Mixed reception to arts sector rescue plan

Grants and loans totalling $250 million will be available for the coronavirus-hit arts sector.
Grants and loans totalling $250 million will be available for the coronavirus-hit arts sector.

The response to a $250 million support package for the arts sector has been mixed, with concerns companies are unable to take on more debt.

The package comprises grants and loans, with a focus on helping touring artists, actors and producers of the stage and screen.

A large portion of the support - $90 million - is for concessional loans for new productions and events.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said it would have a broad impact.

"This package is as much about supporting the tradies who build stage sets or computer specialists who create the latest special effects, as it is about supporting actors and performers in major productions."

Labor's arts spokesman Tony Burke says the government hasn't gotten it right in the first take.

"There are many businesses who are in no position at all to be able to take on additional debt," he said in Sydney.

"There are many businesses where a debt model doesn't even work for the nature of their business."

Mr Burke said the government should extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy payment to the sector.

The Australian Banking Association said the loan guidelines won't be known for some weeks, but has encouraged those interested to flag interest with their bank.

Circus Oz executive director Penny Miles said the package was a relief and she awaited details on the application requirements.

"Regardless of process, an injection like this into the sector will have ripple effects throughout the whole ecology, stimulating and securing jobs."

The Tourism and Transport Forum welcomed the support package, calling the arts and cultural sectors the "unsung heroes" of tourism.

But critics labelled it far too little, too late.

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance boss Paul Murphy said it was a slap in the face for workers in the industry who remain ineligible for JobKeeper.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the industry had called for a package close to a billion dollars.

Arts Minister Paul Fletcher defended the time taken to deliver the support package.

"We think this comes at the right time to get the sector restarted," he said.

The package includes $75 million worth of grants to help productions and tours return, with funding slices ranging from $75,000 to $2 million.

A task force on the creative economy will be announced in coming weeks, working with the government and the Australia Council for the Arts to implement the plan.

The grants and loans will be delivered over the next year.

Mr Morrison will work with the national cabinet to develop a timetable for the entertainment industry with regard to the lifting of restrictions, so they can plan when to reopen.

There is still no clarity on when crowds of more than 100 can gather.

Australian Associated Press