Federal government remains tight lipped on potential arts rescue package

The federal government says it is considering ways to support the arts, entertainment and film sector which has ground to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sydney Opera House keeps a single light globe on during the coronavirus shutdown as part of a long running theatre tradition.

The Sydney Opera House keeps a single light globe on during the coronavirus shutdown as part of a long running theatre tradition. Source: Supplied

The arts sector has cautiously welcomed news the federal government is considering ways to support the recovery of the industry crushed by coronavirus restrictions. 

While galleries have been allowed to reopen, theatres remain closed in NSW and Victoria and they face strict limits on crowd numbers for some time.

The Australian newspaper has reported the government is considering providing cash injections to subsidise film, theatre productions and music festivals to help revive the $111 billion industry.

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Live Performance Australia chief executive Evelyn Richardson told SBS News says the priority it to ensure venues can reopen and get people back to work. 

The National Gallery of Australia reopened its doors on Tuesday.
The National Gallery of Australia reopened its doors on Tuesday. Source: AAP


“It is absolutely vital now that government provide a targeted strategic package to the arts and entertainment industry so that we can move forward,” she said. 

Ms Richardson warned operating at reduced capacity was not commercially viable for most events, which usually require up to 75 per cent attendance just to break even.

She said other measures like an extension of wage subsidy support beyond its September deadline and additional funding for the Australia Council for the Arts should also be considered to bolster the struggling sector. 

“The industry is very cash poor right now, we are burning through cash, we are burning through reserves,” she said.



"The best investment we think from government is going to come through that business reactivation and recovery funding. Certainly there are gaps in the JobKeeper program and we’ve raised those with government." 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed 53 per cent of small arts and recreation businesses have closed their doors. 

 

Film and television actor Nicholas Hope is among those whose work has dried up because of the coronavirus.

Hope, who has been an actor for more than 30 years and is an organiser for the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance, said many workers and businesses in the industry had seen their income disappear overnight. 

“If the industry is just scuppered - it is not going to be able to bring itself back,” he told SBS News. 

“It needs government support in a time such as this.”

Actor Nicholas Hope says government support is needed to help revive the arts sector.
Actor Nicholas Hope says government support is needed to help revive the arts sector. Source: Supplied


The Opposition has called for a more tailored wage subsidy to ensure the industry can survive the pandemic. 

There are concerns that many entertainment workers on short-term or intermittent contracts have had difficulty qualifying for the JobKeeper wage scheme. 

“It’s extraordinary that we’re now in June and the government is now considering options to support the arts sector,” Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday.

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese.
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese. Source: AAP


Nation Association for the Visual Arts executive director Esther Anatolitis told SBS News they had also raised concerns over JobKeeper eligibility with the federal government.

“It is absolutely urgent everyday I hear from artists and organisations who are looking at folding who do not know what their future is. It is also urgent for all of Australia,” she said. 

Those who don't qualify for the $1,500 JobKeeper wage subsidy, can apply for JobSeeker welfare benefits for the unemployed of $1,100.

Arts Minister Paul Fletcher has remained tight lipped on any plans to help revive the industry. 

In response to questions about the possibility of an arts rescue package, Mr Fletcher on Tuesday said the government was "looking at the issues" and not ready to make any announcements.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday the government had been “looking closely” and holding discussions with the arts sector about what could be done to support the industry. 

Arts Minister Paul Fletcher speaks to the media the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.
Arts Minister Paul Fletcher speaks to the media the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Source: AAP


Mr Fletcher said support for the arts would be considered alongside other areas to be targeted such as housing and construction.

“COVID-19 has hit the arts sector very hard. There's no doubt about that," he said

"I understand people in the sector are very interested in and enthusiastic about, what is the path back and whether there's a role for government there."

Mr Fletcher said the government estimated the JobKeeper and JobSeeker funds had already injected between $4 billion to $10 billion into the arts industry.

“That’s the largest single ever Commonwealth injection into the sector,” he said. 


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4 min read
Published 3 June 2020 at 2:33pm
Source: SBS