MEAA’s visa consultation fees hurt Australian film industry

Immigration to Australia

Last month a new 408 temporary activity visa replaced several temporary work visas, including the 420 entertainment visa for actors, musicians, entertainers and crew.

The new framework is designed to make the process of applying for a temporary visa simpler for business, industry and individuals. This is a result of the skilled migration and temporary activity review, which the Department of Immigration and Border Protection launched in December 2014.

It’s a welcome step forward, but the entertainment industry, including the screen sector, still will be at an unfair disadvantage. That’s because of a legislative requirement in the migration regulations for compulsory union consultation over temporary visa applications.

Our industry is the only one in the country with such a requirement. What’s more, we have to pay consultation fees to the union, on top of visa application fees charged by the department.

The process that the actors union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, helped establish more than 20 years ago for screen industry consultation requires paying a fee and the lodging of commercially sensitive documentation. This information goes far beyond the reasons for importing overseas talent. As well as the script and details of local cast and crew, MEAA must get the finance plan. The fees MEAA has received for this compulsory process, across the entertainment industry, totalled $467,355 in 2013-14 and $421,712 in 2014-15.

The screen industry increasingly is worried that private finance, necessary to trigger production subsidies, is drying up. Investors are naturally more comfortable about getting their money back when a marquee actor is cast. If one of our own stars is unavailable or unsuitable for a role, producers must have the option to cast an overseas name that can attract investors. More private finance means more and bigger productions, translating to more work for everyone in the industry. The visa process has been a real barrier to that happening. The statistics support that concern.

Immigration to Australia

The government screen funding body, Screen Australia, reveals that private investment in subsidised screen production has halved in the past 10 years. A recent survey confirmed that the screen sector supports more than 46,600 full-time jobs. Actors, and the relatively small proportion of film crew who are MEAA members, make up a minority of these jobs. Think about the credits at the end of a film … they are still rolling long after the cast list. It’s not just about actors.

Last year the government called for submissions for a review into the possibility of simplifying the application process for temporary visas for the screen industry. Throughout that process it was clear that a whole range of people and organisations supported sensible reform — from fellow actors such as John Jarratt, independent producers such as Helen Leake and Antony I. Ginnane, directors, cinematographers, composers, writers, distributors and sales agents such as Odin’s Eye, television networks, casting directors and actors’ agents, screen production companies such as See Saw Films, through to the main screen business association, Screen Producers Australia.

It is really only the union that opposes any changes to the compulsory consultation process and I wonder whether this is mainly to do with the prospect of losing the substantial income from the consultation fees it charges. It certainly does not seem to have a genuine desire to see more work opportunities created for its members. Last year MEAA ran a disingenuous campaign called Save Our Stories in which it made unsubstantiated claims that if the union were taken out of the visa consultation process, government-subsidised screen productions would somehow be cast and crewed by Americans and not tell Australian stories.

This has no basis in fact. All taxpayer subsidised productions must pass the significant Australian content test, which means Screen Australia must be satisfied that the project has a significant level of Australian content and satisfies Australian cultural aspirations. The SAC test was signed off by all screen industry stakeholders including MEAA.

The Australian taxpayer is not going to fund American car chase movies cast with B-grade American actors.

MEAA also claims that roles in Australian productions should be kept for Australians to support their career growth. That’s old-school thinking. We are long past the 1980s. Now, with so many Australians playing roles in offshore productions, there is no need to score a lead role in an Aussie film to be discovered. Our reputation is such that our actors are very successful in getting international work, some going straight to the US after graduating from acting school. A list, compiled by Ausfilm, of actors who have recently worked, or are working, in the US runs to four pages and is growing.

I can’t see that the ability for producers to cast name foreign actors in some roles in government-subsidised productions should be of concern. More productions will mean more work for everyone. If Cate or Geoffrey can play American or British characters in offshore films, I, for one, have no problems with working in Australian films alongside actors who are American, Indian, British, Chinese, whatever.

It’s time for our industry to be a 21st-century player in the global world of screen production and the government should do everything it can to stop a trade union enforcing protectionism that is preventing Australian screen producers from tapping into global sources of screen production investment.

Source: theaustralian

Cranbourne North family wants criminal who sexually assaulted woman in her home to be deported

Australian Immigration

THE family of a woman sexually assaulted as she slept in her Cranbourne North home wants the man responsible booted out of the country.

Family members have even offered to pay for a one-way ticket for South Sudanese refugee Lang Kouth, 21, who has lived in Australia since he was nine years old.

Kouth was sentenced to four years’ prison on November 29 after he pleaded guilty to sexual assault, aggravated burglary and theft, as well as unlicensed and careless driving.

The court heard a drunken Kouth entered the family’s home through an unlocked door, stealing a mobile phone and car keys before going into the bedroom.

There he took off his shoes and climbed into the couple’s bed, aggressively kissing and biting a woman.

