Zombie report gets a resurrection

Stuart Kennedy

A recommendation from a long buried Senate report to reinstate a Federal funding program for the local video games industry got a thumbs up from another parliamentary report this week.

Meanwhile, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam once again chided Arts Minister Senator Mitch Fifield for going missing in action on an original Senate Inquiry report that dates way back in 2015.

The games industry funding debate goes back to the demise of the Australian Interactive Games Fund (AIGF) which got whacked in the Abbott/Hockey ‘horror’ budget of 2014.

Reviving the Undead: The zombie games report still creeps around the Parliament

The $20 million AIGF was cranked up by then Labor Arts Minister Simon Crean in 2012. It provided $5 million a year for games development in the first two years and $10 million in the third year. The 2014 budget snuffed out that final $10 million.

In 2015, WA senator Scott Ludlam led a Senate Inquiry into the local video games industry which was released in April 2016. Among other suggestions, that report recommended the Government bring back a funding scheme, as well as tax offsets and other measures.

Since its release, the Senate Inquiry has languished in a zombie-like state while interested parties wait for the Coalition government to respond. So far, there has been no formal response.

The resurrection push for the AIGF scored another boost this week when the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training presented the findings on its Inquiry into ‘Innovation and Creativity: A Workforce for the New Economy’.

The Deputy Chair of the Inquiry, Labor Shadow Assistant Minister Terri Butler presented the Committee’s findings in Parliament on Monday and its recommendation 37 which asks that the Federal government introduce a funding scheme based on the former AIGF.

“I am very pleased that the report recommends introducing a funding scheme based on the former Australian Interactive Games Fund which was unfortunately cut in the 2014 Budget. At the time I spoke out against those cuts and I am pleased this report recommends the reinstatement of that scheme,” Ms Butler told the House of Representatives on Monday.

In the Senate on Wednesday last week, Senator Ludlam lambasted the Coalition and in particular Senator Fifield for letting the original Senate inquiry report run dead for over 400 days.

“When a Senate committees goes away, does a report, tables it and comes up with recommendations, as a courtesy – even if the government disagrees with the recommendations – you get a report back from the government, saying: ‘Thank you for your work. Here is what we are going to do with your proposals.’ Then, 411 days later, that document still does not exist. We are wondering how much longer Senator Fifield expects it is going to take to respond to the eight recommendations,” Senator Ludlam told the Senate.

Senator Ludlam went on to says the global games industry had grown to more than $100 billion in annual revenue since the report was released.

“That exceeds the expectations the committee set down in the report, which was $96 billion by 2018. It has come in at least 12 months ahead of the projections that we thought of,” Senator Ludlam told the Senate.

Even if all you are interested in and all you care about are the revenues that can be gained from the global industry, you would have thought that there was an important story here.”

In the end, Senator Ludlam was hopeful of a positive response from Senator Fifield.

“We are up to day 411. I suspect there is something good happening behind the scenes. I suspect Senator Fifield is working on something. Maybe there is going to be something in the winds. I cannot imagine that we could go through all this work and have it come to nothing. But, for heaven’s sake, give us a sign,” Senator Ludlam said.

Back in May, Senator Ludlam had attempted to get a Senate vote on a motion that would have ordered the government to table its response to the report but it was it did not go ahead due to procedural issues.

Like Senator Ludlam, the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), has grown increasingly frustrated with the drawn out response to the report.

IGEA CEO Ron Curry wrote an open letter to Senator Fifield in late May outlining the association’s concerns.

“Our hopes were up on 29 April 2016, when the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications presented its report on the future of Australia’s video game development industry and followed with eight recommendations for the government to help the sector to reach its potential. We thought we’d finally received the recognition from government that we needed and deserved.

“It’s been 390 days since the Senate Standing Committee handed down its report, and you are yet to respond. Minister, how did we get here?” Mr Curry wrote in his letter.

“We know that Australians love high quality, locally-produced content, and are consuming it in more ways than ever before. We know that Australia has a strong appetite for innovation and developing new sectors. To that end, supporting the Australian video games industry should be a no brainer,” Mr Curry wrote.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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