Australia revamps incentives

Move aims to keep prod'n Down Under

SYDNEY — Federal incentives in Oz were finally overhauled for inclusion in the May 8 budget, with strategies introduced to stem the decline in foreign shoots and co-productions.

The revamp was the outcome of a yearlong industrywide campaign for better incentives flagged in the previous budget that saw lobbying in Canberra from an army of local reps, joined by execs from Hollywood studios.

Recently, George Miller and Village Roadshow topper Graham Burke brandished their animation Oscar for “Happy Feet” at meetings with federal treasurer Peter Costello and with new arts minister George Brandis.

Baz Luhrmann supped with Prime Minister John Howard ahead of the shoot for his long-awaited Fox-backed Outback epic “Australia.”

International lobby agency Ausfilm argued that the current 12.5% offset for large-scale foreign productions should be boosted to at least 15% and for a relaxation of the 70% rule, where productions budgeted between $12 million and $42 million needed to spend 70% of total budget in Oz to be eligible for the offset.

Ausfilm argued this requirement rendered the scheme unwieldy and discouraged midrange productions.

The post and digital effects sector also joined in, asking that work worth more than $4 million should be eligible for the offset. The proposal attracted a fair amount of consensus.

A further bid to enact a program that would give studios a two-year window to tap the incentives after meeting initial spend requirements has also been floated.

“The whole thing has been about … protecting your client base,” says Mark Woods, topper at international production lobby agency Ausfilm.

A high degree of consensus achieved by myriad lobbying groups during the drawn-out review process led to confidence in outcomes.

Former arts minister Rob Kemp also was a strong ally of the industry, but ultimately the arts portfolio is secondary in Howard’s conservative government, so at no time has the industry in Oz or elsewhere been under the illusion their needs are a priority.

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