Friday 23 July 2021

The Arts Industry Council of South Australia (AICSA) welcomes the South Australian Government’s swift and decisive response to the latest Covid-19 outbreak in the state and the Government’s $100 million Business Support Package announced on Wednesday. 

South Australia’s necessary seven-day lockdown has however seen the cancellation of festivals, live music, theatre seasons, exhibitions and tours, affecting the entire state. The impact on artists and presenters reaches far beyond the lockdown period itself, and it will have substantial effects on the next three months of business for the arts sector, which is operating in an environment of excessive risk.

The Business Support Package – which provides $3,000 emergency cash grants to small and medium size businesses, and $1,000 to non-employing sole traders – will help some in the sector, with many others potentially locked out of access support due to eligibility thresholds. 

AICSA is especially concerned that non-employing sole traders are required to show an income above $75,000 per annum to access support. This figure is above the average wage, and well above the average income of independent artists who operate from an ABN. 

There are additional concerns about the lack of certainty around whether microbusinesses not registered for GST will qualify for the Commonwealth Government’s Covid-19 Disaster Payment of $600/$375 per seven-day period. Given this uncertainty, and with the absence of JobKeeper or a new Federal arts relief package, artists living in Adelaide and regionally could be left in the lurch.

AICSA welcomes Treasurer Rob Lucas’ comments that industry-specific packages and support will be considered. We call on the South Australian Government to lower the earnings threshold for sole traders and to consider additional support for the arts sector, including safety nets for festivals, live performance, music and cultural events.

Jessica Alice, Chair of AICSA, said the organisation is currently working together with the South Australian Government and looks forward to finding a solution that addresses the sector’s concerns.

“It has been heartening to see the State Government come out with this package and collaborating on solutions with the Commonwealth so quickly, but far more targeted support is needed for our industry sector,” Alice said.

“The $75,000 minimum threshold for sole traders will exclude the majority of artists in South Australia, who are already on some of the lowest incomes. The unrecoverable costs associated with cancelled or postponed festivals and live events far exceeds the $3,000 available to businesses.”

Justyna Jochym, Deputy Chair of AICSA, said the excessive risk for presenters of festivals and live events in this environment is a major obstacle to deliver the vast and tangible benefits of the arts and live performance. Jochym suggests that South Australia should follow the example set interstate, including roadmaps to recovery for the arts and events.

In Victoria, eligible public events and suppliers affected by the lockdown receive up to $25,000 and $10,000 respectively through an extension of the Impacted Public Events Support Program. 

“Safety nets for South Australian presenters, festivals and arts events, such as insurance or guarantee-against-loss schemes, would significantly bolster the whole sector’s confidence. The cancellation or postponement of even one festival impacts hundreds, if not thousands of jobs, including among industry suppliers and venues across the state,” Jochym said.

A recent report by the University of South Australia’s Creative People, Products and Places Research Centre (CP3) titled Keeping Creative (pdf download) released this week found the arts sector has been consistently neglected during the pandemic.

Taking 2020 as its focus, Keeping Creative shows that Australia’s response was very different to that of many other nations, and that states took the lead in responding to the pandemic in the creative sector, offering higher levels of both financial and also moral support than the Federal Government. In addition to more targeted support from the State Government, AICSA joins widespread calls for the reinstatement of a revamped JobKeeper, a new Federal arts package, and dramatic improvement in the vaccine rollout.