I’ve long argued that the current approach to assisting the film industry, focused on luring international film productions, is wasteful, doesn’t achieve any important public policy goals, and is politically motivated, so drab politicians can benefit from some Hollywood glamour. I’ve also noted that Australian industry insiders, including legendary playwright David Williamson, have questioned the value for money of such assistance. Today via the Courier-Mail I was pleased to learn a Gold Coast industry participant Chris Boyd from Glass Media Group is also sceptical of the way our governments assist the film industry. Mr Boyd made a Right-to-Information (RTI) request regarding the amount of Screen Queensland’s assistance to Disney for Pirates of the Caribbean 5, a request which was ultimately rejected. Unsurprisingly, this rejection was celebrated by the bureaucrats concerned:
Government staffers celebrated secrecy ruling, emails reveal
Mr Boyd has made some great observations, as reported by the Courier-Mail’s Kelmeny Fraser:
“At the time of the RTI application and ever since, I’ve thought that these incentives required much further examination and scrutiny, which we still aren’t seeing,” Boyd says.
“We are being told of the benefits of these projects without being told of the true cost, so the public, the industry and Government bodies such as the Queensland Competition Authority are unable to make accurate assessments.
“Large taxpayer funded investments on behalf of the industry, particularly when gifted to massive US corporations to make movies, should be subject to the highest levels of accountability.”
Absolutely. Unfortunately, Queensland’s RTI process is a huge joke. Years ago, it was alleged there was a trolley on which potentially embarrassing official documents were piled before a Cabinet meeting, and the trolley was wheeled into the Cabinet room to ensure the documents could all be considered Cabinet-in-Confidence, and hence exempt from RTI, even though they may not even have been discussed in the Cabinet meeting. The story may be apocryphal, but it’s close enough to the truth to be believable. This is not just a Queensland Government problem, of course. Governments around the world prefer to keep embarrassing information hidden. The public needs to continue to push for transparency.
For some of my previous commentary on the film industry, see:
Hollywood grabbing excessive film industry support
CIS Policy article on the case against film industry subsidies
Don’t we have better things to spend $22 million on than Pirates of the Caribbean 5?
QCA review suggests major budget savings available from slashing wasteful industry assistance
NSW Govt risks annoying US conservatives by subsidising Redford-Blanchett film – my comments on Breitbart