The arts are the lifeblood of our nation. At a time of crisis, like the one we are currently facing, Australian stories have never been more important in promoting a sense of solidarity and togetherness.
Labor is acutely aware of the devastating impact the coronavirus crisis is having on the arts sector in Australia. Whether it is visual artists who cannot hold exhibitions, musicians who have had their gigs cancelled, lighting technicians and theatre ushers being stood down – there is no part of the arts sector that is unaffected.
We know that the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme does not meet the needs of everyone in the arts sector. In Parliament, Labor moved an amendment to expand the coverage of the scheme so more workers in the arts and entertainment sector could benefit, and also called on the government to implement a specific relief package for the sector:
That this House:
calls on the Government to recognise that the Australian arts and entertainment sector needs a specific, tailored, fiscal response package to ensure its ongoing viability, given the structure of the JobKeeper payment has been designed in a way that leaves many workers in the sector ineligible.
The government voted against all Labor’s amendments, and this one failed 29 votes to 24.
It’s important to note that under the legislation, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has the power to expand the coverage of the wage subsidy scheme with the stroke of a pen – he confirmed this in Parliament. Therefore we would urge you to consider contacting the Treasurer’s office to pressure him to act.
The arts sector needs a specific, tailored relief package from the government, and it needs it now. Although the $27 million package announced last week will help some in the arts sector, it does not go far enough. More will have to be done to preserve Australia’s artists and the organisations who employ them, and Labor will not give up.
Labor is doing all it can to keep pressure on the government to act, and to make sure the arts sector is not forgotten in terms of receiving financial relief.
I know that this crisis is coming on top of years of public funding cuts which means the sector is incredibly vulnerable already, and I know morale in the sector has already suffered. The Australia Council’s recent decision to de-fund 49 small to medium arts organisations in the middle of this crisis shows just how dire a situation we are in – it is absurd the government has not delivered them more funding.
On top of urging the government to take action, Labor has urged everyday Australians to do what they can to support the arts sector, like buying merch from bands whose gigs have been cancelled. We have also written to commercial radio stations, Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix and Stan urging them to promote Australian content to help the sector in a time of need.
Support is available for the music sector through Support Act, and don’t hesitate to access support like Lifeline, on 13 11 14 if you are facing crisis.
This is a rapidly evolving situation, and Labor will maintain constant contact with the sector to ensure we are responding to your needs as they evolve. Please keep in touch.