Australia is to nearly double its federal incentives for foreign films that shoot in the country. The news was announced on Friday by minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, as executives get ready to set off for the Cannes Film Festival.
The move is expected to be announced formally next week as part of the government’s annual budget statement, and is expected to be valued at $106 million (A$140 million) over the four years from the 2019-20 financial year. The change will have the effect of increasing production rebates from 16.5% of a film’s Australian location spending to 30%.
In recent months, producers, facilities managers and post-production companies have said that that Australia has become uncompetitive compared with other locations. That is despite the plummeting value of the Australian currency since the end of the commodities boom three years ago. The government has also launched three separate reviews into the viability of the Australian film industry.
Many new and more generous incentive schemes have been introduced in the past couple of years. These include schemes in Thailand, Malaysia and China’s Qingdao region, where Wanda last week opened one of the world’s studio facilities.
The globally competitive location environment has mean that large Hollywood productions have asked Australia’s federal government to top up the 16.5% incentive with additional grants, to an effective 30%.
Individual Australian states have also been increasing funding to inbound productions that they feared losing to foreign locations. Queensland’s March decision to back Paramount’s “Dora the Explorer” was one of the most recent examples.
Lobby groups including one called Make it Australian, to which actress and Cannes’ jury president Cate Blanchett is a signatory, have sought to have the federal government formalize the 30% regime, instead of its recent ad hoc approach. That now appears to have been agreed.
The lobbyists are also calling for the government to halt its cuts to the funding of public broadcasters SBS and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; to halt federal government cuts to funding and regulatory body Screen Australia; confirmation of the 55% quota for Australian content on commercial free-to-air channels; and to expand regulations to include subscription VoD companies, such as Netflix, Stan, and Amazon, which are now major players on the Australian entertainment scene.
The move is also likely to please the individual states. “The Federal Government’s decision to finally lift the film industry location tax offset to 30 per cent will be a game changer for Queensland and the Gold Coast, paving the way for a pipeline of blockbuster movies and a permanent screen industry,” said Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland Premier and Minister for Trade. “I’m very pleased the Federal Government has finally come to the party to deliver the location tax offset increase I’ve been continually campaigning for since 2015. Increasing the offset from 16.5 to 30% finally makes Australia world-competitive when it comes to luring international movie-makers to film their blockbusters.”