Government reviews imported performers regime

12 January, 2015 by Don Groves

The federal government is reviewing the regulations governing the importing of foreign film and TV performers and production personnel.

In a discussion paper released today, the government flags the option of no longer consulting with the MEAA when deciding on which artists can be imported.

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“Stakeholder views are varied, however a common concern indicates the requirement to consult with the relevant union is unnecessary and increases uncertainty in complying with the regulations,” it says, describing the rules as cumbersome and at times restrictive.

The announcement has alarmed MEAA officials who fear the review may be a precursor to wider industry deregulation. "We have significant concerns about the terms of the review," says Actors Equity director Zoe Angus. "According to its terms, the purpose of this review is to 'support the whole of government deregulation agenda' within the arts industry.

"This review is not about reducing red tape. These are not procedural changes being proposed. This review is about dismantling vital industry protections. If the government options are adopted, this will mean the total deregulation of the arts industry and the abandonment of important cultural objectives. Not only is that does that mean less jobs for Australian performers. That means less authentic Australian content to our story telling, story telling which is subsidised by the Australian taxpayer. "

The review follows a campaign initiated by actor Roy Billing  in an op-ed piece for IF last September, widely supported by the screen industry including many fellow actors, which called for the relaxation of restrictions on casting overseas actors in Australian screen productions.

Screen Producers Australia executive director Matt Deaner welcomed the inquiry, telling IF, "We will be reviewing the discussion papers and preparing our submission in conjunction with our members."

The Ministry for the Arts, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection are conducting the review of the Temporary Work (Entertainment) visa (Subclass 420).

“The review is in support of the Australian Government's commitment to reducing the burden and cost of unnecessary or inefficient regulation imposed on individuals, business and community organisations, “ the paper says.

“The Subclass 420 visa allows visa holders to work temporarily in Australia in the entertainment industry in film, television or live productions in either a performance or in a role behind the scenes.”

In 2013/14 the Arts Minister issued certificates for 114 individuals who were assessed as requiring certification under the guidelines for film and TV productions shot in Australia, which were introduced in the 1980s.

“The requirements of the scheme may no longer fit the production environment and as a result it is timely and appropriate to review the intent and operation of the scheme," it says.

The paper outlines the options of removing the requirement for certification from the Arts Minister or replacing that with the need to demonstrate the nominated activity will bring a net employment benefit to Australia or have no adverse effect on Australian employment and training opportunities.

Billing says, "The old guidelines are outdated and were of benefit to actors when the way to Hollywood success was to score a major role in an Australian feature and be spotted by casting people in LA. Nowadays it is a much more proactive situation and Oz actors go direct to LA and audition with remarkable success and work worldwide.

"There is no longer any need for old-fashioned protectionism as Australian actors are amongst the best in the world. Nor is there any need for a union whose senior staff and management committee are out of touch with the problems facing Australian film makers to be able to make decisions which could affect whether a film gets financed or not. Why should one sector of the industry be able to make decisions that potentially affect everyone who works in film or TV?

"The overwhelming industry reaction to the IF piece was that easing restrictions on importing foreign artists when Australian international 'name actors' weren’t available would lead to an increase in private investment in the screen sector, thus more production, thus more work for everyone, not just actors. I am all for any govermment initiative that makes it easier for producers to attract more finance."

The intention is to enact any amendments flowing from the review, subject to the government’s views and priorities, this year.

Interested parties are invited to comment on key components and deregulation opportunities by February 23. Submissions should be sent to:  subclass420review@arts.gov.au.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Roy Billing

    The response from Actors’ Equity director Zoe Angus emphasises my point about union management being out of touch with the problems facing Australian film makers. Again, my union’s management shows itself to be myopic, old-fashioned, and without a care for the myriad of people who work in the business in non acting roles. As I have often said, those of us who actually work in the screen sector know it to be a collaborative industry…something which escapes the union apparatchiks.

  • Roy Billing

    The comments from Equity Director, Zoe Angus, emphasise previous comments I have made about how those who manage my union have no concern about anyone else, other than actors, who work in the industry and how they are lacking in a “big picture” view of the Australian screen sector. Our sector is a collaborative industry and not just about actors. Any initiative that makes it possible to attract more private investment in film and TV, thus increasing work opportunities should be welcomed by all of us who actually work in the industry. Union apparatchiks should not be able to make decisions about whether a film potentially gets made or not, thus affecting the work opportunities of those thousands of people who work in our industry in non-acting roles.
    I am sure that I speak for many in welcoming this review and hope that commonsense prevails!

  • Julie Ryan

    Roy, I just want to thank you for taking on this issue. About time something happened on this front.

  • A Chang

    The MEAA has done nothing to help Australian Media jobs being taken by 457 VISA workers. The 114 individuals that are currently working in jobs that could be filled by locals… locals who are already working in a highly competitive media landscape. Since when was there a shortage of workers in TV & FILM? We should be training our own young people and furthering their careers instead of filling positions with 457’s.

  • D. Scott

    As Roy so rightly points out, a film/TV series doesn’t just employ actors. How can critics of this review not see that easing outdated restrictions will not cost Australian jobs, but create more! time to put these dinosaurs to bed and get with the times. Well done Roy, most of the industry applaud you, those who don’t are apparatchiks.