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Thursday, 15 October 1970

Mr COPE (Sydney) - In speaking to the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral's Department, 1 shall confine my remarks to the television industry, in which actors, actresses, writers and technicians are seeking a better deal for Australian television shows, and quite rightly so, because at present overseas programmes are swamping the local screens. We have reached a stage when a showdown is necessary to protect this important industry from extinction. Australian television stations spend huge sums purchasing American and British programmes, while the local industry is not encouraged to expand. Conversely it is being slowly strangled by the failure of the Government to take positive steps to nurture this Australian industry. The existing quota system which is supposed to give Australian shows sufficient time on television, is a complete farce. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the guardian of our television screens, has done nothing adequate to enforce a policy designed to encourage and protect our local industry. When a United States or a British television film or entertainment show is produced, there is a ready market available. As a consequence production costs are soon cleared and the show can then be sold in Australia very cheaply. This practice can be truly labelled as unfair competition to the Australian industry.

The distribution of Australian productions is very limited because the United States and the United Kingdom both rigidly enforce a policy to protect their own television industries. For example, 86 per cent of television shows in the United Kingdom and nearly 100 per cent in the United States must be locally produced. Naturally it is extremely difficult for Australiato break into either of these 2 markets; yet unlimited imports are allowed into Australia because tariff protection is minimal and riddled with loopholes. For instance, a tariff of 5c a foot is charged on imported American film and 1c a foot on British film. As a result some American material is processed in Britain and enters Australia as a product of that country at lc a foot. This is only a fraction of the tariff protection afforded to other Australian industries against overseas competition. Some Australian producers have new shows planned but are unable to commence production because of financial circumstances. One producer has been asked for 26 additional episodes of a well known and popular children's series of films which he had mads last year. This request came from an American television network. However, the Australian producer is compelled to wait until he receives back money from the previous series before commencing production. By then it could be too late.

Like other honourable members and honourable senators my commitments in attending social functions, Party and other organisation meetings are very extensive but despite this I do on occasions have a night at home and relax by watching television. I enjoy watching such films as 'Homicide', 'Division 4' and 'Bellbird' and good entertainment in the Barry Crocker, Rex Mossop, Joe Martin, Bob Rogers and, until recently, the Bobby Limb shows. In addition, I believe that 'Showcase' and New Faces' are excellent entertainment. There is also the Bob Dyer BP show and the Roland Strong Coles show, both of which are quiz shows and which are far superior to any imported ones in their various categories of entertainment. However, we desperately need far greater encouragement and incentive to produce more drama to retain our artists and writers in Australia. We have the talent;let us use it. Let me mention some Australians who made good overseas. The late Errol Flynn, until his death, was one of the world's most popular actors. Rod Taylor is in big demand by all film producers. Then there are John McCallum, Merle Oberon, Peter Finch, Michael Pate, Victoria Shaw, Diane Cilento, Cecil Kellaway, Zoe Caldwell, Dame Judith Anderson, Patsy Ann Noble, Chips Rafferty, and, in other fields of entertainment, Joan Sutherland, June

Bronhill, Frank Ifield, Rolf Harris, Frank Thring, John Serge, Lana Cantrell, The Seekers, the Bee Gees, Cathie Goreham, who is a world leading ballet dancer; and writers such as Morris West, famous for the book 'Shoes of the Fisherman', Ralph Smart of the 'Danger Man* series, John Cleary, John O'Grady, Eric Taylor, Chris Beard, Patrick White and Ray Lawler.

Now let us examine the quota system which is controlled by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It requires a paltry half an bour a week per channel between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9.30 p.m., which is about 3 per cent of this peak viewing time for local productions. The Board does nothing about the glut of American dramas that saturate our screens. Some of them are up to 30 years old and some are showing for the third and fourth time. Some of the American films shown after 10.30 p.m.. particularly horror and space films, are junk, and I submit this is a most fitting description. I was incensed when Mick Jagger was brought out to Australia to play the role of Ned Kelly. This was ridiculous when the Treasurer (Mr Bury) would have fitted the part admirably.

In concluding my remarks I should like to point out that Australian actors and actresses proved themselves during World War II and the post war period when American radio dramas were unprocurable and the local radio industry had to expand or die. For many years, and until television became more popular than radio, the Australian actor proved his technical and artistic ability, and against telling odds he has proved his worth on television. I believe the Australian people are being Americanised by television. What we need is more drama and entertainment depicting the Australian way of life. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board requires an overall 50 per cent Australian content. This figure is false in practice. This 50 per cent is mainly composed of cheap day time programmes, football games, news broadcasts, boxing and wrestling matches, game and quiz shows, amateur talent quests, and so on. Worse still, Australian drama and children's programmes are counted as twice their length in calculating the 50 per cent content. English programmes are also quoted as Australian content. Repeated Australian programmes are also counted.

These are often hidden late at night but arc still used in eking out the local television content. Some of these shows are 10 years old and are repeated without any additional payment to actors, writers or production houses. Naturally they keep out new local productions.

Another important factor in encouraging and expanding our local industry is the drain on our overseas credit balance by the huge annual bill for the purchase of American and British films and shows. Finally, I should like to emphasise that this is a young nation possessing excellent television talent. Let us encourage it in the future and let us enforce a true figure of 50 per cent of local content.

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