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Entertainment industry pushes for government-backed BI insurance fund

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Live performers and festival organisers have issued a fresh appeal for a government-backed business interruption (BI) insurance scheme, after last week’s cancellation of the Bluesfest event in Byron Bay dealt a new blow to the virus-hit entertainment sector.

The NSW government’s health directive to cancel the iconic music festival is estimated to have cost the event organiser at least $10 million, losses that would not be covered by BI policies after the insurance industry introduced COVID-related exclusions last year in the wake of the pandemic.

The directive was issued after a new locally acquired case of COVID-19 prompted restrictions in parts of northern NSW.

“We have been calling for a Business Interruption Fund - essentially an insurance fund for affected creative businesses to access in case of emergency - for situations exactly like this,” Australian Festival Association GM Julia Robinson said in a statement.

The Live Entertainment Industry Forum - a group made up of the country’s biggest promoters of entertainment and sport, venue managers, and key peak bodies - submitted a proposal last year for a BI fund that will be underwritten by governments.

According to Ms Robinson, who is one of the forum’s executive committee members, event promoters and other participants in the proposed scheme will contribute a percentage of the amount of cover they are seeking.

“The proposal is with the government at the moment,” Ms Robinson told today. “Look, there’s been responses from some of the state and federal governments.

“No one is obviously committed to anything but we’re working strongly on advocacy for a fund. The insurance existed before and it’s just not available right now.”

Live Performance Australia, which is also a member of the entertainment forum, has described the proposed BI fund as a “matter of urgency”.

“This is irrefutable proof that a business interruption fund is critical to the survival of live entertainment events in an environment where no promoter or producer can get insurance,” CEO Evelyn Richardson said. “This is a watershed moment.

“Our industry has worked with all governments to get our people back to work, our shows back on stage and touring. However, continued snap lockdowns and border restrictions are killing consumer and industry confidence.

“We have been shut down for a year. We can’t survive the next six to twelve months without some form of insurance.”

NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres was quoted over the weekend in local media reports as saying any kind of interruption support would be federally run, but the state government was open to “further discussions”.

But Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher says since public health decisions were for the state government to make, they were “best placed to provide an interruption fund-type facility for live events”.