JULIE BISHOP: I’m delighted to be here at the Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast with my colleagues Steven Ciobo, Mitch Fifield, Jane Prentice, Stuart Robert, Bert van Manen, Luke Howarth, and Ross Vasta, and with the Chief of Village Roadshow Graham Burke. Today the Turnbull Government has made a significant new announcement in relation to our creative industries which will support jobs in the film and television production sector. The Turnbull Government will provide an additional $140 million over four years to attract international investment to ensure that we can produce big budget films here in Australia. There is great competition for film production, and Australia is a much desired location. We have a highly skilled workforce that can compete with the best in the world. In order for us to remain competitive we needed this additional incentive. I am delighted that this will mean more jobs for talented skilled Australians - whether it is in acting, producing, directing or set design, animation, cinematography, make-up, hairstyling - all the components that make up a brilliant film production here in Australia. On average it will mean 3,000 jobs directly per film, and about 6,000 Australian business will provide goods and services to any particular large budget film. Let me hand over to the architect of it, Mitch Fifield.
MITCH FIFIELD: Thanks Julie. Today really represents a dividend from good budget management. You can’t establish projects such as this, $140 million over four years to support Australian jobs, unless you can repair the budget to create the opportunity for this sort of investment. Today’s announcement is all about jobs. We have the best film industry in the world. We have terrific set designers, great screen writers, directors, producers, carpenters and electricians as well - all of them combine together to create a world-class product. Around the world, filmmakers want to produce their product here in Australia, and what today’s announcement does, it makes us internationally competitive by effectively making the location offset at 30 per cent. It is great news for Australian jobs, great news for investment. Julie and Steven, who have worked with my colleagues very hard on this, and Steven is the Tourism, Trade and Investment Minister is also really excited about the opportunities.
STEVEN CIOBO: This is a terrific opportunity. It represents an additional investment by the Coalition Government to drive not only Australia’s film and TV industry but also to make sure that we have the spin-off benefits that flow from one of our biggest export industry which is Australia’s tourism industry. We know that Aussies around the world hold key ambassadorial roles as effectively those who carry the torch of Australian culture abroad. So any time you have Nicole Kidman, or Russel Crowe, or Luke Bracey or a Margot Robbie on screen -
JULIE BISHOP: Chris Hemsworth.
STEVEN CIOBO: How could I forget - I actually deliberately omitted Chris, Julie, so you could say his name - every single time they appear on the screen they help to reinforce the message about the warmth of Australia, the welcomeness of Australia, and the fact that we can actually use the film and TV industry to drive a major new tourism campaign in North America with the incredible success that we just saw with the Dundee teaser trailer in January. We are going to make sure that we use this program to not only boost directly, of course, our film and TV industry but also leverage that to make an even more concerted effort to carry the message that Australia is warm and welcome, but most importantly that there really is nothing else like Australia, and that’s why people should come and visit this terrific country.
JULIE BISHOP: Graham, could you say a few words from the industry’s perspective?
GRAHAM BURKE: I would just like to say how impressive it is that the three Ministers spoke without a note, and with such understanding of the space, and with such caring, because it is about Australian jobs, creativity. It is about some kid that is going to learn something on the set, and in four or five years’ time he will be directing a big league movie. This is a very exciting day for Australia. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: How does the $140 million compare to previous grants in the film industry in Australia?
MITCH FIFIELD: Previously, we have made grants on effectively an ad-hoc basis to bring the location offset up to the equivalent of 30 per cent. What this $140 million does is provide certainty for the film industry and guarantees that there can be a pipeline of work which will be coming through the studios such as the one we are in. We don’t want to see studios like this empty. We want to see them full of activity, full of Australians working, and that’s what this will do.
JOURNALIST: Minister, why not just increase the rebate to 30 per cent? Is it because by doing that you will lock that in for the future, and you couldn’t roll that back without a bigger political headache?
MITCH FIFIELD: We wanted to do something concrete, practical, and do it now. This gives us the opportunity to assess this competitive grants program, and see how it works. If we need to adjust it then we have the opportunity to do that. But what this program will do is essentially meet the demand, and ensure that the Australian studios have the work. There is a certain physical limit in terms of infrastructure that we have in Australia, but this funding will let us support that to ensure that it’s utilised.
JOURNALIST: Annastacia Palaszczuk has been calling for some time now for federal support for the industry. Have you finally heard her? Or have you been keeping her in suspense?
