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Wednesday, 13 October 1971
Page: 2298

Mr SHERRY (Franklin) - May I congratulate the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) on his concise exposition of this subject. As a matter of fact, he has almost made my speech totally unnecessary but I reassure the House that there was no collusion between us. Time will not allow me to develop the theme that I wished to develop, the right honourable member has done a very expert job in that respect. I applauded the concept of this film and television school in this place when it was first announced and 1 still hope that it will become a living thing. I agree entirely with what the right honourable gentleman has said, but I want to know precisely what the Government intends to do. Does it intend to continue in the procrastination in which it is now indulging?

In the question that 1 put to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) this afternoon, I asked specifically had he had any communication from the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. 1 would like to quote from the report of that organisation in 1969, because it is relevant. That report states at page 24:

Commercial television licensees believe the school to be unnecessary, and would of course, strongly oppose any suggestion that the setting up of such a school, which they do not wantshould involve financial duties or levies imposed upon them.

On the same page it states:

Three members of the Australian Committee for the Australian Film and Television Training School have recently conducted an on the spot survey in several countries of the requirements for such a school. The ultimate recommendations to the Government will be studied with interest, but if those recommendations follow the lines already suggested by 5 of the 8 members pf the Committee, in their Australian Council for the Arts Committee capacity, this industry will continue its objections to the necessity for a school involving the training of television creative personnel.

I want to relate this statement to a statement that the same organisation made just a short time before when the groundswell was developing for an increase in the Australian content in television, which I have continually advocated and will go on advocating. This same organisation in a contradictory statement said that it was unable to provide an increased local content because it did not have the technical expertise due to lack of training. But when it is given the opportunity to engage in this training that provides" the skill and expertise - and believe me expertise and skill are needed in this business - it says it is totally opposed to any school which will give it that skill. What an extraordinary statement to make. I will not deal any further with it because I want to turn now to the Film Development Corporation.

When this proposal was announced by the right honourable member for Higgins in his capacity as Prime Minister - I will quote from his second reading speech because in this Budget there has been no allocation at all to the initial amount of $lm that was provided - he said:

This Bill will fulfil the Government's undertaking to assist the Australian film industry, lt provides for the establishment of an Australian Film Development Corporation which will administer a fund with an initial capita] of $lm.

He continued:

It may also, subject to ministerial approval, participate in the formation of a company for the distribution of Australian films.

That is another very important point. He went on to say:

A flourishing film industry in Australia will employ talented Australian writers, artists, directors, actors, musicians and technicians.

That is a conclusion and an aspiration with which 1 entirely agree.

What do we see the New South Wales Government doing? In that State the film quota has been set at 2.S per cent but it has never been observed. The New South Wales Government has admitted this. In fact, the last time the quota was strictly observed in New South Wales - and this is the State which has a population greater than any other - was back in the 1930s in the halycon days of Cinesound Productions, Dad and Dave and Dave Rudd. It has not been observed since then but now the New South Wales Government is proposing to reduce even further the quota that is required. This will immediately have the effect of torpedoing this Film Development Corporation legislation. It does not matter how good the films are or how much money you have spent on them, you have to ensure that you have distribution for the product. If you cannot get distribution in our most populous State, where will the situation end?

Strangely enough this announcement of a reduction in the quota was made not in this country but in London by a Mr Hay- ward who formerly held an executive position in the Greater Union movie house chain which is half owned by the Rank Organisation of the United Kingdom, lt was reported that Mr Hayward had been carrying out investigations connected with the film industry on behalf of the Government of New South Wales and had been seen at Greater Unions' London office. It was also reported that he had recommended 2 amendments to the New South Wales quota provisions, and I want to underline these. The first was that 3 documentaries of at least 20 minutes each should be counted as one feature film. The second recommendation was that co-production films - here he was very vague about what he meant by co-production - should be taken into the quota. He did not spell out how such films should be counted and one possible interpretation is that they will be counted as fully equal to an Australian production. Our local film makers and other people connected with the industry are quite rightly very concerned with this, including John Mccallum who is producing some of our most efficient television and feature films.

What disturbs me with regard to this Film Development Corporation is that in the main the grants awarded have been for television and not for feature films for the cinema which, I suggest, is contrary to the expectations of the right honourable member for Higgins when he introduced this Bill. The quota system in this country is really totally ineffective. It has hardly ever been observed. 1 suggest the time has come when it should be observed because if it is not, as I said earlier, the whole of this fine concept of using the very rich and diverse talents in this country will be entirely wasted. In conclusion, may I, say that I am very deeply concerned that the initiative and the enterprise and, indeed, the genuine concern which motivated the right honourable member for Higgins to launch this enterprise that I have all tpo. briefly mentioned seem to me to be in a state of total emasculation, if not total abandonment, and that, as far as I am concerned, is a grave blow to our creative and ' artistic capacity.

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