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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1904

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I have listened with interest to the debate and to the contentions put forward by the Opposition. Frankly, I am appalled and shocked at the abysmal ignorance of the people who have been putting the case that this clause should be omitted from the Bill merely because it gives the Minister, whoever he may be- whether it be me or someone else- the power of direction, a power that the Minister who was ministerially responsible for the Commonwealth Film Unit for 23 years before this Government came into office had and always had, a power that I, as Minister for the Media, have in regard to the Australian film production unit now known as Film Australia and a power that every other Minister who decides to use Film Australia as a production unit on behalf of his department also has.

What is the arrangement to be entered into? The Tarin" Board, as it was then known, recommended the establishment of a Film Commission having the powers of production, promotion, distribution and exhibition if necessary.

There is an Australian Government film production unit already in existence. Rather than have a Commission and also that Australian film production unit under the control of a department and therefore directly responsible to a Minister, what we say is: Take that film production unit holus bolus from the department and transfer it to the Commission. In that situation, in addition to carrying out the departmental functions which it carries out already and which are subject to the direction of the Minister, it can engage, if the Commission so chooses, in other production activities by itself for or on behalf of the Commission, or in connection with a coproduction arrangement. Once that film production unit, Film Australia, is transferred from the departmental function to the Commission, to which appointments have been made from throughout the industry to bring about the coordination of production, distribution, promotion and exhibition, surely there can be no objection if a Minister of the Crown requests that a certain film be made.

Let us assume that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) wants a film made by the Australian Film Commission for and on behalf of the Australian Government. He may want that film to be shown in a foreign country in order to promote Australia. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, through the Minister to whom the Commission is responsible to the Parliament, should be able to say how he would like that film made. The position is as simple as that. That is the reason for the request for power of direction. As my colleague Senator Milliner says, a direction of that nature can be issued now and, in fact, has been issued. For instance when Her Majesty the Queen was in Australia last year I directed Film Australia to make a film of the opening of the Sydney Opera House. There was nothing wrong with that.

Senator Missen - You do not claim that you had any such power resting with the Australian Film Development Corporation?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) -No, because the Australian Film Development Corporation was not a production organisation. The Corporation was only an investment organisation in the form of a bank. It was in the form of an investment organisation, an organisation that lends or guarantees money. But this Commission is a much wider, more embracing organisation. It is a production organisation. It is a promotional organisation. It can, if necessary, be a distributor or an exhibitor. That power exists in a Minister now so far as Film Australia is concerned. When Film Australia is transferred to an independent organisation it should be able to be given the same sort of direction, especially since as my colleague Senator Milliner says a direction once given has to be reported in the annual report of the Commission. If honourable senators opposite like, the legislation can state that such a direction must be reported within 14 sitting days of it being given to the Commission. I do not mind how it is reported. But surely, if we are to keep government interested in investing in film production activities, there has to be a provision of this nature. That is why I believe that the Opposition's decision to oppose this clause spells great danger for the future of Australian film production.

Question put:

That clause 8 stand as printed.

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