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AFC Trade Bulletin 28 August 2003

CONTENTS

1. Free trade agreement timetable
2. Federal Trade Minister Mark Vaile: cultural questions on notice
3. Indigenous artists support cultural exemptions in FTA
4. Australia Council Chief Executive Jennifer Bott's Bangarra event speech
5. Federal Minister for the Arts Rod Kemp's Bangarra event speech
6. Deborah Mailman: Indigenous heritage an important part of our cultural and media industries
7. Tony Maniaty: an increasing number of American ads on Australian television signal the dangers of cultural imports


* * * * * * *
1. Free trade agreement timetable

The third full round of Australian-US Free Trade Agreement negotiations was held in Honolulu, Hawaii, from 21 to 25 July. The key features of the round were an initial exchange of market access offers. At a press conference at the close of discussions Australia's chief negotiator Stephen Deady announced: "We have put forward an offer to the United States on services and investment which does cover audiovisual, and that offer is fully consistent with the assurances that the Government has given in this area to ensure that our cultural and social policy objectives will be able to continue to be achieved."

The remaining process will see an intensive series of contacts and ongoing discussions continuing through to the next round of negotiations starting 27 October in Canberra. An intercessional meeting will be held in late September to further debate issues of market access relevant to audiovisual.

Negotiators from both sides are still committed to working towards a comprehensive agreement by the end of 2003, with a further set of meetings in early December. Once the FTA negotiations have concluded the final agreement will be subject to public and Parliamentary scrutiny, and will require ratification by US congress.

AFC Chair Maureen Barron, AFC Chief Executive Kim Dalton and AFC Policy Director Kim Ireland will travel to Washington and Los Angeles in mid September to advocate the position of the Australian audiovisual sector to members of US Congress, trade representatives and industry organisations.

The full media briefing with Australian Chief Negotiator Stephen Deady and US Chief Negotiator Ralph Ives on the third round of negotiations is available at www.dfat.gov.au/media/transcripts/2003/030725_free_trade_agreement_negotiations.html

* * * * * * *
2. Federal Trade Minister Mark Vaile: cultural questions on notice


On 20 August Trade Minister Mark Vaile answered a question on notice requesting the minister to outline the steps government would take to ensure media content diversity would be protected and further nourished in any future free trade agreement. Mr Vaile reaffirmed the government's commitment to audiovisual culture, answering: "In public statements I have indicated that we will ensure that any agreement will not compromise fundamental objectives in areas like health, education and culture and our capacity to support Australian culture and national identity, including in audiovisual media, is not undermined in the negotiations."

Outlining how Australia had communicated Australian cultural objectives during current negotiations, Minister Vaile told parliament: "The FTA negotiations with the United States are at the stage of sharing information and perspectives on policies that are of concern to either side, and commenting on initial offers of commitments. In relation to the audiovisual sector, this has provided an opportunity for us to explain that our policy interventions are modest and targeted at addressing a range of market failures. Furthermore, we have pointed out that these interventions are not aimed at keeping out imports, and that Australia is a substantial net importer of audiovisual services and products. We have noted that our policies ensure a diversity of Australian product is available to the Australian community to enable a choice in their viewing experience."

Minister Vaile also stated that "Australia would pursue similar objectives in any future free trade agreement".

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3. Indigenous artists support cultural exemptions in FTA

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4. Australia Council Chief Executive Jennifer Bott's Bangarra event speech

I'd firstly like to acknowledge that we are standing on Ngungawal land and to very warmly welcome all of you here tonight, particularly ministers and parliamentarians who've joined us, and members of the arts community. On behalf of the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australian Film Commission, I hope you will enjoy what we have to offer.

I'd particularly like to welcome our minister, Mr Rod Kemp, who has portfolio responsibility for the arts; Senator Aden Ridgeway who is Chairman of the Bangarra Dance Theatre; and my colleague Kim Dalton, head of the AFC. We also have some very special guests relevant to tonight - Rachel Perkins, filmmaker; Leah Purcell, actor, writer and performer; and Bain Stewart, producer. I also have an apology from actor Deborah Mailman who sends her support for why we're here tonight.

