A compass to find our way

SMEA events

Up until late June, there seemed to be a path back for the events industry but now uncertainty prevails again despite the Prime Minister and the NSW Premier both stating that we need to push through whilst other states posture and take a different position. It will be a test to see if the PM has the backbone to back his position once vaccination rate targets are hit and hold states accountable to deliver on the national cabinet agreement as this in itself forms the base for the events industry to resume.

The current total cases of COVID (allowing some are no longer infectious) represent .0477 per cent, of the Australian population, not even close to even 1 per cent. It should also be overlayed that the annual flu rate hits around 1.2 per cent of the population and the death rate still is higher.

Increasing the vaccination number and having protocols in place is sensible but we cannot continue with the snap shutdown/ open up approach in our industry and many others for that matter. How can it be a way for it to not only survive but plan any form of regrowth?

The industry has developed a responsible framework to reopen, proving that we can operate safely. NOT ONE case was linked back to a business event, largely to do with the protocols the industry put in place from venues and organisers.

However, as of today, not one State has a documented road map – one that indicates when we can reopen, the attendance restrictions, along with border conditions. Without these fundamentals, we simply can’t operate and I would now suggest that the survival of the sector is very much at risk.

It is highly unlikely any show will run in the remainder of 2021 and if they do they will be smaller state-based events, this leads to shows resuming from February 2022, some six months away. The true impact will be further highlighted when the sugar hit of Government payments are removed as soon as a state says the lockdown is over, meaning the industry has to stump up the ongoing financial running for many months without any income.

In some respects, it’s worse for the States not locked down as their business has shrunk or disappeared but they are not eligible for Government support. Conversely, when things open up, business events need to carry the overheads and risk for another five to 12 months, it’s largely not viable and made worse without any certainty.

The Prime Minister has been great at promoting the National Cabinet decisions, but, without state cooperation, we are simply kicking cans down the street, and not all will survive.

We shouldn’t be penalised by one or two states, and it’s clear that some premiers are playing a political game and the talk of economic recovery is a statement they want voters to hear but lacks any depth. It seems sport and film production are running on a different set of rules – have we done that poor job of not being recognised?

The best fix for our industry is running, re-employing and contributing to the state economies. The current subsidies for the states locked down is a Band-Aid solution and does not treat the infliction we have and will not save the industry, it merely puts us on hold and in many cases businesses are slowly dying and closing.

So, I ask, what is it going to take to get some form of recognition, a road map and some plan to allow the industry to resume.