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NxT Northern Territory Xposure Multimedia Symposium, 9 am, 1 October 1999,\nDarwin: remarks.

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NxT Northern Territory Xposure Multimedia Symposium

Remarks by Senator Marise Payne

on behalf of federal Communications, IT and Arts Minister the Hon. Richard Alston

9am, 1 October 1999



Peter Adamson (NT Minister for Communications, Science and

Advanced Technology), Eric Poole MLA here representing Chris Lugg, NT Minister for Arts and Museums. Mary Jane Overall and Geraldine Tyson.

I'm delighted to be here this morning on behalf of Senator Alston.

I know he was looking forward to travelling to Darwin to address this historic forum.

Historic because this is a first for the Northern Territory.

It's the first major symposium aimed at showing Territorian artists how new media technologies have the potential to enhance their work, and broaden their markets.

Here in Darwin artists from a myriad cultural disciplines, both in Australia and abroad, have been invited to present and exchange ideas with locals interested in New Media Arts. It's a wonderful opportunity to learn, network and just soak up the excitement and buzz that surrounds new media.

Already some special friendships have been formed between new media artists from interstate and those based here in the top end. Mary Jane and Geraldine have told me how Stelarc from Victoria has offered great support to local artists and how Skadada [ pron. ska-da-da ], the Western Australian multimedia performance group, has been running workshops at Corrugated Iron Youth arts.

There is a real buzz here in Darwin. Helped along no doubt by the Resistant Media Team project which has transformed the Ski Club bar into a new media collaborative space. I'm delighted to see NxT has encouraged the Timorese community here to make use of this space to communicate with their homeland.

Also it's wonderful to see the incredible level of Indigenous participation. I note the generous funding from the Northern Territory Department of Arts and Museums which has allowed a bus to bring in delegates from remote areas.

We can see how a vast area such as the Northern Territory is one which has the greatest scope to benefit from the distance-eating magic of new media.

I've heard you had a fabulous opening last night and I won't even attempt to compete with the technical wizardry you saw. Just the simple lectern and paper this morning I'm afraid!

Let me congratulate everyone involved, especially the QANTM Cooperative Multimedia Centre. Also 24HR Art, the Australian Network of Art and Technology, who have brought a number of international artists to the Territory, and of course all the sponsors and funding bodies who had the vision to recognise the importance of this event.

Digital revolution

It was twenty years ago that Gil Scott Heron said "that the revolution would not be televised". It is, however, being digitized and carried on the Net.

When many of us here were at school, the concept of multimedia was limited to video, overhead slides and perhaps some early PowerPoint.

The levels of interactivity now available through the Internet and cutting-edge electronic and digital applications have created unprecedented access to, and the creation of, information and cultural products. They have revolutionised the classroom.

A new generation of cultural icons is emerging, many of who are here at this symposium.

At a time when all eyes are about to focus on Australia for the Sydney Olympics and the Centenary of Federation, there has never been a better time to ensure Australian cyberspace has a distinctly Australian voice amongst the hubbub of global discourse.

That is especially the case when you look at the statistic suggesting an estimated 70% of Internet content accessed by Australians has been sourced overseas.

We do need to develop new ways to promote our culture to ourselves and to the rest of the world.

We also need to ensure its integrity and growth.

The Internet gives us the opportunity to promote Australian culture in its many forms - but to compete in the global marketplace our cultural products must be world class.

To do this our cultural practitioners and organisations must develop effective business practices, form alliances and maximise efficiencies through creative use of new technologies. And this Symposium is a great step along that path.


From an artistic perspective, the need to push cultural boundaries, to confront social mores and to help deepen our understanding of the world and our place in it, hasn't changed.

What has changed is the array of tools we now have before us.

Artists such as Jon McCormack have opted for the PC rather than the PB (the paintbrush). Jon is one of the few people in the world writing their own software programs which 'grow' exotic, colourful computer images who has said, computers are giving us new visual languages

New technologies are allowing artists, musicians, performers and writers to expose their work to the world, allowing them to market products directly to galleries, record companies and even literary judges. Among last year's nominations for the Booker Prize, England's highest literary honor, was an online novel! This nominee had never been published on paper, but many had read it on the Net.

I read the other day that Hip hop actually gained its following through Web. And, along with Net radio and performers' web sites, we are seeing more and more online performances. David Bowie I heard this week is launching his new CD entirely on the Net.

Importantly, artists are using new technologies to engage with people and communities that have not previously had exposure to, or involvement with, the arts.

