MEAA continues the fight against visa reforms

09 April, 2015 by Don Groves

The MEAA is lobbying MPs to block any government moves to reform the system of approving visas for foreign actors and crew to work in Australian taxpayer-subsidised screen productions.

The union is hoping the Greens, Senator Nick Xenophon and other independents in the Senate will file a disallowance motion if the legislation gets through the lower house.


Xenophon joined actors John Howard, Susie Porter and Geoff Morrell when they went to Canberra in February to voice their opposition to dismantling protections for Australians employed in tax-payer supported films and TV productions.

Morrell, who is Equity’s acting president, told members in the Equity magazine, “We await the government’s next step …but have been encouraged by the response to our visit to Canberra recently to lobby the crossbench Senators to support our position. [We] received unqualified support from the Greens and several important crossbench Senators.

“Should the government proceed with their deregulation plan we will need to call on all the support we can muster. Deregulation of the import rules would result in less chances for Australian performers to secure the significant roles in Australia that could set up a career.”

Screen Producers Australia, Foxtel, Free TV Australia,  the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association and Ausfilm have urged the government to remove the 30-year-old requirement for the Arts Minister to approve visas for foreign personnel and to consult with the union.

Morrell argued deregulation would “concentrate the power to make creative decisions on taxpayer funded projects firmly in the hands of the distribution companies, whose chief concern is their own financial interests, not the future of our industry.

“It would have ramifications across our entire membership, with the importing of cast and crew for government funded stage and screen productions at the whim of individual producers.”

Actor Roy Billing launched the campaign for a review of the guidelines and removing Equity’s consultative role in an op-ed piece for IF last September.

“The MEAA refuses to admit that deregulation would lead to more production and more work for their members, and they certainly don’t seem to give a toss about the thousands of other people who work in the screen sector, including all the crew people they don’t represent,” Billing told IF today.

“Such stuff from MEAA seems designed as a scare campaign to get their members onside in the union's efforts to undermine the growth, development and sustainability of the Australian screen sector. Why, I haven’t a clue, but maybe it is part of some overall national trade union policy to ‘take the fight to the bosses.’

“They certainly don’t seem to see the current review for what it is….a democratic process designed to enable all stakeholders to put their viewpoints to the Government over an issue that is of deep concern to most of the people involved in film and TV production. They obviously expect that the findings of the review will not favour the narrow interests of actors as it seems, by their current actions, that they may have an intention to try to get any changes resulting from the review disallowed by the Senate.”

Billing plans to meet with the Greens and other crossbench Senators soon.

Asked about the status of the review, a spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s department restated a comment provided to IF earlier this year: “The Government is carefully considering the views of all stakeholders before it will develop any proposals on changes to the Subclass 420 visa. Any amendments identified would be undertaken by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in 2015-16.”