Aquaman Funding Announcement > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria


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Subject: Aquaman blockbuster to be filmed in Australia; US Fed Reserve; Working Holiday Makers; MYEFO; robo-calls.

BERT VAN MANEN (MEMBER FOR FORDE): Good morning and welcome to Swagman Motorhomes in the electorate of Forde. Firstly, thank you to Dave Suttor the CEO of Swagman Motorhomes for hosting us for this announcement today. The Swagman is just one of the many small businesses in the electorate of Forde that will benefit from the announcement that the Treasurer’s going to make shortly. We see that this creates opportunities for our small businesses to continue to grow and prosper. It is just another example of what the Federal Government is doing to support those businesses that are looking to take advantage of the opportunities we have in this country in the film industry. On that note, I would like to hand over to the Treasurer. Thank you, Scott, for coming along and being part of today.

TREASURER: Thanks very much, Bert. It is great to be here with you today, with Danielle from Village Roadshow and Warners and of course, Karen Andrews, my ministerial colleague and Stuart Robert from the Coast and of course Mitch Fifield the Minister for Communications and the Arts. It is particularly good to be back here with you, Dave. We were here a few months back and we were talking about how important company tax cuts were for businesses like yours here on the Gold Coast. That still remains a very important issue but today, what I am here to announce is that the Government, this will be included in the MYEFO statement on Monday, will be providing the equivalent of the location tax offset to support the filming of ‘Aquaman’ here on the Gold Coast. This follows on from the commitment we made previously to ‘Thor’ and this will mean a consistency of the work flow here on these major productions. This is being done through a process where in 2018-19 there will be an amount in the order of around $22 million which will be provided as a rebate effectively on the production, expense and tax paid on those production expenses that have already been committed. I want to make that really clear. The way this works is: the movie is made, the production is done over several years, the money is committed, the investment is put into the community. Dave and so many others who are part of this industry here will have benefited from that significant expenditure and in 2018-19, there will be what is effectively a rebate of some $22 million or thereabouts dependent upon the expenditure that has been made in the course of the production. Now, this is an important way of ensuring that we get this continuity of work. We are already seeing here and my colleagues will talk about elements of the benefits of this program here today. What we are doing is understanding that this is a core business for the Gold Coast. This is not a sideline. This is not something that is done as a hobby. This is core business for the Gold Coast. It is core business for jobs and growth on the Gold Coast. I particularly want to commend Bert van Manen and his Gold Coast colleagues, Steven Ciobo the Minister for Tourism and Trade – he is not able to be with us today. But that team, together with Stuart and Karen and Bert have been on my case, as they should be, pursuing the interest of jobs and growth here on the Gold Coast. I want to commend them for their strong advocacy, working together with Warners and Village Roadshow and Graham Burke. We have been working with them for some time on this to ensure a continuity of the jobs and growth that is flowing from this dynamic future industry. So with that, I’m going to hand over to the Minister and he’ll take us through the rest of the proceedings.

MINISTER MITCH FIFIELD: This is a good day for the Australian screen industry. Successive Australian Governments have recognised the important economic contribution and cultural value of the screen sector and that has been manifest through tax incentives, through direct support, through TV, local content requirements and also through the funding that the Australian Government gives to our national broadcasters. Screen Australia recently produced a report called ‘Screen Currency’ and that demonstrated that the screen sector in Australia contributes about $3 billion to the economy and about 25,000 full-time equivalent jobs. So this is an important part of the economy. This support, through the effective extension of the location offset at 30 per cent for productions like this will ensure that we have Australians employed, Australians can have continuity of work. The crews, the craftsmen for recent films such as ‘Thor’ and ‘Aliens’ which have been produced in this neck of the woods, they employed 3,000 people and directed work to about 6,000 businesses. So this is extremely good news today and it is with great pleasure that I ask Danielle from Warner Brothers to talk to us a little bit more about the specifics of this film project.

DANIELLE: On behalf of Warner Brothers, I would like to say thank you to the Australian Government, in particular, the Treasurer Scott Morrison and Minister Fifield for all of their support. Warner Brothers have had a long history of producing content in Australia, largely due to the exceptional quality of the cast and crew and the world class facilities that exist here. We have spent, to date, in excess of $2.5 billion in Australia. We are very excited that with the support of the Australian Government, we can continue that tradition and bring ‘Aquaman’ to Australia in 2017. I would also like to acknowledge the support we have received from the local members here with us today. Thank you.

