Australian official calls for end to 'Hobbit' spat

Says union boycott in N.Z. is 'threatening thousands' of jobs

"The Hobbit" dispute is getting political.

In Australia, the opposition spokesman for Workplace Relations, Sen. Eric Abetz, on Tuesday criticized the actions of that country's Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which has called for actors to boycott work on the Peter Jackson film.

MEAA is the parent body of NZ Actors Equity. The organizations want the production to sign a union agreement.

Abetz said the union's actions were "threatening thousands of Australian and New Zealand film industry jobs" and called on Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans to "intervene in his capacity as minister to ensure this project is not lost [to the region] and to safeguard the jobs of Australians employed in the film industry."

Evans did not respond to calls for a comment.

It's unclear how New Zealand losing the mega-budget "Hobbit" would harm Australians -- indeed, by some reports, Australia itself is seeking to land the project -- but it's obvious that such a loss would have an enormous effect on New Zealand. That country's prime minister and two other senior ministers are already attempting to mediate the unionization dispute and keep the production in New Zealand.

Back in Australia, Abetz also said, "The actions taken by MEAA may force the production out of the region entirely at a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, sparking a feeding frenzy around the world from other countries which would be more than happy to make the film."

He added, "Nobody wants this project lost to the region."

Well, that's not quite true. Across the world, a Scottish government spokesman was quick to extol the Elvish virtues of that kiltish land.

"Scotland is an attractive and highly competitive film location with stunning scenery and a skilled workforce. If there are any opportunities regarding ‘The Hobbit,' we would want to see Scotland benefit -- but we are currently not aware of any approach," said the spokesman, according to Scottish press reports.

Ireland, Canada and the Czech Republic are also reportedly vying for the production. "Hobbit" co-producer Philippa Boyens said Sunday that co-financier Warner Bros. was "running the numbers on five to six different locations."

Jonathan Handel in Los Angeles contributed to this report.