The Federal Government has unveiled its $250 million recovery package for the Australian arts and entertainment sector, which has been heavily impacted due to coronavirus-related lockdowns around the country.
The package is divided into four streams, and will include $75 million as part of a grants program available from next month for new concerts, tours, festivals and other events as restrictions are eased. There will be $90 million available in concessional loans to fund new productions, delivered through commercial banks with a 100% Commonwealth guarantee.
$50 million will be available to assist local film and television production, to be administered by Screen Australia. Finally, it will also include $35 million made available to directly assist Commonwealth-funded organisations struggling to stay afloat to get them up and running – including theatre, dance, music and circus.
“These measures will support a broad range of jobs from performers, artists and roadies, to front of house staff and many who work behind the scenes, while assisting related parts of the broader economy, such as tourism and hospitality,” commented Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“This package is as much about supporting the tradies who build stage sets or computer specialists who create the latest special effects, as it is about supporting actors and performers in major productions.”
“Many in the sector will find a new way to operate while the current social distancing measures remain in place and while that won’t be easy, I know there’s a strong desire among all Australians to see the return of gigs, performances and events.”
A Creative Economy Taskforce will be set up to help administer the funding, in partnership with the Australia Council.
The announcement comes after talks Morrison has had with reps from the entertainment sector, including the newly-spawned Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF) supergroup executive committee.
While many in the arts sector have welcomed the recovery package, multiple bodies have slammed the government for its long period of inaction and failure to target individual arts workers in need of immediate assistance.
Dean Ormston, CEO of peak body APRA AMCOS said the package “comes at an urgent time not just for the music sector, but the broader creative economy. Importantly the announcement reflects the recognition by the Morrison Government of the enormous contribution the arts, entertainment and creative industries contribute to the economy and our way of life.”
Live Performance Australia’s Chief Executive, Evelyn Richardson said, “Our industry was the first to be profoundly affected by the public health restrictions to combat COVID-19, and faces a longer road to recovery as restrictions are progressively lifted around the country.”
“This is a vital injection of capital funding which will help live performance companies reopen and start to rebuild after the impact of the overnight loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue over the past three months,” she added.
However, Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) Chief Executive Paul Murphy said the government had been far too slow in responding to the crisis facing the arts and entertainment sector.
“While any form of assistance is welcome, this package is another slap in the face for the thousands of arts and entertainment workers who are not eligible for the JobKeeper income subsidy scheme,” he said in a statement released today.
Mr Murphy said that while the grants and loans available through the package will help organisations affected by the pandemic, there is no direct relief for freelance and casual workers who have lost employment.
“These workers are the backbone of the industry. It is essential to provide capital injections and financing and investment incentives to the bodies that provide employment in the industry, but there is no point in doing that if you don’t have a workforce. The stark reality is that we are in danger of losing a generation of creative professionals in this country without an adequate income support scheme.”
Mr Murphy said the biggest help the government could provide for workers in the industry is to change the eligibility rules for JobKeeper so arts and entertainment workers are eligible for the subsidy.
Shadow Minister for the Arts Tony Burke welcomed the news while also acknowledging the length of time taken to deliver a targeted support package for the industry, pointing out that action may never have taken place without campaigns mounted by the sector.
“For months, Scott Morrison and his ministers stubbornly insisted it wasn’t necessary – that somehow an industry that had been completely shut down by coronavirus restrictions didn’t need any extra assistance. This totally unnecessary delay has done enormous damage to this industry and its workers.”
“We remain concerned that there is still no direct support for the workers themselves, many of whom miss out on JobKeeper but won’t be able to return to work anytime soon. We will also be consulting with businesses in the industry about the implications of the fact that the largest part of this announcement will saddle companies with increased debt.”
In particular, Burke commented that Labor will be consulting with entertainment venues about how the package will interact with them, saying, “If venues don’t make it to the other side of this crisis, there will be no recovery.”