House debates

Wednesday, 26 August 2020


Petition: COVID-19: Arts and Entertainment Industry

7:40 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | Hansard source

In accordance with standing order 207, I present an e-petition that was organised by Ms Chloe Dallimore. It is the largest of the e-petitions for the year, having received some 36,141 signatures.

The petition read as follows—

Support for Australian Arts and Entertainment Workers now

The arts and entertainment industry has been devastated by shutdowns caused by the coronavirus crisis. It was the first sector to be hit, when gatherings of 500 people or more were banned, and is likely to be one of the last sectors to be released from restrictions. Data recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows fewer than half of businesses in the sector were operating by the end of March.

After years of cuts and neglect, the government has failed to act to save the arts and entertainment sector. Although JobKeeper will help some, there are major gaps in coverage for freelancers and contractors which the government has failed to address. These gaps affect the vast majority of artists and a very significant number of technical workers. The Treasurer has the ability to fix this without legislation, and he must do so immediately.

The government must also deliver the sector a tailored fiscal relief package to ensure its ongoing viability. We need large and small companies and venues to still exist following the crisis so they can continue to employ Australian artists.

Australian artists are the keepers of Australian stories. They give so much to our country and to the Australian identity – we cannot do without them.

We therefore ask the House to extend the JobKeeper payment to arts and entertainment sector workers who are currently ineligible; and

Deliver the arts and entertainment sector a tailored and properly targeted relief package to ensure its ongoing viability.

From 36141 citizens (EN1609)

I opened with the words of the petition, because those are the words that appeared on the website of the House, where more than 36,000 Australians saw it and asked this parliament to act. I particularly draw members' attention to it because, only today, when I referred to so many arts and entertainment workers finding themselves ineligible for JobKeeper, the response from the minister at the table—officially titled as the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts—was to interject on me and say, 'That's not true.' Arts and entertainment workers know whether or not they're receiving JobKeeper, and they know that some of the permanent employees of different companies, particularly the administrative staff, who are critically important to the company—a whole lot of those individuals have been receiving JobKeeper. But if you're an artist who moves from company to company you're likely to be employed as a casual or as a freelancer and you're likely to find that the JobKeeper rules, if you were to design them in a way to deliberately exclude arts and entertainment workers, probably couldn't be designed better. I'm not pretending that the government was deliberately wanting to exclude arts and entertainment workers—they weren't. But a fence has been drawn around them in so many ways and the irony of this is that it's happened at the exact same time Australians in lockdown have relied on the creative output of our arts and entertainment workers more than ever before. There are more people than ever streaming music, streaming movies and reading books as they have gone through life in lockdown. As people go through the various mental health crises that people are facing at the moment, so many people turn to our storytellers and our artists. When we have our own crises, like the bushfires, these are the same people we go to. We say, 'Please perform for free,' and they do. They have always had our backs as Australians, and right now they need us to protect them. An announcement of a package where guidelines came out only a couple of weeks ago—the package was announced more than a hundred days after the crisis began, and we now find out none of that money will flow until probably November or December at the earliest, and that that will only be money for promoters, for productions, that maybe sometime in the new year start to hold events and find their way through to the workers. I commend the petition, and please act.


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