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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1911

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - Mr Chairman,I will add one or two remarks to those which have been enunciated by my colleague, Senator Milliner. I particularly refer to clause 10(6) which states:

The Minister shall give such directions as he thinks necessary for the purpose of ensuring the observance, in the exercise of powers under this section, of the obligations of Australia under the Code of Liberalisation of Current Invisible Operations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Commission or an authorised person shall comply with those directions.

The simple fact is that Australia joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on 7 June 1971 when the previous Government was in office. The Code was in force at that time, and it had been in force for some 10 years.

Senator Sim - We never put it into legislation.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) -No, because the previous Government was not prepared to honour its international obligations, and that is the whole point to which I am coming. The reason why this clause is in the legislation is to tell the world that we, as a nation and as a

Government, are prepared to honour an international treaty to which the previous Government was a party and which we inherited when we came into Government. The defeat of this clause certainly would negate Australia's obligations under the Code of Liberalisation of Current Invisible Operations.

Senator Missen - That is nonsense. It does not deny our obligations because we are not giving ministerial dictatorial powers.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - It ensures that the Government has an obligation to carry out its international obligations. How can an independent statutory commission undertake to carry out the Government's international obligations unless it receives a ministerial direction about the matter? It is as simple as that. The Government's advice is that this provision is the minimum requirement necessary for Australia to conform to her international obligations under the Invisibles Code. The clause was included to ensure that these treaty obligations are met by the Commission whilst avoiding the inclusion in the Bill of the very complex measures that are detailed in the Code itself. Furthermore, should the Code be varied from time to time and Australia's obligations therefore changed, these variations can be applied simply by ministerial direction rather than by amendment to the Act.

The clause is not intended to give the Minister a discretion at all. It simply requires him to direct that Australia's treaty obligations be met, and he himself cannot vary these obligations. When the Government considered the drafting of the legislation for the Film Commission it agreed that the exercise of powers under the Bill should be subject to Australia's commitments under the OECD Code of Liberalisation of Current Invisible Operations. The effect of this is that if the definition of 'Australian film', as referred to in clause 3 of the Bill, had been confined only to films made wholly or substantially in Australia, that definition would have been in conflict with paragraph 8 of annexe 9 to annexe A of the Code. That paragraph requires equal treatment for films produced under international coproduction arrangements, and this is provided for in clause 3 ( 1 ) (c).

However, there are other provisions of the Code for which allowance must be made if Australia is to honour its international obligations. The Code in fact refers to the treatment to be afforded to short information or documentary films. Clause 10 is intended to ensure that an independent statutory body, the Australian Film

Commission, will not be in a position to embarrass a government by ignoring the obligations that Australia has under an international agreement. The advice available to the Government is that without this clause in the Bill the Government would face the risk of antagonising other members of the OECD by apparently washing its hands of responsibility for possible breaches of an agreement entered into in good faith under the previous Government. That, in short, is the reason why clause 10 (6) is included in this legislation.

As regards the definition of an authorised person, my colleague Senator Milliner already has pointed out that an authorised person means a member of the Commission or of the staff of the Commission authorised by the Commission. Surely honourable senators opposite cannot object to that when they have been saying all night that the Commission should be a completely independent statutory corporation. As to Senator Guilfoyle 's latter comment I suggest that had she been wanting to give effect to what she had said about the requirements for Australian short films to be distributed, her choice would have been to seek an amendment to the definition of Australian short films which appears in clause 3 of the Bill. That definition reads:

(a)   a short film made or commissioned by the Commission that is of a kind referred to in paragraph 5(l)(b)(i),(ii)or(iii)

They are the films that require the approval of the Minister.

Senator Greenwood - They may be propaganda films.

Senator DOUGLASMcCLELLANDFrankly, I feel sorry for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. He has an overwhelmingly suspicious mind. He cannot believe that anyone wants to be constructive. I suppose what he is really saying is that for 23 years when his Party had control of the Commonwealth Film Unit it did nothing but make propaganda films, and because his Party did that for 23 years, ipso facto, this Government will do the same with an independent commission. I repeat that I feel sorry for Senator Greenwood. Having said that I intend to ignore the gravamen of his remarks. In addition to the films that Senator Greenwood chooses to single out the definition of an Australian short film includes the following:

(b)   any other short film-

(i)   that is an Australian film; and

(ii)   not less than 80 per centum of the footage of which has been photographed specifically for that film

It does not include films of a certain advertising nature. The people engaged in the production of that sort of film are the people who will be penalised by the opposition that honourable senators opposite now offer to this very constructive clause.

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