Governments must bring forward performing arts funding now

The federal and state governments must bring forward $160 million in funding allocated to the performing arts sector this year to help the industry survive its massive exposure to coronavirus.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance acknowledges that many employers are doing the right thing and actively seeking to sustain payment of their employees for as long as possible. This goodwill will be remembered, but it has a limited duration.

But the union is deeply concerned that the Federal Minister for the Arts, Paul Fletcher, still does not grasp the urgency of the crisis’ impact on jobs, incomes and the viability of the sector.

Mr Fletcher’s statement following today’s meeting with sector bodies that “[t]he information [he] obtained today from [the] roundtable will feed into whole of Government planning on COVID-19 responses” does not reflect the gravity of the situation, said MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy.

“Tens of thousands of workers in the performing arts sector face medium to long-term ruin in the absence of government assistance,” Mr Murphy said.

“The federal government should be doing all that it can to support companies to keep workers on their payroll rather than the last resort of welfare payments.

“MEAA joins with Live Performance Australia in calling for certainty and funding for our sector. The funding should be for up to six months.

“One key gesture would be bringing forward the $130 million that should be flowing to the major performing arts companies over the next twelve months. This funding can equate to 25% or more of an organisation’s core funding. It is the lifeblood that enables viable operations.

“There are 29 major performing arts companies. They collectively sustain around 10,000 employees. As the path of this virus makes its way through our sector, these employees are trying to manage anxiety about how to cope through the crisis as their limited income streams evaporate.

“In addition, annual funding for small to medium companies of approximately $30 million should also be brought forward to enable this critical next tier of performer entities to keep going.

“This is no time for a ‘wait and see’ approach. We know what is coming and what its impact will be. It’s time for the federal and state governments to act and allay fears,” Mr Murphy said.

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