Event Organizers

Morrison should relax the criteria for small business events to aid struggling sectors

Organisers of smaller corporate events and conferences claim they were excluded from a $50m grant program to support the sector in crisis. They need to change the rules immediately to ensure their survival.

Last week, Pause Fest, a business conference, wrote to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking him to relax the rules for the Business Events Grant Program to allow them to take part.

This program allows companies and those that are not based on fossil fuels to receive up to $250,000 to cover the costs of attending 150 events approved by government.

Event attendees are entitled to half the costs of travel, accommodation, and operating an exhibition booth. However, luxuries like limousine transfers are not included.

George Hedon, the chief executive of Pause Fest, wrote a letter to the prime minster stating that the criteria for eligibility were “very restrictive” and excluded events like his online or without exhibition halls.

He said that “Given the current eligibility threshold is so high”, very few events in Australia would be able fulfill the obligations and receive support they require.”

“The government did not consider the continuing impact of the pandemic in framing the program. In particular, support should not be limited to in-person events.”

The letter was signed by TEDxMelbourne, Sydney, Spark festival and Southstart technology festival.

Morrison has been asked by the group to lower the amount of spending required to qualify for a grant to $20,000 to $10,000, allow online events to be considered, and allow for claims for seminars that aren’t full-blown conferences.

They also demand that event organizers be allowed to claim expenses for their own costs. Hedon stated that to qualify for a grant, organizers must set up an exhibit booth at their event.

Guardian Australia has seen documents that show Austrade, the government agency responsible for approving the scheme’s events list, placed Pause Fest just before Christmas.

Austrade has since removed Pause Fest from its list because it is now being held online.

Austrade’s officer stated in an email to Hedon that the program was not geared towards virtual events but rather in-person B2B events.

“The support of in person events will generate economic impact in the form jobs, overnight stays, and visitor spend in metropolitan and regional areas across Australia.”

Hedon was invited by the court to present a brief business case in order to have the decision re-read.

Guardian Australia reported that he said it was very disappointing and depressing that they didn’t receive support.

“Our industry and the tourism industry have been destroyed.

“There are still a few of us hanging on there, and we really need your support because it was promised.”

Guardian Australia did not receive any answers from Austrade or the prime minister’s office.

Austrade spokesperson: “Events should have a business to-business component that brings together exhibitors and delegates for a product or service exchange.”

“The program supports events that combine online and in-person elements.

“At the moment, there are 145 approved events for which businesses can apply for a grant to cover their costs. These events cover many sectors, including digital technology. New events are added frequently.”

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