Entertainment union voices sector’s concerns at Senate hearing: “Many businesses will not survive”

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance spoke to senators on Tuesday

An Australian senate committee has heard the concerns of the live entertainment sector as details of a government support package appear to be on the horizon.

During a Senate committee hearing into COVID-19 yesterday (June 23), representatives from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) detailed how the pandemic has affected workers from the sector and claimed the government’s efforts, including the JobKeeper program, weren’t going as far as it could.

MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said without tailored government support, the sector will feel the consequences for years to come.

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“As we meet today, we are yet to see any significant announcement of a targeted arts and entertainment industry support package from the Federal Government,” Murphy said.

“In the absence of that, many businesses will not survive, a generation of creative workers will be lost to the industry and our country will be immeasurably the poorer for all of that.”

Murphy also acknowledged the $32million in support from the Commonwealth – including $5million in grants from the Australia Council – which was quickly overshadowed by efforts of state governments which “outlaid nearly five times that amount”.

“They’ve been absent for far too long, and it is well past time for them to intervene with some specific industry support,” he said.

The union referenced a members survey, which found from more than 1,000 respondents, 60.9 per cent had no significant income, and 28 per cent who had sought JobKeeper had been successful. Ruth Hazleton, another MEAA representative, said that for live music the issues were there long before the pandemic forced venue doors to close.

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“The Australian music sector for independent musicians was on its knees prior to COVID and prior to the bushfires. I must say that’s partly because of successive government decisions to cut arts funding,” Hazleton said.

“Because of COVID there are restrictions on space, whether it’s on stage or whether we have to play in reduced numbers to reduced audiences, and whether that is financially viable for venues is a question that nobody is able to answer at the moment. The same goes for festivals.”

Yesterday (June 23), Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed a relief package for the arts and entertainment sector was on its way following a meeting with members from the industry, including ARIA and touring companies. As AAP reported today (June 24), Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said details on the package will be revealed in the coming days.

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