Location offset campaign gathers momentum
Friday, 17 August 2012
Our location offset allowance campaign is growing in strength. Over 1300 workers in the industry have supported our online petition demanding the Federal government support a viable and sustainable international film industry in Australia. In other news, NSW Upper House Member Lynda Voltz raised this week, in NSW Parliament, an adjournment speech her supporting this important industry campaign. Ms Voltz speech clearly outlines the history of assistance to the film industry, what or competitors receives in other countries and the need to increase the location off set. We need you sign and to send the link for the petition onto your industry contacts and friends. If we don’t fight our industry will continue to decline, so lets show our support. You can sign the petition by clicking here. Lynda Voltz's speech follows.
Australian Film Industry (Proof)
Australian Film Industry
Extract from NSW Legislative Council Hansard and Papers Thursday 16 August 2012 (Proof).
AUSTRALIAN FILM INDUSTRY
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ [3.40 p.m.]: The recent serialisation of the 1981 movie Puberty Blues reminds me of the important role that the film industry has played in recording and interpreting the culture and history of Australia. In particular, memories of the movie Breaker Morant, which was made in 1980, always remind me of my teenage years. The movie opened my eyes to Australia's history and its place in the world. Even now when I think of the movie I hear as clear as day the words, "Shoot straight, you bastards".
Successive governments, recognising the unique role the film industry plays in this nation, have provided support in varying ways, not only to ensure the film industry's important place in the cultural life of Australia, but also to ensure that we continue to maintain a viable film industry and our technical know-how. In 2001 the Federal Government introduced a 12.5 per cent offset to attract high-budget foreign productions to Australia. This offset was introduced to encourage large budget films and, later, television productions to locate in Australia. It was an opportunity to increase opportunities for Australian casts, crew and other services such as post-production and to showcase Australian talent. Since the offset was introduced, the average number of offshore productions in Australia has increased from three to seven and offshore production expenditure has increased by 194 per cent. The total annual production expenditure in Australia from offshore productions has increased from 38 per cent to 64.5 per cent. One large budget offshore film can bring in up to $US110 million and represents a significant injection into the economy.
At the time of the introduction of the offset in 2001, the Australian currency was sitting at around 52¢ compared to the United States dollar. This represented a fall of about 33 per cent against the United States dollar over the previous five years. Since that time the dollar has begun to climb and has reached heights not seen since the dollar was originally floated. This increase has impacted on the film industry and the level of offshore production began to slow in 2000 and stall in 2005. The drop in overall production in Australia fell from 92 productions in 2001 to 64 productions in 2004.
However, it is not only the strength of the Australian dollar that has had an impact on the film industry. In the past, Australia's competitive advantage has been driven by our range of locations, our English language, our developed infrastructure and a range of State-based incentives and support mechanisms. The globalised film industry is now a very competitive market, with Ireland, Brazil, New Zealand and the United States offering significant offsets and rebates. New Zealand in particular is a direct competitor with Australia for films, as it has easy access to the skill base of crew films that Australia has developed. Larger budget film producers are aware that in this competitive market they can easily export their technical requirements from Australia to New Zealand.
To build the film industry in Australia significant investments have been made by the industry. For example, one survey revealed that, on average, film technicians invest $733,846 each in equipment. For the 39 technicians surveyed this represented an investment of $28,620,800. Yet as technicians have invested more, the industry has faced a downturn that threatens the viability of this skills base. Technicians are faced with selling equipment between large productions to meet commitments, leaving a smaller skills base for the next big production.
Since the introduction of the 2001 offsets the Federal Government has made a number of changes to the location offsets. As a result of the 2006 review of the refundable tax offset scheme the offset was increased to 15 per cent. Again in 2008, in response to another review by the Federal Government, the offset was increased to 16.5 per cent. However, there is no doubt that incentives and rebates of other film location nations have made Australia less competitive. The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance has argued that the offset has to be increased to 30 per cent to make Australia competitive with other nations. Recently the Federal Government provided $12.8 million to attract the film Wolverine to Australian shores. This effectively represents a 30 per cent offset for this production and is indicative of the level of offset required to attract large productions.
I understand the Federal arts Minister, Simon Crean, is preparing a new National Cultural Policy to be released later this year. To build on the work of successive governments in this area, this document needs to include a 30 per cent offset to ensure that Australia remains internationally competitive. This is important, not only to protect our skills base and technical know-how but also to continue to underpin the unique role of the film industry in our nation.