What Labor’s arts minister Tony Burke wants to fix in Australia’s arts and culture industry

Claiming he had first raised the need for regulation of programming delivered via the internet in 2013 (when it was still known as Internet Protocol Television), Burke flagged the likelihood that the 5 percent Australian content requirement for the streaming platforms proposed by the last government would be scrapped in favor of a higher figure.

“The longer we’ve left it the harder it becomes,” he said. “I do support proposal quotas for streamers … I view the 5 per cent as too little too late, but exactly where we land is a decision not yet taken.”

Hollywood films are all well and good, but they rarely tell Australian stories - or even stories from this planet.

Hollywood films are all well and good, but they rarely tell Australian stories – or even stories from this planet.Credit:Jordan Strauss

The local production sector is pushing for a 20 percent Australian content quota. In some European jurisdictions, the requirement is 30 percent.

Noting that the outgoing government had made a raft of appointments, many with strong Liberal Party links, to the boards of cultural institutions in its final months, Burke ruled out a wholesale spill of positions as is being considered by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

“It’s not my starting point,” he said. “If what we’re trying to establish is long-term institutions, you’ve got to be very careful of legislative processes to wind them up and start again.”

the stories [Hollywood tells] are rarely Australian stories. Sometimes they’re not just not from this country… not even from this planet.”

Tony Burke, Arts Minister

He said that position had been made easier to hold by the fact “three or four” appointees “have been really honorable, and even without me asking to have put forward resignations for themselves to give me the chance to make decisions”.

“I’m very respectful and impressed by the people who have done that,” Burke added. “Obviously, not all of them have.”

He said there are broader issues with the constitution of the boards of some of our national cultural institutions, which he described as “the custodians of Australian stories”.

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“My biggest frustration is in the gaps we have. I don’t see how you have a portrait gallery with no First Nations member on its board. I don’t see how you have a national museum with a board that does not include a single historian.

“The previous government made some appointments that were excellent, some that were lazy, and some that were simply indulgent,” he said.

Burke said he supported the Location Incentive Fund for the film industry introduced by the Turnbull government and expanded under Morrison to attract Hollywood productions to Australia, but said more needed to be done to encourage and support the telling of Australian stories on screen.

“One of the great lost opportunities of the last few years was that the previous government was willing to throw a whole lot of money at Hollywood productions at the exact same time that it was cutting effective regulatory means of support for Australian productions,” he said , citing the proposed halving of Foxtel’s Australian drama obligation.

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Burke said he welcomed Hollywood productions and the jobs they bring, “but we can’t pretend that’s job done for the Australian film industry … the stories they tell are rarely Australian stories.

“Sometimes they’re not just not from this country,” he added, “they’re not even from this planet.”

Email the author at kquinn@theage.com.au, or follow him on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on Twitter @karlkwin

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