Opinion

An open letter to Scott Morrison from the events industry

- January 29, 2021 4 MIN READ
event

Dear Prime Minister,

I, alongside a collective of small businesses, write to you regarding the announcement of the Federal Government’s $50 million Business Events Grant support package last September.

When the support package was announced, we were delighted by the prospect of the Federal Government supporting our industry. As you know, our work came to a grinding halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it caused unprecedented flow-on effects to our staff and our livelihoods.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, your leadership has helped our nation carefully navigate this pandemic – particularly in comparison to many other countries. We would like to extend our gratitude to you for this.

However, small and medium businesses are the lifeblood of our nation’s economy and in the business events space, many are now on the brink of collapse. When this package was announced, you said that “this is not only about supporting events companies and venues, but will also be a shot in the arm for a broad range of businesses and the people they employ”.

We are disappointed that this shot in the arm applies to large, rather than small and medium-sized businesses. The promise of a broad range of businesses has been broken by the very narrow eligibility criteria – locking ours and many other businesses out.

We write to you, Prime Minister, to urge you to reconsider the grant eligibility to include small and medium-size event businesses.

In particular, we call on your government to publicly reconsider to commit to:

  • Lowering the minimum company spend to $10,000 from $20,000;
  • Removing mandatory requirements for expo booths, travel and accommodation costs;
  • Allow event owners to claim their own expenses, and not be required to host an expo booth at their own event;
  • Include one-day and half-day seminars that have business content but are not an expo;
  • Include online events in the grant program. For many, this is the only way to keep our businesses alive for the foreseeable as we continue to live within the confines and restrictions of the pandemic;
  • Increase sponsorship limit to at least $50,000;
  • Allow attendees to claim their expenses on group tickets from $5,000 onwards;
  • Increased flexibility around pandemic-affected areas.

The events industry in Australia is desperately looking for your government to demonstrate your leadership and help to those that sorely need it. Now is the time to act before it is too late.

Ronni Kahn, founder of OzHarvest speaks at Pause Fest

Please change the eligibility criteria to Business Events Grant Program today.

Your commitment to reconsider and update these policies would give Australian event owners hope and economic security. It would stimulate the economy and encourage the events industry and everyone involved to invest and do business, online or in-person, depending on pandemic circumstances.

For example, my event Pause Fest, the world’s leading festival for business and creativity and referred to as the ‘Innovation Capital’ which attracts the world’s most innovative and disruptive companies such as Amazon, Google, Netflix, NASA, Atlassian, Canva, Tesla, Women in Tech, was first included as eligible for a Business Event Grant program but then deleted from the list of approved events by Austrade and Business.gov.au.

Given the current eligibility bar is so high, very few events in Australia will be able to fulfil the obligations and receive the support they need. In framing this program, the Government has not fully considered the ongoing impact of the pandemic; in particular, in-person events should not be the only option considered for support.

The following businesses are expressing their concern and support: Pause Fest, _SOUTHSTART, CreativeCubes.Co, DRIVENxDESIGN, Hub Australia, Jack Morton, Scene Change Melbourne, SingularityU Australia, Smooth AV Sydney, Something Digital, Spark Festival, Startup Grind, TEDxDocklands, TEDxSydney, TEDxMelbourne, Timberyard and YBF Ventures.

While not all small and medium events generate international prestige, diversity is essential to a strong and prosperous events industry. Australia can be proud of the breadth and diversity of its Business Events industry but, without action now, there will be nothing to be proud of in the future.

Prime Minister, many vulnerable Australian families and businesses have relied on the immediate prioritisation of their needs in the midst of your pandemic response. We are no different. We need your support for the sake of business continuity and prosperity.

Please take action to save these events and include the small and medium sector within the Business Events Grant program’s eligibility.

We would appreciate a response to this open letter.

Sincerely,

George Hedon

Founder & CEO, Pause Fest

The full list of signatories:

  1. George Hedon, Founder & CEO, Pause Fest
  2. Danielle Seymour, Founder, _SOUTHSTART
  3. Mark Bergin, Director, DRIVENxDESIGN
  4. Brad Krauskopf, CEO & Founder, Hub Australia
  5. Vinny Panchal, SVP, General Manager, Jack Morton
  6. Andrew Delaney, Director, Scene Change Melbourne
  7. Christina Gerakiteys, Co-CEO, SingularityU Australia
  8. Tom Collins, Technical Director & Owner, Smooth AV Sydney
  9. Nadine Zrinzo, Co-Founder, Something Digital
  10. Maxine Sherrin, Festival Director, Spark Festival
  11. Chris Joannou, General Manager – ANZ, Startup Grind
  12. Tansel Ali, Organiser & Licensee, TEDxDocklands
  13. Jon Yeo, Licensee & Head of Curation, TEDxMelbourne
  14. Remo Giuffré, Founder & Licensee, TEDxSydney
  15. Adam McKenzie, Director, Timberyard
  16. Courtney Blackman, CMO, YBF Ventures

 

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