Press conference with Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: Good afternoon everybody and thank you for joining us.

I am delighted to be here this afternoon with my colleague Senator Mitch Fifield, the Minister for Communication and the Arts, and my two ministerial colleagues, Steve Ciobo and Stuart Roberts. We are here to announce that the Australian Government has secured two large-budget international film productions to be produced in Australia from next year. Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok, starring Australia's very own Chris Hemsworth, will continue the superhero adventures, but being filmed here in Australia. And I want to welcome Mary Anne Hughes, Vice-President representing Walt Disney Company and Marvel Studios and her support staff, who have come all the way from Los Angeles for this announcement. Secondly 20th Century Fox will bring Sir Ridley Scott to Australia to direct his next Alien film, yet to be titled.

The Australian Government believes that our prosperity and economic growth as a nation depends very much on seizing new opportunities, and as Prime Minister Turnbull has stated, the Government must be flexible, we must be responsive to opportunities that provide investment into Australia and promote economic growth, jobs and further innovation.

During recent visits to both Los Angeles and New York I met with senior executives of major film and production houses - with Walt Disney Company, Marvel, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Village Roadshow, NBC Universal, and directors Ridley Scott and Brett Ratner, who all expressed a very keen desire to invest in significant new film production projects right here a Australia. And they specifically spoke about the value in Australia as a filming destination, the quality and variety of our locations, but more importantly our highly qualified and talented workforce, our embrace of innovative technology, our stable economy, our dollar - all this makes Australia an attractive destination.

Many Australians are employed directly by Australia's creative industries, and attracting major films made here will be a significant boost for our economy, for our industrial base, and for linking Australia in innumerable ways to our ever-globalising world. We do have a culture of innovation, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. We are a top 20 country, we're the 12th largest economy in the world, the fifth largest on a per capita basis. Earlier this year, the Martin Institute of Global Creativity at the University of Toronto, judged Australia to be the most creative nation on earth, and that was due to the Australian people, our imagination, our flair, our highly educated, highly motivated workforce, and we are entrepreneurs and risk-takers.

In terms of these major productions, there is also a significant spin-off for tourism, there is a real benefit there. Film tourism is an increasing drawcard for overseas visitors. And coincidentally this week is Ausfilm Week in Los Angeles, and it's a week dedicated to attracting US productions to Australia. I know many people will be very excited about our announcement today. The opportunity will also ensure Australia can have a long-term relationship with major film and production houses like Marvel, Walt Disney, and 20th Century Fox.

From my point of view, it also strengthens our relationship with the US, one of the most creative economies in the world. Already it is Australia's number one source of investment, our largest investment partner, and it is a source of finance and human capital for many film blockbusters.

Now, I know the actual locations are yet to be announced by the production houses, but I particularly wanted to thank my ministerial colleagues, Steve Ciobo, Stu Robert, and Karen Andrews, because they have been fierce advocates for more film production and post-production opportunities for the Gold Coast, and after Disney's positive experience with the Pirates of the Caribbean, I'm sure that the film houses would be warmly welcomed back for Thor and others.

STEVE CIOBO: Absolutely.

JULIE BISHOP: And Sir Ridley Scott told me he knows the Fox Studios very well, and knows NSW well, so we're hoping for some good news there.

Now I will hand over to my colleague, Minister Mitch Fifield for the details of this exciting announcement.

MITCH FIFIELD: Thank you so much, Julie, and can I acknowledge the role that you have played. Julie is a ceaseless advocate for Australia, for Australian industry and talents overseas, and she also always seeks to bring propositions back to Australia and join those together. So Julie, thank you so much for your important role in this.

Can I also acknowledge my colleagues Steve Ciobo and Stuart Robert, also Karen Andrews, John Alexander, and Arthur Sinodinos, who are great sources of advice in relation to Australia's creative and cultural industries.

But I should also make a particular acknowledgement of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has taken a minute-by-minute interest in this venture. He was determined to see that this would be landed. And I think the announcement that we are making today is a concrete example of what the Prime Minister means when he talks about the agility of government and the agility of industry to support innovation and to deliver jobs. And that is a very big part of what today is about. Jobs and employment.

