Regardless of which side wins Saturday’s election, the incoming government is not likely to provide any immediate stimulus or benefit to the screen production industry, except a tightening of the copyright laws.
But the screen sector has little to fear if the Coalition is swept to power, according to IF’s admittedly unscientific survey of industry players.
Given the ballooning deficit facing the new government, the industry probably cannot expect any short-term increase to the 16.5% location rebate or the doubling of the 20% producer offset for TV fare.
Senator George Brandis, the shadow Arts Minister and Attorney-General, has flagged that, if elected, he will oppose a relaxation of the copyright laws foreshadowed in a review by the Australian Law Reform Commission, which is due to be delivered in November.
SPAA executive director Matthew Deaner has warned the ALRC’s recommendations would repeal all existing copyright exceptions and replace them with a vague US concept known as ‘fair use,’ which would be largely determined by litigation.
“In that debate, I am on the side of the artists, I am on the side of the copyright owners and content providers,” Brandis told The Australian last month. "The law needs to be altered so that from a technical and law-enforcement point of view, it keeps pace with technology.”
Brandis was the Arts Minister when the then government introduced the producer offsets in 2007 and legislated for the creation of Screen Australia, so a Coalition government is likely to spare the production sector if and when it slashes public spending.
Filmmaker Bill Bennett probably speaks for many in the industry when he says, “We film people tend to vote ideologically and so we vote Labor, but if we were to vote purely out of self-interest, as most people do, then we should vote Liberal Coalition, because historically they've done more for the industry than the current mob.”
Producer/writer/script editor Julie Marlow predicted that if Brandis takes the Arts portfolio, “the industry might at best not see further erosion, but increases are hard to imagine.”
Producer Sue Milliken said, “As the offset was Brandis' baby in the first place, I'd say they'll leave it alone [and] probably ignore the screen industry as Howard did. Although you'd think the ATO would be gagging at the amount of money being sucked out by the offset. They might increase the TV offset to 40% but that will require a battle.”
However Milliken fears the Abbott government will cut the ABC’s budget, which could force the broadcaster to reduce its funding for Australian drama. “I think it's very likely they will hack into the ABC, it's their traditional enemy,” she said.
Gold Coast-based filmmaker Phil Avalon said, “The arts are not rating in either [major] party. It’s up to us to let them know, especially your local member (and I'm doing it), that if they ignore the arts, they will lose seats. Keating won with the arts community’s support, so there's the lesson for the candidates.”
Deidre Kitcher, producer of John V. Soto’s upcoming thriller The Reckoning, said, “Let’s hope we are lucky to escape any budget cuts when the industry is just gaining momentum. I am not sure if any party considers the arts a priority enough to give it more funding.
"However if 2% of the Liberal paid parental scheme was diverted to Screen Australia for investment, you would see a five-fold increase in production. Real jobs and real value.”