Politicians from both sides of the aisle have backed the growing calls for the federal government to better support the Australian game development sector.
Shadow assistant minister Tim Watts moved a motion in Parliament on Monday calling for recognition of the potential of the game development sector, the transferability of skills in it and the potential for it to “help drive the post-COVID economic recovery in Australia, creating jobs and expanding a significant export market”.
A number of Labor, Liberal and Nationals MPs spoke in support of the motion and called on more government support for the sector.
Mr Watts said the sector is “often overlooked” by politicians and needs to be taken more seriously in Canberra.
“This is potentially a billion-dollar industry for Australia and a source of jobs with skills that are transferable into other high-wage, high-growth industries, like cybersecurity and software development,” Mr Watts said.
“It would be a huge source of jobs growth and direct foreign investment into Australia as we begin our post-pandemic economic recovery. This is an industry that we need to grow as an ecosystem.”
There has been no direct federal government support for the sector since the $20 million interactive games fund was scrapped by the Abbott government in 2014, after only half of its allocated funding had been deployed.
“With the right federal support, we could grow the domestic industry and take an even bigger slice of this global billion-dollar pie. Despite the Australian video game industry punching above its weight globally, we are at serious risk of losing this potential billion-dollar growth development industry,” Mr Watts said.
“We need the Australian government to back in Australia video game developers and the high-wage high-skill jobs they create. It is this disadvantage – a lack of government support that the Australian industry faces globally – that we have to address here in the chamber.”
Nationals MP Pat Conaghan agreed that governments need to do more to support the sector.
“Governments at all levels do need to do more … this is the pool of talented young people that we have in our communities across Australia that we need to support. We need to work with them and engage them so that we can ensure that Australia is a leading nation and ensure that there is a future for our young people,” Mr Conaghan said.
Liberal MP James Stevens hit back at claims the federal government is doing nothing to support the industry, pointing to the likes of the research and development tax incentive and the export market development grants.
None of these policies are targeted directly at the game development sector, which also can’t access the tax offsets on offer to the screen industry.
“There is already good support for the gaming sector from both the Commonwealth government and the state government. At the Commonwealth level we are doing a lot of things generally that are opportunities for the gaming industry to use that Commonwealth support to access export markets,” Mr Stevens said.
“I see a very exciting future for the gaming sector and probably the creative sector in this country and in particular in South Australia. We need the industry economies of scale and the workforce capabilities in place as well as support from the state and Commonwealth governments to see this industry grow. I’m very confident that it will.”
Labor MP Susan Templeman said the Coalition has “missed a massive opportunity” to support the sector over its recent time in government.
Fellow Labor MP Josh Burns said that a “little bit of government investment would go a long way to create jobs and help build this wonderful local industry”.
Late last year Mr Watts, along with Liberal Senator James McGrath, formed the Parliamentary Friends of Video Games in an effort to educate politicians on the sector and push for greater support.