Today (April 8), Australia’s House of Representatives passed the legislation for the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, voting down a motion put forward by the opposition for the government to provide a stimulus package specific to the arts and entertainment sector.
Before the second reading of the bill in a special one-day sitting of Federal Parliament today, shadow arts minister Tony Burke moved a motion that “[called] 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 motion was voted down.
Amendment I moved for the government to provide a support package for the arts and entertainment sector which is largely ineligible for job seeker is defeated: 29-24#auspol
— Tony Burke (@Tony_Burke) April 8, 2020
When contacted for comment, representatives for the shadow arts minister directed NME Australia to a video of Burke in Parliament today.
“While some people want to think of this sector as celebrities, they are workers,” Burke said. “They are workers who are almost entirely ineligible for the scheme that is before us right now, because their work by and large goes to forward contracts. And they have forward contracts set up for the rest of the year, all of which have been cancelled because of decisions of government.”
“We’ve been saying from day one, ever since the rule came in restricting gatherings of more than 500 people, that this sector will be the first to get shut down and the last to get back on its feet.”
“When we had tough times in the bushfires, we turned to this sector, asked them to work for free,” Burke said. “Now they’re facing tough times and we’re leaving them out of the scheme.”
Watch the video below.
The Government's wage subsidy leaves workers in the arts and entertainment sector behind. This is a $50 billion industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Australians. They deserve as much support through this crisis as any other workers. That’s why I moved an amendment in Parliament today to have them included. The Government has just rejected it.
Posted by Tony Burke MP on Tuesday, April 7, 2020
The bill will now be sent to the Australian Senate.
Burke spoke to NME Australia last month about the issues the arts sector is currently facing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are watching a massive industry being closed down not because of a downturn, but because of a decision of a government,” he said in March.
“This the moment where they’re facing a crisis and the rest of Australia has to either stand with them or turn their backs.”
Advocacy groups, including the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, have also pushed for the government to broaden the JobKeeper criteria to include industry workers who currently fall through the cracks. Key groups of workers who weren’t covered included freelancers who are employed on short-term contracts by a company and casual workers who have been employed by a company for less than a year.
Yesterday (April 7), arts workers posted on social media with the #CreateAustraliasFuture hashtag, urging the government to include the ineligible workers in the JobKeeper criteria. On the same day, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed only 47 per cent of businesses in the arts and recreation industry were currently trading.
To date, the ILostMyGig Australia website has recorded a combined $330million in lost income from events cancelled due to the bushfires and pandemic. The website, maintained by the Australian Live Music Industry and Australian Festivals Association, recently called for a $750million stimulus package tailored directly to the sector.