Kouth then bolted from the home and stole the family’s Ford Falcon. He was picked up by police about 3.30am after losing control of the vehicle and smashing into a tree.

Speaking to the Leader after Kouth’s court appearance, the victim’s mother-in-law said the family was now living a nightmare.

“He’s got two years and three months, my son and daughter have a lifetime of flashbacks and trauma,” she said.

She said she had started an online petition asking that refugees and immigrants who receive jail sentences of more than 12 months have their residency revoked and be deported.

Under the Migration Act 1958, the immigration minister may refuse or cancel a visa on character grounds and nonresidents can have their visa cancelled if they have been convicted of a crime that carries a prison sentence of 12 months or longer.

The woman said her daughter-in-law had been left traumatised by the assault.

“My daughter-in-law … she woke up and just saw a pair of white eyes looking at her,” she said.

“We are left living in a prison in my house now; I was just out in the backyard and I had the door locked and deadbolted and my back door locked in case someone was able to sneak in past me.

“He’s not a kid, he knew what he did was wrong … he used alcohol as an excuse but you still know right from wrong whether you are on ice or heroin or blind drunk.”

The Department of Immigration confirmed Kouth was an Australian citizen, but would not speak further about the case.

Immigration to Australia

Liberty Victoria president Jessie Taylor said having different laws for citizens born in Australia and citizens born overseas would set up different classes of citizenship, which was not something Australia should consider.

She said Australian law allowed citizenship to be revoked if a person was found to be fighting with the armed forces of a country at war with Australia, but if it was extended beyond that it could lead to a slippery slope where any number of other people could be exiled.

“It is completely understandable that the family of this victim is angry and distressed, however, we believe that the proposal is not justified,” she said.

“Citizenship can and should only be cancelled in extreme circumstances.

“We cannot simply deport people who commit antisocial or criminal behaviour once they have become citizens.”

A Victoria Legal Aid spokeswoman said visas could not be refused or cancelled on the basis of a person’s nationality or membership of a particular cultural group.

“The minister must strike a balance between the risk a person poses, and the profound consequences for people whose visas are cancelled,” she said.

“The consequence for some will be either return to persecution or harm, or indefinite detention in Australia because they can’t be sent back.”

Article Source: heraldsun

Opportunities for Bangladeshi students in New Zealand

Immigration to New Zealand

With quality education, low cost of living and a welcoming environment, New Zealand poses as a great destination for Bangladeshi students. Every year Bangladeshi students fight for getting into a university in UK, US or Canada  where they face intense global competition. Unlike the situation in those countries, New Zealand does not have massive competition to enter the first year of a university degree. Moreover, the New Zealand government has invested heavily on university education over the years. As a result, New Zealand has more capacity to absorb students from other countries. Therefore, entry requirements are moderate compared with most of the top universities in the common destinations of Bangladeshi students such as USA, UK, Canada.

Although the competition may be low due to many factors, New Zealand still has a progressive education system with state-of-the-art facilities. Qualifications are internationally recognised. Educational institutions in New Zealand offer a wide variety of courses to the international students. The New Zealand government has put strong national quality assurance system, designed to help institutions maintaining the quality and consistency of training and assessment programmes. All courses and programmes offered by registered providers must be approved by a quality assurance body ‘NZQA’.

Student immigration

Over the years, New Zealand has become a land of possibility for the Bangladeshi students. They can get permanent residency easily if they are ready to abide by the rules and regulation of New Zealand government. New Zealand immigration process is still easier compared to Australia, USA and Canada. Thus, there is better opportunity for Bangladeshi students who are considering to build a career in a developed country.

For having comparatively low population than the area of the country, New Zealand government approves residency to the eligible international students. Not only that the tuition fees are cheaper than any other country, students in New Zealand get 20 hours of job permit during their study to manage their daily expenses.

Eligible students can apply for visa by themselves. New Zealand Embassy in India processes the visa application of Bangladeshi students. However, as the visa and immigration process is complicated, a little mistake can affect the visa application process badly. It is important that students choose the right visa consultancy firm as there is no embassy of New Zealand in Bangladesh. Applicant has to verify his/her relevant documents by authorized Immigration Adviser or BNZEF (Bangladesh New Zealand Education Foundation ) which costs around 16-20 thousand Taka.

Immigration to New Zealand

There are eight government funded universities providing undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes. A broad range of subjects are offered there. As the quality of a NZ university education is well recognised internationally, many NZ graduates have been achieving international recognition in their fields.

The country has a comparatively low cost of living, abundant fresh food at reasonable prices and a wide variety of student accommodation options. Transport is also moderately priced, affording easy access to rivers, mountains, lakes, forests and beaches and the recreational opportunities they provide. As English is the day-to-day language in New Zealand, Bangladeshi students find it very easy to study, live and interact in New Zealand. Moreover, the New Zealand accent is easy to understand. New Zealand offers a safe learning environment. Bangladeshi students can easily consider New Zealand as their one of the top overseas education destinations.

Article Source: thefinancialexpress