Interview with Peter Stefanovic, First Edition, Sky News
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime will soon be required to produce more films and television in Australia. It’s part of the Government’s new national culture policy, it’s called Revive, which will set the course for Australia’s arts sector for the next five years. It’s going to be unveiled today.
But joining us live now, the Arts Minister Tony Burke. Minister, good to see you. Thanks for your time. I will get your reaction to the CFMEU pitch a little bit later on, but I do want to ask you about Revive, we’ll start there. You’re going to be announcing new investments today in Indigenous culture, a First Nations body, there will be investments in music as well, but streaming is getting most of the attention at the moment.
First, can I ask you, though, when it comes to streaming, how would you define what Australian content is?
THE HON TONY BURKE MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS, MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: That’s one of the issues that gets worked through over the first six months of this year. You know, some of the streamers are wanting to say anything that involves any Australian at all is automatically Australian content. They’ll say, you know, Thor was filmed here or Elvis was filmed here. I think most Australians would say that those movies aren’t necessarily us watching our own stories on the screen. There’ll be a discussion working through exactly to what extent you give credit to some shows that are clearly not our stories but are also important for the economy, and that will be part of what we’re doing in the first six months.
The bottom line of what we’re announcing today, though, is this period that we’ve been through for nearly a decade where if you’re watching your TV through an aerial and it’s free to air there’s content obligations. If you’re watching through Foxtel there’s content obligations. But if you’re watching through the internet it’s a complete free-for-all and there’s no obligation to provide any Australian content. Those days have to come to an end.
We’ve all sat there with the remote control and thought, “You know, how come it’s so hard to find something that’s not from the United States or from the UK?” So, you know, Australians have a right that the soundtrack to your life is going to involve a lot of Australian music, the books that you’ll see on the shelf will involve a whole lot of Australian stories, that the movies that you watch, whether it’s at the cinema or at your home, you’ll see a good share of good quality Australian stories as part of that.
STEFANOVIC: So, what will the quota be?
BURKE: As I said, the decisions we’ve made today and what we’re announcing today are the deadlines. In terms of how you cut it, what the percentage is, how you ramp it up over a period of years, all of that is what we’re now in earnest going to be working through with the different parts of the industry. You know, you’ve got different stakeholders here. You’ve got the streamers themselves. You’ve got the people who make the movies, and work in the industry and, importantly, you’ve got people sitting on their lounges wanting to make sure that there’s good quality Australian content there.
STEFANOVIC: Sure. The sector has said that it should be 20 per cent. Is that about right, or do you think that’s too high?
BURKE: As I say, the sector is calling for 20 per cent. Some of the streaming companies are saying that they don’t need anything at all, and over the first six months both Michelle Rowland and myself in earnest working together will determine the position on that and there’ll be legislation in the second half of this year.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. If it’s too high, though, do you run the risk of chasing the streamers out of town?
BURKE: I think as businesses they’re doing okay. I don’t think they’re about to run away from a country where they’re making a whole lot of profits. And let’s not forget, Australian content, good quality Australian content, doesn’t just sell here; it sells overseas as well. You’ve only got to look at shows like Wentworth to see how successful they can be.
I should add, you know, if you look at the content that we get through free to air or the content we get on Foxtel, you know, over the break I watched The Twelve – incredible Australian drama. There’s great work happening there – I just want to make sure there’s more of it, and at the moment the streamers are the missing link in that puzzle.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, no, you’ve got Bluey as well, a big success story at the moment. You’ve got a couple of films, there’s Joel Edgerton, Sam Worthington, a couple of films I watched on the weekend – they are absolutely terrific – as a couple of examples. So just a final one on this one: how do you not drive up production costs for Australia’s free-to-air networks then?
BURKE: Yeah, I saw that argument and I thought that argument presumes that we’ve got a limited number of actors who are already fully employed and a limited number of people wanting to make movies who are already fully employed and will just drive up the costs. You know, this an industry where you’ve got people everywhere desperate for work. The capacity of Australian, particularly scripted drama, but the capacity of Australian content to grow is not difficult. This is not like we’ve got some really fixed amount that we’re putting pressure on. You’ve got a whole lot of people out there anxious, talented people wanting to get more work in the industry. This can be done without driving those costs up.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just a couple of other issues now. As you just heard from George, our reporter before you, the CFMEU is pushing for significant wage increases to keep up with inflation. Should they get it?
BURKE: This is a standard start of a negotiation – the unions will put forward a particular claim that will be usually significantly higher than where things land. The employers will sometimes put up very, very low alternatives and they bargain, and they negotiate and they land on an agreement. That’s what the process will be here.
Importantly, some issues that you used to not be allowed to agree on now can be there. I noticed in the papers today there’s conversations about whether or not you can have a minimum number of people who are apprentices on site being guaranteed, and I’m really happy that the conversation about training people up is part of the conversation that’s going to happen in this negotiation.
STEFANOVIC: The CFMEU tends to set trends. If they get a significant pay rise, if that’s where it somehow lands, would that add to inflation?
BURKE: Look, you saw the percentages the other week as to where union membership is at the moment. I think the claims that the union movement in general or one union in specific is going through a claim to have this impact that’s going to ricochet across the economy, I think there’s some exaggeration going on there. You know, one of the people who I heard quoted in your story a bit earlier, I remember that same person a year ago arguing against the pay rise we got for people on the minimum wage.
There will be some people who will argue with you every time that, “Oh, no, now’s the worst time for wages to go up.” We had a decade where we were told wages couldn’t move because inflation was low. Some of those same people are arguing now, “Oh, wages can’t move because inflation is high.” You know, wages are not the only issue when you’re dealing with the inflationary pressures. The inflationary pressures at the moment have been principally driven by international factors; not by what’s happening in Australia.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. And just a final one on the No campaign for the Voice, it’s going to be launched today. Minister, it has this morning criticised your government’s version by claiming the Voice will upend Parliament where people can hold out for favours in exchange for votes, much the same way independent senators do. Is that an unintended consequence that’s possible?
BURKE: It’s completely untrue, and it won’t be the only thing that gets said during this debate that’s completely untrue. The Voice – the referendum that people will vote on is about two things: it’s about recognition and it’s about consultation. It’s about making sure that First Australians are recognised in the constitution. At the moment they’re not there at all. And, secondly, as part of that recognition, making sure that there’s a Voice so that there’s a formal process there of consultation with First Australians. That’s all it does. It’s a very modest and generous request, and I’m hoping that Australians later this year respond with that same generosity with a yes vote.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, we will leave it there. Tony Burke, appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.