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Wednesday, 4 December 1974
Page: 3090

Senator DAVIDSON - I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. I refer to reports that personnel belonging to Film Australia are now travelling through South America on an assignment and are apparently having some difficulty without the necessary letters of introduction. I ask particularly whether the Minister can give details of the assignment in relation to the numbers of people involved, the cost of the venture and how long the unit has been stationed in South America? What use is proposed for the film or films that are being produced? What financial returns are expected?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) -The film relates to the Australian expedition that went to Paraguay in the 1890s. One member of that expedition, as the honourable senator will recall, was the late Dame Mary Gilmore. The idea for a film on the early Australian expedition to Paraguay first came to me from the Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Workers Union, Mr Barry Egan, who has a very keen interest in the history of Australia. Because of my great interest in early Australian history I referred the matter of the feasibility and desirability of producing such a film to my Department for its consideration. The matter was referred to Film Australia, which conducted some research and eventually found in the southwestern portion of New South Wales a descendant of the early migrants. Film Australia then conducted negotiations with a commercial television network in Australia which expressed very great interest in the production of the film. It indicated that it would be keen to have the film produced, that it would be keen to contribute to the production of the film and that it would become one of the station's early documentaries at the time of the introduction of colour television.

At the moment, I think, 4 people are involved in the production of the film in South America. The estimated total cost of the production is $60,000 and that, of course, will be offset by returns that will be received from commercial interests such as the television network to which I have referred. The film certainly will be distributed in all South American countries and, I hope, in this country. 1 believe that it will be of tremendous significance and historical importance to Australia. I do not want the honourable senator to be concerned for one moment that because the suggestion was made to me by Mr Barry Egan, the Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Workers Union, the film might in some way or other be a propaganda film. Just recently I had discussions with Sir Reginald Ansett about Film Australia's making a film on the demise of the Sunderland flying boat service and that, too, has proved a useful documentary.

I think that they are all the answers to the question that has been asked by the honourable senator. As to when the film crew went to South America, it left, I think, in about the middle of last month, I can tell the honourable senator that there are some industrial problems occurring between the Theatrical and Amusement Employees Association, on the one hand, and my Department, the Public Service Board, the Attorney-General's Department and the Treasury on the other hand, concerning insurance cover of the crew for the time that it is in South America.

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