New technologies are allowing children to view the works of the great galleries for their first time.

They are enabling Indigenous communities in northern and central Australia to preserve and promote their own visual arts. For example, Frank Fejo [pron. Fay-jo] who's here, is experimenting with digital technology and Indigenous artwork.

While we can laud the opportunities, there remain enormous challenges, especially regards how we protect what you are creating in such an amorphous digital marketplace.

And I'd like to just briefly update where we're up to regarding the protection of Australia's intellectual and artistic output.

Intellectual Property Issues

The reason we want to get the overall framework right for the broader information economy is because Australia has so much to gain by being a dynamic player in the global digital sphere.

We already have a strong reputation for our intellectual capital, in the sciences, in R&D and in content creation and software development.

But the fact is this Australian community is small and isolated. To take advantage of our strengths we must somehow maintain what makes us distinctive but also become become part of the broader community.

And we are well placed to do so. We have a demonstrated ability to

adapt quickly to new technologies. We have a technically skilled workforce

A world-class telecommunications infrastructure. A vibrant multicultural society, and a strong culture of innovation and experimentation in the cultural sector.

And add to this the fact that the Government is actively supporting innovation and growth in multimedia through a number of programs.

Allow me to mention some of them.

Indirectly, the Networking the Nation program is funding communities to improve national new technology infrastructure in regional and remote Australia, so people beyond the city limits can make the most of these exciting new developments.

The Government provides online public access to cultural organisations through Australia's Cultural Network ( and provides information about all avenues of cultural industry assistance through ArtsInfo (

The Australia on CD Program has produced 10 interactive titles bringing together Australian cultural content and multimedia developers. Many of the titles have won awards, most notably Stage Struck which picked up both the 1998 BAFTA and EMMA awards. Play the Game, looking at the broader significance of sport in Australia's cultural life, will be released later this year and will complete the series.

Multimedia has become much more mainstream in terms of how it's viewed by the Australia Council, the Federal Government's primary arts funding body. The Council's New Media Arts Fund provides support for artistic experimentation by funding innovative and challenging works.

The Government is committed to Australians having access to a diversity of Australian cultural content on screen. The Australian Film Commission has expanded its interest to embrace multimedia, focusing on seed and production funding for works that are exploratory, innovative and experimental.

Strategic Framework

As they say in the movies "we have a plan".

We have a vision for the broader information economy, where converging technologies have the potential to create efficiencies and opportunities for Australians from all walks of life. From business to health, education to entertainment, youth culture to seniors, new technologies are creating virtual communities that are already making a difference.

This vision or blueprint is mapped out in the Federal Government's Strategic Framework for the Information Economy which you can find on the website of the National Office for the Information Economy (

Part of the framework is a commitment to Promote the Integrity and Growth of Australian Content and Culture in the Information Economy.

Challenges and Opportunities

Perhaps the biggest challenge we have faced has been to strike the right balance between access and protection within the rapid growth sectors of multimedia and information technology.

I think we've struck this balance largely by advancing both legislation and test bed research projects.

New communications technology offers virtually unlimited scope for altering and transforming artistic material. This poses challenges for the protection of the integrity of artists' works and the allocation and distribution of economic rights.

The effective management then of intellectual property can deliver returns to cultural industries, while providing the appropriate framework for launching Australian cultural content effectively into the international domain.

We have made several runs on the board already in this area, including:

  • The introduction of a Bill to amend the Copyright Act (1968) to extend copyright protection into the digital domain
  • The launch of the Performing Arts Multimedia Library (PAML) project providing performing arts companies with tools to manage their intellectual property in the environment of internet and CD-ROM technologies.
  • Initiatives in the area of new technologies research and indigenous cultural and intellectual property strategies being undertaken to address issues and opportunities emerging.


Digital Agenda

A Bill to amend the Copyright Act (1968) and implement our Digital Agenda copyright reforms was introduced to Parliament on 2 September.

Our central aim has been to ensure that copyright law continues to promote creative endeavour whilst allowing reasonable access to copyright material on the Internet, and through new communications technology.

Our proposed legislative amendments are consistent with the international standards adopted in the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

The objects of the amending Act are to:

  • ensure the efficient operation of copyright industries in the online environment through promoting financial rewards for creators and investors and providing a practical enforcement regime;
  • to promote certainty for communications and information technology industries;
  • to provide reasonable access and certainty for end users of copyright material online;
  • to ensure cultural and educational institutions can access copyright material online on reasonable terms including the provision of adequate remuneration to creators and investors; and
  • to ensure that the technical processes which form the basis of the operation of the Internet, such as caching and hyperlinking, are not jeopardised.


