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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1900

Senator MISSEN (Victoria) -This is the clause which I, in too much eagerness, sought to discuss when the previous clause was before the Committee. In his remarks Senator Greenwood referred substantially to sub-clause (2). In my submission, both sub-clauses (1) and (2) are entirely objectionable. Sub-clause (2), to which Senator Greenwood was primarily referring, gives enormous power in regard to the directions which the Minister may give. If in fact what is intended by the clause is merely to repeat the power given in paragraph (b) of clause 5(1), which deals with the making, promotion and distribution and exhibiting of films being subject to the approval of the Minister, the clause could be regarded as unnecessary. But quite obviously it goes further than that. It does not simply provide for the Minister's approval for the creation of a film; it provides for the Minister to give a direction to the Commission and the type of direction is not described. It must be taken as being a total power in accordance with a production being undertaken at any time and in regard to whatever may be done to a film or proposed film. Therefore the power conferred on the Minister merits the strength of Senator Greenwood's objection.

Under clause 8 ( 1 ) the Minister may, by writing under his hand, give directions to the Commission with respect to the exercise of its powers or the performance of its functions but, except as provided by sub-clause (2), shall not give such a direction with respect to a particular project. I point out that the term 'particular project' is in no way defined in the Bill. Nobody can say what is a particular project. Is it a particular film? Is it a particular series of films? Is it a particular organisation or arrangement with some other country? What is a particular project? That term is left in a most sloppy manner and undefined. But the worst thing about this sub-clause is that the Minister may give directions with respect to the exercise of the Commission's powers. All of its powers are given under this Bill and the performance of its functions are set out in the Bill.

Let me give examples of that. The Minister has power to give directions in relation to clause 6, which sets out the powers of the Commission. So the Minister can give directions in relation to the guarantee of repayment of funds, the acquiring of rights to films, the providing of financial assistance to producers, its acting as a trustee, and its accepting gifts. The Commission will no longer have all of these real powers at all; it will be always subject to the direction of the Minister. This is true not only in relation to its powers but also in relation to its functions, such as the holding of meetings, which is dealt with in clause 27, the staff it employs, which is dealt with in clause 28, and the moneys it expends as well as the control of its moneys, which are dealt with in clause 32. All of the powers given to the Commission throughout this Bill become a nullity because, under this clause, they are all subject to the direction of the Minister. It means that we will have a Commission that does not have any independent powers in any part of its functions. I suggest that this clause is highly undesirable. It takes away from the Commission its status as an independent body which makes decisions in a nonpolitical and non-propaganda way. I suggest, therefore, that the clause is entirely objectionable and should be dropped from the Bill.

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