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

Travelers to Australia can apply for 10-year visa

Visit Visa

Starting next month those planning a trip to Australia will be able to apply for a 10-year multiple entry visa.

The move is part of an effort to improve upon a growing relationship with Australia’s biggest trading partner while capturing an even greater piece of the country’s largest international tourism market.

Spend some time at Sydney’s Circular Quay, surrounded by some of the country’s most recognizable landmarks and it’s easy to what captures the economy there for tourism. Last year China’s more than 1 million visitors led Australia’s tourism industry boom.

They not only accounted for more than $6.5 billion in economic activity, but Chinese tourists spent more about $6,000 per visit, compared with an average of $3,600 from international visitors.

Austrailan Visit Visa

Under the new visa, visitors aren’t allowed to work, and can stay for up to three months at a time. And it allows for repeat visits.

Several countries including the U.S. and Canada already offer 10-year multiple entry visas to Chinese tourists. Economists said a similar change for Australia also sends an important message to the country’s biggest trading partner.

Many Australian products are in demand in China from food to wine. And tourism officials say some of the best advertising comes from overseas visitors.

Man secretly deported to Nauru from Melbourne detention centre, say lawyers

The immigration department has secretly deported a man to Nauru from a Melbourne detention centre, according to lawyers and advocates.

The man, who is understood to have been granted refugee status, was allegedly removed from the Mita facility on Thursday night without warning and without being able to contact his legal representatives.

It’s believed he was in Australia for medical treatment, but it’s not known if that treatment had ended.

Despite being in a similar situation, he is not part of the cohort of asylum seekers and refugees who have a commitment from the federal government that 72 hours’ notice would be given before any deportation.

Legal cases have been filed on behalf of those individuals and the government gave a formal undertaking in the proceedings before the high court that there would be three days’ warning given to legal teams of any planned deportation.

“A decent and compassionate government which respects the rule of law doesn’t choose to secretively deport people found to be refugees in the middle of the night without any transparency, due process or access to legal advice,” said Daniel Webb, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC).

Webb said the man was not a client of theirs, but did have legal representation.

The Department of Immigration told Guardian Australia it did not comment on individual transfers.

The HRLC is representing 320 people currently in Australia after being transferred from Nauru for medical care.

Webb said the shock deportation, coupled with the government’s discussion of permanent visa bans on refugees this week, had distressed those on Nauru and Manus Island, and in Australian detention.

“There are kids in our classrooms right now who in the space of the last few days have heard [the prime minister] Malcolm Turnbull threatening lifetime bans and now seen someone in a similar situation to them secretly deported,” he said. “They are understandably afraid and really unsettled. What are they supposed to say to their friends at school? It’s fundamentally cruel.”

Migration experts have questioned the veracity of the government’s plan to introduce bans on anyone who was processed as a refugee on Manus or Nauru from ever returning to Australia, including as tourists, on business, or as the spouse of a resident.

The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has said the new rules are essential to stop people coming into Australia “through the back door” and entering into “sham relationships”. However, he has failed to explain why current screening processes are not adequate.

Labor has ridiculed the proposal and criticised the government for changing its messaging from day to day, but refused to rule out supporting it as it had not been provided with any legislation to assess.

On Friday morning, the leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, said the legislation would be released “as soon as it’s ready to be introduced, because it’s pretty straightforward”.

The government has maintained it is still in talks with several countries to act as third-party settlement destinations for the refugees processed offshore, but released no details.

There are suggestions the US and Canada may be involved. New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, said there had been no new discussion with the Australian government and that New Zealand would not support the creation of “different classes of citizens”.

Key said Australia had “no obvious appetite” to take his country’s offer to resettle 150 refugees from Nauru and it was “increasingly unlikely” an agreement would be reached.

On Friday, Turnbull also defended the government’s slow processing of the 12,000 Syrian refugees it had pledged to resettle and said it was because it was “taking very thorough security checks”.

Article Source: .theguardian