STUART ROBERT (MEMBER FOR FADDEN): Thanks Danielle. It is great to be here as a Gold Coast Member of Parliament and just to thank the Treasurer and the Arts Minister for what is a great announcement, the Gold Coast team and I have been working on this for four, five, six months. The Treasurer has been involved and the Arts Minister from the very start – it’s been extraordinarily successful. It is great to work with Danielle who started her life and career on the Gold Coast here, I think, at Movie World, weren’t you? Were you playing a character?

DANIELLE: I was. Wonder Woman.

STUART ROBERT: Wonder Woman. And from there, Danielle is now part of the executive team with Warners in LA. This is a real coup. This is the first DC major blockbuster film that we have managed to get to here on the Gold Coast, the home of blockbuster films in Australia. Seeing Marvel’s ‘Thor’ now being filmed and finish and seeing the great DC blockbusters coming here, speaks volumes for what the Gold Coast has got to offer. This will see the continuity of employment for well over 1,000 people. Hundreds and hundreds, over 300 or 400 local suppliers – probably most of them in your electorate, Bert – will receive work. The local Bunnings, at the height of ‘Thor’ was $100,000 a week spend in terms of what was coming in local businesses. It is a great coup here for the Gold Coast. It makes the Gold Coast shine as truly one of the world's great film location destinations. Great for jobs and growth and, Treasurer, thanks for all your work and Mitch for getting behind and backing the Gold Coast in terms of what we are doing for jobs.

MINISTER KAREN ANDREWS: Thank you. We have heard a lot about the jobs and what I would like to do is talk to you a little bit about those jobs and what the opportunities are and for the pathway to get those jobs. As the Skills Minister, I am very keen to raise the status of vocational education and that is the pathway that you need to take to get some of the jobs that will be required on this very large scale production. There will be about 1,150 full-time and part-time jobs associated with this production. That is cast and crew. The crew is going to be very diverse. Some of the jobs that will be available will be for carpenters, painters and decorators, for electricians, for make-up artists and hairdressers. The path to those jobs is vocational education and training. So I would call on all of our local businesses to look at what the opportunities are for them to be part of this large scale production, to come on board, to put on some apprentices and some trainees and make sure that we are building the skills not only for this production but for future productions. Thank you.

TREASURER: Thanks very much, Karen. For those coming here, I want to clear something up from the front. Dave's business here, as you can see, provides all the motor homes which go on the set and all the rest of it. He assures me that if Pistol and Boo come, having cleared all relevant quarantines and other elements, Dave can actually provide a miniature motor home for Pistol and Boo. Is that right, Dave?

DAVE SUTTOR (CEO SWAGMAN MOTORHOMES): That is correct. We will have a little home for Pistol and Boo if Amber would like to bring them onto the film set. That will be in close proximity to her very adequate accommodation that we will provide.

TREASURER: Absolutely. It is one of the many services that go into making these blockbuster films. This is a blockbuster day for a blockbuster announcement and it is a blockbuster for the Gold Coast. Any questions?

QUESTION: Treasurer, you don’t have any concerns that your colleague Barnaby Joyce might be worried about bringing Pistol and Boo down?

TREASURER: No, because everyone knows what the rules are. You can be assured that those rules apply to everybody as they did last time. They are the many issues you have to work through when you're doing a major production like this. It does involve Government agencies and services as well as the private sector, as well, working together to make this such a great home for these blockbuster films.

QUESTION: Annastacia Palaszczuk is claiming credit for securing this movie development in a press release today. She said she personally met with the Warner Brothers executives – basically taking credit for the whole thing – what is your take on that?

TREASURER: I’ll send her the bill then. It is $22 million and that is coming from the Commonwealth in the form of the rebate offset and that is a decision that has been made by the Commonwealth. It is in next Monday's MYEFO. I have never had a discussion with the Premier about this issue. The people I have discussed this issue with are Warner Brothers, Village Roadshow and the colleagues that you see around me. Look, when it is a success everybody wants to jump on board and if she wants to get on board that train and support what is happening here, although I’m sure there are many other things they could be doing to support the Gold Coast which my colleagues here could give you an itemised list of the things that the Premier is not doing here on the Gold Coast.

QUESTION: The US Fed Reserve’s decision on interest rates, is that good or bad for Australia?

TREASURER: That is a decision for the Fed Reserve. It has been, probably, the most anticipated and expected decision that I think we have seen from the Fed Reserve for some time. It has been very much factored into everybody's assessments going forward. So, it wasn't surprising from that point of view and we will see the implications of that no doubt in the weeks and months ahead. It was very much an expected decision and I think everybody had factored that in.

QUESTION: The ATO has advised most backpackers will pay 32.5 per cent tax until the end of the year, what’s your response to that?

