'It Is Absurd': Shadow Minister Slams Morrison Govt's Lack Of Support For The Arts

26 March 2020 | 3:42 pm | Staff Writer

"The arts sector needs a specific, tailored relief package from the government, and it needs it now."

Following Australia Council's announcement of plans to assist artists and arts organisations who are struggling due to the COVID-19 crisis - Chief Executive Adrian Collette calling the impact of the virus on Australia's arts community "catastrophic" - Shadow Minister for the Arts Tony Burke has released a scathing statement on the Morrison Government’s inaction on the issue.

"It is absurd that the Morrison Government’s refusal to provide any specific relief funding to the arts sector during the coronavirus crisis has forced the Australia Council to suspend its usual funding programs to pay for urgent coronavirus crisis relief," says Burke.

"Labor makes no criticism of the Australia Council, which is having to respond to an emergency situation with no additional help from the government after enduring years of funding cuts by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government. But it should not be in this position.

"The arts sector needs a specific, tailored relief package from the government, and it needs it now."

It comes after Australia Council confirmed a response package that includes reporting and other grant conditions relief, a suspension of its current investment programs to introduce "new ones focused on immediate relief", First Nations support, an online learning series to assist the sector to respond to the crisis and roundtables.

"Australia’s arts sector was already fragile before the coronavirus crisis due to years of Liberal cuts and neglect. They simply have no buffer to help them ride out this crisis," Burke continued.

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"The arts sector was one of the first to be affected by this crisis, when restrictions on gatherings of 500 people or more were announced, and it could be the last to be released from restrictions.

"Hundreds of thousands of people who work in the arts sector have been put out of work due to direct government decisions.

"This is a sector dominated by sole traders, independents, freelancers and self-employed people – some of the most vulnerable in this crisis.

"These are workers who work gig to gig, event to event, show to show, and festival to festival.

"Arts organisations could close within weeks, rather than months, without more support.

"In the months ahead Australia will look to its artists, entertainers and cultural institutions to help us all recover and heal from the trauma of this crisis – but right now they need our help just to survive.

"We have to ask ourselves: once the crisis is over, what will Australia look like if our arts sector is gone? That’s a future Labor isn’t willing to accept."

Burke appeared on a special episode of The Green Room podcast last week to discuss the impact coronavirus has had on the local music industry, alongside names like Melbourne artist Alex Lahey and Association Of Artist Managers (AAM) Executive Director, Catherine Haridy. 

Listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts (below) or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.

For more information about how COVID-19 is impacting the music industry, follow the link here.