We've invited you to share the richness of Australian art and culture and its place on the international stage - and there is no better way to celebrate that than with Bangarra Dance Theatre. It's also terrific that joining us is the Artistic Director of Bangarra, Stephen Page, who'll be speaking later about Bangarra and its experiences at home and abroad. Bangarra Dance Theatre is a great example, a highly successful example, of the richness and uniqueness of Australian art and culture. It's through expression such as that this that we as Australians shape our identity in the world.

Shaping our story and our profile to each other and the world is not about hiding behind a defensive or protectionist wall, but it is about nurturing our storytelling, our abilities and our capabilities in this respect. In a globalised world, the local can be profound. I can think of no better example than the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games which was contemporary, it was ours, it resulted from decades of investment in the arts in Australia and it spoke powerfully to an international audience. Retaining individual identity and our sense of belonging is critical in an increasingly globalised world. And - as you may know - one of the critical issues facing Australian cultural industries this year is the forthcoming Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

Why are the Australia Council and the Australian Film Commission working together and concerned about this issue? Partly because the arts are an ecosystem, in two ways. Firstly, our artists are involved in an enormous amount of work across all forms, so that changes in content rules in advertising and in television, for example, profoundly affect the individual economic life of an artist or performer. And secondly, it's about the development of Australian product. One of the best examples I can think of is Lantana, a film many of you will know, which began as theatre piece called Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell, funded by the Australia Council. So what people end up seeing has had a long and complex path along the way.

Let me hasten to add that our industries are supportive of a Free Trade Agreement. It's not that we are resisting the agreement, but we do believe it's critically important that the Government of Australia retains its ability to develop and implement industry support measures as it sees fit. That means having the flexibility to adapt to change without having our hands tied by long term agreements. We are a competitive industry and we don't seek protection from that. We punch well above our weight on virtually any indicator. We are indeed one of the most open countries in the world when it comes to cultural diversity.

To share a couple of facts with you, for example 63.4 per cent of all new programming on Australian television is foreign. This compares to 1.5 per cent on US television and 4.3 per cent on UK television. But 12 of the top 17 programs on Australian television excluding sport are Australian, so it's not as if there isn't profound community support for Australian product. We know from our research and from commercial realities that Australians want to see and hear Australian voices, Australian stories and Australian images. But economies of scale mean that simply leading it to the market place is not enough to support our culture.

We believe in an Australia that is open to foreign inputs, ideas and expression, and we believe in a culture that is dynamic and open to change. That's the best way for Australia to hold its unique place on the Australian stage. Our cultural industries provide a powerful symbol of who we are. They speak of a nation with a unique voice that is diverse and adaptive and fully engaged with the wider world.

I once said to our minister, Senator Kemp, that he was the minister for the body and soul of Australia. Never has that been more relevant that right now. And so it is my great pleasure to introduce the Minister for Arts and Sport, Senator Rod Kemp.

* * * * * * *
5. Federal Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator the Hon Rod Kemp's Bangarra event speech


First, can I thank our hosts tonight - Kim Dalton and Jennifer Bott.

To Stephen Page and his dancers; Minister for Defence Robert Hill, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Philip Ruddock; Senator Aden Ridgeway, Democrats Spokesman on the Arts and Chair of Bangarra Dance Theatre; my Parliamentary colleagues; Professor David Flint; Stephen Deady; members of the creative professions, ladies and gentlemen.

I believe that we are in a period of great and growing self-confidence as a nation, and nowhere is this expressed more vividly than by our cultural sector.

Our actors are seen on screens around the world, our performing arts companies are invited to major events in countries like China and Russia as well as the United States and Europe and our visual artists are attracting worldwide attention and high prices for their work.

The government is committed to building our cultural sector. Everything we have done by way of cultural policies and programs since 1996 has had the aim of building a more sustainable, more robust arts sector, one that nurtures creative practice and gives talent the room and resources to flower.

And anyone who heard the Prime Minister speak earlier this month at the annual awards of the Australia Business Arts Foundation would be left in no doubt that the government's commitment starts right at the top.

The Prime Minister took the opportunity of the AbaF awards to stress the importance of the arts in entertaining us, inspiring us, explaining us to ourselves and helping to build further that already very distinctive and proud image of what it is to be an Australian.

He emphasised that our arts practitioners are as strong a symbol of what this country represents around the world as any others who perform and compete in our name.

The government knows that our quality of life is not judged only by reference to material comforts or economic indicators. A safe, stable and prosperous society must of course be the primary aim of any government.

