Four months after the Federal Government announced a rescue package for the Coronavirus-hit arts sector, less than 20% of the funding has been allocated - with all monies distributed going to the screen industry.
In June, after months of urging from across the arts and entertainment industry, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the $250 million rescue package.
The funding included $75 million for the live music sector, with grants of between $75,000 and $2 million promised.
However, as reported by Guardian Australia, in Senate estimates last week Government officials initially struggled to provide any precise figure on how much of the pledged emergency funds has been spent.
Challenging Simon Atkinson, Secretary of the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young asked “is it because it’s zero?”
Senator Hanson-Young went on to ask “not much has been spent yet, has it?”, prompting the Department’s Chief Operating Officer, Pip Spence, to assure the hearing that “some money has gone out” but she was unable to provide a figure.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications returned to the hearing later in the morning with a figure of $49.5 million, less than one-fifth of the total emergency funding announced almost four months ago.
It was revealed that all of this $49.5 million had gone to Screen Australia under the package’s temporary interruption fund, to help 20 film and television productions in securing finance after losing access to insurance due to the pandemic.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young went on to say “it’s hardly coming to the rescue if eight months after being hit by COVID19 restrictions the industry is still waiting for support. It’s like promising a struggling swimmer a lifebuoy and not throwing it out till they’re too weak to hold onto it.”
Speaking at last week’s Australian Events Awards, Jessica Ducrou, co-Chief Executive of festival Splendour in the Grass, welcomed crowds returning to sporting fixtures, but noted “(but) there has been no such assistance for our Australian music festivals, which employed 9,176 FTE workers and injected over $2.7 billion into the Australian economy in 2019.”
An earlier $27 million emergency relief package for Indigenous and regional visual arts and the music industry outreach program Support Act announced in April had been fully allocated, the Department told the hearing.
Coinciding with the rescue package announcement in June, Federal Arts minister, Paul Fletcher, announced the establishment of a creative economy taskforce to provide advice on and support for the implementation of the $250 million package.
The taskforce, chaired by the Museum of Contemporary Art Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor and comprising a further 19 leaders across the performing, visual arts, recording and film industries, met for the first time on 15th September and again as of yesterday.
The arts rescue package is not the only Federal Government rescue initiative that is failing to allocate funds. The Coronavirus Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Guarantee Scheme Loan for small businesses is reportedly undersubscribed with participating banks citing lack of information from the Federal Government as the reason.
Image: The Palace Theatre in Melbourne.
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