Open Letter Response to Government’s Refusal to Assist Those in the Creative Arts

April 15, 2020
Brought to you by the letter C.

This has been circulating on Facebook:

The Morrison government just voted down all amendments moved by Labor to extend the JobKeeper wage subsidies to the 110,000 artists and creative practitioners whose industry has been decimated by the coronavirus, and whose employment patterns as mainly short-term contract workers means they fall through the cracks of this legislation.

This is an industry that contributes $111.7 billion to GDP; seven times the size of the aviation industry – not to mention the beating heart and soul of Australia.

Artists and casual/contract workers in the cultural and creative industries have just been utterly abandoned by this government. It is the final blow in an ideological war that has been waged against the sector the whole time they have been in power.

Our film and television, theatre, dance, visual art, music and events industry may never recover from this tragic day. 

 Thank you Tony Burke MP for trying.

It’s always been difficult to put a price on artistic endeavours, but there are some creative jobs one can put a price on. There’s a guild; there’s a wage for your industry jobs.

The brilliant designer Emma Bourke is working on Baz Luhrmann’s untitled feature about Elvis, being shot on the Gold Coast. It was shut down indefinitely. (This is where Tom and Rita caught the virus). She estimates there are 20-30 people in her department alone who are without an income.

Arone Raymond Meeks, an indigenous artist in Far North Queensland, teaches indigenous art in Cairns three days a week. He relies on sale of his artwork to supplement his income. Since galleries are closed, he can no longer count on that revenue stream. Arone is on the board of the CIAF (Cairns Indigenous Art Fair) which was scheduled for July. The physical Fair has been cancelled; CAIF is using its funding to relaunch on the web. No-one can predict how successful it will be. Arone is one of thousands of artists around the country who’ve been left high and dry.

These are the people Tony Burke was trying to help.

The extraordinary aspect of this conundrum is that creative output is what people turn to in lockdown. Who’s watching Netflix and ABC iview? Who’s playing video games? With no sport being played, how are Australians amusing themselves? We’re watching television, we’re watching streaming services, we’re listening to music, we’re reading books. You know what that is? As Sir Les Patterson would say “it’s the yarts”. Sir Les was Minister for the Yarts during the Whitlam years; he would make guest appearances with Barry Humphries and Dame Edna Everage.

Germany is including artists in their bail-out package. This happens when the arts are a valued and integral part of the community.

Director Phillip Noyce said in an AFTRS live streaming event recently that Australia and New Zealand will be the first creatives back to work, so we need to be ready to jump back in. I understand that too, and I hope he is right, but how do people live till then? Noyce himself was a week away from principal photography for a series shooting in New Orleans. It was cancelled (fortunately his team got out of New Orleans before the Covid-19 rot set in), but he’s one of the lucky ones. He’s not shooting, but he can pay his bills.

Here’s a solution to this problem; Take away television, radio, streaming services, internet channels, games, books and art from the walls of the people below so they can see how important it is to their lives. Mothball the Sydney Opera House… no one goes there anyway.

These government elected officials are the ones who turned down payments to the creative community. I urge you to contact them and find out how they are spending their lock-down time. Perhaps we can make it clear that their sanity, the sanity of their children, and the sanity of everyone they know and love, is being saved by the letter C (as in Creative).

Katie Allen MP
Kevin Andrews
Bridget Archer MP – Liberal Member for Bass
Darren Chester MP
Mark Coulton MP
Damian Drum MP
Jason Falinski
Paul Fletcher
Nicolle Flint Member for Boothby
Josh Frydenberg
Andrew Gee MP
Greg Hunt MP
Sussan Ley MP
Michael McCormack MP
Melissa McIntosh MP
Scott Morrison
Ben Morton
Llew O’Brien MP
Christian Porter
Dave Sharma MP
Michael Sukkar MP – Member for Deakin
Dan Tehan MP
Alan Tudge MP
Bert van Manen MP
Tim Wilson – Federal Liberal Member for Goldstein
Trent Zimmerman

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  1. Winston Churchill

    “The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.”
    Winston Churchill, 1938

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