Bob Carr, political leader of New South Wales, the Australian film industry's most significant state, today wrote to Screen Actors Guild (SAG) president Melissa Gilbert to urgently verify that Australian SAG members are able to work on Australian films without being paid SAG rates.

Were this not the case, his letter said, the cultural implications of SAG's new global employment rule that took effect today were "alarming" and would "devastate" local productions.

SAG rates were beyond the means of Australian independent producers and this new rule would prevent them engaging Australian actors from working in their own country.

A raft of Australian actors who have recently gained internationally acclaim are generously agreeing to also star in local films at rates substantially lower than those they are paid for most US films.

Examples include Toni Collette in Dirty Deeds, Guy Pearce and Rachel Griffith in The Hard Word, and Eric Bana in The Nugget, all of which got taxpayer funding via the Australian Film Finance Corporation in the last 18 months.

"Strict enforcement of the new rule would also restrict opportunities in this country for off-shore employment of US actors and technicians and put unacceptable constraints on the film industry," wrote Carr, who also suggested that needless hostility might be directed at US actors by their Australian colleagues as a result.

"The Screen Producers Association of Australia and its kindred bodies in Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as film industry unions in this state, share my concerns."