Page 138 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 9 February 2022
The ACT is in a strong position to improve its economic outlook, and I look forward to supporting the ACT government’s priorities for the year ahead through my various portfolios.
MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (10.51): It has been a hard few years. We have had a series of major shocks, climate disasters, a COVID pandemic and economic impacts, including rising house and rent prices. These conditions do not affect everyone equally. What we are seeing is a growing gap between rich and poor, not just in Canberra but nationally and globally. This has worried the Greens for a long time.
The ACT government has done a really good nation-leading job with its climate policy and its public health approach to COVID. But there is an opportunity here for the government in these challenges: we can change our economic settings and we can do things differently. We can rethink our strategy for all of our budgeting decisions and we can have a focus of looking after everyone, addressing inequality and taking care of our environment.
I want to start by talking about the arts sector. I have spent a lot of my life running a small business. This pandemic has been a particularly difficult time for small business. Some sectors have been affected much more than others. Even before COVID, the increasing casualisation and the trend to the gig economy has affected many workers, who typically have less negotiating power in the workplace. It has had a particularly big impact in the arts. Painters, writers, sculptors, singers, musicians and actors—many of them relied on marginal incomes and a mix of incomes and gig work before COVID, and COVID has made it worse.
Much of the commonwealth funding was based on the fact that if someone did not earn much money it did not matter if they lost it. Some of the ACT government support fell foul of that too. My experience is that the less money you earn, the more important it is that you preserve that. Many in this sector do not register for GST, they do not stick to one primary occupation and they do not have salaried positions or an easy way to prove their lost income. They scrape together income from multiple sources, but that does not mean they are not in business. They pay tax, they register ABNs and they are members of their professional associations. This is how the business of arts is done.
Those in performing arts in particular have been hard hit by losing audiences and tours due to COVID and the soft lockdown, at the same time as many lost their secondary income in hospitality. Amp It Up! is a fantastic funding program and I congratulate arts minister Cheyne on it. I would like to see more long-term certainty in our funding for the arts. We need jobs, not just gigs. I would like all of our government business support to consider how it can assist the arts sector. We also need to finalise some of those longstanding problems so that when we are ready to rebound we can do that quickly. It is time to get the entertainment precincts set up properly to give our venues and artists certainty and bring life to our city.
It is also time we put a genuine gender lens on the budget that filters every decision through the consideration of its impact on women. Women are over-represented in