Union demands proof for Government’s estimate that Job Keeper and Job Seeker will boost arts industry by $4bn-$10bn

The industry’s union has accused Communications, Cyber Safety and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher of potentially pulling the estimated impact of the Job Keeper and Job Seeker programs on the arts sector – which Fletcher says is between $4bn and $10bn – “out of thin air”.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) said its own research was in stark contrast with that estimate, urging the Minister to produce the modelling data for his estimation. In response, a spokesperson for the Minister has told Mumbrella the estimate is based on a working paper published two years ago.

Minister Fletcher

A spokesperson for Minister Fletcher told Mumbrella the $4bn-$10bn “estimate is based on analysis in the Bureau of Communications and Arts Research (BCAR) Cultural and Creative Activity in Australia 2008-09 to 2016-17 working paper published in October 2018, undertaken to gauge the potential scale of support enabled under the Job Keeper and Job Seeker programs”.

Mumbrella has asked the Minister for clarification on how a working paper published two years ago – and canvassing the years 2008, 2009, 2016 and 2017 – has formed the basis of contemporary estimations regarding Job Keeper – a program only introduced this year in response to COVID-19 – and Job Seeker.

“The Government has also provided $27m in targeted support to address specific areas of need, comprising $10m to the charity Support Act to help it expand the support it offers to vulnerable artists and arts workers, $10m delivered through Regional Arts Australia’s Regional Arts Fund to help regional artists and organisations develop new work and explore new delivery models, and $7m delivered under the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program to support Indigenous artists and arts centres,” the spokesperson added. They said the government is also currently working with a range of arts organisations on plans for re-opening.

MEAA CEO Paul Murphy said the numbers just don’t add up.

“Of more than 1,000 MEAA members recently surveyed by the union, almost one-in-five said they had been declined access to both Job Keeper and Job Seeker,” Murphy said.

“A similar number had been unsuccessful in claiming for Job Keeper but would be able to claim the lower JobSeeker support. In total, 35% of members surveyed had been told they were ineligible for Job Keeper.

“If that is replicated across the entire arts and entertainment sector, it equates to tens of thousands of workers who have fallen through the cracks of JobKeeper, so how can the Minister claim with a straight face that the support being provided to the sector will be anything near $10 billion.

“The Minister needs to provide the modelling for his claim or we can only assume he has pulled it out of thin air.”

The MEAA’s research also revealed that 68% of surveyed members currently have no paid work, while 24% have some paid work but their hours and opportunities have been cut in response to COVID-19. 60% said they had no significant income, and 30% claimed to have had their income significantly reduced.

“In addition to the clear flaws with Job Keeper in not accounting for the way people are employed in the arts and entertainment, the government has also failed to respond to the pleas for a targeted package of assistance to help the sector recover after COVID,” Murphy added.

The union also pointed to recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data, which paints a bleak picture of the arts and recreation sector. It has been the second worst-hit industry since COVID-19 restrictions began, with employment dropping by 27% and wages falling 17% over the period.


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