Ausfilm supports flexible visa regime
Ausfilm has aligned itself with producers, broadcasters and Foxtel in advocating the abolition of the requirement for the Arts Minister to consult with the MEAA on visa applications for foreign cast and crew.
The agency’s submission to the government review of the Temporary Work (Entertainment) visa (Subclass 420) scheme is broadly supportive of the positions taken by SPA, Free TV Australia, ASTRA and Foxtel.
But CEO Debra Richards tells IF that Ausfilm “is not arguing there is no role for the union as we would expect it to continue to monitor conditions under which its members are employed and deal with employers accordingly.”
The government is considering the views of all stakeholders before it develops any proposals on changes to the Subclass 420 visa, a spokeswoman for the Attorney-General's department tells IF.
"Any amendments identified would be undertaken by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in 2015-16," she adds.
Richards says, “Ausfilm supports the necessary flexibility in relation to the allowance for the importation of foreign performers, on a case by case basis, to support the changed regulatory and financing landscape for screen production in Australia.
“This flexibility is consistent with other government regulations and supports the whole of the Australian screen production industry generally. Ausfilm considers flexibility in this regard will increase the number of productions taking place in Australia and therefore will increase the number of opportunities for Australian performers to be employed.”
In common with the other bodies, Ausfilm disagrees with the MEAA’s warning that changing the visa application process will lead to an unacceptable increase in the engagement of foreign cast and crew.
“The existing protections within the mandated Australian content standard for broadcasting and the significant Australian content test for the producer offset, together with the existing practical and financial limitations on importing performers because of the size of Australian production budgets, and the direct and indirect costs of importing foreign actors, including loadings for other cast, provide a strong counter balancing restraint on foreign performer importation,” she says.
Ausfilm takes a similar stance to producers and broadcasters in opposing the departmental discussion paper’s recommendation to replace the Ministerial certification process with the requirement that importing actors or crew will bring a Net Employment Benefit (NEB) to the Australian entertainment industry.
Richards asks, “The question is would the total number of Australians employed be more if a non-Australian is employed in the role than if an Australian is employed in that role?. This is a difficult test to meet since it is a speculation on what might happen on a project, which would have a different finance plan if the proposed overseas workers are not employed.
“As the discussion paper notes the regulations offer no guidance nor do they provide criteria for assessment; nor is there an example offered where a visa application was refused because there was no NEB. In these circumstances the requirement may be seen to have no practical effect.”
Like the producers and broadcasters, Ausfilm calls for temporary visas to be approved unless there would be adverse consequences for the employment or training opportunities for Australians.