But the arts, sport, leisure pursuits and a stimulating intellectual environment all add immeasurably to the quality of our lives and our understanding of what it means to be Australian.

Of course, the cultural sector is also a significant economic player in its own right.

Our cultural industries are worth more than $8 billion a year and employ more than a quarter of a million people.

Exports of cultural and recreational services were worth more than $1.2 billion in 2000-01.

I know that Bangarra Dance Theatre contributes to both those domestic and export figures and I look forward to hearing Stephen Page expand on the company's remarkable evolution into a troupe that is world-renowned and unequivocally Australian.

The government is proud of the achievement of Australians artists and artistic organisations like Bangarra, both for the richness they bring to our lives here at home, and for the lustre they lend our national image on the international stage.

In the fields of theatre, music, the visual arts, literature, film and dance, our cultural practitioners are world-class - as are the training institutions that nurture their talent and encourage them to explore their potential.

I would now like to turn to the purpose of tonight's function and talk a little about the current negotiations between the Australian Government and the United States for a Free Trade Agreement.

What the government seeks is an agreement that will result in real economic benefits for Australia, but that does not hinder our capacity to continue to tell Australian stories, in Australian voices, to Australian and overseas audiences.

The government has made a clear public commitment. It's one which has been reiterated by Mark Vaile, the Trade Minister, and which continues to guide our negotiations with the US in this important FTA.

I'll say it again here tonight because I don't want you to underestimate the government's resolve on these issues.

The government will ensure that the outcomes of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement do not undermine Australia's capacity to regulate to meet our cultural policy objectives.

People from the cultural sector have had broad opportunities to express their views and to influence the development of the Australian negotiating position.

I have had discussions with many of our artists and others from the cultural sector as have Mr Vaile and members of the Australian negotiating team.

And the government's key cultural agencies - the AFC, the FFC and the Australia Council - have consulted widely within their sectors and brought those views to the table in their discussions with the Trade Minister and the negotiating team.

Officials from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are committed to consulting with the cultural sector every step along the way.

Some of you will have attended a briefing session this afternoon with senior Australian negotiators. Some of those officials are here tonight.

As the negotiations progress, the government will examine in detail the requests made of Australia, and we will do so in consultation with the cultural sector and keeping in mind the importance of a rich and diverse cultural life to what it means to be Australian.

Finally, can I thank all those in the cultural sector - those that are here tonight and those not - for their willingness to participate in these discussions and for their articulate expression of their views. I can assure you that the government is listening.

* * * * * * *
6. Deborah Mailman: Indigenous heritage an important part of our cultural and media industries
An open letter in support of cultural reservations in the Free Trade Agreement to Bangarra event organisers and attendees.

* * * * * * *

Australian content within our cultural and media industries is under threat due to current free trade negotiations with the USA. I am writing to voice my concern and support the right to preserve our industry.

Indigenous heritage forms an important part of our cultural and media industries. As an Indigenous actor, I want to ensure that the Aboriginal community will always have a platform to stand upon to be able to tell the stories that we want to tell, through all media sectors.

For far too long, we as Australia's Indigenous people have struggled to maintain our place within the wider conscience of this country. It is through the creative arts where we have had the ability to show our continued strength as a nation of people. Films such as Beneath Clouds, One Night the Moon, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Radiance and The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, companies such as our acclaimed Bangarra Dance Theatre, Kooemba Jdarra Indigenous Performing Arts, Yirri Yarkin and Ilbidjerri Theatre Companies, and television shows such as Message Stick and ICAM have all contributed to maintaining our cultural vibrancy. Without the protection of excluding our industry from drowning in a swampland of foreign content, we will have difficulty in maintaining our unique voice.

We must gather to protect our cultural heartbeat. We must ensure that our children will have the opportunity to hear our stories. We must nurture our industry so that we all have the opportunity to celebrate who we are as a country.

Please protect our voice by excluding cultural and media industries from all Free Trade Agreements.

Deborah Mailman
Actor

* * * * * * *
7. Tony Maniaty: an increasing number of American ads on Australian television signal the dangers of cultural imports

First published in The Australian, 16 August 2003. Tony Maniaty is a regular contributor to The Weekend Australian and communication manager of the Australia Council for the Arts. Reprinted by permission of Tony Maniaty and The Australian.

