Federal government still hasn’t spent any of $250million arts relief package

Minister for the Arts Paul Fletcher has not yet approved funding guidelines

The federal government has not yet dispensed any of the $250million arts relief package announced in June, and it could be months before the sector receives it.

The package consists of grants and loans that aim to stimulate the sector after coronavirus lockdowns ease nationwide, and includes $75million for a competitive grants program to provide capital for new festivals, concerts, tours and events. It was announced after months of requests for help from the struggling arts and entertainment sector.

NME Australia has confirmed today (August 7) that the money has not yet been spent, and that funding guidelines have not yet been approved by Arts Minister Paul Fletcher.

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A spokesperson for Mr Fletcher said “[the] Minister received the grant guidelines yesterday (Thursday 6 August) and intends to assess them promptly with the expectation that they will be publicly released in coming days”.

In the Senate select committee on COVID-19 yesterday, the first assistant secretary for the arts, Stephen Arnott, said that once Mr Fletcher’s office approves funding guidelines it would be “eight to 12 weeks” before money was dispensed to the sector.

Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke tweeted criticism of the delays this morning.

“This is sadly typical of this Government: the delivery never matches the announcement, the reality never matches the promise. Australia’s arts and entertainment sector workers deserve much better than this,” he wrote.

The news comes as Melbourne suffers through Stage 4 lockdown restrictions, stifling even livestream performances.

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