Industries hit hard by COVID-19, such as the tourism, arts and events sectors, will benefit from a $41 million assistance package in next Tuesday’s Budget as part of the ACT Government’s plans for the post-pandemic economic recovery.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the Key Industries Package built on a range of business support programs already in place and was part of the government’s plan to grow the labour market to 250,000 jobs by 2025.
“This is a critical Budget to ensure our economy bounces back strongly from the impacts of COVID-19,” he said.
“Fundamental to our economic recovery will be investing in the industries which are the engines that drive employment growth in the ACT, focusing on attracting new investment to our city and rebuilding our tourism and events sectors.”
There is money for major events, tourism marketing and the proposed Canberra Theatre Centre redevelopment as the centrepiece of an ambitious plan to make Canberra Australia’s Arts Capital.
A surprise is $750,000 that will go to establishing a Holocaust Museum and Education Centre in Canberra, which will be jointly funded by the ACT and Australian governments.
Arts and Multicultural Affairs Minister Tara Cheyne said the centre would be an important reminder of the ongoing need to maintain a respectful, multicultural society.
“Establishing a permanent Holocaust Museum in the ACT will ensure the stories of ACT survivors of the Holocaust are never forgotten,” she said.
The package also includes $8 million for business support, innovation and fee relief.
Almost half the package – $20 million – will go to the tourism and events industries, which Mr Barr said would ensure significant investment in the pipeline to position Canberra in a highly competitive marketplace when domestic and international tourism returns.
Canberra’s well-established calendar of major events will receive $7.9 million to get them back on their feet, while there is $2.5 million over two years for the Major Event Fund to attract new events.
There will be a fresh pitch to domestic and international travellers, with $3 million to expand tourism marketing activities over the next two years.
The National Capital Educational Tourism Project, which brings school students from across the country, will welcome $1.4 million in support after a devastating year.
There is also help for the conference and business events sector to get back up and running with $1.3 million for the Canberra Convention Bureau.
The hard-hit aviation industry will be supported with $750,000 for the Aviation Stimulus Fund, in partnership with Canberra Airport, Tourism Australia and other destinations to attract low-cost airlines and more direct flights to Canberra and attract future international routes.
There is $225,000 for the Canberra and Region Visitor Centre and $200,000 over two years for the continued delivery of key events and awards programs, including the Canberra International Riesling Challenge.
The industry package coincides with the release of the long-awaited Statement of Ambition for the Arts, which will guide short- and medium-term decisions for the sector and be the framework to craft a new arts policy and funding.
“This ambition and its associated strategies will guide, influence and connect arts policy, funding, facilities and regulatory decisions and activities in Canberra over the next five years, and this is reflected in our new budget initiatives,” Ms Cheyne said.
More than $13 million will provide support to local artists, arts organisations and cultural facilities.
Topping the list is the Canberra Theatre Centre which will get $4.2 million to progress site investigations and planning for an expansion and redevelopment, including $1.4 million in urgent upgrades, while $246,000 will support the training of theatre technicians.
The Cultural Facilities Corporation will receive $2.4 million to help it rebuild the theatre business and retain staff.
There is also $2 million for an upgrade to the Tuggeranong Arts Centre theatre, and $80,000 for the Belconnen Arts Centre.
Canberra’s destination Old Bus Depot Markets will receive $2.1 million to complete the remediation of lead contamination and reimburse stallholders whose stock has been impacted.
Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) will be expanded with the help of $960,000.
Other funding includes $350,000 for HOMEFRONT 3, which was brought forward to support artists during lockdown; $250,000 for the Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre; and $200,000 for a new public art commission by a female or non-binary artist that celebrates the contribution of these groups.
Business support initiatives include $3.2 million to reinvigorate international trade and engagement with key markets and $1 million to continue the ICON Grants Program, delivered by the Canberra Innovation Network which helps entrepreneurs develop and grow their innovative ideas.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses will benefit from $920,000 over four years to deliver an accelerator program and a full concierge service to better support their development.
$504,000 over two years will go to attracting new businesses and investment into Canberra.
The Future Jobs Fund will provide $500,000 for the continued development of the Canberra Cyber Hub, $450,000 towards the Academy of Interactive Entertainment’s sound stage development, $322,000 for a Workforce Strategy to attract workers to the ACT’s growing industries, $200,000 for key industry advocacy, and $150,000 for Significant Capital Ventures to help drive innovation in Canberra and build investment links between business and research.
The ACT Government will also extend the application fee waiver for obtaining and amending commercial liquor permits from 30 September 2021 to 31 March 2022 to support the hospitality industry through the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
The payroll exemption for new apprentices or trainees will also be extended until 30 June 2022.