Govt misses own games deadline
Mitch Fifield: Has not delivered on his promise to the games sector
The government failed to meet its own year-end deadline for tabling a response to a senate report on the local games development sector, even as the ‘zombie inquiry’ approaches its second birthday.
The senate inquiry into the future of Australia’s video game development industry delivered its final report in April 2016, more than 20 months ago.
The report recommended that government restore its $20 million games development fund, introduce refundable tax offsets, provide financial support to co-working spaces and commit to “rolling out 21st century broadband infrastructure”.
Local games developers have been left in limbo. And it is set to have to wait even longer, despite a pledge by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to deliver its response by the end of last year.
In early December, the Senate passed a motion ordering Senator Fifield to table the response by the next day. The following day, Senator Fifield said that wouldn’t be happening as the report’s recommendations “impact a number of portfolios.”
But the minister did pledge to produce the response by the end of the year, something which did not happen.
“The recommendations required a careful consideration and coordination across government. The government response will be tabled prior to the end of 2017,” Senator Fifield told the Senate in December.
More than a week into 2018, the government is still yet to table its response. This is despite Minister Fifield telling a senate estimates hearing last May that he had received a “finalised draft” of the response.
A spokesperson said the government’s response would be tabled soon.
“The report will be tabled in coming weeks following a busy parliamentary finish to the year,” the spokesperson said.
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John said the government’s continually delayed response is “extremely disrespectful” to the local games industry.
“Game developers deserve to know whether this government cares about the future of their industry in Australia. Where is the finalised draft and why on earth is it still yet to be considered?” Senator Steele-John told InnovationAus.com.
“This government is throttling the Australian video games industry, the same way it is throttling Australians’ access to 21st century national broadband infrastructure, another of the inquiry’s recommendations.
“It is time to acknowledge that the NBN rollout has not delivered on its promise of meeting Australia’s future digital needs and deliver a future-proof solution for both the NBN and the Australian video games industry.”
Support for the local games industry enjoys cross-party support, making the government’s delays even more frustrating, Interactive Games and Entertainment Association chief executive Ron Curry said.
“We respect that this is a complex issue that spans multiple portfolios and welcomed the minister’s commitment to having a response by the close of 2017, even though that was still some 600 days late,” Mr Curry told InnovationAus.com.
“Sadly, we are still waiting for that response. IGEA is willing to work with all sides of government on this and hopes that 2018 is the year that Australian game developers receive the support they deserve.”
The senate inquiry came after the “horror” 2014 budget which saw the axing of the Australian Interactive Games Fund, and was driven by former Greens senator Scott Ludlam.
Earlier last year, senator Fifield confirmed in a senate estimates hearing that a finalised draft of the response had been submitted to the government for consideration, but nearly a year later this is still yet to see the light of day.
Also in December, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts tabled its own report on the Australian film and television industry. The committee recommended that the $20 million games fund be reinstated, the third to do so since 2014.
“The committee was advised that the games sector in Australia has huge potential for growth and would generate considerable economic returns if granted access to the same tax incentives as film and television and received direct funding from the government,” the report said.
“Evidence to the inquiry notes that there are impediments to the growth of this sector in Australia, including an inability to access capital investment.
"There seems to be ample potential for the growth of Australia’s digital gaming industry due to the popularity of video games both at home and abroad.
“The committee therefore agrees that some direct funding should be available to the games sector from the federal government.”