Senator PATTERSON (4.00 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

Senator Baume has just referred to a report dated last December. This report was dated 10 December 1993, and it is now being tabled in the chamber. Had it been tabled at the end of last year when it was ready, it may have been received by the same minister to whom it was addressed—Senator Bob McMullan, as the then Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services. Now that the report has been tabled in February, it is not the responsibility of the same minister.

  I read this report with amusement. So much for the commitment of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) to the priority of the arts—a priority which seems to have escaped his attention in the recent cabinet reshuffle. I thought that the ALP was keen to maintain the myth that it had this solid contact with the arts community. I suppose some of the arts community would be pretty furious that they have established this relationship with Senator McMullan and spent hours briefing and talking to him, only to find that suddenly, because he has done what may appear to some people to be a reasonable job—yet we have got some doubts about that—in the administrative services portfolio, he dumps the arts portfolio, and Mr Lee has been given the arts portfolio.

  Notwithstanding that, I want to speak about the report. I also mention that Film Australia has made some quite significant changes over the past 12 months in terms of its staffing. It has acknowledged that that has not been easy and has actually impacted on some individuals who have served the organisation for some time. Obviously, it felt that was necessary because of the financial situation. The use of space was also rationalised within the Lindfield premises and it sought successfully to lease large portions of the excess. It should be commended on seeing that opportunity.

  I was interested also as to the way in which it is marketing and distributing Australian films. By commenting on one film one may omit others and I do not wish to do that, but the report mentions Kangaroos: Faces in the Mob. On page 24 one can see the long list of awards that documentary has received already. If any of my colleagues in this chamber have not seen that film, I commend it to them. In order to market it, Film Australia has located this film in ABC shops, zoos, national parks, wildlife kiosks, Australiana shops, airport outlets, and a number of other areas. It is looking to try to sell it through Readers Digest, Avon, Amway, Doubleday Book Club, SBS catalogues, et cetera. It is using innovative and creative techniques to market this wonderful film—Kangaroos: Faces in the Mob.

  In looking at this report, one's attention is drawn also to the fostering of trade relations with Asia which Film Australia is engaging in. This is demonstrated by, firstly, its partnership with a Japanese company, NHK Japan, on the children's project Escape from Jupiter; and, secondly, the marketing and distribution contract with a group in Japan for the television, video, merchandising and publishing rights to Johnson and Friends. These are two examples of a movement into the Asian market.

  Another innovation which needs to be brought to the Senate's attention occurs on page 15 and relates to special projects. We see that Film Australia is involving itself in a relationship with the National Museum of Australia to look at ways in which innovative means can be used to transfer the experience of collections across time and space in order to enable access to films by people in remote areas. The aim is to create the opportunity for all Australians to participate in the nation's cultural heritage. One has only to look at the changes in technology that are about to occur to realise how organisations such as Film Australia need to be almost ahead of the game in order to benefit from those changes. It is heartening to see that it is projecting itself forward and looking towards changes in technology to facilitate the promotion of Australian films. I commend the report to the Senate.