Performing Arts Multimedia Library (PAML)

While it is one thing to legislate for change, there is also a lot to be gained from actively exploring these challenges at the coalface.

This is what the Performing Arts Multimedia Library (PAML) is all about.

In collaboration with Cinemedia, based in Victoria, the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts funded this project to explore the legal issues surrounding the production and distribution of digital products. Four companies were selected to participate in the PAML project. They were the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Chunky Move, NYID (Not Yet It's Difficult) and Arena Theatre.

The project enabled them to reproduce live performance in a variety of electronic forms and allow them to be distributed through a variety of mechanisms - including CD ROM, interactive web sites, television broadcasting and online delivery, through for example Cinemedia's delivery system, SWIFT.

As part of the project, the companies were involved in extensive discussions about rights and payments issues. The PAML project manager has documented these discussions.

Planning is now well advanced for the wider dissemination of material about rights management issues for the broader performing arts sector across Australia, including workshops, and online and printed information packages.

Indeed Helen Simondson, the PAML project manager based with Cinemedia, wil l talk to you at this forum, followed by workshops for organisations and artists.

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property

Clearly there are special implications regarding copyright issues for Indigenous communities.

Clearly here in the Northern Territory there is extensive interest and involvement by Indigenous artists and communities to utilise new technologies for marketing, community education, communications and promotion

Given the copyright issues which exist in the off-line realm, there are even more issues to consider in the virtual marketplace. The release this month of the ATSIC sponsored report Our Culture Our Future has highlighted options for improving the recognition of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property.

Also, initiatives through which artists and communities can more effectively manage their cultural and intellectual property will be the focus of a Strategic Plan which is currently being developed by the Commonwealth Government's Interdepartmental Committee on Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property.

While there is an increased use of the Internet by Indigenous artists and organisations, I am pleased to see that there is a corresponding growth of electronic information sources available regarding Indigenous protocols and guidelines. A general introduction to Indigenous communication protocols has been set up on the ABC website at

Many agencies have also developed protocols and guidelines which are now available electronically. The National Archives of Australia Memorandum of Understanding with NT Aboriginal People signed in 1997, for example, has provided an important basis for further program and policy development regarding Indigenous peoples access to collections and research information.

The role of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property has also been acknowledged as a strategic issue for the Australian International Cultural Council which is working to advance opportunities for cultural exports.

Briefly, we are also making progress in a number of other key areas:

  • The Government will soon introduce a revised Bill to recognise Moral Rights required as part of Australia's membership of the Berne Convention. A broad spectrum of creators, including particularly indigenous artists, stand to benefit through consideration of:
  • a new Right of Attribution which enables the artist / creator to be acknowledged as the creator of the work or film; and
  • a new Right of Integrity which enables the creator to object to derogatory treatment of the work or film.
  • The issue of performers rights is the subject of ongoing consultation and negotiation, following the release of the Discussion Paper Performers' Intellectual Property Rights in December 1997 which sought comment on issues associated with bringing Australia into line with international conventions, most particularly WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) 1996.


And the Cultural Minister's Council's New Technologies Working Party is about to release a multimedia resource- The Digital Environment: New Technologies & Australian Culture . This CD-ROM reflects input across across State/Territory and Commonwealth Governments, museums, galleries, archives, libraries, performing arts, multimedia, arts and the private sector. It will be an important resource for:

  • scholars grappling with electronic publishing, copyright and other issues relating to access to cultural resources in the digital environment
  • senior policy and decision makers in government arts, multimedia, education and communications departments
  • individuals with an interest in 'new technologies', including lawyers, journalists and arts practitioners.


If any of you would like to know more on any of these issues why not browse the Intellectual Property page on the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts website . Feedback and further enquries are welcome.


Finally let me say, travelling north and seeing the enthusiasm for new media here in the Northern Territory provides an important reminder of why we are slogging away in Canberra and elsewhere to get the regime right - so our talented content creators, our new media artists, performers, musicians and writers can spread their digital wings and soar to new heights.

I really do hope this symposium will establish some important foundations for future collaborations, and really get the new media ball rolling right here and now.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to declare NxT Northern Territory Xposure Multimedia Symposium open.



jy  1999-11-04  11:53