It's also the first step in a creative policy that will unlock new jobs in the important creative and cultural industry. And it's important to recognise that the cultural and creative components of our economy already contribute in excess of $90 billion a year to GDP. Today's announcement obviously recognises the skills and talent of our local production sector, that they are able to offer to the world. It will help build a strong sector, and a stronger sector means a greater capacity to tell Australian stories. And I think to sum it up, today is really about competitiveness, it's about skills, and it's about jobs. And we do mention government helping secure these feature films, but it is important to recognise that it's government with the industry, with the skill and talent and ability of this industry together that has secured these films. We are obviously just so thrilled that Chris Hemsworth, a good mate of the Foreign Minister, will continue the super ...

JULIE BISHOP: …She likes to think so [laughs].

MITCH FIFIELD: That's right. That the superhero adventure will continue. And I should make clear that's Chris Hemsworth continuing the superhero adventure, not Julie. And Sir Ridley who has been so keen to produce a film in Australia. I should indicate at this point that I am going to breach Cabinet confidence. I think you would be aware obviously of Prometheus, which was the previous film in this Alien series. When I was briefing Cabinet on this proposition I had to declare a conflict of interest, that in the first Prometheus movie there is a character called Fifield. And Christopher Pyne kindly, across the Cabinet table, said: "yes, but he died."


So anyway for the moment I'm still standing and on my feet. But what really is giving us the opportunity to secure these films is $47.25 million, which will help combine with the skill, talent, and resources of these production houses to secure these films. And what this means in numbers is over $300 million of investment in Australia that would otherwise be invested elsewhere. What it means is 3,000 direct jobs for Australians. And it also isn't just the ability for us to highlight Australia as a place to film and do business, it also presents the opportunity for us to showcase Australia, to let people know that this is a terrific place - not only to do work, but to visit. So it's important for tourism as well.

And just to give you a few more numbers, because I think they are important, to emphasise that this is about jobs. Every job created in the film and television industry supports 3.57 jobs in other industries. Every dollar of turnover creates turnover of $3.52 in other industries. And an amount equal to 13-20 per cent of spend comes back to the Australian Government in taxation, and a further 3 per cent goes to state governments in the form of taxation. Other important benefits of this arrangement are the fact that this helps develop skills, skills that you couldn't develop on smaller budget productions, the opportunity for suppliers to purchase equipment which they will be able to use for other productions. The opportunity for new equipment to be developed - one production recently was able to create a new drone that could carry heavy cameras. So there are many, many spin-offs.

I'm extremely proud, I think Julie, Steven, and Stuart are extremely proud of the creative talent that we have in Australia, of the skills that we have in our production industry. And I know that the two ventures will be extremely pleased with the people that they will have the opportunity to work with. And it now gives me great pleasure to call upon Mary Ann Hughes, who is the Vice President of Film and Television Production Planning at the Walt Disney Company.

MARYANN HUGHES: Well thank you so much. On behalf of the Walt Disney Company and Marvel Studios, we would like to thank the Australian Federal Government. In particular we would like to thank Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Minister for the Arts Fifield.

And of course we would like to thank your Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, for their strong leadership, for their forward-thinking vision of growing the creative sector here in Australia, and in particular for growing the film and television industry. We are thrilled that- to be here today to announce that Marvel will be filming Thor: Ragnarok beginning next year. We had such a wonderful experience in filming Pirates of the Caribbean here in Australia earlier this year, and it is a very complicated movie that we ventured into. But we had the good fortune of employing 2625 highly-skilled and technologically-advanced individuals in the business- in the film sector. And we look forward to that continuation of direct hires for Thor. We also engaged 6278 Australian vendors from all over the country, providing their expert goods and services that support our industry. So again, we look forward to repeating that over and over again.

Chris Hemsworth of course would have loved to have been here today to thank all of you personally, but unfortunately he had to be in Los Angeles for business meetings. But I am sure that with filming Thor here in Australia, those trips back to LA will be few and far between. So I'm sure that you would rather hear from Chris rather than myself, so perhaps we could hear from Australia's Chris Hemsworth, Thor.


CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Wanted to say a huge thank you to the Federal Government, particularly the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield for making it possible for Thor: Ragnarok to shoot here in Australia. I'm incredibly excited to be coming back home for work, and here with our extremely talented production industry, which I think is one of the best in the world. It's fantastic to see the Government and the Prime Minister supporting our creative industries, and I look forward to introducing my Marvel friends to this beautiful country of ours.

[End of excerpt]


MITCH FIFIELD: And I'll now call on Marc Wooldridge, Managing Director of 20th Century Fox Australia.

MARC WOOLDRIDGE: Ladies and gentlemen, it's an absolute pleasure to be here today representing both 20th Century Fox and Sir Ridley Scott. I do wish to extend my great gratitude to both Minister Bishop and Minister Fifield and their teams for incredible commitment and cooperation in bring such a prestigious and ambitious project to Australia. The latest instalment of the Alien franchise brings Ridley back to the saga that he started back in 1979 with the original Alien movie, and his sense of ambition for this movie is typical Ridley; it's immense, it's huge, and we couldn't be more excited about that.

Ridley is regarded as one of the greatest film-makers of all time. His career spans 40 years, including some of the most seminal movies of all time, including Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Thelma & Louise, and most recently The Martian, which I'm very happy to report is being released by 20th Century Fox right now and is the number one movie in the country for the third weekend in a row. And as much as Ridley would have liked to have been here today he is on the promotional trail at the moment promoting The Martian, which is soon to be released in China, a market we have great expectations for. But he has recorded a message from a lovely part of the world before he got on his plane heading out to China. So I'll hand you over to Ridley, thank you.


RIDLEY SCOTT: Hi there, Ridley Scott here. I'm actually in Provence right now, sitting in a vineyard. Just an informal thank you for your support that I just heard of this morning, particularly Mitch Fifield, Minister of Arts, Julie Bishop, Foreign Affairs, and Malcolm Turnbull. I've worked with Australian talent before, Russel Crowe many times, Cate Blanchett, a wonderful once, I'd like to work with her again of course. So I'm looking forward to working with your talent, your camera crews and your designers down in Australia, because I understand they're all absolutely brilliant. Oh yeah, there was one other thing, I understand that your Australian wine is pretty damn good so I'm looking forward to that.

Thank you again, and bye-bye.

JULIE BISHOP: Okay. Any questions?

QUESTION: With the $47 million, is it a subsidy or is it an investment? Do we get our money back if the films make money, or is it a direct investment? And secondly, why give $47 million to the film industry and not $47 million to the car industry, or BlueScope Steel, or- can you just explain your rationale?

MITCH FIFIELD: Sure. Effectively what we're doing through a grant for these two productions is in effect increasing the 16.5 per cent location offset to 30 per cent. So this is the mechanism to have the equivalent effect. This is something that has been done on a number of occasions by successive governments when there's a good proposition, when there's a proposition which will see Australian jobs created, that will see Australian skills and talent developed.

JULIE BISHOP: It also ensures that we are competitive against other destinations, and we know that if these two films were not secured for Australia that there were other countries about to embrace them. So, it is very much part of our international competitiveness and driving new industries, new technologies, new innovation, and above all providing significant jobs in our creative economy.

JOURNALIST: Who was Australia competing against? Which other countries were highly competitive?

JULIE BISHOP: Well for example The Martian is a film that we would very much liked to have secured here, and I believe that that was then filmed in Hungary. So we are competing against other countries. The location offset is a key component of that, and Australia must be competitive.

MITCH FIFIELD: Canada is another country, and the various provincial jurisdictions will provide offsets of 20-56 per cent. The Canadian Federal Government will also provide an additional 15 per cent offset for co-productions. So, this is a very competitive environment.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask, you said that Mr Turnbull was- took a minute-by-minute interest in the negotiations, can you expand on that a little bit? And also, I was wondering if I could ask Ms Hughes whether Australia's quarantine laws …


… have any impact given the Boo and Pistol saga?

