WA event industry facing devastation as McGowan unwinds restrictions

WA Premier Mark McGowan has eased Covid restrictions in Perth.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has announced a major easing of Covid restrictions including lifting maximum capacity at major sporting venues such as Optus Stadium and RAC Arena to 75 per cent.

The latest move means a crowd of 45,000 will be permitted at Sunday’s western derby.

Masks will remain mandatory in public but only indoors, on public transport and outside when physical distancing is not possible including major sporting events.

McGowan also announced a $2,000 grants program to help small businesses that have been “highly impacted by the lockdown”.

The grants appeared to be aimed as token gesture for hospitality businesses that were impacted by the latest three-day lockdown.

“Grants of $2,000 will be available to support businesses that meet the eligibility criteria but have incurred direct costs because of the lockdown, such as loss of perishable goods,” McGowan said.

But the events industry once gain appears to have been left to fend for itself.

“The event industry has been on its knees since this pandemic started in March, and despite the industry working incredibly hard to work its way out of it, the industry has been subjected to ongoing restrictions throughout this entire pandemic,” Chair of the Events Industry Association of WA Tim Kennedy told 6PR’s Gareth Parker.

“Eighty per cent of the event industry supports the work the government is doing in fighting the pandemic.

“But in the same token, 85 per cent have turned around and said the state government has failed the event industry so far.

“When we have a budget that’s operating in surplus we think it is reasonable that if we continue to take-one for the community, that the state government use some of that surplus to try and find ways to assist our event businesses to get through this pandemic.”

A report by the ABC has also exposed the how the successive lockdowns have pushed the WA events industry to the wall.

Event organiser Amanda Parker, of Barefoot Entertainment, said the whole industry has been left “emotionally exhausted” by the repeated lockdowns and restrictions.

“I’ve got a promoter mate of mine, I call him every morning to make sure he gets out of bed. It’s that bad,” she told the ABC.

“You literally don’t know what’s around the corner. I get it’s a pandemic, but the stress that you live with every friggin’ day, it’s hard work.”

Kennedy said the event industry is facing “absolute devastation”.

“If we’re going to be asked to continue to take one for the betterment of the community, there needs to be some assistance that comes with that,” he told the ABC.

The latest lockdown over the Anzac Day long weekend cost the average supplier $15,000 in lost revenue from hundreds of cancelled events, according to Kennedy.

The Australian Hotels Association estimates that the three-day lock down cost the wider hospitality industry close to $100 million.

Kennedy said the part of the problem lies in the event industry’s invisibility to both the wider public and politicians.

“It’s an industry that if they do everything right, you wouldn’t know they’re there,” he said.

Mitchell Ross, of West Coast Carnivals, told the ABC the lockdowns had destroyed confidence in people booking events.

“When the current restrictions come to an end, unlike other industries which can start operating again, the event industry will continue to see events cancelled and postponed over the coming weeks as a lack of confidence and logistical issues start to take hold,” Kennedy said.

“Lockdowns kill us. If this is going to be the main tool in the arsenal, we need support.”

But McGowan has poured cold water on any further support.

“A scheme in which there’s applications and people put in claims for tens of thousands of dollars … that would be very difficult to administer and very expensive and then we’d have to tax the same businesses to pay for it,” he said.

“Whatever we come up with, probably some people will say it wasn’t enough.”