Thursday, 18 February 2021
I rise to support the Independent Cinemas Australia campaign to save independent cinemas in Australia. These independent cinemas are hubs of our local community. They are wonderful institutions that have been around for decades, some even longer. They are a central focus point for local economies, but obviously this pandemic has meant that they are doing it really tough. I had the privilege of going to two of my local cinemas last week. The first one I went to was the Astor cinema in St Kilda. I also visited the Classic Cinemas in Elsternwick.
The Astor is one of Melbourne's most iconic, grand art deco buildings. It was built in 1936 and it continues to operate as a single-screen theatre and cinema that can seat over a thousand people in non-COVID times across two storeys. The Astor stands in the Melbourne's cultural institution that is St Kilda, and it is a host for independent musicians, artists, performers and filmmakers. I was very pleased to meet there with Benjamin Zeccola, the CEO of the Palace Cinemas, and Zak Hepburn, who is the cinema's manager. You may recognise Zak from his appearances on News Breakfast with his friend Kubrick—and Kubrick was there with us on my visit.
I also had the chance to visit the Classic Cinemas in Elsternwick, which is a fantastic local cinema that has been a home for film since 1911. It has been run since 1997 by Eddie and Lindy Tamir, who have turned it into a magnificent, refurbished home for fine, popular arthouse independent cinema and also international film festivals, including the Jewish International Film Festival, which has its first day today for the 2021 festival. I also thank them for giving me this mask, which you have to wear inside the cinema at the moment as part of COVID restrictions.
The message from independent cinemas was clear: because of international COVID situations, a lot of the international film production companies aren't producing the blockbusters or releasing them until later in the year; they've also got the situation where there's a restriction on numbers inside the cinema; and they are home to independent Australian films, so Australian films that are being released at the moment rely on independent cinemas. For all of these reasons, they are doing it pretty tough and they are struggling. Without JobKeeper, we are going to lose our independent cinemas in Australia.
My message to the government is that this pandemic is not over. There are businesses who are coming out of JobKeeper, and that is a good thing, but there are businesses who are struggling and businesses who will not survive. Both the Classic and the Palace Cinemas, the Astor, have done an amazing job of not letting staff go. We need to support our local workers. We need to support our cinemas. I call on the government: do not withdraw JobKeeper from our wonderful independent cinemas.