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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1908


Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria) -The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has questioned whether I understand the Bill or the industry. I assure him that I understand the Bill and that I am hoping to develop my understanding of the industry even further than I have been able to do in recent months. However, what he has said and what he has read out indicate the problem which we see. I am looking at page 38 of the Tariff Board report on Motion Picture Films and Television Programs, too. Part of one of the paragraphs which he mentioned states:

.   . the producer usually supplies the exhibition prints to the distributor virtually free of cost and the distributor in turn places the shorts with cinemas as part of a program package.

Our real concern is about the way in which the Bill has been designed. The proposed increase in production, which the Minister has mentioned more than once in this place, of Film Australia type films in the future leads us to believe that the quota which the Government is now introducing to cinemas in Australia could be completely overwhelmed by the type of low cost documentary film which will give very limited access of a competitive nature to the commercial film producer.

It is because the Minister has insisted on his approval being written into the functions of the Commission and because he has insisted that he be able to direct the Commission as to the way in which it will encourage the development of the Australian film industry that we suggest it is to the disadvantage of the Australian film producer that the Minister now be able to exercise the requirement of a quota in the theatres. The Minister should see this Film Commission as the independent statutory body which the Tariff Board recommended. On page 2 1 of the report the Board talks about an Australian Film Authority and states:

It should be a completely independent body, and publicly accountable to Parliament.

That is the type of Film Commission which we had hoped to see devised so that through the Commission the Minister would be able to give the functions to the members of that Commission. The Minister talks about the Australian film industry struggling. I believe that the way in which the Bill is designed means that it will be struggling against the Minister's authority. He insists on exercising authority in the function of the Commission which is designed to give encouragement to the industry. It was because of this that I told the Minister earlier this evening that we would not be able to support clause 10 because of the other functions which are now written into the Bill. It is not because we misunderstand the need for access to theatres by the producers of short films. Indeed, we understand the access to theatres which is required by producers of feature films. That is one part of the Bill which has disappointed members of the Australian film industry. If we are using the Commission's powers to talk of short films as a quota basis and if we are really talking about assistance to the Australian film industry, it may be that the Minister could have considered feature films as well as short films.

I do not question that judgment, but when the Minister talks about the support of the industry for his Bill I assure him that the industry has many questions and many disappointments because of the way in which the Australian Film Commission has been constructed. It is because of the reasons which we mentioned earlier and because of the need for commercial investment to be competitive with the type of film that will be produced under the Minister's direction by the Commission that we say that more consideration ought to be given to the functions, the way in which the Commission will operate and the exercise of a requirement of quotas on short films in Australian cinemas.







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