JULIE BISHOP: Clearly they didn't because they're back.

MITCH FIFIELD: That's right. Well the Prime Minister takes a very keen interest in the Australian creative industries and cultural industries, but during the time that he has been the Prime Minister and I've been the Minister for Communications and the Arts, I have found that he is in often hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute contact. Because he is just absolutely seized of a determination to make sure that we make every single day count in Government.

JOURNALIST: And the quarantine laws?

MARYANN HUGHES: Well, since our lovely Chris Hemsworth lives in Australia I suspect don't have any issues with pets.

JOURNALIST: Minister Bishop, why won't you agree to a Parliamentary debate on Syria and Australia's role in the Middle East?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government's policy in relation to this is very clear. We are committed to a mission with the coalition led by the United States. Our mission is to support the Iraqi security forces, build their capacity and capability to ensure that they are in a position to take back territory that has been claimed by the terrorist organisation Daesh, and that they are in a position to protect the Iraqi citizens. We are in Iraq at the invitation of and with the consent of the Iraqi Government.

In relation to Syria we are taking part in airstrikes against Daesh targets that are being used to launch attacks on Iraq, and therefore it's under Article 51 of the UN Charter, the collective right for the self-defence of Iraq. So our mission is defined, it is clear, we've had many discussions about this, the Opposition has been briefed, and we will continue to ensure that foreign terrorist fighters from Australia are deterred from going over to the Middle East and taking part in the conflict. We warn Australians not to take part in this conflict, because not only are they putting their own lives in mortal danger they are adding to the suffering and violence being meted out to the people of Syria and Iraq.

So our mission and position is very clear, and we keep the Australian people informed about them.

JOURNALIST: Minister, what's Australia's response to Canada's decision to withdraw air strikes? Will Australia have to pick up the slack by increasing the number of air strikes we are partaking in?

JULIE BISHOP: Well we understand that the new Canadian Government intends to maintain a level of support similar to ours other than in relation to air strikes. And that's of course a decision for the new government. We have not been asked to do anymore in that regard. If we were, we would consider it and put in the context of our capacity, capability and national interest.

JOURNALIST: Minister, as the Deputy Liberal Leader do you think the Government should be prepared to consider the marriage equality plebiscite legislation before the next election, and could it be done in a way that allows for marriage equality to be legalised, pending a successful plebiscite after the next election?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party I wouldn't pre-empt any Cabinet discussion on this topic.

JOURNALIST: Minister Bishop, Senate Estimates spent about 15 minutes today examining your use of a red angry-faced emoji to describe Vladimir Putin. Could you explain what you meant by the use of that emoji?

JULIE BISHOP: Well look it's interesting that the Labor Senators spent more time focusing on my use of emoji than it spent asking questions of the Department about foreign terrorist fighters and our fight against Daesh. I think that tells you something about the mindset of the Labor Senators.

Twitter is clearly a medium used for short, pithy statements. It's not used for serious foreign policy debate, nor do I use it for that. We make announcements on Twitter, but it's limited to 140 characters. Emojis are a well-known, contemporary way of expressing particular views, and I am surprised that so few of the Labor Senators seem to understand the context in which Twitter and emojis are used. In the case of President Putin, he self-describes as a hard man. In fact having met President Putin I think he'd be delighted with the application of emoji that I used to describe him.

I note Senator Brandis has suggested it was ideological. That could be the case. It might be a multi-use emoji, I think that's possible.

Okay, any other questions?

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister do you think that- we've asked a couple of times now about the incident that happened a couple of years ago where a SAS trooper held a gun to an Australian agent in a bar in Afghanistan. We're told that the reason you won't discuss that is national security. Isn't the Government hiding behind national security on what's a very serious issue, and were there any consequences for the soldier?

JULIE BISHOP: Chris as you know we do not discuss intelligence and security issues, we do have oversight through the Inspector-General of Intelligence (IGIS) and all allegations, all accusations, all incidents, are thoroughly investigated. And I'm satisfied that that occurred in this case, but we do not go into the details of intelligence and security matters for very good reason.

Thank you.

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