Wednesday, 2 June 2021
Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021; Second Reading
I am pleased to follow the contribution of the member for Whitlam. He, like all members on this side of the House, shares a deep commitment to the creative industries, to Australian talent, to Australian stories, to Australian jobs in the creative industries and to helping secure a future where Australian artists and creatives and stories are secured and promoted and where their government doesn't keep, extraordinarily, at every opportunity, trying to undermine Australian artists and Australian creative workers.
This bill, the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021, does have some piecemeal bits in it which the Labor Party is not going to oppose and is going to support, in some instances. But I want to start my contribution on the parts of the bill where, extraordinarily, we see, yet again, a federal government wanting to do its bit to undermine the future prosperity and security of Australian creative industry jobs. It's extraordinary that we have a federal government wanting to reduce the amount of Australian content being produced by Foxtel and other companies. Why would the Australian government want to reduce the amount of drama being produced in Australia? Why would the Australian government want to reduce the numbers of Australian jobs in making what we see on our television screens? Why would the Australian government want to reduce the amount of talent we have and the opportunities for Australian creative workers? It's exceptionally disappointing. These are parts of this bill that we, on this side of the House, will seek to amend and oppose.
We stand here today, on the second day of winter in 2021, with my home state of Victoria in lockdown and with concerns rising around the entire country, including in southern parts of New South Wales. We have a pandemic that has been absolutely devastating to a number of different industries, but it's hard to think of an industry that has been as decimated as our creative industries have been. Yet this government is bringing forward a bill into this place that's going to make it even harder to get Australian content produced and Australian stories created in this country. Those measures are the exact opposite of what we should be putting forward in this place.
I want to talk a little bit about how we got to this place. It was extraordinary that, during the pandemic, the government decided to leave the majority of people in the creative industries out of the JobKeeper program. It's like they specifically designed the JobKeeper program so as to exclude various groups—and we know that universities, local government and others have been excluded. But it's hard to think of a group that was more hard done by the design of the JobKeeper program than our creative industries. The member for Watson has joined us in the chamber, and he has been a consistent voice for our creative workers. He has joined me on a number of occasions in my electorate to hear from and speak to the incredible artists and supporting workers in our creative industries. Last year they said loud and clear that it shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the creative industries that the federal government decided to leave the creative industries off the JobKeeper program. They were basically told, 'You can go and join the unemployment queue.' What does that say about how much we value our creative industries in this country? It says about as much as this schedule in this bill—that the federal government don't want to see these jobs at the end of the pandemic, that they're happy for a reduction in the amount of Australian content and stories being produced. It's the exact opposite of what this place, this House, should be facilitating. If we are not for our culture and our stories, then what are we? If we are not for our creative industries, then what are we?
In my electorate of Macnamara, we couldn't be prouder that almost one in 10 workers work in some form of the creative industries. It's one of the biggest employers in my electorate. I can tell you, from speaking to many of the artists and creative workers in my electorate, that they are not doing it for the money. They are doing it because they love it. They are doing it because it's who they are. They are creative people and they love working in the creative industries. But many of them work in two or three jobs. Many of them do supplementary work. Many of them are in casual work. Many of them work in hospitality to supplement their income. It's a hard life working in the creative industries in Australia. So the very least that the government can do is to support these Australian workers, to value them in the same way in which we see the government tip into other industries around the country which have far less employment returns. The government should say clearly and unequivocally, like we do on this side of the House, 'Working in the creative industries in Australia is great work, we value it and we want to see you holding a sustainable profession for as long as you wish to do so.'
In my electorate, we have a couple of the major institutions, a couple of great studios. The ABC have their headquarters in Southbank. There is also the HWT building, where I've been many times. We are proud to have big media corporations making their home in Macnamara. But we shouldn't be saying to these companies that reducing the amount of Australian content is acceptable. We should be saying that we want to see more Australian stories, more Australian talent being nurtured and more Australian jobs being created. My electorate—I am talking about places like St Kilda, Elwood, Windsor, Port Melbourne and, especially, Southbank, with the arts precinct there—is creative. Being creative and having creative organisations is part of the identity of my electorate. It is not just part of the economy of my electorate; it is part of the identity of my electorate.
