'Thrown on the scrap heap': Victoria's live events industry predicts a curtain call for businesses if JobKeeper ends as planned on March 28

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  • A Victorian live industry group claims four out of five businesses in the sector will be severely impacted if JobKeeper ends as scheduled on March 28.
  • Citing responses from more than 550 businesses and industry figures, Save Victorian Events states further payroll support is needed as Australia emerges from coronavirus shutdowns.
  • The survey’s findings were promoted by Labor MP Bill Shorten, as the federal government continues to state JobKeeper was always intended as a temporary measure.
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Victoria’s live event industry says the JobKeeper show must go on, claiming that four out of five local businesses will need to cut staff or close entirely if the multibillion dollar payroll support package ends as planned on March 28.

New survey results from industry group Save Victorian Events show the damage coronavirus lockdowns wrought on the sector, with events industry income from April to December 2020 down an estimated 85%.

Despite easing restrictions across the state, turnover is expected to remain well below previous levels through 2021.

The group forecasts that income from January to June 2021 will sit at 76% of average levels, with the sector slated to generate just 67% of its average takings between July and December.

The result of this downturn, Save Victorian Events says, will be further layoffs and business closures. The group estimated 43% of local events firms will need to cut staff numbers, while an additional 40% will close entirely.

“So 83% of companies in Victoria’s events industry will be severely affected by the ending of JobKeeper – if it is not replaced by some other form of financial support,” the group said.

The Victorian Government values the state’s live music industry is worth $1.7 billion, while the Victorian Tourism Industry Council estimates business tourism – which focuses on exhibitions and conferences – is worth nearly $13 billion a year.

Elements of the survey, which collated responses from more than 550 companies and industry figures, were echoed by Labor MP Bill Shorten on Thursday.

Speaking in favour of a JobKeeper extension, the former opposition leader cited both the Laneway music festival – which has not announced dates for 2021 – and the Melbourne Cup, which was held in 2020 with a vastly reduced attendance, as events in his Melbourne electorate impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns.

“I call upon the government with this dramatic new research from the Victorian live events sector to keep JobKeeper going,” Shorten told the Federation Chamber.

“The live events industry employs hundreds of thousands of people. It generates tens of billions of dollars a year for Australia. This is an industry too important to be simply thrown on the scrap heap.”

“We can’t get back to normal until the job is finished,” Shorten added.

“JobKeeper needs to be kept going.”

Calls from events industry leaders to extend support payments echo statements from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, and the Tourism and Transport Forum, all of whom have urged the federal government to continue targeted industry support payments beyond JobKeeper’s scheduled March 28 due date.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has brushed away similar concerns about payroll cash injections, reiterating on Sunday that JobKeeper was always intended to be a temporary measure.

“More than $80 billion is already out the door, and it’s helped to support more than 3.5 million Australians,” he told ABC’s “Insiders” program.

Frydenberg also pointed to recent figures showcasing a downturn in unemployment across Australia, saying the jobs market had “outperformed” earlier doomsday scenarios.

In June, JobKeeper was also joined by some $250 million in government grants and loans targeted towards the national live entertainment and events industry.

“These sectors have been hit hard during the pandemic, and the Government’s investment will play an important role in the nation’s economic recovery,” Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said at the time.

Despite that funding, it appears Victoria’s live event sector is still worried about its final curtain call.

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