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Live Performance Australia calls for targeted support

Live Performance Australia has urged the government to provide targeted industry support to prevent the further collapse of a struggling sector.

Evelyn Richardson, chief executive of the peak body for arts and entertainment in Australia, said the live industry continues to be “smashed” by repeated snap lockdowns, state and international border closures, audience caps and the lack of a national framework for touring productions.

LPA said there could be a significant loss of jobs in the sector in the coming months with the looming end of JobKeeper, which 90 per cent of live entertainment companies are still receiving in the January to March quarter.

According to LPA’s latest industry survey, only two per cent of companies project a return to 81-100 per cent pre-COVID business activity this year and almost 50 per cent expect to operate at 0-40 per cent business activity in 2021.

Richardson said: “Like tourism and hospitality, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on live entertainment with an estimated A$24 billion of lost economic output and A$11 billion lost in industry value. We’ve also seen 79,000 (65%) jobs lost, which is around two thirds of our workforce.

“The industry has been working hard to get our people back to work, on stage and touring. Australia has made great progress in fighting the virus and we are now slowly reopening businesses, venues and live events. JobKeeper, the Creative Economy package and state-based government support have been critical in keeping companies alive and people in jobs.

“While across the economy, the ATO reports that 90 percent of the 1.3 million jobs lost have been replaced, our industry is not in those figures. Live entertainment remains largely at a standstill. We’re slowly getting shows back but under heavy restrictions and current business activity is not sustainable. The looming end of JobKeeper will see significant job losses and an unprecedented down-sizing of the industry. The impact of that on our cities and regional communities will be profound.”

LPA states that without a targeted wage subsidy, 33 per cent of live entertainment companies will make staff redundant, while 20 per cent will continue to keep staff stood down, 17 per cent will reduce hours of staff working full/part time hours, 13 per cent will wind up their business, and 51 percent will cut operational costs even further.

Richardson notes that the sector faces “major challenges” in fully reactivating a return to business normality. She said that for the live industry to operate profitably its needs venues operating at full capacity, unrestricted interstate movement, and open international borders without extensive quarantine.

“Due to essential health considerations, we don’t see these three necessary conditions coming into play in the next six to nine months,” she said.

“Since November last year we have had every major musical, theatre production and arts festival shut down or significantly disrupted due to a snap lock down and border closures – this has happened in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne,” Richardson continued. “The financial costs and damage to consumer confidence across the country is enormous.”

“We are also very concerned about the growing loss of skills as we stare at the reality of treading water until early 2022. If we are to play our part in Australia’s economic and social recovery, we need targeted government support to save jobs and companies beyond March. Our survival depends on it.”