Filmmaker supports union in visa review

01 March, 2015 by Don Groves

Veteran producer-director Martha Ansara warns that deregulating the system of approving visas for foreign actors and crews would endanger Australian cultural content.

“The risk is that such a move would be a step towards the creation of a homogenized international product that offers us little in terms of our own culture and, being generic, must compete with the much better financed American product of the same type,” Ansara contends in her submission to the government’s review of Temporary Work (Entertainment) visa (Subclass 420).


“This would not be useful even to those who in the pursuit of the dollar seem not to believe that there is a distinct Australian culture worth maintaining.”

Ansara supports the retention of the requirement for the Arts Minister to approve certificates for foreign actors and crew. “The value of the certification is that it is license which guarantees for all to see that the appropriate procedures and checks have been carried out and fulfilled,” she says.

“The current visa arrangements have actually allowed the importation of significant numbers of foreign actors, both for ethnic reasons and to satisfy the views of investors and distributors, whether or not these views have been well-founded.

“Albeit there have been problems with 420 visa procedures, from time to time, on the whole the system as it is has worked well – allowing importations where necessary and protecting the development of successive cohorts of Australian actors, directors and crew.”

Similarly Ansara argues the requirement for the Minister to consult with the MEAA should continue, with the creation of clear guidelines to the consultation process.

“My experience … is that some producers can have dubious connections and dubious motives,” she says. “This is not something which it is diplomatic to say, and I know and admire some wonderful producers, but I suggest that if you doubt the dangers, you have only to look into some of the things that transpired during the 10BA period to see that producing can attract some rather untrustworthy characters.”

Ansara has worked a director, producer and consultant for more than 40 years, primarily in documentaries but also in drama, and is a recipient of the Australian Film Institute’s Byron Kennedy award and a life member of the Australian Directors Guild. Her book The Shadowcatchers: A History of Cinematography in Australia was published in 2012.

She warns that if the sponsorship and nomination requirements are abandoned, as advocated by SPA, Free TV Australia and Foxtel, “it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether the proposed employee is taking a job which could otherwise be filled by an Australian. The importance of the sponsor’s consultation with the relevant union in determining this is crucial to the purpose of the temporary visa.

"I cannot see any other body or individual knowledgeable enough about the industry to negotiate this matter with producers. Nor has any other person or body been proposed by this review.”