Roy Billing challenges Labor MP’s assertion on the number of Australian actors

05 September, 2017 by Don Groves

Roy Billing. 

Actor Roy Billing has questioned whether Labor MP Susan Templeman had properly read his submission to the House of Representatives inquiry into the growth and sustainability of Australia’s film and TV industry.


Billing wrote to the Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts  after a transcript of the evidence he gave to the inquiry showed Ms Templeman had misquoted him.

The Underbelly, Rake and Jack Irish star told a special hearing of the committee in Canberra that the requirement to consult the MEAA on issuing temporary visas for foreign crew and actors is unnecessary and overly complex and that no other industry requires union consultation.

There are many producers who believe the MEAA should lose the right to be consulted on issuing visas for foreign performers but are afraid to take a stand publicly, he said.

He advocated that Screen Australia should determine which foreign actors fit within the criteria of Significant Australian Content and each case would then be referred to the Department of Immigration and Border Control.

During the hearing Templeman, a former journalist and MEAA member, asked him how many Australian actors were working in the US. He replied at least 100, citing figures supplied by Ausfilm.

The member for Macquarie then misquoted Billing’s submission that there are 46,000 actors in Australia, observing: “So it is 100 out of 46,000 who are successfully working overseas. Presumably a lot of those ones are still trying to get work in Australia and don’t have the wherewithal to get to the States. “

Billing corrected her, stressing he had quoted a 2015 Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by the Australian Screen Association which estimated there are more than 46,600 people who earn a full-time living out of the screen industry.

He repeated his contention that while there are 5,000 actors on the union’s books, only around 1,250, or 25 per cent, derive their primary source of income from acting in screen productions.

In his letter to the committee’s secretariat Billing stated: “Ms Templeman’s rather extraordinary claim that there are 46,000 Australian actors indicates to me that she had not properly read my submission… For Ms Templeman to claim that there are 46,000 actors in Australia concerns me. I think I am entitled to expect better due diligence from a member of an Australian Parliament House Standing Committee?”

Templeman told IF today she had read Billing’s submission and that she is grateful that he “beautifully” clarified the data he had provided to the inquiry.

Asked what he hoped might ensue from the committee’s report, Billing told IF, “There are so many issues involved I don’t really know what recommendations the committee will make, nor whether the government  will act on them.

“I do, however, have a hope that my particular “bee in the bonnet” might get attention. Apart from the Labor people in my hearing, I think the committee understood what I was about. And since the hearing a number of people have contacted the committee lending support to my submission, especially when they realised they could do so without their names being made public.”