The Federal Government has handed the arts industry a quarter of a billion dollar helping-hand in the form of a new COVID-19 recovery package.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the package is designed to alleviate the pain the industry has felt and help rebuild a vibrant entertainment and arts industry post-pandemic.
The arts industry was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, with a number of workers ineligible for the government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy plan, due to the nature of their work.
Included in the package is:
$75 million slated for a competitive grants program, designed at promoting new festivals, events, tours and concerts as the government eases social distancing regulations. When crowds are once again able to assemble, the government has grants anywhere between $75,000 – $2 million on offer.
$90 million has been reserved for concessional loans to help fund new productions. These loans will be delivered through commercial banks, so long as they possess a Commonwealth guarantee.
$50 million for film and television producers that weren’t able to claim insurance payments due to COVID-19, and help them secure new finance to kickstart production.
$35 million for direct financial assistance for organisations like theatre, dance, music and circus companies that have struggled to stay alive.
The government has said that a ministerial taskforce will be established to assess applicants of grants and loans “in coming weeks.”
Scott Morrison has said that “this package is as much about supporting the tradies who build stage sets or computer specialists who create the latest in 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,” Morrison explained, “and while it won’t be easy, I know there’s a strong desire among all Australians to see the return of gigs, performances and events.”
“That’s why, again, I’ll be raising this with the premiers and chief ministers, being able to tell [artists] when they can fill a venue, when that can happen or how many,” he continued to explain.
The PM conceded that the early rounds of social distancing restrictions that allow for 25% capacity of a venue won’t allow certain productions to become viable.
“Getting some certainty around when venues can operate at different levels of restrictions is almost, if not more important than what we’ve done today.”
The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) has said the stimulus measures and grants would go a “long way” in the sector’s recovery efforts.
Chief executive of ARIA, Dan Rosen has said that “this is a crucial package for so many across our industry, and it is an important acknowledgement of the importance of music to the community and wellbeing of all Australians.”
Tony Burke, Labor’s Arts spokesman has criticised the government’s program for not being comprehensive enough.
“If they think this is enough, at the very least, it’s naive,” he said. “Without re-looking at eligibility for JobKeeper and extending it beyond September, then you simply can’t even guarantee that the required workforce makes it through this period within the same industry.”
Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator has said that “unfortunately, it really misses the mark.”
“The amount is way too small to really make the difference we need and it’s coming so late after the sector has been struggling. It was one of the first industries hit as we went into the COVID-19 lockdown and it’s going to be the last sector to come out.”
“It’s simply not good enough,” she concluded.