BECA furious over end of federal government’s COVID-19 ‘Disaster Payments’

The Business Events Council of Australia (BECA) says it is deeply concerned and disappointed with the federal Treasurer’s announcement to withdraw the COVID-19 ‘Disaster Payment’ program.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced on Thursday at the government’s Disaster Payments would be wound back in line with vaccination targets being reached by states and territories.

However, the BECA has criticised the move, saying it was done without any indication of a targeted replacement lifeline, and that it does not consider the nature of the business events industry and the restrictions it is still facing, even when jurisdictions come out of lockdowns.

“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,” said Geoff Donaghy, who is deputy chair of the BECA and chief executive of ICC Sydney.

“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 six 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.”

Donaghy said the Disaster Payments have supported the welfare of the business events workforce during recent lockdowns, but given the uncertainty the sector still faces, there continues to be a “leakage” of specialist skills to other sectors offering greater stability.

The BECA’s deputy chair predicts the Treasurer’s announcement will lead to even more of the industry’s skilled professionals leaving, making recovery even more challenging.

“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,” Donaghy said.

Featured image source: iStock/Andrii Yalanskyi