Paul Murphy, chief executive of artists union MEAA, said the package “ignores the thousands of arts workers who have been without work for months and need immediate income support”.
Mr Murphy said grants and loans would help arts organisations “but there is absolutely no relief for freelance and casual workers who have lost their jobs… the backbone of the industry”.
“We are in danger of losing a generation of creative professionals in this country without an adequate income support scheme,” Mr Murphy said.
Music industry leaders have also expressed concern that a third of the cash comes as commercial loans which might not be an option for smaller players.
Brisbane-based performer and producer Natalie Bochenski said “restart” grants under the package start at a minimum of $75,000 and go up to $2 million, and were designed for big shows and festivals – but are beyond the small to medium sector where there were “a bunch of us operating”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the package would help back “thousands” of jobs in the creative economy, which before the coronavirus crisis employed more than 600,000 people.
As well as performers it would also support roadies, front-of-house staff, set builders and special effects experts, he said, in “getting their show back on the road”.
Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said it was “all about restarting activity”.
But most commercial musical or theatrical productions cannot be staged until health precautions like social distancing and spacing guidelines relax enough to get capacity crowds back into venues. Even once health restrictions ease, theatrical and screen productions, festivals and concerts take months of planning and preparation, during which creative workers – who have been jobless since March – would be left without any income.
Mr Morrison said the National Cabinet would meet on Friday to discuss “getting some certainty” around when venues can operate at different levels of restrictions.
Live Performance Australia’s chief executive Evelyn Richardson said many in the industry had suffered devastating income losses and companies had “serious cash flow issues”.
Ms Richardson said JobMaker measures were a”vital injection of capital funding which will help live performance companies reopen and start to rebuild” but more could be done, possibly through tax incentives to help productions attract investment.
Australian Ballet executive director Libby Christie welcomed the package, however, she added that many jobs remained at risk and she would continue to lobby government to extend the JobKeeper salary subsidy. The program, which has helped keep thousands of arts workers from unemployment, is legislated to end in September – and around a third of workers in the creative sector were ineligible for JobKeeper in the first place.
Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke said the government’s package “will undoubtedly help” but “we remain concerned there is still no direct support for the workers themselves, many of whom miss out on JobKeeper but won’t be able to return to work anytime soon”.
The Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young, who has been calling for a federal industry rescue for months, pointed out the package was a fraction of the $700 million HomeBuilder scheme, despite the cultural industry being hit much harder than construction.
“$250 million, including loans, falls well short of what is needed to save jobs,” Hanson-Young said.
Nick Miller is Arts Editor of The Age.