Last year the Australian Government put out a 3 STEP FRAMEWORK FOR A COVIDSAFE AUSTRALIA.
This framework spelt out how each industry sector would progress from Step 1 to 2 to 3
For example the section covering Entertainment & Amusement Venues stipulated that in step 1 all venues must remain closed. Step 2 some indoor venues may have up to 20 patrons while pubs, clubs, nightclubs, etc are to remain closed. Then in step 3 some indoor venues may have up to 100 patrons and consideration will be given to opening bar areas and gaming rooms. Strip clubs and brothels remain closed throughout.
We knew where we stood.
Then beyond Step 3 we had 4 sqm, 2 sqm and max capacity rules in venues. Once again we know where we stood.
Currently in NSW we have no framework at all. The premier keeps telling us that the current lockdown is in place until the end of this month yet no commentator is expecting it to end then. She also talks about restrictions easing when we reach six million jabs and/or 50% adult population vaccinated. And then Brad Hazzard tells a parliamentary committee she is just saying that to give us hope. Seriously?
This is no way to run a state; this is no way to run an economy. We need benchmarks, guidelines, whatever, so we can make plans. These steps do not need dates but they do need benchmarks that are clear, concise and understandable.
In the event industry we plan for weeks and months (sometimes years) in advance to prepare for a conference, expo, awards dinner, music or arts festival, concert, theatre performance, wedding, celebration, graduation and dozens of other styles of events. We have to design the event, get council approvals for outdoor events; book the venue, hardware, speakers, entertainers, transport, accommodation, staff, caterers, security, cleaners, and many more elements. Then we have to arrange invitations or bookings and ticketing. Overlaying all of this we have to develop COVID safety plans.
And then in the end we have no idea if the event can go ahead because we might still be in lockdown or another snap lockdown is imposed.
Yes, we understand the purpose and necessity of lockdowns but when they are lifted it can take many weeks and lots of repeated work to reschedule our events.
It is not only large conferences, festivals and events that are affected.
Let’s take as an example an event that everyone is familiar with – a wedding that has to be postponed because of a lockdown. The first challenge is to find a new available date at your venue of choice because now all the other couples are trying to reschedule as well. Then you have to rebook the flowers, makeup, dresses and suits, photographer, video, cars, etc. You have to redo the invitations, rebook travel and accommodation. I’m dealing with couples who are up to their fourth and fifth reschedules.
Our biggest challenge is not COVID or lockdowns – it is uncertainty.
Many in the industry are now at the point of saying “no more bookings, no more events until next year” simply because they are now spending most of their time dealing with reschedules.
This then brings us to two issues – first, a roadmap from all governments with clear benchmarks and stages. Second, a clear funding model that says we understand that your industry is being crushed for the good of the community and we will support you financially until your industry can back on its feet.
But is government listening? Why did the NSW government make itself available on a daily basis to the construction industry but not the event, entertainment and arts industry? The only events that get government attention are those that involve gambling – racing, football, etc.
Yes the tourism, transport and accommodation industries are also just as hard hit and although they each have a strong industry voice they are also struggling to be heard. Except aviation – just look at QantasKeeper.
On Friday Premier Berejiklian talked again about the milestones of 50%, 70% and 80% jabs but still offers no insight into what will change when those milestones are reached. The only conclusion we can make is that lockdowns will continue until we reach the 80% target estimated to be in mid-November.
In her presser on Friday the premier was asked if it’s realistic to be aiming to lift restrictions in September, she gave this response – that tells us nothing.
“I want to make very clear that what we want to achieve in September and October is provide some opportunities for people to have an extra thing they can do, which they currently can’t do today. I don’t want to give the impression that it will be freedom all round,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“It will not be freedom all round until it is 70 per cent double doses, at least, and 80 per cent is when we learn to live with COVID.
I want to make very clear that the Doherty report says you have to get to 70 per cent double doses before you can really start living freely, and then 80 per cent double dose before you can actually live with COVID. We support that.”
Victorian premier Dan Andrews was much clearer “The quicker we get to 70%, the quicker we get to 80%, and then we’re in a very different world. One where lockdowns are not a part of the daily response.”
That sounds like events will not be back on the agenda until November, so let’s stop pretending that it might be sooner and talk about support packages to keep the events sector alive until then.