TREASURER: The legal position up until 1 January next year, and this is why it was important to legislate this matter before we left the Parliament, was that the non-resident tax rate – which was a tax rate set by Wayne Swan – at 32.5 per cent that is the non-resident tax rate. That tax rate technically applies until a new tax rate is legislated specifically for working holiday makers which is what we were able to achieve and that takes place and commences on 1 January. What that means is the withholding rate for businesses would be 15 per cent from that day on. Now, prior to that, it was a matter of whether backpackers declared themselves as a resident or non-resident for tax purposes and then that would determine how the employer would have dealt with that issue. It has been a technical issue. It has been a very vexed issue. We got resolution to that before we left the Parliament which was particularly important for people here in Queensland who are dependent on the tourism industry and we were pleased to be able to get that outcome. We were very frustrated though by the fact that the Labor Party just played wrecker politics every single day. They weren't looking for an outcome, they were just looking to create chaos.

QUESTION: But you and your senior ministers though said the 32.5 per cent would apply from January 1 unless the Coalition…

TREASURER: No, I never said that.

QUESTION: You and your ministers…

TREASURER: I have never said that. I have said consistently that the non-resident tax rate at 32.5 cents applies until a rate is actually legislated at a different level. No legislated rate...

QUESTION: [inaudible] have you misled backpackers?

TREASURER: Absolutely not. That has been the rule. The measure was introduced in the 15-16 Budget to try and legislate it at 32.5 but that wasn't able to be legislated. So in the absence of a legislated measure, then the default position of what was coming through the AAT and the common law applies. Anyway, that is nature of that issue: 1 January of next year, the 15 per cent legislated rate comes into effect and I am pleased we were able to get an outcome. And I am appalled at the way that the Labor Party just played rank wrecker politics which is what we see from them every single day.

QUESTION: On Palaszczuk and ‘Aquaman’ again, so the Queensland Government, did they come to the table as far as funding or anything goes?

TREASURER: None of their discussions with us had anything to do with this decision today at all.

QUESTION: [inaudible] the Queensland Government doesn’t disclose how much it costs for films like this, should they?

TREASURER: That is a matter for the Queensland Government. All I know is that the Australian Government, with the strong advocacy of my colleagues standing around me from the Gold Coast and together working with Warner Brothers have been able to produce this outcome today for people whose livelihoods depend on the success of this business and this industry. We understand that, this is part of the positive transition happening in our national economy. It is further evidence of that. We want to continue to back that in so we are backing in ‘Aquaman’, we backed in ‘Thor’ and we’re backing in the Gold Coast.

QUESTION: You spoke about MYEFO before, are you confident that Australia will still have the credit rating after you count down MYEFO?

TREASURER: I will hand down MYEFO on Monday and it is for others to make their assessments and judgements on that. The Australian position, whether you are looking at the current account or you’re looking at the deficit, is in a stronger position than it has been for some years. I think that holds Australia in very good stead. But it is always for others to make their assessments about these things.

QUESTION: Do you have any confidence about it though? Are you confident…

TREASURER: That is a matter for Monday. I will hand down MYEFO. I am very confident about what we put into MYEFO. There has been a lot of work that has gone into this. Importantly, on MYEFO, you will see the confirmation that the funding of all the election commitments that were announced during the election that is now formally incorporated into the budget process and those commitments will be delivered in full.

QUESTION: Back to the backpacker tax, do you…

TREASURER: I think we’ve covered off the backpacker tax. How about we talk about ‘Aquaman’? I can assure you there will be no walk-on role for the Treasurer in ‘Aquaman’. They say politics is show business for ugly people but it’s certainly not show business for a Treasurer.

QUESTION: [Inaudible] you’ve increased the location offset from 16.5 to 30 for this film and is that permanent there? Is it for this film or for all films?

TREASURER: It’s for this film.

QUESTION: Just for this film?

TREASURER: It’s for this film. We deal with these on a case-by-case basis as we did with ‘Thor’ and as we have done with this particular production. This enables the continuity of these major productions and that’s important to maintain the skills – which Karen was talking about – and the training that goes around those skills and the continuity of business that allows people like Dave to invest in new equipment and whatever else is needed.

DAVE SUTTOR: It makes an extreme difference to our company – 43 per cent of our gross income comes from the film and entertainment industry. That makes us viable. Without that, being a small business, we have to diverse so we have vehicles that we put to the film industry, we manufacture, we refurb Swagmans and we’re now going to branch into a clothing range as well which will be made in Australia by Australians. But the major thing the Federal Government’s done by them increasing that offset – even if it is film by film – if it keeps on working then I’m sure they’ll keep doing it. But it makes an amazing difference to companies like us, across the Gold Coast and across Australia, to be able to produce good products to supply to those interests.

