A motion, presented by West Australian Greens Senator, John Steele, has been passed and will require the government to reconsider its response to the Senate report on Australian video game development.
Speaking openly and passionately, Senator Steele said:
Let me start off this evening by saying: about goddamn time! It has taken no less than 642 days—for the benefit of those listening and watching at home, that’s the same duration necessary for a trip to and back from the planet of Mars—for the government to table their response to the inquiry into the future of Australia’s video game development industry. It has also required a lot of what I will charitably call encouragement by both myself and my predecessor Senator Ludlam. Also I must acknowledge our colleagues in the ALP. It has been quite an extraction process, and the result at the end of the day is truly uninspiring, disappointing and yet not all that surprising from a government who could be well summarised by all of those words.
Six hundred and forty-two days: that is how long has passed since the Senate inquiry into this sector of our economy returned a universally supported report—including from LNP senators—which recommended the reinstatement of support to the video game industry. However, all this government could bring itself to do was note these recommendations. So, in turn, I would like to note the government’s lack of understanding of the video game industry. I would like also to note the government’s lack of concern for the future of the video game industry in Australia. I would like to note the outrage of this community at the government’s disrespect, contempt and outright ignorance of their creative, cultural and economic contribution to the Australian nation.
While I’m at it, I would also like to note that this government seems to be willing to give nearly $4 billion to prop Australia up to the position of one of the world’s chief warmongers and merchants of death but can find only $17,000 to support the Games Developers’ Association of Australia to attend the 2018 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. If that doesn’t tell you something about the priorities of this government and its painful lack of imagination, then I don’t know what does.
This period of time is a long one in game development. It is a long time for the industry to wait for a response that existed six months earlier than when it arrived. It is a long time to wait to hear about whether this government has any care, investment or, indeed, intention to support the industry. Most of all, it is a particularly long time to wait to hear the bitterly disappointing news that the government has no intention to attempt to undo some of the damage that it has already inflicted on the industry.
Of course, it is not as long as the 3.75 years since the coalition announced that it would cancel the Australian Interactive Games Fund halfway through its three-year funding cycle, ignorantly blowing away support for the industry and extracting savings for its infamous 2014 budget, without consultation or consideration of future implications. The act of cancelling this fund, along with the subsequent act of refusing to respond to the unanimous inquiry, before ultimately denying any support to this industry, are further attacks by this government on the future of a potentially booming and blooming industry—not just digital but also creative.
Of course, I can see why the government might be terrified of this report and its recommendations. It suggests that they might need to roll out, fundamentally, a 21st-century broadband infrastructure network, invest in the digital economy and work towards supporting diverse and fair workplaces. In short, it describes a world in which the listless, unimaginative and, frankly, lost husk that is the current Australian Liberal Party is rather surplus to requirements and direly in need of upgrade.
Finally, I would like to do what the government could not bring itself to do, and that is to note the positive contributions that the video game industry make and how important they are to Australia. They are, without doubt or dispute, extraordinarily culturally significant. They shape young minds and tell stories, and we must have Australian voices and stories conveyed through this medium into the future. They are artistically significant. They form part of our overall artistic landscape, bridging and feeding into other artistic communities and mediums. And they are economically significant—they form part of our digital economy and our future. They are, as you might say, innovative. I would have thought the Prime Minister would want to get on board with something like that, particularly considering that the industry is worth over $100 billion a year globally and that we could have a slice of it. The Australian Greens, once again, call on the government to make some attempt to haul itself into the 21st century and support this amazing industry which bridges art, culture and technology and presents so many opportunities for Australia and the Australian community.
The motion as amended is as follows:
That the Senate—
(i) the unanimous findings of the report of the Environment and Communications References Committee, Game on: more than playing around -The future of Australia’s video game development industry, received on 29 April 2016,
(ii) that, on 13 June 2017, the Senate agreed to a motion moved by Senator Ludlam, requiring the Minister for Communications to table the Government’s response by no later than 3 pm on 14 June 2017,
(iii) that, on 24 October 2017, Senator Fifield stated at supplementary budget estimates in response to questioning by Senator Urquhart that processes for a whole-of-government response were ongoing and included his input,
(iv) that, on 5 December 2017, the Senate agreed to a motion, moved by Senator Steele-John and co-sponsored by Senator O’Neill, requiring the Minister for Communications to table the Government’s response by no later than 3 pm on 6 December 2017,
(v) that, on 6 December 2017, the minister stated that a response would be tabled prior to the end of 2017,
(vi) (v)that, on 31 January 2018, the minister finally released the Government response, in which the Government notes five of the eight recommendations, does not support two of the recommendations, and supports one recommendation in principle only; and
(b) calls on the Government to reconsider its response to the Senate inquiry into the future of Australia’s video game development industry, and support both the unanimous recommendations of the committee and the Australian video games industry.
Now begins the waiting game yet again.