Together-alone with the Morrison Government

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Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Member of Opposition Business Tony Burke visit an empty Enmore Theatre in Sydney (Image via @AnthonyAlbanese / Facebook)

The Morrison Government has abandoned those in the arts and entertainment industry — an industry worth $112 billion per annum, writes Peter Wicks.

GREEN DAY has a song called ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ and for a lot of bands, performing artists and others in the entertainment industry this song may well have taken on a whole new meaning.

With many of the COVID-19 restrictions forecast to end in September, there remains a question mark over when we will be able to go see a band or venture into a theatre production.

The Morrison Government try to give the impression that they have looked after every sector of the community with their stimulus package, but that is mythology at best and an outright lie at worst.

While there have been some options for those in the arts and entertainment industry who have seen their already volatile income decimated by COVID-19, these options have been hard to navigate and virtually impossible to understand, considering the manner in which many in the industry are paid. There is a large volume of short-term casual employment, as artists and crew go from production to production — some self-employed with an ABN and payment history that wavers between feast and famine. And there are many that work freelance and as such have no employer, no ABN and no idea where their next dollar is coming from.

It must feel rather ironic for an artist like Ben Lee to be nailing the royalties of his song, ‘We’re All In This Together’ when the industry he is a part of knows that nothing could be further from reality.

The Morrison Government has treated this sector with utter contempt during this crisis. They are arguably the hardest hit sector or, at least, one of the hardest hit. Their only real rival for the hardest hit is likely the tourism industry. However, with domestic travel once again opening up that sector is starting to improve while for many in the entertainment industry, returning to work must feel like a pipe-dream.

While in New Zealand this week Jacinda Ardern announced a government-funded "arts and music recovery package", in Australia all we hear is the sound of crickets.

While visiting an empty Enmore Theatre in Sydney with Shadow Minister Tony Burke, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese stated:

“…the arts and entertainment industry has been abandoned by this Government.
These workers are being let down and left behind. They deserve a Government that fights for every job – including theirs.”

So why does the Coalition have a history of neglecting the arts industry?

There is a view among many in Coalition ranks that the arts are a luxury that only the "latte-sipping" demographic think is important.

When it comes to entertainment networks the Coalition is happy to break its promises and slash funding to the ABC, impacting program production, while at the same time financially propping up the Foxtel Network who isn’t even providing an ample tax return.

The fact is that the arts and entertainment industry in Australia is worth approximately $112 billion per annum.

That’s a fair whack of money in anyone’s language.

To put it into perspective, that is almost double the value of our coal export industry. Yet the level of focus from this Government on the coal industry is obscene in comparison — not just financially but also culturally.

Those who think that the arts aren’t an essential industry need to have their TV sets and radios confiscated until they reconsider, or be put into isolation without a Netflix subscription.

We all listen to music, we all watch films and television.

Come election time, you can wager that the Liberals will be hoping the industry will have forgotten the Government that branded their contribution to our country insignificant and extended a hand to other sectors and a middle finger to theirs.

Australian artists have incredible and unique stories to tell and it is vital that as a country we support them and the crews that bring these stories to life.

When the chips are down it is our entertainers that are the first in line to help out in a crisis. Whether it is bushfire relief concerts, appearances at telethons for hospitals, or charity comedy festivals we can always rely on the generosity of those in this industry. Now, in their time of need, the Morrison Government has chosen to turn its back on the sector.

For those that do care about live music, you can do what the Morrison Government has failed to do and help out by supporting organisations such as Support Act and following their news for updates and ways to assist our local music industry. Support Act also provides a crisis support helpline for those in the industry doing it tough.

For those in the arts trying to navigate the minefield that the Government has left you to struggle through for support, you can contact the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance who have experts that can assist you.

These people tell our stories and provide the soundtrack to our lives.

To me, that’s the essence of "essential".

Peter Wicks is an Independent Australia columnist and a former Federal Labor Party staffer. You can follow him on Twitter @MadWixxy.

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