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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts

Resale Royalty Scheme, National Reserve System, RSPT, BP oil spill

E&OE Transcript
ABC Central Australia
Mornings with Alice Brennan
9 June 2010

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JOURNALIST: As of today, artists can receive a five per cent royalty every time their work is resold. The Federal Government's resale royalty scheme was officially launched here yesterday. The scheme, though, has come under attack from some artists and dealers, many claiming it's too complicated and money probably won't make it into the pockets of the artists themselves.

The Federal Arts Minister, Peter Garrett, is in the 783 studios. Welcome to Alice Springs.

PETER GARRETT: Thanks very much, Alice.

JOURNALIST: Now, how much is this scheme costing to implement and carry out?

GARRETT: Well, we've allocated about $1.5 million over the next three years, by which time we think the scheme will be sustainable and ongoing. And we reckon that this is one of the most important arts initiatives that the Government has taken. It is a long time waiting for visual artists in this country, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, to get some ongoing return for their work, like authors do, like photographers do, like composers do.

JOURNALIST: And Papunya Tula general manager, Paul Sweeney, says that you must make major changes to the scheme. He says there should be exemptions for organisations with structures like theirs, i.e. Aboriginal owned. Would you take that into consideration?

GARRETT: What I would say is that people have had a long time to prepare for this scheme. And yeah, change is difficult. You know, sometimes change does mean that you've got to adjust. But it is time that the artists of this country, particularly Indigenous artists, receive some ongoing benefit for their work, if in fact it sells for greater values over time. The scheme is a simple one.

The Copyright Agency Limited will be administering the scheme. In fact, they're coming into Alice this Thursday to have a series of meetings with gallery owners and others. I invite Paul, and anybody else, to get in and spend some time speaking to them

But people have had plenty of notice of it. And, you know what, you look at the way in which writers or composers, or songwriters receive their royalties and they're accounted for in an accurate way. It can happen for painters as well.

JOURNALIST: So, you say it's simple. Basically, five per cent of the profits of a - an art that is over - an artwork that's over $1000 and resold for the second time, go back to the artist or the artist's estate?

GARRETT: Yeah, that's correct.

JOURNALIST: And that's it?

GARRETT: Yeah, that's right. I mean, we had a Senate inquiry that looked at this, and they said that this should be considered. We had the Rupert Myer special report in 2002 again recommended it.

And we can see that the value and the benefit that comes into communities when people are painting, and then their work is successful, and it's earning good money, is important to them, because it's a source of income that provides some economic sustainability in the community. And this is a right that goes to painters. It's like a copyright under the Berne Convention. So it's for their lifetime, plus 70 years. So, if they properly have a Will in place, that right can go onto their family or whoever gets their rights under the will.

JOURNALIST: How would it work here in Central Australia where often artworks are completed by three, four, five, six, seven people, and those people aren't always traceable?

GARRETT: No, there are going to be some issues that people have got to work through here, so that the right does apply under the scheme.

One thing I can say, is that we expect that Aboriginal painters, over time, will benefit from a resale royalty. They haven't had any rights in the past.

When they co-author a work, that can apply under the scheme. When you've got a series of people who are doing the painting, they need to work out with the Copyright Agency Limited who's going to hold the rights. But, you know, that's a good thing to have happen, because this is an industry that continues to grow. It's one that's popular in Australia and, increasingly, overseas. And I think there will be an education, a communication program that will happen as a matter of course as we see the resale royalty right come into play. But it's long overdue and it's a great day for painters in this country when they get a resale right.

JOURNALIST: Is the Federal Government committing to that education campaign?

GARRETT: Well, we've already got education material in train, and we'll continue to provide the level of information that's necessary, through the Copyright Agency, to make sure that people know what their rights are.

JOURNALIST: Do you really think this is going to stamp out unscrupulous art dealers taking advantage of Aboriginal artists here in Central Australia? Do you think this is the answer?

GARRETT: Well look, it's not primarily about unethical art practice and carpetbaggers, and the like, although it will have the effect of making sure that dealers' records are kept appropriately and properly, and that people that deserve to get a resale royalty right will get it.

We've also got the Indigenous commercial art code of conduct. That's now up and running. And there's a special group that will be responsible for administering that code. It's led by Ron Merkel, a very senior lawyer from Melbourne

I think these two measures, between them, will do as much as is possible at this point in time to stamp down on the unethical conduct. And I've got to say that, in fact, this has been a measure that has been welcomed by the majority of artists, welcomed by the majority of the industry. Yes, people will have to come on board, they'll have to recognise that some change is necessary, but this is change for the better.

