To The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
The Hon Michael McCormack MP
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Regional Development
Thursday 26 March 2020
Dear Prime Minister,
At this most debilitating time in Australia’s cultural life, our creative, cultural and entertainment industries require urgent support to ensure that jobs and infrastructure survive to inspire Australians through this crisis – and well beyond.
Our organisations represent the full diversity of Australia’s creative, cultural and entertainment industries. Cultural and creative activity contributes in excess of $112 billion to Australia’s economy each year, employing hundreds of thousands with a high proportion of sole trader contractors, SMEs and casuals. Our audiences, here and around the world number in the millions. Every day, we entertain, educate and inspire.
In the past fortnight, we have seen our self-generated income for the year vanish. Work that has taken years to develop has been lost. Livelihoods are jeopardised. Businesses closed. Whether it’s a bookshop, a gallery, a live music venue, a cinema, a theatre, or dance school, Australia’s cultural life is in tatters.
As each day passes, hundreds of businesses, spaces, venues, productions, events, festivals and cultural outlets close. As each day passes, the likelihood of reopening or restarting diminishes. The scale of loss across the cultural and creative sector is unprecedented – and devastating. Culturally and economically.
There are also dire impacts on First Nations culture and a great risk to Elders as the source of cultural knowledge and storytelling. As a national priority, we must ensure our First Nations Elders’ safety to prevent loss of cultural knowledge. First Nations Elders are the holders of our Nation’s oldest culture and stories. Without them, we have no future.
Our work relies on gatherings, and national and international touring, both small and large, in remote locations, in regions and in cities. We were the first industry to be hit with announcements of cancellations and closures making front-page news across the country. Our venues and other programs have been closed down by government order, without any industry support. And we will be one of the last able to trade again.
We commend the work of Minister Fletcher in hosting industry-wide roundtables and bringing forward an extraordinary Meeting of Cultural Ministers. We commend the city, state and federal agencies, including the Australia Council, who have already made announcements on adjustments to their funding programs and existing relationships.
We note however that funded organisations comprise a minor segment of the creative, cultural and entertainment industries. Over 90% of our artists, creators and businesses are not in receipt of public funding and are not able to benefit from these measures. Other relief measures already announced which do not adequately address our specific industry conditions include:
- The PAYG and NFP cashflow relief for businesses requires submitting March activity statements and then awaiting a late April refund, thereby impacting perilously on cashflow at this most critical time. It’s right now that companies are facing closure, and this payment alone will close many businesses permanently;
- Artists and artsworkers with disabilities, Australians stranded overseas, and those whose partner’s or parents’ income exceed too low a threshold, are not eligible to receive extra income support payments, with no extra payments for those eligible available prior to late April;
- Income support payments to job seekers separates arts workers from organisations in ways that wage subsidies would not, dispersing creative teams and imperilling business viability.
Both individually and together, we have taken immediate action to support our industries at this perilous time:
- We have channelled urgent government information across our networks
- We have supported people who’ve lost jobs and whose companies are on the brink
- We have surveyed our industries and quantified COVID-19 impacts on jobs and revenue, and have provided these details to the Office for the Arts and the Australia Council for the Arts for coordination on immediate action.
At this time, every single day counts. Each passing day means the permanent closure of another bookshop, regional theatre, gallery, live music venue, production or festival, and with them the knowledge and infrastructures that have been built over many years. The risk for all Australians is that they will never open again. Whole centres, towns and suburbs risk losing any cultural fabric that remains.
A legacy like this will take a generation to repair.
Targeted stimulus to a value of 2% of the $111.7 billion industry is required, including:
- The protection of First Peoples cultural knowledge with targeted support for all impacted First Nations artists and organisations, who employ the most COVID-19-vulnerable people in our country
- $1.5bn in cash injection payments to affected businesses across all sectors so that they can retain staff, adapt programs including through the use of technologies, and redevelop audiences – ensuring that businesses do not lose permanently; importantly, these stimulus payments will allow professional membership bodies to pay affected artists directly and efficiently
- $180m for the Australia Council to boost capacity by supporting organisations who are funded specifically for their industry development work
- Rent relief and security for lease holders in both government-owned and private tenancies
- Wage subsidies that retain people in their workplace, better positioning organisations to successfully rebuild, and in turn ensuring livelihoods aren’t permanently lost
- Review and broaden the eligibility requirements for income support payments to ensure that, where wage subsidies are not available, support can be accessed by all sole traders and SMEs
- Enhanced tax incentives to motivate private giving and investment in artworks and industry development
- Permanently remove the Efficiency Dividend, which is punitively compounding the damage to national and state cultural organisations
- $30m towards the Regional Arts Fund to ensure long-term recovery that inspires regional culture and drives regional livelihoods
- $40m investment in Support Act and the Artists’ Benevolent Fund to urgently redress the mental health crisis, noting that tragedies have already occured
- On industry advice, creating well-designed long-term stimulus measures to avoid industry collapse and inspire innovation – including an impactful public campaign to rebuild confidence.
As an immediate step towards strengthening industry confidence, we encourage you to issue a public statement recognising the value of our industry to all Australians, and the debilitating impacts of COVID-19 on the arts, cultural and entertainment industries and the creative sector as a whole. This message would affirm your commitment to the livelihoods and the infrastructure that inspires the nation. It would also be welcomed by the many industries whose work is dependent on our success, including hospitality and tourism – especially regionally, given all of these interdependent industries are yet to recover from the impacts of summer’s fires, floods and storms.
Australia needs our creative, cultural and entertainment industries to be ready for reactivation as the nation emerges from COVID-19. We urge you to act now to secure the future of Australia’s cultural life.
Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of Western Australia
All The Queen’s Men
Alstonville Dance Studio (Northern Rivers NSW)
Art Association of Australia and New Zealand
Art on the Move
Artists’ Benevolent Fund
Arts Access Australia
Arts Industry Council of SA
Arts Industry Council of Victoria
Arts Law Centre of Australia
Arts Mid North Coast
Arts North West
Association of Artist Managers
Australian Craft and Design Centres
Australian Design Centre
Australian Festivals Association
Australian Independent Record Labels Association
Australian Library and Information Association
Australian Major Performing Arts Group
Australian Museums & Galleries Association
Australian Music Industry Network
Australian Network for Art and Technology
Australian Print Workshop
Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA)
Australian Society of Authors
Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative
Brisbane Writers Festival
Creative Recovery Network
Critical Stages Touring
Dance Integrated Australia
Diversity Arts Australia
Electronic Music Conference
Flying Arts Alliance
Footscray Community Arts Centre
Incite Arts, Alice Springs
JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design
Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery
Live Music Office
Live Performance Australia
Melbourne Art Review
Moogahlin Performing Arts
National Association for the Visual Arts
National Writers Centre Network
NorthSite Contemporary Arts
Performing Arts Connections Australia
Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA)
Public Galleries Queensland
Regional Arts Australia
Regional Arts WA
Screen Producers Australia
Select Music Agency
SLAM (Save Live Australia’s Music)
Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group
The Childers Group
Theatre Network Australia
University Art Museums Australia (UAMA)
Victorian Music Development Office
WAM Western Australia Music
Women’s Art Register