The Federal Government last night approved the $130 billion JobKeeper legislation -the single largest piece of government spending in Australian history.
It will provide a $1,500 per fortnight wage subsidy for up to 6 million Australians and support for more than 730,000 businesses.
The Opposition backed the legislation after it failed to expand the JobKeeper program to include 1.1 million more casual workers and temporary visa holders. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said earlier that while his party had concerns about the legislation, it would “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Despite payments not beginning until May, they will be backdated to the end of March.
But the legislation also will see many casuals and freelance workers in the Arts & Entertainment sectors ‘fall between the cracks.’ Many will not meet the criteria of working for the same employer for a minimum of 12 months.
The news is a blow to unions and guilds who have all been at pains to point out the risks to many of their members:
- Screen Producers Australia (SPA)
- Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG),
- Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG),
- Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA),
- Live Performance Australia (LPA)
- Australian Drama Agents’ Association (ADAA),
- Association of Drama Agents in NSW (ADA),
- Casting Guild of Australia (CGA)
Yesterday actor Nadine Garner told The Age, she has looked at welfare before but “I spend my life looking for the box I’m meant to tick on forms,” she says. “It doesn’t exist.”
“They look at you like you’re crazy because the rate you charge as an employee is quite high – if I’m paid X thousands for a few days’ work why am I applying for assistance? But it might be my only two days of work in six months.”
Garner lost her most recent job abruptly when the Melbourne Theatre Company production of Emerald City closed just days into a six-week run.
“Freelance employees and many loyal casuals will – without urgent changes to the JobKeeper rules, be at least $200 a week worse off. For those who were earning more than $1500 per fortnight, the losses are greater,” said Paul Murphy, Chief Executive of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.
“The latest ABS COVID-19 data spells things out: the Arts and Recreation sector has 47 per cent of businesses still trading, while the figure for Media and Telecommunications is 65 per cent – the lowest of all 17 trading sectors. It is hard to comprehend why the Government would, through inaction, seek to compound this damage.
“Workers in the arts and entertainment sector have been stood down by their employers, their working environments (venues, sets and workshops) have been shut down by government decree, and they have been forgotten by the COVID-19 stimulus.
“We nonetheless congratulate the many thousands of MEAA members who have taken action in recent days, both through social media and by contacting their MP to bring attention to the inequity of the JobKeeper scheme.
“This has resulted in the final legislation leaving the door open for further changes to the JobKeeper access rules.
“MEAA and its members will continue to campaign for the scheme to be extended to include freelancers and short-term casuals who have regular employment with a series of different employers.
“We will also advocate for arts and entertainment organisations to have greater access to JobKeeper.
“MEAA members have a clear message for Arts Minister Paul Fletcher: step up and defend the community that looks to you as its voice in the Government. It is his job to make the system accessible and relevant to our sector.
“MEAA will also continue to harness our members’ strength to push for industry rescue packages and for State Governments to play a greater role in keeping the performing arts and screen sectors alive.
“We cannot and will not let today’s decision be the final call on this matter. Too many livelihoods and the fate of our industries are at stake.”
Whilst Live Performance Australia has called on the government for a $850 million support and stimulus package the government has announced $7 million for the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program, $10 million for Regional Arts Australia’s regional arts fund and $10m for Support Act, the charity that provides financial support and counselling to people in the music industry.