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SPA calls for visa reform

SPA, Sydney, 23 February 2015: We have called for sensible reforms to the rules governing visas for foreign actors.

In its submission to the Review of the Temporary Work (Entertainment) visa (Subclass 420), Screen Producers Australia says that the reforms it recommends will reduce unnecessary red tape and uncertainty and increase investment and productivity in the screen sector.

“We are looking to Government for sensible reforms that embrace simplicity in design and structural flexibility,” said Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia.

The Temporary Employment (Entertainment) visa (Subclass 420) and the Foreign Actors Certification Scheme have not been substantially updated since the 1990s and as a result, the Screen Producers Australia submission states, are out of step with current commercial pressures. The submission further states that access to foreign investment and sales is highly competitive and critical in a climate of static domestic tax incentives and declining subsidies – incentives and subsidies that alone will not fund current levels of highly creative and culturally relevant Australian content.

Mr Deaner said that producers are looking to the global marketplace to stretch domestic dollars further, as highlighted in Screen Producers Australia’s 2014 Annual Business Survey that found that three-in-four producers were actively developing official and unofficial co-productions with international partners.

“This should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. The local industry clearly benefits from the international engagement as our talented technicians, performers and creators are working globally as a result. In return, the Australian industry is significantly larger than it would be if we were purely domestically oriented. This is key to preserving wages and employment conditions,” he says.

The Screen Producers Australia submission states that: “On occasion the creative and commercial demands of a project warrant the use of international talent. But the current process is not efficient, progressive or effective. Changes to this process will create more opportunities for employment and career advancement, increase production levels and decrease commercial uncertainty. This will guarantee that the public continues to have access to a diverse range of distinctive Australian screen content in more competitive global environment.

“The regulation and guidelines must be clear, transparent and easily understood, responding to contemporary practice and accurately reflecting the crucial role of foreign investment in Australian screen content. Screen Producers Australia believes that this can be achieve in film and television production by amendments to union consultation, the requirements for the Arts Certificate, the definition of Net Employment Benefit and the streamlining of sponsorship and nomination.

The Screen Producers Australia submission points out that the Subclass 420 visa is the only visa subclass that includes a legislative requirement for union consultation. Screen Producers Australia recommends that the requirement to consult with the relevant union be removed to align the Subclass 420 with other temporary work visas.

Screen Producers Australia also recommends the removal of the requirement for certification from the Arts Minister, arguing that this should be replaced with the requirement to ‘not intend to engage in activities that will have adverse consequences for employment or training opportunities, or conditions of employment, for Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents.’

Screen Producers Australia further states that existing regulatory requirement for sponsorship and nomination seems excessive for a low risk cohort seeking entry for short periods of stay and recommends either removal or amendment of these provisions, bringing Australia into line with industry practices in neighbouring New Zealand.

“These suggested reforms empower industry to expand levels of production with the public safe in the knowledge that there are a number of safeguards in other legislation and regulation – such as the Significant Australian Content test under the Producer Offset, the Australian Content Standard and Screen Australia’s investment processes – that protect the cultural importance of our screen content,” Mr Deaner said.