MITCH FIFIELD: Well, we have very strong Commonwealth support for the Australian film industry, and for investment into the Australian film industry. We have the location offset at 16.5 per cent, and it's important to be clear, that 16.5 per cent offset is what attracts people to look at Australia in the first place. What we’re doing is effectively topping that up to 30 per cent. We welcome that state governments do, on occasion, chip in - but the lion's share of the contribution is from the Commonwealth. What we're interested in is jobs. I know Annastacia Palaszczuk's a little more interested in partisan point scoring. We're not interested in that. We just want to secure Australian jobs, and that's what we're doing today.
JOURNALIST: Minister Fifield, can you speak about the Telstra outage this morning which affected ‘000’ calls?
JULIE BISHOP: Just before you do - that's all the questions on the offset?
JOURNALIST: This was one recommendation from the inquiry. What other initiatives can we expect to see rolled out, and what sort of time line?
MITCH FIFIELD: Well, we've had two pieces of work - one was led by Luke Howarth, the Chair of the House of Representatives Communications and Arts Committee - that was a very important piece of work. What we're announcing today is giving effect to one of the recommendations of the Howarth committee. He had a number of other recommendations. We also have had, in parallel, a content review, which is still underway. We're going to be looking at all of those inputs to see what it is that we can do to ensure that we have a good, strong Australian screen industry.
JOURNALIST: Will there be anything in the Budget for home-grown projects?
MITCH FIFIELD: We're announcing something from the Budget today, and I come back to the point that today's announcement is about Australian jobs. Yes, it's about foreign investment, but about jobs here in locations like this, and we will have more to say later about the rest of the screen industry.
JOURNALIST: How will you determine what production houses will be eligible for the funding grant?
MITCH FIFIELD: It will be a competitive grants process. We will have funding guidelines which I'll be working on with my colleagues, including Julie and Steven. Once those are finalised, we will release those. But what this is about is making ourselves competitive. People have options as to where they make films. Many, many producers want to make films in Australia because they love our talent, they love our people. What this does is it gives them the excuse, and the reason, to do just that.
JOURNALIST: Will you be looking at a minimum spend requirement, like $100 million?
MITCH FIFIELD: There'll be things that are part of the guideline preparations that we have. We do have some current spend requirements for the current offsets. But we will be looking at those issues.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Telstra outage this morning - are you quite concerned that it has obviously affected ‘000’ calls right across the country?
MITCH FIFIELD: What's happened overnight is there's been a lightning strike near Orange on a Telstra cable. That has disrupted some services in a number of states. There has been an effect on some ‘000’ calls. Essentially, what the Telcos are doing is re-routing the traffic around the break in the cable. I've spoken to the CEO of Telstra, Andy Penn, about this earlier today. I'll be talking to him through the course of the day, and getting further updates.
JOURNALIST: Minister, when were you made aware of the outage?
MITCH FIFIELD: I was made aware of the outage when I landed in Queensland this morning. I got an early-morning flight from Sydney to Queensland, and there were messages for me when I landed.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, SKY News understands the Government is considering bringing in penalties of up to 10 years for directors of animal cruelty in the live animal export industry. Can you confirm that this is the case, and why not just phase out the industry altogether?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is taking a very measured approach to reviewing the allegations that have been made about the live animal export industry. It will not be a knee-jerk reaction, as Labor have suggested. We've seen Labor's form before on how it handles an important sector of the agricultural industry. That was when they unilaterally - and without notice to anyone - cut off the beef export industry into Indonesia, thus causing huge damage not only with our relationship with Indonesia, but for the Indonesian people, who relied on protein from beef from Australia. What we are doing is, under our Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, reviewing the circumstances. We have a specific investigation underway that we will be reporting very shortly, and we will take on board the recommendations of that investigation. We will do it in a measured, sober way, because thousands and thousands of jobs in Australia depend upon this trade. Australia does set some of the best standards in animal exports around the world. If Australia were to vacate the field, another nation that might not maintain the standards that we do would fill that vacuum. So we are not going to have a knee-jerk reaction like Labor is suggesting. It will be a measured, methodical approach, bearing in mind that thousands and thousands of Australians depend, for their employment, on this industry.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to see, though, penalties as harsh as 10 years' jail for directors implicit in animal cruelty?
JULIE BISHOP: We clearly do not condone animal cruelty in any shape or form. We have set up an inquiry into the current allegations, and that will report in a very short period of time.
JOURNALIST: Another foreign issue - the Palestinian President's comments on the Holocaust, what are your thoughts on that?
JULIE BISHOP: We condemn any such comments by anyone, anywhere. It's deeply regrettable that such statements should be made. They are anti-Semitic. They go against the facts, the historical facts, and I'm deeply concerned that a leader would make such comments.
