Thor: Ragnarok, now filming on the Gold Coast, and which is supposedly receiving Queensland taxpayer support of $3 million (see my post from October last year), is delivering much lower benefits to locals than may have been expected, as reported in the Brisbane Times earlier today:
“Australian crew members working on the big budget Hollywood movie Thor: Ragnarok on the Gold Coast are on the same casual rates as a decade ago, their union says.
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s Queensland director Michelle Rae says the “market” rate, which is higher than the award rate, has not increased in 10 years and a workplace agreement with international productions needs to be struck.
She says many in the industry believe international producers are “double dipping” by accepting payroll tax concessions and then negotiating on wages and conditions after they’ve agreed to a government deal.”
I have long been critical of taxpayer assistance to international film productions. Any benefits to locals are usually temporary, and not that substantial once you take into account the fact many of the locals employed are simply taking time out from other income-earning jobs, such as jobs in hospitality or personal training. And, egregiously, Australian taxpayers end up boosting the profits of foreign equity investors. Movie studios have become very good at extracting as much money as they can from gullible governments around the world and maximising their own profits. So the latest revelation about the Ragnarok production should not come as a surprise.
Obviously, the lower the wages paid to Australian crew, the lower the net benefits of the production to the State and nation, meaning there is less justification for public support. It is a basic principle of cost-benefit analysis that you assess proposals from the point of view of your own population. A large share of the net benefits of international film productions end up overseas, and any net benefits that are delivered domestically would likely represent very poor returns on taxpayers’ contributions. There are many interesting project ideas across Queensland that would very likely represent better uses of taxpayers’ money than subsidising Hollywood blockbusters such as Ragnarok, which will make zero contribution to Australian culture.
Some of my previous posts on film industry assistance include: