Business Events Council of Australia critical of Government plans to shutdown COVID Disaster Payments

The Business Events Council of Australia is concerned and disappointed with the Australian Government’s announcement to withdraw COVID-19 Disaster Payments in line with vaccination targets being reached by states and territories, without any indication of a targeted replacement lifeline.

Earlier this week, the Federal Government announced plans to start withdrawing emergency support payments from individuals stating once a state or territory has fully vaccinated 70% of people over 16 years of age, it will stop the automatic renewal of the COVID-19 Disaster Payment for individuals.

The Government also announced that people will have to start reapplying for the payment every week to remain eligible and once a state or territory has fully vaccinated 80% of people over 16 years of age, it will withdraw its stimulus payments after a fortnight.

The decision to end JobKeeper payments in March 2021 devastated the visitor and events sector as it was a key mechanism to keep employees connected to employers and supported productivity in an uncertain environment with limited opportunities to operate. The COVID-19 Disaster Payments have supported the welfare of the BECA workforce during recent lockdowns, but given the uncertainty the sector still faces, they continue to see the leakage of specialist skills to other sectors offering greater stability.

BECA advises that this decision does not consider the nature of the business events industry and the restrictions still being faced, even when states come out of lockdowns.

The industry has been decimated over the past 18 months having to:

  • Manage cancellations and postponements due to lockdowns
  • Operate restricted business events under strict COVID-19 protocols and capacities
  • Operate with limited to no revenue streams
  • Deal with a skills exodus as businesses struggle to survive
  • Contend with consistent uncertainty

BECA highlight that national conferences and exhibitions cannot be brought to market in a matter of two weeks, once an individual state or territory reaches 80% full vaccination, especially while domestic borders remain closed. With significant numbers of delegates and exhibitors not able to freely travel within Australia, the commercial viability of many in-person business events is at risk even if the host destination allows the event to take place. Business events businesses will not resume operation at any great scale when these vaccination milestones are reached.

BECA Deputy Chair Geoff Donaghy notes “while we are very supportive of the Government’s National Plan and vaccination rollout, it cannot be confused with the ability for the business events industry to trade.

“When restrictions lift, business events cannot simply switch on like other industries. Significant lead time is required to book, plan, and deliver business events, which is why targeted and sustained support for our sector is required into 2022.

“It will take 6 to 12 months at least for business events to fully gear up, confirm program content, source sponsors and exhibitors, and market the event to attract delegate registrations.”

The announcement made by the Treasurer will see more skilled professionals leave, eroding BECA’s core capability and making recovery even more challenging.

Donaghy added “our once successful business events industry that contributed $36 billion to the economy and supported 230,000 jobs pre-pandemic needs the support of Government in this time of most dire need and should not be caught up in the Federation debate taking place at this time.”

So long as governments, State or Federal impede the ability for the business events industry to operate freely, through lockdowns, border closures and any COVID-19 restrictions, BECA is calling on governments to take action to sustain the sector. Lives and livelihoods are at risk right now, which is why this announcement comes as such a blow to those in the business events industry struggling to survive and support their people.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg advised that if individuals still haven’t returned to the workforce once an economy has opened up and the Disaster Payment has been withdrawn completely, they will have to apply for the normal unemployment benefit.

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19th April 2021 – Business Events Council of Australia welcomes Tourism Australia’s continued support

17th June 2020 – Business Events Council of Australia highlights impact of COVID-19 shutdown

14th May 2020 – Business Events Council of Australia delivers COVIDSafe guidelines to government

20th September 2021 – SkyCity Adelaide and Business Events Australia launch virtual tour of Events at SkyCity

7th September 2021 – Support for New Zealand business events sector critical as Level 2 restrictions introduced

3rd September 2021 – NSW business events stakeholders say reopening certainty is vital for industry survival

3rd September 2021 – Cancellations caused by ongoing lockdowns sees income of Victorian event businesses fall by 80%

1st September 2021 – Business Events Industry Aotearoa Conference moved to November 2021

10th August 2021 – Queensland tourism and hospitality businesses to receive further COVID-19 support

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