PM’s $250m rescue package remains wrapped in red tape
It’s been almost four months since the Prime Minister stood shoulder to shoulder with singer Guy Sebastian at a carefully staged press conference and pledged millions in support.
But, as TMN has learned today, much of the promised $250m Arts & Entertainment Package – of which $75 million was put aside for the live sector – remains in the Government’s pockets.
At Senate estimates on Wednesday, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young – a staunch supporter of the sector – asked department secretary Simon Atkinson to detail how much of the package has made its way to struggling businesses and organisations desperate for a lifeline.
“Has a dollar been spent yet?” Hanson-Young asked. “This is the only money your Government put on the table for the arts and the entertainment sector, and you can’t tell me how much money has been spent – is it because it’s zero?”
Remember that fancy press conference @ScottMorrisonMP did with @GuySebastian promising money to help artists during Covid?
Well guess what? Still nothing has been spent, and no money has been given to save jobs in the arts. Nothing. pic.twitter.com/jgExSiYdLN
— ?? Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) October 21, 2020
The exchange prompted the department’s chief operating officer, Pip Spence, to chime in and confirm that “some money has gone out” since the relief was offered in June.
Per The Guardian, senior bureaucrats returned to the hearing later this morning and confirmed that less than one-fifth of the $250 million – totalling $49.5m – has been spent to date.
But if you are wondering who in the music industry has shared in that initial splurge, the answer is no one – 100% went to Screen Australia to help fund 20 films and television productions.
When the PM first announced the funding after industry consultation, he said the package is as much about “supporting the tradies” who build stages as it is for the performers.
“These measures will support a broad range of jobs from performers, artists and roadies, to front of house staff and many who work behind the scenes, while assisting related parts of the broader economy, such as tourism and hospitality,” Scott Morrison said.
The consultation, which happened over Zoom days before the boost was announced, included 16 people from the sector along with Arts Minister Paul Fletcher and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Grants of between $75,000 and $2 million were promised, and $90 million put aside for “show starter” concessional loans to fund new productions and events that create jobs.
Fletcher’s creative economy taskforce – tasked with overseeing how the money makes its way to those on the frontlines – first met on September 15. Their next meeting is not until October 29.