Guy Sebastian slammed after joining PM’s arts announcement

Guy Sebastian, Paul Fletcher and Scott Morrison at Thursday's launch.

Guy Sebastian, Paul Fletcher and Scott Morrison at Thursday's launch. Photo: AAP

Artists and entertainers will be able to apply for a slice of a $250 million support package to help the sector recover from coronavirus restrictions.

The package is made up of grants and loans, with a focus on helping touring artists, actors and producers on the stage and screen.

But Thursday’s announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sparked criticism from fans of Guy Sebastian.

The Voice coach and former Australian Idol winner helped develop the Coalition’s package. He was also an enthusiastic participant in Mr Morrison’s unveiling, nodding and smiling as the PM announced the details.

“Firstly, I would like to thank you guys, especially you Prime Minister, for listening … you really were, and that was evident the other day when we jumped on that Zoom call,” he said later.

“You really did hear us out, you heard all the challenges we were facing.”

It wasn’t enough for fans, who expressed their displeasure via Twitter.

Later, Sebastian defended his appearance in a statement to NCA Newswire, declaring: “I am a musician, not a politician.”

“My attendance today at the press conference was to provide perspective of the deep-seated economic hardship that has crippled the entertainment industry due to the COVID pandemic,” he said.

Mr Morrison acknowledged the sector was one of the earliest hit by coronavirus restrictions and will be among the last to return to normal.

He said the package would help a range of jobs throughout the sector, while helping tourism and hospitality more broadly.

“This package is as much about supporting the tradies who build stage sets or computer specialists who create the latest special effects, as it is about supporting actors and performers in major productions,” he said.

But critics say it’s far too little, too late.

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance boss Paul Murphy said it was a slap in the face for workers in the industry, who remain ineligible for the JobKeeper wages subsidy.

“There is absolutely no relief for freelance and casual workers who have lost their jobs and suffered significant reductions in income,” he said.

Labor’s arts spokesman Tony Bourke welcomed the package but said it had come after “100 days of delay”.

“For months, Scott Morrison and his ministers stubbornly insisted it wasn’t necessary,” Mr Burke said.

“This totally unnecessary delay has done enormous damage to this industry and its workers.”

Arts Minister Paul Fletcher defended the time taken to deliver the support package.

“We think this comes at the right time to get the sector restarted,” he told Nine.

“What we now need to do is get the sector back to work so Australians can see the bands they love, see the performers they love.”

The long-anticipated package includes $75 million worth of grants to help productions and tours return, with funding slices ranging from $75,000 to $2 million.

It also includes measures to help local screen productions and organisations.

A creative economy task force will be announced in coming weeks, working with the government and the Australia Council to implement the plan.

The grants and loans will be delivered in the next year.

The government said some of the sector’s 645,000 workers were already receiving $100 million in support measures.

Social distancing requirements have played havoc with the arts and entertainment scene, forcing performance venues to shut their doors.

Mr Morrison will work with the national cabinet to develop a timetable for the entertainment industry with regard to the lifting of restrictions, so they can plan when to reopen.

There remains no clarity on when crowds of more than 100 can gather.

-with AAP

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