QUESTION: No walk-on role, but in your current role as Treasurer, do you accept that having different tax rates – a tax rate changing in the middle of the financial year – creates confusion and how does the Government justify it?

TREASURER: That situation has been expanded for some years and was the case from the 2015-16 Budget when we were seeking to legislate a measure. That’s why in the 2015-16 Budget we sought to legislate an actual tax rate because of the uncertainty that was surrounding what the tax rate was and the application for the non-resident test. And so, what we’ve done is bring certainty and ended the uncertainty and the only people who wanted to see the chaos and uncertainty continue were the Labor Party. They actually for months played the job of wrecker which we see them do on the budget all the time. I mean, as I said yesterday, you could be forgiven for thinking that Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen are going around trying to wreck the budget, to destroy the rating for their own political gain. I think it’s pretty easy to draw that conclusion by their actions and I think the Australian people will judge them harshly for that.

QUESTION: Back to the movie, can they also apply the producer offset?

MINISTER MITCH FIFIELD: No, no. This is something that was designed for these sorts of productions, but not the producer offset.

QUESTION: And is this different to the money that ‘Thor’ received? Because that was [inaudible]?

MINISTER MITCH FIFIELD: No, no. ‘Thor’ received support on a similar basis which is effectively increasing the location offset from 16.5 per cent to 30 per cent on a project like this.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

TREASURER: No, the way it works is you get the rebate at the end of the process after you’ve actually made some expenditure. So there is a payment but it’s a payment after you’ve already paid your tax, done all the other things, there are always payments…

QUESTION: And that’s what ‘Pirates’ was and that’s what ‘Thor’ was?

TREASURER: Well, the ‘Thor’ and the ‘Aquaman’ arrangements here are basically the same deal.

QUESTION: Ok. And ‘Pirates’ got cash as well as the location offset?

MINISTER MITCH FIFIELD: No, my understanding is that ‘Pirates’ received the same sort of arrangement that we are talking about today.

TREASURER: So we’re dealing with this on a case by case basis to ensure the continuity of work here on the Gold Coast which is what’s important to Dave, it’s what’s important to Bert, Karen, Stuart and Steven’s constituents here on the Gold Coast. So it’s about being proactive, leaning forward on jobs and growth here on the Gold Coast.

QUESTION: The ACTU are making robo-calls about those changes to the pension, what’s your take on that?

TREASURER: Well, I think this is just a repeat of the disgraceful behaviour we saw during the election and Bill Shorten cannot wash his hands of this. Bill Shorten and the ACTU and the union movement are genetically tied, biologically tied, they’re synthetic umbilical twins when it comes to these sorts of things. And just when you think that the unions and the Labor Party can’t sink any lower, they defy those expectations. And running around trying to scare families in the way they have – this is a measure, let’s not forget, that the Labor Party supports. They support the changes that are being made in the pensions that come into effect on 1 January and their deceit on that was writ-large during the election campaign. For years, they said: “This is a terrible thing. This is a terrible thing.” But then on the eve of the election, they back flipped and they supported it. So if people have concerns about this measure, which I stress that 170,000 pensioners are going to get a pension increase on 1 January and they are pensioners who have the lower levels of assets and they are the pensioners who will get a higher rate of pension payments from 1 January. Those who have higher levels of assets, in addition to the family home – of well in excess of $800,000 – there are changes that do come into effect here and that reverses the decision made back in late 2007. The budget has to be affordable, it has to be affordable, the measures that we have need to be affordable and these are one of the many difficult decisions. But Labor, they say they’re against it, then they say they’re for it and now the union movement are out there trying to play this sort of deceitful, underhanded politics which I think Australians are sick of. Ok, well, it’s great to be here on the Gold Coast –

QUESTION: Can I just ask one question to Warner Brothers?

TREASURER: Sure. Please.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask, what do the actors feel? Like I mean, Patrick Wilson, Jason Momoa are going to be here. Are they excited?

DANIELLE DAJANI: I’m sure they’re absolutely thrilled.

QUESTION: And what does it mean for those high quality actors to be here?

DANIELLE DAJANI: I think it’s wonderful for them to experience the quality of the cast and crew they’ll be working with here. [Inaudible] bigger names, well respected actors that we bring to Australia.

QUESTION: And what about the paparazzi throughout this period?

DANIELLE DAJANI: I’m not sure but I’m sure it will be contained. I am sure people will be respectful.