GEORGE Miller is having doubts about the industry he helped create. Scott Hicks is concerned and Ray Lawrence is agitated. Gillian Armstrong is on the warpath. What's upsetting Australia's leading film directors? In Armstrong's case, the television ads say it all.

"A year ago they were very carefully dubbed and you'd think: `There's something wrong, they don't quite sound or look Australian,"' says Armstrong, referring to the rise in American-sourced ads. "Now the guard's down, they're either badly dubbed or not dubbed at all."

As US and Australian negotiators prepare for closing free trade agreement negotiations later this year in Canberra, then Washington, Australia's cultural sector has stepped up support for audiovisual industries - film, TV, radio, music and multimedia - most likely to be affected. In the process, it has spurred debate on how Australia should deal with global culture.

Imported ads on Australian TV also upset Sydney-based Andrew Mason, producer of the Matrix films, who calls the lowering a decade ago of local TV advertising quotas by 20 per cent "a great example of letting multinational corporations shaft us". Like Armstrong, Mason fears we're losing our heritage: "If you compiled an hour-long reel of great Australian ads over the [past] 20 years, you'd see so many iconic Australian characters and sayings."

Critics say the cultural campaigners are missing the point. "This is an economic agreement, not a cultural agreement," says Alan Oxley, former Australian ambassador to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (precursor to the World Trade Organisation) and a strong supporter of an FTA.

"We're cost-effective and have talents that are of global standard and that's something that people should be cheering rather than freaking about a threat that doesn't exist," Oxley says.

The line between trade policy and cultural identity is contentious and often blurred, and - as American popular entertainment extends its global reach - matching good economic outcomes against local cultures gets harder.

"Australia's cultural industries punch above their weight and we're not against the FTA in principle," says Australian Film Commission chief executive Kim Dalton. "[But] with a population of only 20 million, Australia doesn't have a big enough market from which local producers can recover their costs. We believe the international flow of goods and services is crucial to cultural development. But so are measures that help diversity."

Supporters of an FTA say a more open market will force Australian producers to create more globally marketable films. To producer Andrew Mason, that's nonsense. "The global market already exerts a Darwinian control, like it or not. Australian producers, like all producers, make films as marketable as they can get them."

The Australian film and video production industry employs about 9500 people, creates 25 to 30 local feature films a year and about 700 hours of TV drama, and supports production of foreign features and TV drama. All up, the industry generates income of $1.1billion a year - an outcome after three decades that's impressive and precarious, reliant on big-budget foreign productions and government support.

Lawrence agrees. "Basically we're a bunch of potters who come down from the hills with our films and try to sell them," says the director of the recent hit Lantana. "We're just a bunch of desperates. It's a very fragile economy."

Much of Australia's production is protected by the system of local TV quotas, set at 55 per cent of free-to-air content. This underwrites jobs and skills across the industry and keeps Australian society and values on the box. The American industry would like to see quotas dropped. While media and communications is the fastest growing sector of the US economy, the economy itself is sluggish. Foreign markets look increasingly golden.

Bonnie Richardson, vice-president of trade and federal affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America, told a Washington hearing earlier this year that MPAA members earned 40 per cent of their revenues in markets outside the US. "Blatant anti-Americanism lies at the heart of the international debate on culture and trade," she said. "Foreign advocates of excluding culture from trade agreements try to paint American culture as monolithic. We know and celebrate our own diversity - and want to share our diversity with the world."

At the same time Richardson acknowledged "the need for promoting local cultural expression in many countries, including Australia".

Last week, a senior industry figure with the Entertainment Industry Coalition for Free Trade, which covers most Hollywood key players, gave these background comments: "Considering Australian content on Australian television is now somewhere above 60 per cent, one could argue that the quota is not necessary at all, that your customers are demanding local product and government intervention isn't necessary. We don't actually believe that quotas are very good tools for helping industry to grow. But you do, and it's your country and your set of policies, so we're prepared to live with that."

Following last month's FTA round in Hawaii, US chief negotiator Ralph Ives moved to assure the Australian audiovisual sector. "We've absolutely no intention of eliminating the local content of TV broadcasts or subsidies," Ives said. Observers saw that as code for the so-called "standstill" option, in which existing local content rules for free-to-air TV would be locked into the FTA. On the surface, that's not a bad outcome, a guarantee that things will stay at least where they are. But with technologies shifting ahead at digital speed and global markets moving accordingly, the local sector argues that content rules need to be more flexible, not fixed. "In 10 years," says Jose Borghino, executive director of the Australia Society of Authors, "standstill will be meaningless as [audiovisual] product comes down the tube digitally from LA.