JOURNALIST: Yes. I want to just move on to this wildlife corridor, the Northern Territory and the South Australian Governments are each contributing $1.8 million to set up a corridor from Arnhem Land down to Port Augusta, by 2012. It seems there's a lot of work being done in South Australia, but not much in the Northern Territory.

GARRETT: Well look, I'm not across the exact details of what the NT's done up to now, but I know that the commitment from both State Governments is there, and the commitment from the Commonwealth is there as well, in fact only the day before World Environment Day, we were down at Witchelina, just north of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and we acquired a property down there for the National Reserve System, which will in a sense enhance this corridor.

What have we got? Some - over 4000 square kilometres of country coming back into play, this is a partnership between the Commonwealth and the States, and the idea is that you'll have national parks, you'll have reserves, you might have indigenous protected areas, you might have bits of country where people are going into partnership agreements to bring the environment back into good shape.

JOURNALIST: What about here in the Northern Territory though, where there are hundreds and hundreds of exploration licences, and as far as I can see it, there are no plans in train to acquire any of these reserves?

GARRETT: Well look, we've certainly got plans to acquire properties as appropriate in the Northern Territory, and we'll have some announcements to make about that upcoming, and remember, we've already had the announcement of the Warrdeken Djelk indigenous protected area previously, one of the most significant investments by the Commonwealth. This is something which I, as Environment Minister, have reckoned is really important.

When we came into Government we took the advice that the scientists gave us, that if you increase your investment in the national reserve system, that's the parks and reserves, that's the areas of country that are in good environmental kind of condition, then it means that you're providing some bulwark against climate change impacts and degradation, you're providing some resilience in the landscape, and so you'll see that the actual targets that we've set ourselves for adding to the national reserve system are very ambitious, and I think we're going to meet them.

JOURNALIST: Can you specify any plans that are in train between Arnhem Land and Central Australia, to acquire any land?

GARRETT: Well, Alice, I'd love to give it away here on your radio program this morning, but I think we should wait until the negotiations are finished, but we'll certainly let you know. It will be a fantastic announcement, that's one thing I can guarantee.

JOURNALIST: Watch this space. Moving on to other issues, as part of the resource super profits tax, taxpayers will be forced to contribute 40 per cent of the cost if a BP-like disaster occurred, this is a topical question, especially given the spill in the Gulf over the last couple of weeks, what's your view on this?

GARRETT: Well, the details of this tax are still being worked through and I think the Prime Minister has said yesterday that we will be having ongoing consultations with the Prime Minister and mining leaders, as some of the issues around this tax are properly sorted.

The bottom line in all of this is that the Australian people are the shareholders in the natural resources of this country, and where companies do have a significant profit, the Australian people should take some opportunities from that profit, so that we can invest in the future, whether it's superannuation, or infrastructure, and the like.

JOURNALIST: But a spill like the BP spill? Ten billion dollars, it's estimated that it's going to cost, to clean that up. If this super tax comes into effect, that's $4 billion on taxpayers' heads.

GARRETT: Well, let's wait until these negotiations are concluded. What I would say though, about the oil spill generally, is that it's a really significant and serious issue for the Americans to deal with the spill that's happened in the Gulf, I'm very, very aware that here in Australia we have a national plan in place that deals with emergencies of that kind, we saw what happened on the Great Barrier Reef, we've increased the penalties for oil spills, both Minister Albanese and myself will increase those penalties over time, we want to set the highest bar that we need to on protecting the environment here, it's a priceless environment that we've got in Australia, and this Government will make sure that it's properly protected.

JOURNALIST: Philosophically speaking though, do you think it's fair that taxpayers have to kick in, $10 billion it's estimated to cost, $4 billion it would be for taxpayers, do you think in theory that is fair, that taxpayers would have to kick in to help clean up spills like this?

GARRETT: Well again, we can't talk about the hypotheticals, Alice, because we're talking about one spill in America, and you know, issues of liability, fault and those sorts of things, have got to be determined. What I would say is that it's appropriate for us to have a tax in Australia, which enables Australians and their kids to get some of the benefit from the super profits that mining companies make.

JOURNALIST: But if that tax - but if that tax meant then that the Government and taxpayers would have to kick in to help clean up spills...

GARRETT: Well, as I've said, other details that have got to be worked through, will be worked through the negotiation, but in the meantime, recognise that we set the bar very high here for environment standards, we're very, very aware of the fact that the environment needs to be protected, I regulate the environment under the EPBC Act, and my colleagues are aware of the need for it to be protected as well.

JOURNALIST: Minister, thank you very much for your time this morning.

GARRETT: Thanks very much, Alice.

JOURNALIST: Federal Minister for Arts and the Environment, Peter Garrett.

[ENDS]

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