JOURNALIST: One more incentive question - will the new guidelines be broadened to apply to high-end television products, international TV productions?
MITCH FIFIELD: We're focusing this on the film industry, but obviously we will take petitions as they arise.
JOURNALIST: Will it be spent evenly over four years? The $140 million?
MITCH FIFIELD: It will be $35 million per year.
JOURNALIST: The Telstra outage - they're saying, was on the back of a lightning strike. Is that acceptable, that states could lose access to 000 from a lightning strike?
MITCH FIFIELD: What I've been advised is that there have been some intermittent disruptions to a range of call types. I've asked the CEO of Telstra for further advice as to what has happened, what the redundancies were, and what the mitigations can be. I'll also be asking the Secretary of my Department for a report as well.
JOURNALIST: It's been described as ‘unforgivable’. Is it unforgivable?
MITCH FIFIELD: The first thing that needs to be established is the facts, and what the mitigations were that were put in place, and what the redundancies should have been, and did they come into effect. They're the questions that we will have answered.
JOURNALIST: Whatever the redundancies were, Minister, would you want more safeguards?
MITH FIFIELD: I think it's important to find out precisely what happened, what actions were taken, and if there is the need for further actions to occur in the future.
JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, Peter Dutton says why not bolster defence spy powers if it can disrupt the sharing of child pornography. Do you agree with him?
JULIE BISHOP: Peter Dutton and I are absolutely in agreement that the Turnbull Government places as one of our highest priorities the protection of the Australian people. We have invested record sums in our security and intelligence agencies to keep Australians safe at home and overseas. We will continue to seek to disrupt criminals and those who would seek to do harm to our people.
JOURNALIST: But as Peter Dutton said, do you think bolstering the powers would prevent the disruption, the sharing of child pornography?
JULIE BISHOP: You have to be specific about whose powers you're talking about.
JOURNALIST: So you don’t support a bolstering, full stop?
JULIE BISHOP: I didn't say that. I said, "Whose powers are you referring to?" Whose powers are you suggesting should be bolstered? Then I'll answer the question.
MITCH FIFIELD: Across the communications portfolio, and the Home Affairs portfolio, there is a concerted effort when it comes to child pornography. We have, within my portfolio, the powers to direct sites within Australia to take down that material, to fine them if they don't. There is strong and close international relationships between law enforcement agencies and eSafety Commissioners to work to bring material down in other jurisdictions which can be accessed within Australia. So, rest assured, it's a full-court press. If there's more that we can do, then absolutely we will.
JULIE BISHOP: So you now have Peter Dutton, Julie Bishop, and Mitch Fifield in absolute agreement on this issue.
JOURNALIST: Just specifically, to the point you raise, the Australian Signals Directorate - which could target onshore servers - you don't believe that would have the capacity to disrupt child pornography sharing?
JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that criminals are not able to exploit, particularly, young people online. As Senator Fifield just pointed out, the Home Affairs Department and the Communications Department are unrelenting in ensuring that we keep Australians safe, and we're doing great deal in that regard. There is no other proposal before the Government. So we are focused on ensuring that all the tools we have available to us can be directed to appropriately safeguarding Australians.
JOURNALIST: Just on the South China Sea, are you concerned by China bolstering its firepower on an outpost?
JULIE BISHOP: There are reports to this extent, but I'm not going to comment on intelligence reporting. However, if the media reports are accurate, then the Australian Government would be concerned, because this would be contrary to China's stated aspiration that it would not militarise these features. China, of course, has a unique responsibility as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, to uphold peace and security around the world. Any action to militarise unilaterally features in the South China Sea would go against that responsibility and that role.
JOURNALIST: I have a question for you Steven, just about the craft beer tax, if you can shed some light on that one for us?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, terrific news with the announcement by the Treasurer that we will look at providing additional tax excise relief for Australia's craft brewers. That's particularly good news - well, it's just good news, full stop. It's particularly good news on the Gold Coast, where we have, for example, Burleigh Brewing, and we also have Stone & Wood just over the border. Great news to ensure that, for all Aussies, we should hopefully see the price of their favourite craft-brewed tipple, drop.
JOURNALIST: What’s your favourite craft brew?
STEVEN CIOBO: I quite like Burleigh Brewing actually, the Yak one is pretty good.
JULIE BISHOP: Okay ladies and gentlemen, a great day for Australian jobs with the Location Incentive program, and with removal of the tax on craft beers. A great day for Australian jobs!
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