We want our government to be able to change policies when it wants, to control our cultural future rather than outsourcing it to Hollywood." With bargaining positions becoming tighter, e-commerce will likely emerge as the hub of any FTA cultural sector negotiations. But an Amazon.com-style source for high-speed film and TV delivery is viewed by Australia's sector with unease. Scott Hicks, Adelaide-based director of Shine and Snow Falling on Cedars, sees the switch to digital delivery as a key factor in the negotiations. "Ten years ago nobody would have discussed film distribution being as personal as your laptop, so it's folly to give away a position you don't even know yet, to lock into something that can't be altered when the landscape has completely changed," he says. Andrew Mason, who knows Hollywood well, sees US content dominating the e-commerce market and fears the Americans will draw concessions from Australia on digital delivery as a benchmark for deals with more aggressive nations. But trade commentator Oxley dismisses the idea. "If the Americans used this [deal] to position themselves to have a tilt at Europe and said, `The Australians have agreed to this', the French would reply: `Who?"' As the road to Washington narrows, much of the cultural sector's apprehension about free trade negotiations has shifted to wider concerns about Australian identity, especially as it appears on film and TV. "Kids are growing up here with the idea that all the interesting things happen to people somewhere else; that if you want a great life you really need to live somewhere else," notes Geoffrey Atherden, creator of Mother and Son and Grass Roots. Atherden sees younger Australians increasingly adopting a global culture that speaks in brands, not nationalities. Miller, the creator of Babe, recalls having to dub his first Mad Max movie into American accents. "Through our cinema and television, we turned that around," he says. "But now that horse has bolted. Our best actors - Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett - are working in foreign accents. If you don't allow for expression of Australian culture, you'll lose it. And I maintain that has virtually happened. In future we'll make films that are job applications for Hollywood." Miller pauses. "It's pessimistic, but that's the case." , h existing local content rules for free-to-air TV would be locked into the FTA. On the surface, that's not a bad outcome, a guarantee that things will stay at least where they are. But with technologies shifting ahead at digital speed and global markets moving accordingly, the local sector argues that content rules need to be more flexible, not fixed. "In 10 years," says Jose Borghino, executive director of the Australia Society of Authors, "standstill will be meaningless as [audiovisual] product comes down the tube digitally from LA. We want our government to be able to change policies when it wants, to control our cultural future rather than outsourcing it to Hollywood." With bargaining positions becoming tighter, e-commerce will likely emerge as the hub of any FTA cultural sector negotiations. But an Amazon.com-style source for high-speed film and TV delivery is viewed by Australia's sector with unease. Scott Hicks, Adelaide-based director of Shine and Snow Falling on Cedars, sees the switch to digital delivery as a key factor in the negotiations. "Ten years ago nobody would have discussed film distribution being as personal as your laptop, so it's folly to give away a position you don't even know yet, to lock into something that can't be altered when the landscape has completely changed," he says. Andrew Mason, who knows Hollywood well, sees US content dominating the e-commerce market and fears the Americans will draw concessions from Australia on digital delivery as a benchmark for deals with more aggressive nations. But trade commentator Oxley dismisses the idea. "If the Americans used this [deal] to position themselves to have a tilt at Europe and said, `The Australians have agreed to this', the French would reply: `Who?"' As the road to Washington narrows, much of the cultural sector's apprehension about free trade negotiations has shifted to wider concerns about Australian identity, especially as it appears on film and TV. "Kids are growing up here with the idea that all the interesting things happen to people somewhere else; that if you want a great life you really need to live somewhere else," notes Geoffrey Atherden, creator of Mother and Son and Grass Roots. Atherden sees younger Australians increasingly adopting a global culture that speaks in brands, not nationalities. Miller, the creator of Babe, recalls having to dub his first Mad Max movie into American accents. "Through our cinema and television, we turned that around," he says. "But now that horse has bolted. Our best actors - Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett - are working in foreign accents. If you don't allow for expression of Australian culture, you'll lose it. And I maintain that has virtually happened. In future we'll make films that are job applications for Hollywood." Miller pauses. "It's pessimistic, but that's the case."