Agencies' amalgamation may be delayed

SYDNEY — Aussie showbizzers are expecting the new Australian Labor Party government, swept to office with a strong majority Nov. 24, to continue industry reforms now underway.

The Labor Party’s election arts policy supported the amalgamation of three existing government funding agencies into a single body, Screen Australia.

But there is concern legislation for the agencies’ amalgamation will be delayed by a new government inclined to prioritize new reforms over those already on the agenda.

“Any delay will slip this thing past the deadline and we won’t have a functioning government agency, a situation we’ve had for nine months already,” says Geoff Brown, executive director of the Screen Producers’ Assn. of Australia.

Other reforms being implemented include generous new producer rebates designed to boost local film and television production, and an increase of the foreign production incentive from 12.5% to 15% of Australian expenditure.

Legislation for those rebates was passed in September, but the guidelines for the domestic rebate, which will pay 40% of qualifying Australian expenditure of film productions, and 20% of TV, are still being hammered out.

The ALP has shown a strong bias for funding only Australian works in other areas of the arts, so producers are on notice to expect the new government to closely monitor possible abuse of the rebate by foreigners.

In September, then-arts minister George Brandis returned from Los Angeles and said there was high interest among Hollywood studios about how they would be able to access the 40% producer rebate.

The senator had no problem with the studios attempting to re-version projects so they fit the (as yet unfinalized) Australian Content Standard (and therefore become able to tap the larger rebate) but many in the industry here believe doing this would be an abuse of reforms designed to encourage Australian filmmakers.

Indeed, there was some thought the coalition might give a quick nod to a handful of big pics just to get the scheme moving.

WB’s “Justice League of America”, which appears likely to be shot and post-produced in Sydney by George Miller’s new digital film joint-venture with Omnilab, is one pic likely to attempt to tap the rebate.

Fox’s “X-Men” spinoff “Wolverine,” from Aussie Hugh Jackman is another.

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