25 November 2003

PM signals local content will be traded for farm deal

As the cultural industries protested yesterday in Melbourne, and Labor and the Greens accused the Government of selling out film and television producers, Mr Howard said the key to a successful agreement was getting a better deal for farmers. 'To get something big on agriculture, we will obviously have to agree to some things that the Americans put to us,' Mr Howard told Melbourne radio.

One of those concessions, he said, could be a more relaxed approach to local content on new media, such as video-on-demand and other online entertainment services.

The Government believes the plethora of channels on new media will more than assure opportunities for Australian producers.

But the Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, said Mr Howard was 'intent on selling out Australian culture', noting film and television productions were in a slump and that Australia had offered no such concessions in previous free-trade agreements.

In Melbourne yesterday, actor Geoffrey Rush, flanked by film industry colleagues, opposed the inclusion of Australian culture in the trade talks.

'[Government subsidy] trained me for 25 years for my overnight success in 1996,' Rush said.

'The next generation of Nicoles, Russells, Bazs, Cates and -I dare say, Geoffreys - may not make it as far as Warriewood, let alone Hollywood, if our Government decides to forgo its legacy and give up on them.'

Several pundits spent an exciting weekend (see here, here, and here) denouncing actors who mentioned the free trade agreement at the AFI awards last Friday night. The theme has been either actors are all rich so the cultural diversity rules are bad or the cultural diversity rules are not on the table so why are they complaining and they're all rich anyway. The great majority of actors and filmmakers (like other artists) are actually not rich at all and Australia as a whole is enriched by their work.

I wonder how many pundits will reverse their stand, now that the Man of Steel has extended his government-by-vendetta approach to the evil elites in the film industry.

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