Scott Morrison may have thought he was a hero for handing out a $250 million package. But what he said screams volumes about what he values, writes Wenlei Ma.
Scott Morrison may have thought he was a hero for handing out a $250 million package. But what he said screams volumes about what he values, writes Wenlei Ma.

Proof Scott Morrison really doesn’t get it

OPINION

For the 600,000 Australians working in the arts and cultural sectors, the announcement of a $250 million support package will be great relief.

But, as many commentators and industry workers have pointed out, it's too little, too late, and it's proof that Prime Minister Scott Morrison just doesn't get it.

While a sector struck hardest by the coronavirus pandemic will take any form of financial lifeline, the announcement from Scott Morrison's government symbolises exactly the value it places on culture, entertainment and the arts in Australia.

Take, for example, the language Mr Morrison used in his announcement: "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."

Ah, yes, the tradies. We must never forget about the tradies who, by the way, have their own $688 million relief package announced weeks earlier.

It's almost as if the arts and entertainment sectors are only worthy of support now that Mr Morrison knows movie and TV productions employ carpenters and electricians.

Why is it not enough to support ballet dancers, cellists, actors, caterers, gallery curators, lighting technicians and make-up artists?

Do these Australians not also have families and responsibilities? Did these Australians not spend years training and building a career they can be proud of?

Were these Australians not financially crippled when the pandemic shut down their workplaces immediately and comprehensively?

Do these Australians not work in industries that rely on consumers' discretionary spending at a time of economic recession which sees household budgets tightened - and therefore are facing lean years ahead?

Have these Australians, working in a sector with a high amount of casual and contract employment and therefore not eligible for JobKeeper, not been crying out for help since the start of the pandemic?

 

Scott Morrison would obviously rather be at a football game. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)
Scott Morrison would obviously rather be at a football game. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

RELATED: Guy Sebastian under fire for Morrison announcement

For every Nicole Kidman or Guy Sebastian, there are about 50 actors or musicians barely eking out a living doing what they love, and bringing joy and comfort to millions more.

And as much as you could argue that you can't measure the value of adding "joy" to Australians' lives through enriching experiences whether that be a live concert or theatre or television, you can measure how much arts and entertainment add to the economy: $117 billion in 2017, by the government's own measure.

That was billion, not million. It's the equivalent of 6.4 per cent of our GDP.

Australia is a small country. We may have outsized global impact but we are a country of 25 million people, which is a small consumer market. That's why the arts need government funding, which isn't just a handout but an investment.

So why is there such disdain for arts, culture and entertainment from Mr Morrison, who also accidentally said "stadium" when he meant to say "theatre"? That little Freudian slip screams volumes about what he values.

His government, just days ago, stripped almost all funding from arts and humanities university courses - degrees it argues doesn't produce "jobs".

(Never mind the fact that this Coalition government, since Tony Abbott's election in 2013, has cut billions out of TAFE and vocational training funding.)

Arts and humanities degrees, like creative and cultural experiences, encourage critical thinking and deeper engagement with the world we live in. It encourages you to ask questions, not nod along compliantly.

Mr Morrison's actions are of a man who doesn't get it. Or, hey, maybe he does and is of the view that the people most likely to lose out - "creative types" - aren't going to vote for him anyway.

But that would be too cynical, wouldn't it?

Wenlei Ma is news.com.au's TV and film critic and homepage editor

Originally published as Proof Scott Morrison really doesn't get it


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