Australian music organisations demand further action from Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher in open letter

Responding to Fletcher's op-ed in the Guardian Australia this week

Australian music organisations have signed a new open letter demanding further action from Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher to support the arts industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes in response to an op-ed written by the MP earlier this week defending the government’s $27 million arts sector stimulus.

Fletcher claimed the “government has deliberately structured a range of support arrangements which responds to this variety of employment arrangements”, referring to Jobseeker and Jobkeeper welfare payments.

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Close to 100 organisations, including APRA AMCOS, Australian Music Industry Network, Music Australia and Rockwiz, signed the response letter published in Guardian Australia today. It points to a previous call for targeted stimulus to a value of 2% of the $111.7 billion local arts industry, and says Fletcher’s emphasis on Jobseeker and Jobkeeper payments is “optimistic” but leaves many arts workers out.

“We are running out of time, however, to address Australia’s $111.7bn creative industry comprehensively,” they wrote.

“The exclusions from jobkeeper eligibility are perilous. Artists and arts workers engaged casually for less than 12 months can’t access income support. Every exhibition, every show, every festival, every gig you’ve ever experienced relies heavily on these experts. If they instead join the jobseeker queues, they jeopardise their employer’s future as well as their own, because they’re draining creative businesses of specialist talent.”

The letter also claimed 70% of artists who earn a living beyond their creative work do so through teaching, with universities and their galleries excluded from the Jobkeeper payment. They still welcomed Jobseeker and Jobkeeper payments, but wrote they are “not an investment in the industry”. A call to double the funding of the Australia Council for the Arts was called a “vital first step”.

The letter said Fletcher’s praise of livestreams and new digital means of performance ignores that “digitising work isn’t always an option”, along with the difficulty to monetise such methods.

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“Artists and organisations are foregoing ticket sales, copyright payments, royalties and all the other ways that their income is generated,” they wrote.

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