Alex Lahey pens open letter to Scott Morrison demanding financial support for the arts sector

"The conclusion of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker scheme has neglected an entire industry that continues to be unable to keep or seek jobs for the foreseeable future"

Alex Lahey has penned an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling for Federal Government-led schemes to financially support the arts and entertainment industries during the coronavirus pandemic.

An open letter posted to her socials today (August 16), saw Lahey question what the Federal Government’s roadmap is for providing support to Australia’s entertainment sector, whilst naming a number of issues she claims arts workers are faced with frequently.

“Tens of thousands of gigs are cancelled with every month that passes. The necessary snap lockdown strategies, in particular, bring a complete lack of ability to plan and budget for gigs and event, causing collective mental health and confidence to continue to slip with every postponement and cancellation,” she wrote.

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“The federal grants program structure has failed to prop up our industry – the trickle-down intentions of this scheme have not come to fruition, leaving performers, crews and venues empty handed.”

Lahey goes on to reference a letter written to Arts Minister Paul Fletcher by Sophie Kirov of touring agency Lost Motel, which argues a disparity in the dollar amount allocated in four rounds of RISE funding to how much has actually been received by music workers and businesses.

Kirov claims the contemporary live music sector has been allocated $44million in funding across 69 events, but only ten of those events have seen suppliers and crew get paid – representing a total of $6million. She states the remaining $38million “sit untouched in the bank accounts of the promoters of cancelled, postponed, or entirely unannounced beneficiaries while our industry crumbles”.

Lahey added in her letter: “Additionally, the conclusion of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker scheme has neglected an entire industry that continues to be unable to keep or seek jobs for the foreseeable future.”

As such, Lahey has proposed the Morrison government implements an insurance scheme and wage subsidies program for the arts and entertainment industry, to assist in getting funds allocated directly to workers.

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“There need to be structures in place that ensure prompt and direct reparative financial support for business and individuals in the event that gigs, tours or festivals cannot move forward due to outbreaks. Further to this, a wage subsidy system will allow for workers and performers to make ends meet during the inevitable capacity restrictions as we emerge from lockdowns,” Lahey wrote.

“This system will keep venues alive; it will keep performers on stage, it will keep crews in jobs – and most importantly, it will keep our rich, vibrant and unique performance culture flowing through the veins of our country.”

Lahey has tagged a number of members of parliament in her post, including Anthony Albanese, Adam Bandt, Tanya Plibersek and Josh Frydenberg. At the time of writing, none have publicly responded.

Last week, the Federal Government announced it will contribute $20million to Support Act – an organisation that provides mental health support and financial relief to music industry workers.

“People have used up their savings and other income streams they might have had; they’ve started to dry up,” Support Act CEO Clive Miller told The Age.

“There doesn’t seem to be a clear road map out of this and I think it’s having a huge impact on not only people’s mental health but on their economic viability. Anyone in the sector is realistically expecting to struggle for some time to come.”

This funding was announced as part of a total $35million package, with the remaining value going towards the government’s own Sustainability Fund.

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