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Rudd and Garrett disappoint visual artists with flawed resale royalty scheme

The bill to reward visual artists with royalties for the resale of their work passed by the Senate today will mean many artists will wait as long as half a century to receive a single cent in recognition of their success.

The Australian Greens moved amendments to the bill to ensure that visual artists receive royalties from the first resale of their work, instead of having to wait for a second resale as they do under the Rudd Government's scheme. However, the Government and Opposition opposed the amendments even though the legislation puts Australia out of step with accepted practice around the world, disadvantaging Australian artists.

"Once again we see the Rudd Government's spin over substance approach, claiming to be concerned about a problem but presenting a solution which is patently not up to the task," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne said.

"Australia's celebrated visual artists, from Sydney to Kintour and Melbourne to Warakurna, have been waiting for far too long for recognition and recompense for their success.

"Just as with the climate crisis, Minister Garrett and his colleagues seem to think that talking about the problem and proposing some kind of solution is enough. It is not. The solution has to actually work.

"This scheme as it stands will make many artists wait decades for a second resale before they see a cent for their work which has been resold already, making a pretty profit for art dealers."

The Rudd Government's mismanagement of Senate business will result in the bill missing out on a full Senate debate. In spite of the Government's approach to the Greens' sensible amendments, the Greens have agreed to assure passage of the bill this year.

"The Resale Royalty Right bill has been before the parliament all year but the Government failed to bring it on for debate in the Senate. Now Minister Garrett has panicked about his failure to deliver on a promise and has asked for the bill to be rushed through."

Artists' advocacy groups have noted that, in the last decade, only 8% of Australian artworks have been resold. At that rate, it would take more than half a century for even half of Australian artworks to be resold.

The Government's claim that applying the resale royalty to first resale of existing artworks may be unconstitutional is vigorously disputed and easily remedied with a compensation clause. Should the High Court ever determine compensation is payable, it is likely to be in the order of $3 million a year, a small price to pay to give visual artists the recognition they deserve.

The Greens' amendments would have:
• Ensured that visual artists receive royalty payments for the first resale of their work, instead of waiting for second and subsequent sales;
• Required the Government to pay the minimal compensation to vendors that would be due should the High Court at any point rule that compensation is payable; and
• Sought to enable communal ownership of resale royalty rights by indigenous groups where appropriate.

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