The City of Port Phillip is a key partner with many of our local creative organisations. The City of Port Phillip, over a long period of time, has done a really good job of not just supporting the big events—and we have the St Kilda Festival, which is a great thing that I'm looking forward to hopefully once this pandemic is over—but also supporting our smaller artistic and creative organisations. I attended the St Kilda Film Festival a few weeks ago, at the Astor Theatre in St Kilda East. It was a wonderful event. It seems like an eternity ago right now. But the City of Port Phillip have had, in their budget, support for a group of institutions, as part of a three-year funding program. It was exceptionally disappointing—and I have to take this opportunity to say this clearly—to see the City of Port Phillip decide to end their funding agreement for six outstanding local organisations this year as part of their prebudget announcements.
It couldn't be a worse time for the City of Port Phillip to be stopping and ceasing support for outstanding local arts and creative organisations. I'm going to read them out: we have the Australian Tapestry Workshop, Phillip Adams BalletLab at Temperance Hall, the Rawcus Theatre Company, Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Theatre Works and the Torch. These six organisations were on an ongoing funding agreement with the City of Port Phillip. They have all been told that the funding was going to cease. There was no consultation done by the council. It was an extremely disappointing outcome.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of those six organisations who joined me last Friday in a conversation about this current council decision to cease supporting these organisations. I want to also thank the state Minister for Health, Martin Foley, and his team who joined us on that conversation with our six outstanding local artistic organisations. We say clearly to the mayor and to all of the councillors: 'Don't do this. Don't cut funding for our local, small and independent theatre and creative organisations at the this point in time. It's part of our community's identity. It's part of who we are in the City of Port Phillip. It's part of who we are in St Kilda, in Southbank and in Port Melbourne—in all of the places where we are so proud to have all of these incredible local organisations. Don't cut funding to these organisations. We must do better.' These organisations, Minister Foley and I will be fighting these cuts. We will be asking and calling on the council to reverse their decision and to reinstate the funding for a full three years to ensure that at this point these organisations, who absolutely need certainty and who need time to get back on their feet after the devastation of this pandemic, know that they will have the support of their councillors and their council and the financial support in order to get them through this really devastating period of the pandemic.
We need all levels of government working together right now to support our creative industries and to support those working in our creative industries. We need all levels of government to be supporting those people who have had an absolutely devastating time of it during the pandemic. I also say right here that Macnamara is synonymous with our creative industries. My electorate proudly hosts some of the most talented and hardworking creative workers in this country. We will, for as long as I'm in this place, work with anyone across any level of government from any political party to help ensure that our creative workers have the support that they need and the support that they deserve. This means that we at a council level are not ceasing funding to these organisations, it means that we at a state level are constantly supporting and finding new ways to support our creative industries, and it means that we at a federal level don't just do announcements with Guy Sebastian and then forget about them during a pandemic; it means that we actually deliver support for our creative industries, it means that we actually deliver on at announcements that are made by the Prime Minister and not forget them, it means that we don't deliberately leave off our creative industries like what they did with the JobKeeper wage subsidy program, and it means that, when looking at quotas and looking at ways in which we can support Australian stories being shared, we can support Australian talent being nurtured and that we can support Australian industries not just growing but surviving this pandemic. We on this side of the House clearly say that what the government has bowled up is not good enough. It's not good enough.
I'll finish with this final point: you can't come into this place and talk about the way in which the government has dealt with creative industries without mentioning their constant attacks and cuts on the ABC. Forget some of the more eccentric backbenchers that want to privatise and want to sell off the ABC—they're not even worth engaging with. What I'm interested in is why this minister constantly, year after year, seeks to squeeze the ABC of their budget and squeeze the ABC of their ability to manage the natural increases in costs of operation by basically freezing the amount of money that the government has each year. What that means is that journalists lose their jobs. It means that content doesn't get produced. It means that budgets are tightened so severely that the ABC is constricted and is unable to perform all of its duties. We've already seen programs that have been taken away, including the 7.45 news program.
We, on this side of the House, want a federal government that supports our creative industries, not one that does everything it can, bit by bit, to break them. We need to do better. These are Australian jobs. These are Australian workers. These are Australian talent. We must be wholeheartedly and fully supportive of them and not, bit by bit, attack them, just like this federal government does at every opportunity.