Powderfinger bassist and live music venue owner John Collins has continued to criticise the Queensland state government for the apparent double-standard between restrictions on sports and live music in a new interview.
Speaking on TODAY, Collins reiterated that when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions, the treatment of the arts and sport is imbalanced, doubling down on statements he made on social media earlier this week.
South-East Queensland recently re-introduced some restrictions in the wake of a small number of positive cases, including live music venues being reduced to a capacity of one person per four square metres indoors.
However, the NRL Grand Final is set to go ahead at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane this Sunday (October 3) with a reduced capacity of 75 per cent, or just under 40,000 people.
“We’ve been running at a capacity of 30 per cent since December last year, and before that we were at 15 per cent,” Collins said on TODAY on Friday (October 1), speaking of the capacity restrictions for the Brisbane live venues he co-owns, The Triffid and Fortitude Music Hall.
“The announcement yesterday that the Grand Final would go to 75 per cent, and reduce us to go to 15 per cent, to me didn’t seem fair and really showed the true colours of what the state government thinks about music and the arts.”
Collins went on to call the restrictions “unworkable”, saying: “I didn’t think yesterday was a time to clip the music industry again… 40,000 people at Suncorp Stadium while we can’t operate for the next two weeks.”
Referencing the requirement that audience members must be seated, Collins said, “Everyone has to sit down, for starts. Young bands don’t want to have people sitting down at their show.”
“We’re in survival mode,” he continued, claiming that after a previous lockdown had lifted, the Fortitude Music Hall didn’t make “one cent” for a fortnight with the restrictions the venue had to contend with.
Collins also noted the impact the restrictions have taken on the mental health of those who work in the industry. “When the Premier says to Queenslanders and to the country, ‘We’re open! We’re back to normal! Everything’s great up here’, I’m going ‘you’re not understanding, Premier’.
“We’re not. We’re still at 30 per cent capacity. We can’t get any artists from across the border, let alone overseas… We’re really frustrated, and it means no-one cares about us.”
Collins stressed that he wasn’t criticising the NRL Grand Final, saying, “All I’m asking for is some even playing field between what sport gets and what the arts get.”
Watch the full interview below.
Collins has been a vocal advocate for the recovery of the live music industry in the midst of the pandemic for some time, even launching a ‘Play Fair’ campaign to help the cause back in March. A petition accompanying the campaign has almost garnered 30,000 signatures, including support from Powderfinger bandmate Bernard Fanning.
“There seems to be no equivalence between the way sport and the live music industry is treated, live entertainment in general,” Fanning wrote on social media at the time.
Collins met with members of the Queensland state government earlier this year, including COVID-19 recovery assistant minister Bart Mellish, in order to push for an ease of restrictions for live music venues.
Following the meeting, the government announced a funding program for the state’s live music venues, where venues could apply for grants of up to $80,000.